Batter of the Year: AZL Padres

There were a number of candidates to consider for Batter of the Year at the Arizona Rookie League level in the San Diego Padres system. Kyle Blanks shot out of the gate with rocket fuel. Casey Smith was red hot. But the honors will go elsewhere as one player did it over the long haul.

It appeared to be a shoe-in early on when Kyle Blanks hit seven homers in his first 14 games, knocking in 21 over that span and hitting .393. But over the next 34 games he would produce just nine RBI's without a homer and ended the year hitting .299.

Casey Smith took it personal when he was sent down from Eugene early in the season and went on to notch a hit in 18 of his 21 games with the Rookie League club, including a nine-game hitting streak to open his tour in Arizona. But he moved up to Eugene and essentially put himself out of the running with half as many games played in the league as others.

The player who did it from start to finish after being transplanted from the club's Dominican Summer League squad was Javis Diaz.

A two-year veteran of the Dominican Summer League team, Diaz entered 2005 with a .262 career average in 132 games. He dwarfed those numbers while playing in Peoria.

The left-hand hitting outfielder would play in 39 games for the Rookie League club and swatted .352. He notched five doubles, six triples and two homers while driving in 24. Eighteen of those RBI's came when he was dropped to the three-hole in the lineup – a span of 21 games.

Among players who appeared in 25 games or more, Diaz led the way in slugging percentage (.510) and on base percentage (.425). Ironically, Diaz had just one extra base hit over his first 18 games before collecting 12 over his next 21. He also stole 19 bases in 24 attempts.

Josh Howard, who played in over 20 games with Peoria before joining Lake Elsinore late in the year, had nothing but praise for Diaz:

"I thought he was a really good player. He impressed me a lot."

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