The future of Fort Wayne prospects and Matt Bush

The Wizards are struggling starting off the second half, but simply have too much talent for it to last. A good month by Hamilton and Ekstrom, combined with a promotion of Lake Elsinore's Jared Wells should see one or likely both of them promoted to Lake Elsinore.

The only position player that seems to be a candidate for promotion on the Wizards is outfielder Chris Kolkhorst, both because of his age, 23, his success at his level and the outfield vacancy in Lake Elsinore. It would be an interesting outfield in Lake Elsinore if this does happen, with the 6'3" Drew Macias flanked by the 5'8" Adam Bourassa in left field and the 5'9" Kolkhorst in right field. With Josh Alley added to the team, it would seem the Kolkhorst clone would push the Rice alum up the ladder.

Catcher Colt Morton struggled in the month of June (.206) as he saw a significant drop in his average for the second straight month, but despite the low averages he has improved on making better contact at the plate than in previous years. For the season he has a good BB/K ratio of 34-to-54 which is much better than what he has done in previous years.

Colt faces some stiff competition on the catching ladder within the organization with George Kottaras, 22, above him in Lake Elsinore and Eugene's Nick Hundley, 21, the Padres number #4 pick in the draft closing fast. The Padres will most likely keep Morton at Fort Wayne for the full year, especially with him on the disabled list, and we should see him in Lake Elsinore for 2006. Colt, because of his great size, 6'5" and defensive ability, still has a lot of upside and right now he is correcting a major flaw which has kept him in the Midwest League for parts of three seasons, the ability to make consistent contact.

We get as many questions, both on and on our radio segment each Friday on The Mighty 1090, on Matt Bush as with any other prospect. Since Bush was the number one overall pick a year ago, most fans of the Padres expect to see Bush putting up great numbers in the minors and are curious about his estimated arrival time in the major leagues.

I didn't include Matt Bush in my preseason player rankings simply because I didn't believe that 99 professional level at-bats in the short-season leagues, reports on his progress in the Arizona Instructional Leagues, and assessments about how his "tools" indicated his potential ability as a major league baseball player would for a sufficient basis make a fair analysis in comparing him to other players, with years of experience playing professional baseball within the system (my colleague Denis Savage, a former professional scout, disagreed ranking him 19th overall in the system).

So what is the instant analysis after half a season? Bush obviously has some talent, as indicated by his high draft status and inclusion on the Midwest League All Star team, but his bat is still not there yet, not even for the Midwest League. Will Bush rocket through the minor leagues and be with the Padres when he is 21? Unless something dramatically changes, no. Is he bust? No, but Matt Bush is probably best classified at this point as a long range project.

A better way to look at Matt Bush may be seen in the emergence of Portland outfielder Ben Johnson, as arguably the best Padres' prospect going into 2006. Johnson is a true five tool talent who can play all three outfield positions and hit for power and average. He nearly quit baseball at the midpoint of 2004. Coming off of a month where he hit .193, after hitting only .181 in Mobile in 2003, Johnson caught fire and hit .286/.380./568 for the rest of the season. The point is Johnson always had a tremendous amount of talent, it just took a lot of years and patience for it to develop.

Matt Bush could end the season hitting between .240 to .250, repeat the year in Fort Wayne for 2006, and still be ahead of schedule to be a major league player. Bush who will be 20 in 2006, would still be one of the younger players in the Midwest League, and be far ahead of his contemporaries entering into their sophomore season of college baseball. If Padres' fans can view Bush as a good young player, who could potentially turn into a five-tool prospect, instead of an underperforming overall number one draft pick, he could turn into the Ben Johnson of 2008 or 2009.

It's just going to take awhile.

Editor's note: Our next extended on-site visit will be to Fort Wayne in late July. Next month we will have a monthly breakdown for Eugene and Peoria in the short-season leagues in addition to our normal breakdowns of Portland, Mobile, Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne.

A quick preview, stay tuned for the continuing adventures of "Gigantor"...

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