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
Guzman stole 48 bases in 66 games with
"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
"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.
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
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
Baker begins the year in
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
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
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
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
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
Email Denis Savage at Safage@NetZero.net