Scouting Padres Prospect: Stephen Andrade

Rule 5 draftee Stephen Andrade has been making his case for several years. A former product of the Angels farm system, the right-hander has posted a 2.65 ERA in five minor league seasons. The Padres are eager to see what he does this spring and are nearly certain he will break with the club and return to San Diego for the season.

The Padres acquired Steve Andrade from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during the Rule 5 draft. The third pick overall was shipped west in a deal that essentially completed the Sean Burroughs for Dewon Brazelton swap.

What they are getting is a player that has been successful in the minor leagues and deserves a shot as a setup man in the majors.

"Bottom line is this is my one big chance and you don't want to move downward," said Andrade.

The Padres believe he will excel.

At 28 (February 6), his prospect status would seem to be dwindling. But he is likely to stay on the major league roster to begin the year. If not, the Padres would have to offer him back to Toronto, the club Tampa Bay selected him from.

His numbers in 2005 for Double-A New Hampshire of the Eastern League were filthy. Twenty-three hits allowed in 50.1 innings for a .134 average against, a 1.97 ERA, and a 71-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

There wasn't a single month that the opposition hit higher than .160 off him and he owns a .185 career average against.

His strikeout numbers remain ridiculous; 12.78 per nine innings over the life of his career.

Andrade, a right-handed California native, ended up being sent to the Arizona Fall League and performed well. In 13 innings he allowed six runs – but four came in one outing – and he still limited a well-known hitters league to a .170 average.

"He's not overpowering, but those numbers are too silly to walk away from," said Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development. "He just misses bats and minimizes [hitters'] power."

Andrade's best pitch is a curve that is filthy behind an awkward and deceptive delivery that features several arm slots. He also sports a fastball that checks in the 87-91 range.

Andrade also pitched for Team USA in November, needing 16 pitches to strike out the side of the Nicaraguan team.

"He has good stuff," Angels rookie catcher Jeff Mathis said. "I had a chance to play with him again on the U.S. squad, which was fun. Kind of herky-jerky fastball, 90-91 with movement and that unbelievable breaking ball that makes everyone look so bad. Good pitcher, good guy and I enjoyed playing with him."

One area to watch with Andrade will be his stamina. His highest inning count in the minors was 61.2 frames back in 2004. The Padres are not afraid to use the arms in the pen with five relievers netting over 57 innings of work.

Will major league hitters be able to locate the ball out of his hand? Will a bad outing change the mentality of a determined young man? Will the curve suddenly lose its sting and stay up in the zone? These are all questions the Padres are eager to find out because they believe they know the answer.

Andrade – a former prospect who is now a professional is what they hope to say.

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