Prospect Pulse: Utility option

The Padres recently extended offers and concluded deals with several players. In a move that didn't get much press but deserves a raised eyebrow, they locked up third baseman/utility player Justin Leone, formerly of the Seattle Mariners.

One of the most interesting players on the list that flies under the radar has to be Justin Leone. The third baseman was on the Mariners 40-man roster this past year before he was shipped outright to Triple-A Tacoma in mid-October. He played 31 games for Seattle in 2004 with six homers and 13 RBI's.

Leone, a 28-year-old infielder who has played second, third and short, hit .243 with seven homers and 38 RBIs in 87 games at Tacoma this past season. He was with the Mariners from April 9-14 but didn't play in any games.

"He is patient at the plate, but often takes one too many pitches and loses out on swinging at something he could drive," said a Mariners scout. "His hand injury this past year never allowed him to really go all out with the glove or with the bat."

Considered a team player, Leone may begin his career at Triple-A Portland but given his poise it is no inconceivable to see him on the Padres bench with his ability to play multiple positions. He also played outfield last year and is feeling more comfortable there.

"I knew who Seattle is keeping," said Leone of his decision to sign with San Diego. "I talked to my agent and he said (the Padres) showed the most interest. I received word that they might have a utility role open and it is probably a better shot with the Padres than the Mariners. They mentioned that if I play well in Spring Training I have a shot at the utility role."

Leone isn't considered great on the defensive side, but he will work with Fielding Instructor Tony Franklin to better his footwork, one key area that has limited him in the past.

While his hand injury limited this past season, Leone has displayed considerable power with 106 homers in 608 career minor league games coming into the year, which translates into about 26 over a 150-game season.

Leone proclaims that he is healthy and is looking forward to the battle ahead when spring training rolls around. He has familiarity with players in the system and feels he could add a lot to the team.

"I am fine now," Leone said. "They always said you need to get some rest and it was tough during the season to get that rest. I am excited."


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