Acquired this off-season, Gonzo has a sweet swing and is the best defender in the group. He is penciled in as the backup to Ryan Klesko and profiles as a high average doubles hitter, in the mold of a John Olerud.
2. Kyle Blanks
At his age and with his projections, Blanks could be a long-term answer. He is a massive man that maintains his agility. While he has a long way to go, Blanks cleared the road in front of him with an impressive debut in rookie ball. His weight will always be an issue.
3. Walter Young
After smacking a homer in his spring debut, Young has the Padres attention. There is no questioning his power – but does he even have a position? As a bench player he offers huge, no pun intended, potential to go deep at any point in time. The Padres lack a player that can strike fear like Young can and that could make him stick. It would not surprise to hear teams asking about him in trades.
Tabbed seemingly forever as the prospect to take the next step, Johnson has continually been hindered by injuries. This year, his bat exploded and will be tested again in Mobile. While he does not look pretty in the field, he is one of the better defenders at the position.
5. Daryl Jones
Throw away this year after it was revealed that he had the wrong contacts – causing him to chase the off-speed pitches and screwing with his depth perception. He still has raw talent and should bounce back this year. He is in a tight battle with Blanks right now for playing time on the right side of the infield.
6. Tagg Bozied
Let's face it – when healthy, Bozied has a combination of raw power and clutch performances that would make an everyday first baseman proud. He was on the fast track until a freak injury ended his season and has derailed his career. Healthy, he would be first on the list. The sad part is we may never know how good he could have been.
7. Tim Brown
Signed this off-season out of the Independent Leagues after being originally drafted by Pittsburgh, Brown is more of a doubles hitter that will hit for average, show patience at the plate and shoot the ball into the gaps. He is the favorite to land the starting job in Fort Wayne and could surprise.
8. Greg Sain
Sain lost some bat speed due to a shoulder injury and it cut down on his totals across the board. Scouts have quietly believed that he will surprise some people this year – althought it will likely be at a different position.
9. Fernando Valenzuela Jr.
The knock on Junior is his bat speed. But there is really no questioning his numbers thus far. The kid has hit wherever he has been and has slowly added to his power. Confined to first, Valenzuela must show an affinity for hitting major league fastballs to take the next step.
10. Casey Smith
Termed the best batting practice hitter you would want on your team, he could challenge for the home run derby. Translating that into the games will be the question that hounds him. He did it early but suffered a severe slump to end the year.
Players who could have qualified here include Paul McAnulty and Mike Baxter. McAnulty has played in the outfield and figures to be there again this year and Baxter will be moving to the outfield this season.