Padres Prospect Scouting: Fernando Valenzuela Jr.

Right now, Fernando Valenzuela Jr. is known more because of his father, the "look to the sky" lefthander who won the Cy Young as a rookie with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981. But the son is paving his own career as a first baseman in the San Diego Padres' farm system.

In 2004, Fernando Valenzuela had a coming out party. It wasn't to the magnitude that his father accomplished (a 0.22 ERA through his first 81 innings in the Majors), but it was meaningful nonetheless.

Valenzuela, a left-hand hitting first baseman went from a blip on the radar to a force on offense.

"He was consistent," Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller said. "He was the one guy that you kind of knew what you were going to get, day in and day out. He is a solid defender and a solid hitter that uses the whole field."

He was so consistent that once he raised his average above .287 on June 7, it never dropped below that mark again the rest of the year while also never going above .310. That includes a ten-game hitting streak to end the regular season.

His .294 average to end the year was tied for 15th best in the Midwest League. His 81 RBI's placed him sixth – but well off the 124 pace of the number one player in the category. He was also tied for ninth in walks with 56 while striking out just 63 times. And his .373 on base percentage placed him eighth in that category.

"He can certainly hit," Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom said. "He hit well in a league that is not a hitter's league. I am sure he will go out to California and kill the ball."

It was safe to say he could hit the ball well in any situation. He was equally consistent hitting off lefties and righties. And it didn't matter if runners were on base or they were empty – Valenzuela's average rarely changed.

One of the knocks on Valenzuela is his speed. He will not be able to play anywhere else on the diamond and hit into a club high 18 double plays on the year, including hitting into three rally killers in one four-game stretch and four in a separate six-game stretch.

His defense prowess, termed solid by Waller, was refuted by a scout within the Padres' system.

"He had legitimate problems at times on a double play ball hit to him – of getting it to second base – chest high," the scout said. "He can't run. He doesn't move well around the bag. I had heard he was a real good defensive player and I am not sure I would agree with that assessment."

"Size wise at first base is always something that you will look at," Waller admitted about Valenzuela's limitations. "Alls I can say is you keep throwing guys like that out there and let them prove how far they can go."

Meaning his bat will take him up the ladder but his dedication will always be in question. Certainly guys who have hit .300 and above in the minors with power but couldn't run have had solid Major League careers. But Valenzuela will be linked with Paul McAnulty and has to follow suit. McAnulty rededicated himself to the game and came out with a fresh attitude and a fresher body. It has improved every aspect of his game. Scouts question whether Valenzuela can undergo the same transformation.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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