Lake Elsinore Players of the Month for May

Familiar names and faces are putting up big numbers in Lake Elsinore, and could be moving right up the ladder soon.

Position Player - Fernando Valenzuela Jr., 1b

Fernando Valenzuela Jr. started the year off hot and continued his offensive production into May. Not a traditional power hitting first baseman, Valenzuela is a solid gap hitter posting an OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .908, with overall numbers of .335/.420/.488 (batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage), with 5 home runs and 34 RBIs in 53 games. As stated in other columns, Fernando is a good player, but being limited to first base without demonstrating "light tower power" makes it difficult to break into the major leagues as a first baseman. Still Valenzuela's excellent strike out to base on balls ratio (29/26) and ability to drive in runs will keep forcing the Padres to give him opportunities.

Outfielder Steve Baker, going into his second season with the Storm, is leading the California League in batting at 377, but his OBP is still lower than Valenzuela's (.420 to .412) despite a batting average forty points higher. Baker is a hitter similar to Valenzuela in that he doesn't have great raw power, just 3 home runs in 167 at bats, but will hit the ball hard, as evidenced by his team leading 14 doubles and .527 slugging percentage. The most noticeable improvement for Baker from previous years has been the decrease in strikeouts (35), which unfortunately hasn't been accompanied by an increase in bases-on-balls (8).

Third baseman Brett Bonvechio also had a solid May. At .270 Bonvechio is hitting 65 points below Valenzuela in batting average, but his OBP is only 17 points less thanks to a team leading 38 walks in 189 at bats. Brett is second on the team with 6 home runs, but his 18 errors in the field and team leading 65 strikeouts need to be improved upon.

Catcher George Kottaras continues to enhance his top prospect status.  He's hitting, .304/.387/.435, with 4 home runs and 24 RBI's and shown improved defense behind the plate. With the exception of some stiffness in his shoulder late in the month, Kottaras has been the workhorse behind the plate for the Storm this year.

Pitcher - Jared Wells (RHP)

Jared Wells is a guy that the Padres hope really comes around. He has two things you can't teach, great size (6'4", 200 lbs) and velocity (a mid-90's fastball).  Wells was ranked as the Padres #15 overall prospect by Baseball America's Prospect Handbook. Currently Jared is leading the Storm in innings pitched (63) and has posted a very solid strikeout to base-on-balls ratio (45 to 16) and has a very good WHIP at 1.22. His ERA, 4.14 is still a little high, but he has improved in each of his recent starts.

Of those in Lake Elsinore, after Jared Wells, and since the departure of Sean Thompson, Javier Martinez (RHP) is the next high ranking Padres prospect, #28, according to Baseball America. Martinez has posted similar numbers to Wells, a strikeout to base-on-balls ratio of 47/14 and 34 earned runs in 55.1 innings, but he's also given up the big hit (11 home runs to 5 off Wells) and hasn't been quite as consistent as Wells has.  Javier is still very young, 22, and coming off a lost year to injury the Padres will probably keep him in Lake Elsinore for the remainder of the year.

Leo Rosales is the Storm's closer, has a nice strikeout to base-on-balls ratio (29/8) but has also been hit this year as evidenced by his 4.50 ERA, which is high for a closer. Still 29 strikeouts in 24 innings is impressive.

- When Mike Thompson is promoted to Portland from Mobile, we should see Wells move up the ladder as well. A trio of Travis Chick, Sean Thompson and Jared Wells will make a very solid rotation for Mobile in the second half of the year.

Before he got hurt first baseman Michael Johnson seemed a lock to be promoted to Mobile by now, but will probably spend more time in Lake Elsinore regaining his timing once he returns from his hand injury. Valenzuela, Kottaras and Bonvechio will likely be in Lake Elsinore for the whole year, because of both their ages and the people ahead of them in the system. Steve Baker could be promoted for the exact same reasons, he's going into his second year in Lake Elsinore and right field has not been a source of strength for the BayBears in 2005.

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