Best of the system: Top 5 first basemen

The San Diego Padres have been stocked with so many first basemen in the system that many have changed positions and don't even qualify. <br><br> <b>5.</b> Fernando Valenzuela Jr.--Love the name, might love it more if he were a pitcher. Valenzuela had impressive numbers at Lo-A Fort Wayne, but they were impressive numbers for a slick fielding second baseman, not a lumbering corner infielder.

On the positive side, he should crush the ball in the California League and was a very consistent hitter all year long with an average that never hit a snag. He also showed solid patience at the plate. He just happens to be at a tough position and will never be able to move from it.

Fernando Valenzuela's defense seems almost beyond help, and if he doesn't start hitting for power soon (he hit just 11 home runs in 500+ at bats) the only lists he'll be making are Top five Names in the Padres organization.

4. Greg Sain: Sain was named the Designated Hitter of the Year in the Southern League by Baseball America after hitting 28 homers (tying a Mobile Bay Bears team record) and 73 RBI (good for seventh in the southern league). Two problems, the Padres play in the National League, where there is no DH, and his range at first is suspect.

But the bigger issue facing the Padres about Sain is his ability to make contact. A .235 batting average isn't pretty, but 140 strikeouts in 456 at bats is downright ugly. For Sain to move up, in the organization or on this list, he will have to shorten a long swing that produces long home runs and long hitting slumps.

3. Michael Johnson: Another top Padres prospect bitten by the injury bug, Johnson dislocated his patella tendon in June of 2004 and was lost for two months while recuperating. It capped off a season filled with mixed reviews for the first baseman who saw his power numbers rise a little, but his strikeouts rise a lot. Pitch recognition was a priority for Johnson heading into 2004, and while the strikeouts rose, his walk total also went up.

Johnson's defense improved, but not to the level the Padres were hoping for, and at probably the best stocked position in the organization the already aging (he's 25 in just and entering just his third year in the organization) Johnson will have to make major strides in '05 to move up.

2. Daryl Jones: The Padres' third pick in the 2004 draft Jones was only 17 when he was selected and shows massive upside, instinctively taking the ball the other way and even more impressively hitting the ball the other way for power. As with most young players it will take time for that power to show itself in the stats (he hit just one homer last season Rookie Ball) but the Padres love his knack for staying back on breaking pitches and because of that think his strikeouts will drop naturally as he gets more comfortable.

Defensively he's right about where you would figure a just-turned-18 player would be, which is to say not very well, but his footwork should improve exponentially with a full season in pro ball and he should make his full season debut at Fort Wayne in '05.

1. Tagg Bozied: Bozied might have seen time during September call ups last season if not for a knee injury. He was crushing the Pacific Coast League last season, hitting over .300 with 16 homers and 58 RBI in just 213 at bats. His injury might have contributed to the Padres not dealing Phil Nevin, but the organization feels that once he's 100% again, he's Major League ready, his rehab will be the only question mark.

Bozied initially elected to go to the independent Northern League after being drafted by the Padres in the third round of the 2001 draft, but eventually signed with the Padres that November. He played third base and the outfield in the Northern League but was almost immediately converted to first base upon joining the Padres organization and has steadily turned himself into a solid first baseman, posting a .994 fielding percentage before the injury last season.

He's always had pop, but last season was an eye opener for Bozied, as the 16 homers put him on a pace to break his career high of 24 during the 2002, a season he split between Hi-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A Mobile.


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