Mobile Position Prospect of the Year

In 2005 Paul McAnulty, 24, continued to defy the expectations of a 12th round draft pick, proving that last year's breakout season in Lake Elsinore wasn't a fluke and that he may not only be the best left-handed hitter in the Padres system, but maybe the best hitter period.

In Mobile this year, Paul McAnulty hit .282/.453/.364, with ten home runs and 42 RBIs in 79 games, before moving on to Portland to punish the Pacific Coast League with a .344 batting average and a .563 slugging percentage.

McAnulty's numbers are misrepresentative of an even better performance, for most of the year he had little protection around him at Mobile on what was easily the Padres' worst minor league team this year offensively.

The biggest obstacle that McAnulty had to face this year was to prove that he was more than a one-dimensional player, and show that he could play the outfield.

Tye Waller, who was the Padres Director of Minor League Development, was impressed with McAnulty's play in Mobile and Portland this year.

"Mac has really poured himself into improving defensively," said Waller. "However, if you play the two corners your best position is batter. He's got to hit. He started to hit down there not only for average, but also for power. He's becoming the hitter we envisioned."

The Padres see McAnulty as their top left-handed hitting prospect, which is demonstrated by them calling him up from Double-A in Mobile when the big team needed a left-handed bat off of the bench. Although McAnulty struggled in his newfound role as a pinch hitter, he didn't look intimidated and seemed to impress Padres manager Bruce Bochy, which is rare for a rookie.

In all probability, McAnulty will start the year in Portland for 2006, but be prepared to see more of him by mid-season, the man will post some offensive numbers. He could get a legitimate shot at the first base or left field job in 2007 with the end of Ryan Klesko‘s contract.

McAnulty is the type of left-handed hitter the team is looking for, a guy who can drive the ball hard into the big gaps of PETCO. However, his bat is going to have to take him to the majors, which is tough for any young player, but he has put up very solid numbers for the past two years, and next year should be no exception.

After McAnulty, catcher George Kottaras, 22, was the next best prospect that rolled through Mobile. In only 101 at bats, Kottaras hit .287/.416/.397, very solid numbers for someone who was playing in Double-A for the first time – all while making only a single error behind the plate in twenty nine games.

In the Arizona Fall League, Kottaras got off to a rough start, but bounced back in limited playing time. He could start the year in Portland, mainly because of the emergence of Colt Morton in Lake Elsinore this past year and with the move of Nick Trzesniak to Texas, the road seems wide open.

The Padres consider Kottaras their top catching prospect, in what is the deepest position in the organization. The emergence of Kottaras may have factored into the team's decision not to give Ramon Hernandez a long-term contract. Kottaras will probably play a full year in either Mobile or Portland and should be a candidate for the starting job behind the plate in 2007 if he continues to make the steady progress that he has in the past two years.

At the end of June, Kennard Jones, 23, seemed mired in another season where he failed to utilize his God given talent and speed, as he was caught hitting the ball in the air far too much. Things started to change in July and August when Jones suddenly began to put the ball in play. In July, Jones hit .308 followed by a sizzling August of .342. More importantly, and especially for a leadoff hitter, he put up an on base percentage over .400 for both months.

Jones' biggest problem, especially for a player whose greatest tool is speed, and seen as having a future of being a leadoff hitter, was his poor stolen base ratio. In 37 attempts, he was thrown out 14 times, a number that will have to improve if he is going to propel himself back into the top prospect category.

This coming year, Portland should have some serious speed at the top of the order with Freddy Guzman and Kennard Jones in the lineup. Jones may have begun to turn the corner and may yet live up to the promise the team saw in him when they drafted him out of Indiana University in 2002, but he‘s going to have to continue to realize what his game is and is not.

Third baseman Corey Smith, 23,who was acquired for former number one pick Jake Gautreau at the beginning of the year, put up some nice power numbers in Mobile (18 home runs), but too much of his future value is tied up in his ability to play third base, where he is still a sub par player.

Smith easily had the best performance in the Arizona Fall League of any Padres' prospect hitting .330/.390/.626, but spent most of the season at DH. The Padres' decision to not put Smith on the forty-man roster and the signing of third baseman Justin Leone makes one wonder how much Smith does fit into the team's plans for next year. He may have turned the corner with Rob Deer, who did wonders for Ben Johnson, but Smith is going to have to put together more than a Fall League to have a chance.

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