First Month Highlights: Lake Elsinore

The most surprising team in the Padres system, going 14-8 and leading the California League Southern Division The Storm led the California League in batting average by 16 points for the first month and the pitching was solid with their ERA in the middle of the league.

Lake Elsinore Storm California League (A)

Stats current through May 1st

Position - Michael Johnson

Khalil Greene’s college teammate from Clemson is finally starting to live up to the promise the Padres expected out of him when he was drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft. After two years of injuries and adjusting to the pro game, Johnson is finally starting to clean out the Californian League, hitting .346/.411/.769 (batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage), with 8 home runs, 60 total bases and 31 RBIs, easily the best offensive performance of anyone in the Padres minor leagues for the month of April.

It’s a nice performance, however this is Johnson’s third straight year in the California League and at 25, the Padres need to be aggressive in promoting him when he succeeds in order to derive some value from him. A left handed bat with power is a rarity in this system, and Johnson could develop into a potential alternative for the Padres once Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevis’s contracts expire in 2006. My guess is it will probably be another month while the Padres attempt to sort out a log jam that they have at first base (Tagg Bozied and Jon Knott in Portland, Greg Sain and Paul McAnulty in Mobile). We should see Johnson in Mobile by June unless he goes into a major slump in May.

The Storm had nine players hit above .300 for the month, but two of the more impressive stars were the leaders of last year’s Fort Wayne Wizards; first baseman/DH Fernando Valenzuela Jr. (.340/.431/.511, with 3 home runs, 48 total bases and 16 RBIs in 94 at bats) and catcher George Kottaras (.323/.397.415, with no home runs and 11 RBIs).

A left handed hitting twenty one year old catcher, Kottaras will turn 22 in May and is attracting a lot of attention. Despite not having hit any home runs, Kottaras is showing decent gap power, with six of his twenty-one hits for extra bases, in addition to solid defense.

Shortstop Juan Ciriaco has put up some nice offensive numbers .341/.389/.463, but also booted a whopping 10 errors for the month. Drew Macias also put together some nice numbers for the month (.319/.373/.394, with five extra base hits and five steals).

Pitcher - Sean Thompson

Four games started, three wins, no losses combined with a 1.77 ERA and a 28 strikeouts against only 10 base-on-balls.  Not bad for a guy that I left out of my overall top 10 at the beginning of the season (Ok, Sean I read your comments in “Thompson Tuesday’s” you win. Although you did write that my leaving you off of the top 10 gave you some motivation).

The only quibble I might have with Sean’s performance is that he is walking a few too many guys with the talent that he has, but maybe this lone negative comment will propel Sean to Mobile.

Leo Rosales is leading the Storm with 4 saves and nice 16 to 4 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio. Wilmer Villatoro seems to be getting back on track, holding opposing hitters to a .171 batting average, but is still walking a few too many (7 in 12 innings pitched) for a relief pitcher. Javier Martiniez has some nice ratios, 21 to 9 strikeout to base-on-balls, but has been victimized by the long ball (4) in four of his starts, resulting in a 6.20 ERA.



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