Scouting Padres Prospect Chris Kolkhorst

It was painful watching Chris Kolkhorst in July as he began his career with the Eugene Emeralds in the San Diego Padres farm system. After a slow start to the season that put him in Peoria with the rookie club, his first at bats in short-season ball left a lot to be desired.

After being picked in the tenth round of the 2004 Draft out of a premiere college program, Rice, the Texas native struggled through his first taste of short-season ball. As July turned into August, he was hitting just .136 with three hits in ten games.

"He came to us with an abdominal strain and we had to start slow with him," Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller said. "We had him in Peoria on the mend and tried to get him some at bats before getting him to Eugene. He actually put some pressure on himself. I saw him in Eugene trying to do a little too much, too early."

It turned out that August was the month he had been waiting for. In twenty August games, he reached base multiple times on 12 occasions. He batted .420 that month with Eugene and had a .529 on base percentage. In four separate games he reached base safely four or more times.

"He got better the higher he went, didn't he," a grinning Waller said. "As he settled in, he got better and better. He is a guy that comes from a good program, knows how to play and hopefully that is something we will continue to see."

Ironically his hot start coincided with his switch to centerfield – not his natural position.

"I know that he was a little bit out of position," Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom said. "He certainly knew what he was doing out there and I am looking forward to seeing him play everyday in centerfield."

Byrom, of course, is looking forward to 2005 and the prospects of Kolkhorst patrolling the outfield with the Wizards. But he also knows it may not be long before the "Grit Man" is moving on to greener pastures as he did in 2004.

"He did really well and I will be surprised if he is here over half the season," Byrom said. "He will play himself out of here."

Kolkhorst, however, takes a lot of pride in his defense. He played all three outfield positions this past season and says he is comfortable in any spot.

"My defense is definitely one of the strongest parts of my game," Kolkhorst said with no errors in 42 games lending credence to that.

At the plate, the success is simple. Only two players that had extended time in the Padres' minor leagues had more walks than strikeouts. Chris Kolkhorst was one of them. And that includes his tour of duty with Fort Wayne.

He drew 27 walks while striking out 24 times. He was also hit by eight pitches, giving him a .474 on base percentage in his first year within the Padres' system.

His slow adjustment was attributed to his abdominal strain got better and he got to know his surroundings. Kolkhorst missed out on the usual Spring Training and missed his chance to make an early bond with his fellow teammates.

One thing he does exhibit is a strong attitude and love for the game. Having won a National Championship with Rice, the left-handed hitter has the mental makeup to succeed.

One area that needs improvement is his hitting against lefties. He batted just .200 off southpaws in 25 at bats. Batting .348 overall makes that forgivable.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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