Fort Wayne Wizards: The First Five Weeks

Another team playing well in the San Diego Padres' system, the Wizards were 17-11 through Saturday, good enough for a half a game out of first place in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League. Fort Wayne has relied upon a balanced attack, the Wizards are fourth in overall team batting average and third in overall ERA in the Midwest League.

Position Player- Colt Morton

Another one of the Padres farmhands who has found success the second time, or in this case, the third time around. Colt Morton, 23, at 6'6", 230 lbs, is finally starting to tap into the power potential that the Padres envisioned. He has always been one of the Padres better defensive prospects, but throughout his professional career his bat has held him back. Going into the season, in 541 professional at bats Morton struck out 176 times while posting a .214 batting average, which earned him multiple trips between Eugene of the Northwest League and Fort Wayne.

Although he still strikes out about once every four at bats, ( 69 at-bats, 20 strikeouts and 11 base-on-balls), his overall numbers right now easily eclipse any offensive problems. In the first five weeks of the season Colt hit .348/.434/.681 (batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage), with 6 home runs and 24 RBIs, to lead the Wizards.

The next step for Colt will be determined by what the Padres do with George Kottaras in Lake Elsinore and Nick Trzesniak in Mobile. If the Padres promote Trzesniak to Portland over the struggling Michael Hernandez, they will place Kottaras in Mobile, promote Morton in Lake Elsinore and install Matt Lauderdale full time, who has also performed will in limited opportunities, at Fort Wayne in what will be the Padres' deepest organizational position.

Morton needs to show that he can make consistent contact and hit for power if he is going to get noticed at a position with a lot of depth. His defensive game, from all accounts, is already there. Of all the catchers in the system, Colt may have the most potential, the key, as always, is if he can get the most out of his ability.

Centerfielder Chris Kolkhorst (a.k.a. (the "grit man) .318/.407/.383, right fielder Tom Vincent .341/.404/.455 and second baseman Sean Kazmar .298/.353/..426 have also delivered nice seasons.

According to Kevin Goldstein, the writer who ranked the Padres top 30 prospects for Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, Kazmar, 20, just missed making the top 30 Padres prospects. A shortstop in college, Kazmar is playing second base because of Matt Bush, may have the brightest future of the bunch, who according to Kevin Goldstein, the writer who ranked the Padres top 30 prospects for Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, Kazmar just missed making the top 30 overall Padres prospects. Because Kazmar plays several infield positions, has some pop and is still pretty young, he could be someone to watch as the year develops.

Pitcher - Clayton Hamilton

Out of Penn State University, Hamilton, 23, has put together a nice season so far for the Wizards going 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA, a 28 to 12 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio in 33.1 innings pitched. Hamilton, at 6'5", 200 lbs has good size, but it is really tough to project experienced college pitchers in the Midwest League. Frequently, pitchers who know how to pitch and change speeds can dominate at this level, as we saw with Gabe Ribas in 2003, but will be brought back to earth quickly as they progress up the chain. Hamilton so far has done everything right, the next few steps will determine how excited we all get.

Fabian Jimenez is only 18, but has shown some promise. He has held batters to a .155 batting average and pitched some brilliant games, and some not so brilliant games. However, anyone who is 18, left-handed and has a fastball that sits in the low 90's with a breaking ball, practically defines the word "prospect". Fabian has more walks (13) and hit batters (4) than strikeouts (11) in 25 innings, but we have seen glimpses of his talent. Stay tuned.

Matt Bush Update

First, the debate over whether or not the Padres should have selected Matt Bush with the number one overall pick of the 2004 draft has already been debated to death and is really a moot point. The Padres did select Matt Bush, he is a player within their system and they have quite a bit invested in him both financially and in the reputations of their scouting department. The team is going to do everything in its power to develop Matt Bush into a major league player. We all need to move on.

Kevin Goldstein, when asked if he stood by his ranking of Bush as the #6 prospect in the Padres system replied, "I'm going to stick with that pick. He has the lowest ranking of any guy that has ever been selected number one overall, but is a very good defensive player, and most of his errors were cases of good plays that he just tried to do to much with and not knowing when to eat the ball. Also, his bat is starting to come around as well."

Currently, Bush is not exactly tearing up the Midwest League hitting .224/.265/.318, with 9 errors. On the positive side Bush has shown that he does have some pop in his bat, 34 total bases and 6 of his 24 hits have been for extra bases.

Maybe the best way to look at Bush is this way, he is guy who is a year out of playing for Mission Bay High School that is now competing against players who have either spent three to four years succeeding in college baseball or have been playing professionally for a few years. Its going to be an adjustment for anyone.

Bush is usually at least two years younger than most his teammates or competition, and the Padres other top high school selections, catcher Billy Killian, first baseman Daryl Jones and pitcher Ben Krosschell are still in extended spring training and most likely be at Eugene for the full season.

If Bush can continue to show the progress that he has been demonstrating recently and more importantly steady his defense, the Padres first gamble with promoting him to a full season league will have paid off for the fist step in a very long process of his development.

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