Padres Prospect Pulse: On the rise

The continued rise of prospects in the Padres' system gives them a sense that things will be fine in the future. Some analysts call this crop mediocre at best but several players are trying to redefine the way others see the system.

Blessed with talent but short on heart was the take. An arm of platinum but the head of a rock. That is what prevented Jared Wells from taking the next step in his development. A power pitcher who has a tough time understanding change (pun somewhat intended), he transformed his image in 2004 and started to live up to the talent in his right arm.

Wells had a dominant year in the California League, earning Pitcher of the Year honors with his 11-3 mark and 3.44 ERA. He held the opposition to a .257 batting average against with a WHIP of 1.18.

His average against dipped to .230 with runners in scoring position and he was able to command the count with first pitch strikes.

The Padres wanted to see him throw his changeup more, a move he has resisted at times over the course of the year. The organization believes if he can master that pitch it will make him infinitely better and he has shown strides with the pitch. He moved up to Double-A for seven starts and went 2-7 with a 4.40 ERA. The main difference was his walks were up, as was his average against. That is why the Padres' brass request he throw the changeup more often to setup the fastball.

The former draft and follow is certainly on the rise after a disappointing year in 2004 and a kid to keep an eye on in the future.

When he began to embarrass pitchers in the California League, they said it was a hitter's league. But Steve Baker accomplished the same feat in Southern League play, a known pitcher's paradise.

The only thing that he lacks right now is power, falling under the Josh Carter disease. But, several shoulder injuries have contributed to his diminished power numbers and as he uses this offseason to rebuild the strength it could reappear. It was in 2002 that Baker hit 11 homers in 62 games.

From game five of his Storm campaign, Baker hit no lower than .341 over the next 51 games. The only thing he wasn't doing was drawing walks - a characteristic he was able to change in June when he walked nine times in 17 games - this after drawing four in his first 37.

After a slow start in the Southern League, Baker turned on the jets with a .356 month of August and ended up hitting .288 in 66 games. He does strike out a bit too much and since he is not walking a lot his average dictates his on base percentage.

He plays a solid outfield, even with the surgeries, and boasts an above average arm. His status in the organization has taken a step forward with his play this year and increased power along with patience at the plate will ultimately decide his future.

It wasn't that Josh Barfield saw his stock rise within the organization or to those of us who saw him as the number one prospect in the system, but some had questioned how his game would evolve in Triple-A after hitting .250 in the Southern League.

The questions began to rise after his first two months of play with Portland - but then he turned on the battery pack. He quelled any thoughts that he was not ready to compete with a torrid second half to his season.

At the end of May, he was hitting .251 but over the next three months he would hit .349 - including .388 in July. He even added some muscle, pounding out 25 extra base hits in his final 59 games after netting 16 in his first 78.

He also continued to excel with runners in scoring position, batting .347. Those numbers reaffirmed his status as a top prospect and are the fuel that is pressuring the Big League squad to make a decision about his future sometime soon. His stock is definitely among the elite.

Paul McAnulty and Dale Thayer may have improved their stock slightly but after impressive years in 2004 they simply continued to dominate at higher levels.

McAnulty got his call to the show as a reward, going from Double-A to San Diego, back down to Triple-A before going back to the Padres. He was used mainly as a pinch hitter and has surpassed several prospects on his meteoric rise.

Thayer continues to be a consistent closer in the system. For the third straight year he has saved 23-plus games. A 2.34 ERA in 2005 gives him a career ERA of 2.09 in the Padres' minors. The kid continues to shine.


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