First Month Highlights: Mobile BayBears

Mobile has performed about as well as expected in pre-season rankings for April, 9-13, with a few potential major league players, some guys seeking to regain their prospect status and many organizational guys. A brutal place to play because of the increased competition of Double-A and the heat of the summer, Mobile is where players either solidify or lose their reputations as future major league players.

Stats current through May 1st.

Position Player: Paul McAnulty player of the Year in 2004 has continued to produce. In making one of the most difficult jumps in the minor leagues McAnulty has responded hitting .333/.414./.413 with one home run and 12 RBIs. Although he's played well, he needs to tighten his defense where he has three errors already and have more than three extra base hits in 75 at bats. Still when considering the difficulty most of the Padres prospects have in the transition from the California League to the Southern League, McAnulty's performance has been impressive.

Two other players have also attracted notice are third baseman Corey Smith and catcher Nick Trzesniak. Smith, acquired for the former 2001 number one pick Jake Gautreau, hit .292/.347/.438, with two home runs and eight RBIs. Although only 23, this is Smith's third year in Double-A, with a very open vacancy in Portland at third base, it will be interesting to see how long the Padres keep him in Mobile.

A holdover from last years BayBears championship team, Trzesniak has always excelled at defense side of the game, its hitting what has held him up. After hitting .211 in 2004, he sealed his return ticket back to Mobile, but seems to be turning the corner with the bat hitting .310/.431/.448 with one home run and five RBIs in April. A good start, but the key will be Nick's ability to keep his legs under him as the season progresses. However, no one is really in front of him at catcher in Portland, so there is some chance he might be spared the heat of Mobile for the more temperate climates of the Pacific Northwest.

Also Kennard Jones has shown a noticeable improvement over last year (.267/.376/.314), especially in his on-base-percentage and most importantly in his stolen bases. He leads the team in walks and hasn't been caught stealing in five attempts, however a .690 OPS isn‘t going to punch a lot of tickets to the show.

Minor league veteran Ronnie Merril has put up some good numbers, but he's another player who profiles more as an organizational player than a prospect because of a lack of a dominant tool. Luis Cruz, after a horrid opening few weeks, has slowly started to re-build his batting average. Last year's Southern League home run champ Greg Sain is off to a slow start, but is still one of the leaders in total bases on the team. However he only has one home run in 81 at bats and is starting to be pushed from Michael Johnson in Lake Elsinore.

Pitchers: none

The biggest news at the beginning of the season was the impressive debut of Travis Chick, one of the Padres brightest pitching prospects, followed by two bad outings. Chick is only twenty years old, and skipped the California League, so there will be questions if he was rushed. His most recent performance on Sunday showed signs of returning to his debut going five innings, allowing two hits, two walks and one run.

A less heralded pitching prospect however has emerged in Jose Oyervidez. Oyervidez has been with the Padres since 2002, but didn't pitch in 2004. Only 23 and signed as a free agent out of Laredo Community College, so far he's been the BayBears best pitcher. In four starts he has a 2.50 ERA, but is still 0-2 despite only allowing batters a .194 average. Oyervidez has walked a few too many people (nine) for the number of innings that he pitched (18), but also has a decent number of strikeouts (20).

Mike Thompson so far has put together a nice season, is leading the team in ERA and innings pitched, but this is also his sixth year in the system. Dale Thayer, 1-3 with a 5.68 ERA, has struggled with his promotion to Mobile, blowing two save opportunities for the BayBears.

According to Kevin Goldstein, the writer who ranked the Padres top 30 prospects for Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, the most impressive pitching prospect at Mobile may be Rusty Tucker. In 2003, Tucker was the Padres best relief pitcher in the system, a hard throwing lefty with mid-90's fastball before going down with Tommy John surgery. "Rusty's Tucker's comeback is going well, his velocity is coming back and the control is the last thing to come all the way back."

Tucker's statistics over 9.2 innings show someone on one hand that is holding opposing batters to a 1.94 batting average with 12 strikeouts, but is also struggling with his command (eight base-on-balls, two hit batters and four wild pitches). Stay tuned, we'll be back in a month to check on his control.

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