Padres Top 50 Prospects: 45-41

<p>It is every true baseball fan's favorite line in <i>Bull Durham</i>, &quot;This is a simple game; you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.&quot;&nbsp; This week in our continuing countdown of the Top 50 Prospects in the Padres organization, Publisher Denis Savage features pure power hitters, nasty sliders, and stellar defense.&nbsp; Keeping it simple is the objective for <b>#45-41. </b></p>

45. Drew Macias was simply a great defender that could solidify the middle of the outfield and save runs for the pitching staff. At least, that was the view scouts in the Padres' office had of the Californian.

While he succeeded in providing exactly as promised in the outfield, he also exceeded expectations at the plate. Before the season, scouts tabulated a .230-.240 average for Macias and thought he would be a great leader for the team

Only a late season collapse brought his average down from the .280 level it had been for the majority of the season to .266. Having never played in a full season league, Macias was tired and the season ended at a perfect time.

Now that the bar has been raised, he must prove his hitting was no fluke. An offseason of getting stronger and, perhaps most importantly, working on his endurance will go a long way to making sure his Midwest League performance wasn't a flash in the pan.

44. Clark Girardeau struck out 73 in 71.2 innings of work for Fort Wayne. It wasn't that he had an overpowering fastball, he just knew how to setup hitters for his slider – one of the better slider's in the organization.

One outing where he allowed nine runs upped his ERA by nearly a run to 5.02 on the year with the Wizards and a .329 batting average with runners in scoring position didn't help a whole lot either.

By contrast, Girardeau limited hitters to a .191 average when the bases were empty. Essentially, Girardeau needs to get better from the stretch and focus on the task at hand.

His stats leveled off with Lake Elsinore of the California League but it was an up and down time. He started out on fire. In his first four starts he allowed four earned runs but in his next four, 24 men crossed the plate.

The mental portion of the game is huge for Girardeau. Men will get on base. That is a fact. What he does when they are on base will determine his future.

43. Lachlan Dale was once a 195-pound Aussie but he has gained 30-pounds of muscle over the past two years and that has blossomed into enormous power. After swatting just three homers in his two previous years, Dale ended the year with 15, good for third in the Northwest League.

Dale overcame a slow start in Eugene to hit .247. At the start of August, Dale was hitting just .222 and had struck out 41 times in July. A month of hitting .282 catapulted his average upwards.

The Padres give an allowance of strikeouts if the power and average are there. Dale has not had a chance to consistently face tough competition over a full season as the ball played in Australia doesn't offer the same challenges.

His fielding is a huge question mark at this time. He has played both third base and first base, with various bouts of errors at each. The Padres lack of depth at third base could force him back to that position and if he proves his glove is as solid as his bat he has a chance to challenge any other prospect at that position.

If he can maintain a solid average in a full season league, while providing solid defense, he could jump up the prospect board.

42. Fernando Valenzuela had the most consistent year of any prospect in the system. His average hovered around .300 for the majority of the season, and after the first month of the season it never dipped below .271 and never went above .310.

He also displays great patience at the plate and came close to walking more than he struck out. He is a gap-to-gap hitter with the ability to knock the ball out of the park.

The Padres expect more than 36 extra base hits from their first basemen and while Valenzuela showed some traits of power, he will have to swat with more power to be considered effective at the power position.

His defense is a problem and he will be forever stuck at first base – unless he goes to the American League where he can DH. His ability to turn the double play from first is just one problem. He does not possess the hips to quickly make the throw to second and then get back to first. Conversely, he also hits into a lot of double plays because of his lack of speed.

Some scouts have wondered whether he will show the ability to hit as he moves up the chain. Slated for Lake Elsinore in 2005, Valenzuela should have a field day in a hitter's league. The following year in Mobile could be the real test for the son of a legend.

41. Dirk Hayhurst has solidified his status as a prospect with one word, control. A long reliever to begin the year, Hayhurst moved into the starting rotation and didn't miss a beat – well sort of. His bullpen ERA was as low as it gets, 0.00 over twenty innings of work with Fort Wayne. In 17 starts with Fort Wayne, Hayhurst allowed three runs or fewer in 15.

In his first 70.2 innings, Hayhurst walked just six batters. He walked 13 more over his next 47.2 innings of work, a lot considering the pinpoint control he had displayed early on. His 9-4 record with the Wizards prompted a promotion to Lake Elsinore.

In the California League, Hayhurst was downright wild. He walked 16 in 22.2 innings which led to a 5.56 ERA over five starts. The Canton, OH native is a finesse pitcher that can leave hitters guessing when he is on. He can hit the outer portion of the plate for the strikeout and generally keeps the ball down. When he arrived on the scene with the Storm, he was trying too hard to fit in and forcing the play.

Having not pitched a full season before, he could have also been tired, although he says he is blessed with a loose arm. The wearing of a full year in the minors can take its toll and 2005 may be a more accurate representation of the pitcher the Padres can expect to see, as long as he throws strikes. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him back in the bullpen at some point as a long reliever.

"My arm has never really felt too tired," Hayhurst said. "I am not just saying that because that sounds like the heroic baseball starting pitcher thing to say, ‘Get me out there coach. It doesn't matter how much it hurts.' In all honesty I don't have a lot of pain. I really didn't feel too fatigued once I got in the starting role."

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