Scouting Padres Prospect: Chris Kolkhorst

The proponents of "Moneyball" all stress what Chris Kolkhorst has – the ability to consistently reach base. If you put together a team of players that can reach base near 40 percent of the time, the odds say you will score a lot of runs.

When Chris Kolkhorst reached base in 30 straight games for the Fort Wayne Wizards, creating runs for his squad was the theme. It ended up being the third longest streak in the Midwest League.

In 100 games for the Wizards, Kolkhorst posted a .282 average with a .392 on base percentage (OBP) with more walks, 65, than strikeouts, 57. He reached base 183 times – 111 hits and was plunked seven times – scoring 65 runs.

The outfielder was moved up to Lake Elsinore and in 26 games hit .327 with a .419 OBP. His two years in the Padres' system have produced a .418 OBP at four different minor league affiliates.

"As far as being a leadoff hitter, that is my easiest decision of the day when Chris is in there, Wizards manager Randy Ready said. "His on base percentage reflects that."

"Very good plate discipline and very good at getting their walks," Bill Bryk, the Padres minor league field coordinator, said. "He knows how to play."

He ended the season with more walks than K's overall, 80-to-78 with 83 runs scored.

A left-handed hitter selected in the tenth round in 2004 out of Rice, Kolkhorst has been the model of consistency at the plate. Minus the month of May where he slumped with a .223 average, the left-fielder hit over .290 in every other month of the year.

Kolkhorst is very cerebral in his approach at the plate. He is patient and rarely misses his pitch. It isn't uncommon to see two strikes on the scoreboard with Kolkhorst at the plate; he simply has confidence that he will connect on the next pitch.

"He is a pretty good offensive player," added Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development.

While hitting comes easy, speed does not. He ended the year with 21 stolen bases in 27 attempts, a 78 percent success rate, but his ability to steal a base is based more off his ability to read pitchers than his speed. He has worked hard with the coaches to become better in this area of the game. He is rated as a tick above average; but he grounded into 17 double plays in 2005 over two leagues.

Speed isn't something that is widely taught but a speed school may aid in him in maximizing his potential – similar to what many college prospects do when preparing for the NFL Draft.

The reason speed is essential to his game is his lack of power. Kolkhorst knows to make it to the majors means playing centerfield, a position that doesn't demand the power that a corner outfield spot does.

His defense is solid as he gets good breaks on the balls and takes good angles but his arm is currently below average and he does not cover a lot of ground on contact. That must change if he plans on playing in centerfield.

It is an area Moneyball does not address. Very few major league teams carry players with a high on base percentage that lack power or top-notch speed. That puts Kolkhorst on the hot seat to expand the limits of his current game.

"I am not interested in little guys that can't run," one Padres scout said candidly. "He doesn't have the speed for center or the power for the corners."

"I'm not sure if he has the center field quickness, range," Ready added.

With aspirations of being a leadoff man that can supply runs and play great defensively, Kolkhorst will continue to test the bounds of the game with his high on base percentage. Whether he will get an opportunity for the ultimate advancement will depend on the rest of his game following suit.


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