The Top 50: #15-#11

The Top 50 has become the Top 15, and the players on the cusp of the big league roster are in here. The pitchers waiting by the phone, the sluggers ready to step in at a moment's notice, and the future of the San Diego Padres are featured in the <b>The MadFriars Top 50 Padres Prospects</b>. <b>#15)</b> Fabian Jimenez is just 18 years old and the Padres thought highly enough of him to send him to Fort Wayne this year, his first shot at a full season league.

He spent the 2004 season in the Arizona Rookie League where his stats weren't inspiring. He went 2-6 with a 6.95 ERA and a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 1.94.

His best outing was in his longest stint of the year, a five inning start, where he allowed two runs on one hit and three walks and struck out eight. By contrast, his worst outing was in late August when he surrendered eight runs, seven earned, on seven hits and a walk in just one inning of work.
Signed as a free agent in 2003, the left-hander has a considerable hill to climb, but general manager Kevin Towers acknowledged he is someone to keep an eye on. Having never pitched more than five innings in a game, it will be interesting to see how he handled the pressure.

#14) J.J. Furmaniak had a great year playing shortstop for the Portland Beavers. He showed surprising pop in his bat and hit for a good average. Although he began the year at Mobile, Furmaniak took over the shortstop position early in Portland and never let it go.
He hit .294 in the Pacific Coast League and swatted 17 homers, knocking in 73 Runs, all from the bottom half of the order, and his 45 extra base hits were second most on the team. He admits, however, that some of the power will be sacrificed to get his average above .300.
"I'm not really a power hitter. I'm 5-foot-10, maybe 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, so I need to put ball in play more. I'd like to hit .300 and I know to do that I need to shorten my swing. I know I need to get the average up higher and that contact will help raise my RBIs and cut down the strikeouts."
Furmaniak went from organizational player to supersub this past year. Many scouts in the organization think it is but a matter of time before he is in the Majors. Furmaniak has played shortstop, third base and second over the past year and his solid play at each has elevated his status within the organization. So much so that they placed him on the 40-man roster. He went 5-for-16 this spring with the Padres.
Furmaniak is a player who knows his role and just wants a chance. Because of that attitude, he hustles non-stop from the call of "play ball" to the final strike. His infectious attitude provides a spark for the team and he has been known to come up with the big hit. It won‚t be a shock to see him make the Padres sometime this year.

#13) Wilmer Villatoro didn't exactly have a good start to his California League debut but made up for it with a stellar finish to his season. He missed most of spring training due to immigration problems and his poor beginning reflected the inconsistencies that come with throwing the ball for the first time in a given year.
Villatoro began the year with a 12.96 ERA after his first nine outings, allowing runs in six straight games at one point. After that, he settled down and began to fulfill the promise that made him a sleeper in the system.
Just nine innings would cross the plate after his initial struggles; he kept the opposition off the basepaths and was one of the best pitchers in the system at keeping inherited runners from scoring.
Villatoro combines a fastball in the 90's with a biting slider. He will sometimes rely on the slider too much and can get erratic with it. He also offers up a changeup to keep hitters off-balance but doesn't have a whole lot of confidence in it at this point. The Padres are very high on the lanky righty and it was, therefore, a surprise to see him repeating Lake Elsinore to begin the year.

#12) Tagg Bozied was having as fine a season as any player in the Minors before a freak injury set him back. After hitting a grand slam to win a game, Bozied's left knee gave way as he touched home plate, ending his season.
In just 57 games for Portland, Bozied had 17 homers and 58 RBI. During one nine game stretch, Bozied hit seven homers. His year ended in the midst of a six-game RBI streak, amassing 14 RBI during that time frame. He also had seven games where he had four or more RBI in a game.
"He was coming fast," Director of Player Development, Tye Waller said.
Bozied just began to realize the potential that saw him get drafted in the third round of the 2001 draft. In half the games, Bozied had more homers and one less RBI than he did during his 2003 season with Portland.
A contact hitter, Bozied does not strike out a whole lot and could walk a little more given his power potential. He is a solid defender at first base but his path has been blocked by Phil Nevin and even Ryan Klesko. Some have suggested that he be shipped to an American League team where he can be a designated hitter but the Padres have been reluctant to include him in any deal, especially after his 2004 breakout season.

#11) Jon Knott has the power to be a force in the league, but the Padres have not been able to find an open spot for the slugger.
"I know how tough it is for the Padres," Knott told MadFriars, "They've opened a new park and to let a young guy, a rookie, be an everyday guy is hard for them. You really want somebody proven like Giles, who has hit 30 homers and driven in 100 RBI before. It's easier for the Padres to go with somebody proven. If you work hard and you produce, you will get your breaks, a lot of guys try to play GM, but I don't want that job."
A year after he hit 27 homers in the Southern League, Knott smacked 26 out in Portland. He led the team in extra base hits (51), RBI‚s (85), runs scored (79) and walks (53). Credited with some of the longest home runs in Southern and Pacific Coast League history, Knott does strike out often. He has worked tirelessly with the Padres‚ roving hitting instructor Rob Deer.
He isn't the best defender in the outfield but has consistently worked on getting better, taking better angles and jumps on the ball.
"Working on my defense is an ongoing thing. I want to improve my arm strength and take better lines, and that comes with taking more balls, more reps, all over the outfield."
Knott went 5-for-23 this spring for the Friars and he translates into a 20-plus homer guy with 80-RBI talent at the Big League level. The problem has been finding a spot for his talents and making the most of the opportunity when it presents itself. His swing is long and that has concerned some. With his path blocked and his trade value high, it isn't out of the question to think he may be traded one day.

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