Padres' Prospect Pulse: Stock slip in A-Ball

This is the thankless part of the job. Honesty in an assessment, however, is more crucial to development than telling someone they are better than they are. A lesson we learned from Tye Waller. With objective criticism, the hope is the prospect will take what has been said and become a better player – and these Padres' prospects fit the bill.

Javier Martinez could have easily been a pitcher on the rise had his season ended with his body still in full health. But that was not the case as his arm faltered and the result was Tommy John surgery.

His season seemed to be humming along as he made his start 17 straight times. But pain sidelined him and his season eventually ended with Martinez holding a streak of four straight winning decisions.

The 100-inning threshold he reached was the most he had ever pitched in a single season. After injuries halted his campaign in 2003 – while with Lake Elsinore – Martinez missed all of 2004. This was supposed to be the breakout year.

Unfortunately, Martinez is looking at a very real possibility of being forgotten by the club if he cannot make a comeback in the middle of 2006. Even then, he will likely be in his third year in the California League. . .luckily he will still only be 23 at that time.

This was the year Wilmer Villatoro was going to make the jump to big time reliever. The lanky right-hander had just completed two sub-3.00 ERA years within the system at Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore.

But in the spring, the Padres' evaluators were not happy with how he had progressed during the off-season and stuck him back with the Storm.

After a month and a half with Lake Elsinore, where he posted some stellar numbers, Villatoro was on the move up. In the Southern League, however, he was pounded to the tune of a 10.59 ERA and .458 average against.

He was sent back down to High-A after that disaster and his confidence seemed to shatter. His walk totals rose during his time in Double-A and continued to plague him back in the Cal League. Then when he was pitching strikes, the ball was up in the zone and getting hammered. He was given another five game stint in Mobile and left with a 20.65 ERA over that ugly stretch.

At some point he has to take the next step and so far he hasn't shown he is capable of such a jump. His confidence is shaky already and it could be one more go round that has him falling fully from grace.

Everyone we talk to says Matt Bush had a good year. But results in baseball are quantitative and can be scrutinized by number crunching and live views of his talents.

There is no doubt that he was vilified by many for his season, and perhaps unjustly so, but it was a reflection of being the number one overall pick. The sexy pick, Stephen Drew, hammered the ball for a good portion of his initial season.

But Bush is younger and has room to grow. The problem is, if what the coaches say is true, he may be moved up to Lake Elsinore next year and it appears he is not ready for such a move.

Bush hit .221 in his first year of full season ball and batted .183 in August as his body wore down. And with runners in scoring position he hit a meager .129. That does not translate into a player who deserves a promotion, even if San Diego wants to look good.

Bush was challenged with a full season league, of that there is no doubt. But many 19 year olds have thrived under such pressure and Bush did not. He has time to mature. Why the talk of a rush job? Let him learn the game at the lower levels so he has a chance to succeed. It would be a shame to shatter his confidence by moving him up and having another similar season. Ben Johnson eventually got it and Bush has the talent to get it as well. It should be on his timetable.

Our concern, and the reason for his inclusion, is closely related to the Padres desire to push him further than necessary. They talk a good game in regards to Bush and one wonders if it is because of the high expectations they are trying to meet or a true reflective look at his abilities and future. If they can wait for Colt Morton to explode, as he did this year, than Bush should be in Fort Wayne when the 2006 season rolls around.


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