Although the Padres never were able to replace Valdez in the five hole, Travis Chick was a find of monumental proportions.
"That was a good move on our organization on reports from our scouts that Kevin was able to pull off," Waller said grinning all the way. "I think this is going to be a guy down the road that we will hear a lot about."
What makes Chick so special is a fastball that sends the radar gun into a frenzy and a competitive attitude – he is not afraid to pitch inside.
Chick made six starts with Fort Wayne but left an impression that has lasted long into the offseason.
"He can throw," Fort Wayne Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom marveled. "Good mental approach. Good fastball. Good presence on the mound. I don't think I will see him pitch again.
"I don't think people out (in the California League) are going to see him much either. It is not going to surprise me to see him in Mobile pretty early in the year."
Strong praise for a kid that only pitched in eight games (including the playoffs) for the Fort Wayne club.
Take a look at these numbers over his last five starts:
32.1 innings pitched
18 hits (no game with more than five hits allowed)
Four runs, three earned
45 strikeouts (three games with ten or more)
That should turn some heads. He had only one bad start, a six run outing on August 7 against Lansing. He gave up a three run homer in the first inning, gave up two more in the second (one coming home on a balk) and another run in the fourth. Chick gave up a combined five earned runs in all of his other starts.
"A power arm," Waller began. "Great makeup. Good body. Aggressive. I like what I saw. Hopefully he stays healthy. I like what I saw. Power fastball, ability to pound the strike zone and get outs. That is what you always want to always see in a pitcher."
Chick admitted that he likes to challenge hitters with his fastball and said he was not afraid to come inside. The only problem he faces is when he leaves the fastball up in the zone. That is when the homer tally can escalate.
To his credit, Chick limited the opposition to a .206 batting average and was even more formidable with runners in scoring position – allowing just a .120 batting average.
He is better than a two-to-one fly ball to ground ball pitcher and his 95 mile per hour heater has a lot to do with that. It also explains his 11.69 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Chick's 130 plus innings this year were the most he had ever thrown and he seemed to get better with age, having some of his best outings late in the year. This offseason, he is focused on staying lean and maintaining a good body structure for the rigors of another full season league.
He is tabbed for Lake Elsinore and could be bumped to Mobile quickly – a challenge of sorts for the twenty year old prospect. The ball flies off California League bats and his success will depend on keeping the ball down in the zone.
So far, the results have been great and it has raised the Padres' expectations tenfold. How he responds to the added pressure will go a long way towards determining a future that looks very bright.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
Padres scouting report: Travis Chick
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