Scouting Padres' Prospect: Chase Headley

Being mentioned in the same breath as Todd Helton would certainly generate excitement for any player. Chase Headley earned that distinction when he surpassed Helton for most walks in a single-season in Tennessee baseball history. Now he is a top prospect in the Padres' system.

Walking 63 times, two more than Helton achieved during his stay with the Volunteers, Headley placed himself squarely in front of many scouts' eyes. He also placed in the top-ten the single-season annals in runs scored, RBI's, hits, homers, doubles, total bases, extra base hits and on base percentage.

His skills with the bat have the Padres excited about his future.

"He caught our eye the first day," Bill Gayton, the Padres' director of scouting, said. "Good frame to fill out, solid defense with good hands. His arm is a bit long.

At the plate, very patient with pop from both sides. He made strides with bat at the end of the year. He hadn't been pitched to in college and he had some adjustments to make and the way he was being pitched. It came together for him in the Instructs. He has a chance to be a pretty good played. Makeup is outstanding."

Tabbed in the second round of the 2005 MLB Draft, Chase Headley immediately vaulted to the top of the prospect charts at his position – third base. The weakest spot on the diamond within the system, perhaps because the Padres thought they had a franchise player in Sean Burroughs, now has a prospect to be proud of.

The Padres placed Headley in the Northwest League with the Eugene Emeralds to begin his professional career. Over 57 games with the Ems he hit .268 with 14 doubles, three triples, six homers and 33 RBI's. He also drew 34 walks while striking out 48 times.

A switch-hitter, there had been talk of making him a full-time right-handed hitter but the team was encouraged by his work in the Instructional Leagues this fall and will continue to keep him batting from both sides of the plate.

Headley is advanced in pitch recognition but struggled some controlling the wooden bat after moving from the aluminum stick from his college days. The finite control resulted in a few more strikeouts that Headley would have liked. He did, however, post a .375 on base percentage with Eugene. He was promoted to Fort Wayne late in the year and played in four games for the Wizards.

"Chase Headley is a stud," Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development, said. "He is going to be fine. He has everything you want from a corner player. He is instinctive. He has a good approach. He knows the strike zone."

The former high school Valedictorian from Fountain-Fort Carson High School does have some questions at the plate. While he will get his walks, there are some who question whether he will develop third base power. Headley is at his best when he is using all part of the field and doubles may be a category he dominates. That will be enough if he posts a .400 on base percentage in the minors.

"Prototypical third baseman," added Fuson. "We love his development this year. A switch-hitter and in my opinion is much better from the right side. He hits from a much stronger position. The pitch he is attracted to is in a different spot than from the left side. We are going to give an opportunity to continue with him as a switch hitter but it is something to keep your eyes on. There may come a time when we don't want him to switch hit. I think everybody likes everything about this kid."

Headley committed 11 errors in the field for Eugene and profiles as a steady performer on the hot corner. He won't wow you with his range but will make the routine plays and limit his error count over the full season.

The challenge for Headley probably won't be the California League in the coming year. After a strong showing in the fall, the Padres believe he will excel at High-A and his track to the majors could be made rather quickly for the 21-year old.

Already tabbed as the third baseman of the future, Headley has a lot of weight thrown on his shoulders. Lake Elsinore will surely be a benefit and next year could be when he truly feels the heat.

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