where you can find the complete list of #50 through #6. Number one is next week, #10-6 is now.

"> where you can find the complete list of #50 through #6. Number one is next week, #10-6 is now.


The MadFriars Top 50: #10-6...Part Two

The <b>MadFriars.com Top 50 Padres Prospects</b> has now officially become the <b>Top 10 Padres Prospects</b>. John Conniff will be back next week to once again give an ‘alternate view' of the Top 5, for now though, we concentrate on the best of the best of the best. Want proof? Take a gander at the archives, <a href="http://padres.scout.com/3/TopProspects.html">where you can find the complete list of #50 through #6</a>. Number one is next week, <b>#10-6 </b>is now.</p>

10) Freddy Guzman begins the year on the disabled list because of an elbow injury and another failed attempt to take the centerfield job goes with it. Guzman, a speedster that can change the face of the game with his baserunning skills, was called up to the Majors last year and hit .211 in twenty games. Ironically, he had hits in all but five games.


It was a chance for him to make his case for the starting centerfield job in 2005. Instead, the Padres opted for Dave Roberts – paying a hefty price to get the oft-injured speedster from Boston.


Guzman stole 48 bases in 66 games with Portland, compiling eight multi-stolen base games. He even stole four bases in a game once. His game is therefore about getting on base on a consistent basis. He does not offer much power and does not need to. As long as he slaps singles and draws walks, he is effective.


"Guzman is a product of the organization," Director of Player Development, Tye Waller said. "This is something that not only myself, but this staff from top to bottom, we have been working hard through the years and we finally got guys here and we have to get that next step and get them out on the field on a regular basis and hopefully become what Khalil Greene was this year and what Jake Peavy was last year."


The problem is, in limited at bats, Guzman hasn't proven he can consistently hit at the Major League level. Once healthy, Guzman will be back in Triple-A and will likely have another opportunity to test himself in the Majors later this year. Seizing the opportunity will be key as Ben Johnson may already be passing him up.


9) Justin Germano was in line to make a run for the number five spot in the rotation this year – until the Padres secured Darrell May and Tim Redding, effectively ending his pursuit of beginning the year with the Padres.


Last year, Germano made his Major League debut in Philadelphia and followed it up with the unforgiving altitude of Colorado.


"It was tough but I think that is what helped me this spring, finally relaxing, trusting my stuff and going out there throwing strikes like I did all throughout the minors," Germano said of his experience in the Majors. "I think it helped out a lot."


Germano mixes a 90 mile per hour fastball with a curveball and change, and his game is predicated on hitting his spots and dropping the hook as an out pitch.


In Portland, the right-hander began the year slowly with a bloated ERA of 6.20 as of July 1. He then rolled off 12 straight quality starts, including two complete game shutouts, as he earned his second call up to the Padres.


Germano hurt his elbow in the final game of the year and spent the offseason rehabbing. Out of the gate this year, Germano is tasked with keeping the rhythm going down in Triple-A – a disappointment – and putting the pressure on the Padres to make it impossible to look anywhere else if one of their starters goes down.


8) Middle relievers and closers rarely get any love. But when you are former first rounder Brad Baker and had a season for the ages in becoming MadFriars.com Pitcher of the Year, it is easy to put you on a pedestal.


Baker had one of the best seasons ever for a closer in the Padres system. He set a new Mobile record for saves in a season with 30 and rarely erred on the mound. Baker allowed earned runs in seven of his 55 Mobile appearances, held the opposition to a .178 average and struck out the side seven times during the year. He was promoted to Portland late in the year where he had a 0.93 ERA in eight appearances and held hitters to a .147 batting average.


Baker mixes a fastball that sits in the low nineties, a curveball, and a devastating changeup, similar to that of Trevor Hoffman.


"If you're going to be compared to somebody, it might as well be a future Hall of Famer," Baker says modestly. "I actually got to talk to Hoffman a lot when he was rehabbing at Lake Elsinore, and he was great to be next to. He actually throws his changeup a lot like I do, but he's got a little more of his fingers on the ball."


Baker begins the year in Portland and if success continues to follow him, it won't be a stretch to see him as a middle reliever in San Diego. He has done it every step of the way and it seems likely he will do it again this year. With Hoffman going strong and Akinori Otsuka and Scott Linebrink the main setup guys, Baker would probably be used when those pitchers were tired or even in long relief.


7) Sean Thompson is a growing legend around these parts. With his brash attitude and fiery demeanor, he mows down detractors at the same pace he does batters.


He spent all of 2004 in Fort Wayne, going 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA. He logged 21 quality starts (three runs or less) in 27 starts and allowed more than four runs in two starts, consecutive outings in August where he allowed 16 earned runs. He allowed just 21 earned runs in his 21 quality starts to put that in perspective. Take away those two outings and his ERA drops from 3.10 to 2.13


Thompson has the best curveball in the system, a hook that has been compared to the likes of Barry Zito. He also throws a plus changeup and a fastball that rides in the low nineties. Most importantly, he hits his spots when it counts.


One troubling area that has not bit him as much as you would think is high walk totals. Thompson walked five or more in five games last year and walked three in his opening start for Lake Elsinore this year. Surprisingly, he has allowed just 16 runs in those starts, nine coming in one outing. He doesn't even beat himself!


Perhaps it is because Thompson has the best pickoff move of anyone in the organization, including the Majors. He picked off twenty runners last year and already has two pickoffs in one start this year.


"I get teased because guys on the team say I just walk guys and then pick them off," Thompson joked.


He begins the year in the California League, a disappointment as he hoped to be in Mobile. With the right attitude going in, Thompson won't have to suffer like he did last year, pitching the entire year in one league. If he string together a few solid outings, he should be the first pitcher to be promoted. From there, he is one call away from making The Show.


6) Ben Johnson went from obscurity to the main scene in the span of a year. He had been an underachieving outfielder with all the right tools but had never put it together. That changed in Johnson's third year with Mobile.


Johnson's previous high for homers was 13 and RBI's was 63. He smoked 23 homers and knocked in 85, second most in the Southern League, last year.


His .251 average wasn't the greatest but solid for the Southern League. What was most impressive was his extra base hit totals on the year, 57. He hit just .218 during the first half of the year but .287 in the second half. He carried that hot streak over to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .325 with five homers and 23 RBI's in 31 games.


His walk totals (55) weren't as high as one would like from a power hitter who struck out 136 times, but Johnson attributes that to aggressiveness.


"I am trying to drive guys in," said Johnson. "If there is a pitch off the plate that I feel like I can handle and put something in the gap then I will try and do that. A walk is always nice but I am trying to pick up the RBI."


This year, Johnson is in Portland and can take a stranglehold on his future with a solid year. Padres General Manager Kevin Towers even brought his name up should there be a need in the San Diego outfield. A solid year this season will erase any doubts about his arrival and San Diego may be the next step.


Email Denis Savage at Safage@NetZero.net


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