Scouting Padres Prospect #37: Brett Bonvechio

It may be hard to fathom, but third baseman Brett Bonvechio had just 12 home runs before joining the Padres' farm on May 15, 2004. He then hit nine with Fort Wayne last year and 19 in Lake Elsinore this past season.

The real question isn't where his power came from – it was simply waiting to blossom – but his sudden affinity to draw a walk is a new tactic he has employed.

"Very streaky," Bill Bryk, the Padres' minor league field coordinator, said. "When he is hot no one gets him out."

Before lacing up for the Storm, Brett Bonvechio had drawn 95 walks in 250 games, an average of 0.38 per contest. In 2005, the left-handed hitting Bonvechio was issued a free pass 86 times in 131 games, a mark of 0.66 per contest – nearly double his previous output.

Oddly enough, his strikeout totals also soared to the tune of 163 in 480 at bats, or one in every 2.95 at bats. Entering the year it was one in every 4.34 at bats.

Strange.

The problem with all of that is Bonvechio became too patient at the plate, waiting for the perfect pitch and falling behind in counts. There are some holes in his swing that need refining so he can connect with his pitch when he sees it - and playing from behind in the count has him chasing bad pitches.

So, while his .385 on base percentage brought smiles, his high strikeout totals brought jeers.

"His strikeouts are high," Bryk agreed. I wasn't a believer completely until this year. I know the California League can be deceiving."

Yet, this was a breakthrough year for Bonvechio.

Originally taken in the 37th round of the 2000 draft by the Red Sox, it took time for Bonvechio to mature.

Now 23 – and he will play through the 2006 season at that age – Bonvechio is still battling erratic behavior. He goes through periods of hot in cold – hitting .256 in April then .302 in May, .231 in June before tearing up July with a .345 average only to drop down to .210 in August.

That points to confidence. When he is feeling good about his swing it is obvious and he takes the same approach to each game. But whatever mental block afflicts him as the season grinds on will also have the reverse effect.

A left-handed hitter and native Californian, he had some troubles at third base, leading to 35 errors, which led the California League among third basemen and placed second in all the minors among third basemen. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Bonvechio doesn't have a ton of range at third and get sloppy with his footwork.

"Defensively, he is limited in range, average at best," said Bryk. "His arm - playable. Defensively, he needs to pick it up a little bit.

"I think he has a chance to make it to the majors as a platoon guy - first baseman, third baseman and even catcher."

"Brett Bonvechio has the makings of a pretty good third baseman," roving infield instructor, Tony Franklin, countered. "He has some offensive skills that will keep him playing the game and defensive skills that a lot of third basemen don't have. He has a great arm. He has the ability to catch the baseball. The problem is he has to do it consistently. That shows in his error total. You have to be able to make those plays a little bit more consistently."

It would do Bonvechio well to redefine his workout regimen to include exercises that will increase his mobility, as his power won't take a hit in the process.

Things don't get friendly in the Southern League and his bat and defense need work. If he can still show patience at the plate while being selectively aggressive earlier in the counts, he can cut down on his strikeouts. If he waits until two strikes, the Double-A pitchers will exploit his willingness to drive in runs with junk.

"Bonvechio came to the Instructional League and made progress," added Bryk. "We are going to give him every opportunity to make that Double-A team. Taking in what he did during the year we are going to give him every opportunity to step up. This will tell us what Bonvechio is all about. The Southern League will make a man out of you."


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