After a spring training which saw him hit .333 and nearly make the big league team, Leone tore it up with Portland. The Padres jettisoned third base prospect Corey Smith, who asked for his release when he found out that Leone was going to play everyday, in what turned out to be one of the better moves that the Padres have made this year.
Leone, 29, a six-year free agent the team signed as a free agent out of the Mariners system can play all four infield positions, but has mainly played third base throughout his professional career. As shown above, its fairly obvious that Leone had a pretty good April. He's leading the league in home runs (8), slugging percentage, OPS and is second in RBIs (27). Simply cartoon statistics, but still its only one month. If he comes even close to replicating what he did in April he will present an interesting dilemma for the Padres. Do they bring up the guy with the great numbers or do they still continue to trot Vinny Castilla and his multi-million dollar contract out to third base everyday? The worst case scenario is that Leone is making a strong case to be the Padres starting third baseman in 2007.
Others to watch: Some things will always happen; death, taxes and Paul McAnulty is going to hit. McAnulty started off slowly hitting .154 on April 15, but was blistering in the last half of the month raising his average to .319. With runners on base McAnulty is hitting .355 and is even better with runners in scoring position at .429. He may be one of the few Padres prospects who actually could make the team as a reserve player in 2007. He has a short compact left-handed stroke and can play the corners and first base. He's not a plus defensive player, but he isn‘t a bad defensive player either. And as he's shown, he's got a valuable bat.
Disappointments: Jon Knott - A longtime favorite of MadFriars.com is having a tough first month. The problem for Jon this time is playing time may begin to get tighter with Terrmel Sledge, Eric Valent, Jack Cust and McAnulty expected to play everyday at either first base, DH or the corner OF spots. A .170 batting average is going to make it tough for Knott to make a case for more time.
George Kottaras had more extra base hits in April (14) than he did until June 3 of last year at a lower level. He is leading the Southern League in slugging percentage, OPS and hasn't made an error yet all season.
His strikeouts are slightly up, 24 in 21 games, but he is still second in the league in drawing walks (15) (BayBears third baseman Brett Bonvechio is first with 16). Kottaras should be in Mobile for another month or two and look for the team to move him up when it starts to get hotter. The Padres also have a need to challenge Lake Elsinore's Colt Morton up a level, and there is little ahead of him in Portland right now.
Others to watch: Outfielder Drew Macias is the most improved physically of any Padres player in the organization and by the end of the year could be one of their best outfield prospects. Macias finished fifth in the Southern League in hitting at .307 for the month and has shown gap power with eight doubles and 12 RBIs.
Disappointments:Its not Michael Johnson's fault that he can't stay healthy, but its really frustrating to him and the Padres. Johnson pulled a hamstring in the fifth inning of the first game and has been out for the month, he is expected to return by the first week of May. Fernando Valenzuela Jr. has failed to capitalize on Johnson's absence, hitting only .140/.197/.175.
Morton picked right up where he left off at the end of last year, terrorizing the California League. His defense has improved (only one error) and he is still punishing the ball, but has begun to tail off a little since April 20th, when he was hitting .367.
He's obviously experienced great success with the Storm, but his three-year odyssey in Fort Wayne/Eugene leaves some to wonder if he can cut it in Mobile. However his base-on-balls to strikeout ratio (12/15) is a significant improvement from what he has done previously.
He's got very little to prove at Lake Elsinore and should be in Alabama by soon.
Others to watch: Not a great month, but Sean Kazmar has played a solid second base for the Storm and has shown some pop with eight extra base hits. He needs to cut down on his errors (3), but has been a consistent presence in the Storm lineup. Look for more improvement next month defensively, especially as he begins to get more comfortable.
Disappointments: Yordany Ramirez. Arguably the Padres best defensive outfielder and a potential five-tool talent still hasn't been able to hit. Lake Elsinore is a much easier place to put things together at the plate and so far Yordany hasn't with an .087 batting average. A back injury has sidelined him for the time being.
A tough race between Johnston, Daryl Jones and Kyle Blanks, but in the end Johnston's lead in total bases and RBIs narrowly won out.
Johnston, a fifth round draft pick of the Padres in 2005, can play all four infield positions with second base his featured spot now and he has been batting second in the order, hitting .382 with runners in scoring position. He's had some trouble in the field so far this year with four errors, but his bat is making up for any fielding glitches. He is leading the league in RBI's with 19 and is hitting .429 with runners in scoring position with two outs.
Others to watch: Daryl Jones and Kyle Blanks. Jones, 19, a third round pick of the Padres in 2004, is rebounding strongly from a disastrous sophomore season in Eugene where he hit .188. A bit of surprise to make the Fort Wayne team, Jones earned a job in spring training and started out on fire with the Wizards, hitting .301/.416/.479. His overall numbers are good, but he needs to pick up on hitting with runners in scoring position (.190).
Blanks, the Padres other young giant teenage, a.k.a. "Gigantor", is also off to a solid start after dominating the Arizona League at the beginning of last year before tailing off. Rotating with Jones at first base and DH, Blanks is leading the Midwest League in OPS at .973, and is hitting .304/.407/.565. Like Jones, if he is hitting in the middle of the order he is going to have to do a better job of hitting with runners in scoring position (.250).
Disappointments: Nick Hundley. Hundley came into the season as one of the higher rated Padres prospects and has struggled hitting .234/.296/.281, but has hit really well with runners in scoring position at .344. Hundley may never post a great batting average, but what is of some concern is his on-base and slugging percentages are both below .300.