Padres' Hitter of the Month for June

We've had some questions about what we mean when we write that someone is "the type of player that the Padres want to develop" as opposed to someone else.                    

This question is especially relevant in light that several players such as outfielder Jack Cust and first baseman/outfielder Jon Knott are having quality seasons with the bat in Portland, but seem to get little attention from us or really anyone else? Why?

The Padres, as do all major league teams, first and foremost attempt to develop the best players they possibly can, but they also have an idea of the type of players that will best enable them to win at PETCO Park.

Every team needs to be successful at home, and each park plays differently. If you are in Cincinnati you might sacrifice an outfielder who is not the most gifted in the field because offense is at such a premium, but in San Diego, which plays in one of the top pitchers parks in baseball, runs are tough to come by and in order to have good pitching, you have to play defense.

We'll get into what type of pitchers the team seeks in the second part of this monthly series, but what type of position players do Grady Fuson, Kevin Towers and other in the Padres front office look to develop? Any player, in order to get a shot at the majors, has to hit, and usually with power, but that isn't enough. A player has to show that he is a solid or plus defensive player, or he's not going to get a chance. In essence, San Diego is not interested in developing the next Ryan Klesko or Phil Nevin.

This theory is most evident in the outfield where the Padres have dramatically increased their defense with the addition of Mike Cameron in centerfield and Dave Roberts replacing Klesko in left field.

At the plate, if you're a left-handed hitter you need to be able to use the whole field and have power the opposite way. Dead pull left-handed hitters such as Klesko are going to be frustrated by the cavernous dimensions of right field. A right-handed hitter needs to be able to jerk the ball down the left field pole, one of the few places where home runs can be hit somewhat easily.

This is why Ben Johnson is always written about as the type of player the team wants to develop. An outfielder that can play all three positions, run, throw, hit and pull the ball down the left field line.

Even in the infield, Adrian Gonzalez, who is much better defensive first baseman than anyone San Diego has had since Wally Joyner, has shown the difference that a quality defensive player can make. Additionally, he's a patient hitter offensively he's a patient hitter, who hits the ball to left field and has some power.


Paul McAnulty
First/Third Base

A few months ago we wrote a few things are inevitable, death, taxes and McAnulty hitting. McAnulty, 25, continues to push the Padres to find a place for his bat, seeing an increasing amount of time at third base.

"I've really been working hard at third base, which is where I spend most of my time now before the games," said McAnulty before a recent game. "I try to take as many ground balls as possible and work to get my footwork right to make all type of throws."

"I really don't even work that much at first or the outfield anymore. I'm trying to get as much time as possible at third. I don't really think that I have that much time to make it, so I'm trying to work on as much as I can."

Even though Vinny Castilla has been playing better at third base, if he struggles, should the Padres call McAnulty up to play third base?

Not yet.

Going into the season, I wrote that McAnulty was the best pure hitter in the organization, a group that included Josh Barfield and Ben Johnson. Others may hit with more power or are a better all around prospect, but no one puts the bat on the ball and hits it consistently as hard as McAnulty has the past few years in the Padres' organization. The problem the Padres have always had is where to put him in the field so he could play everyday.

McAnulty should be playing third base everyday in Portland, regardless if Justin Leone or David Mantranga needs playing time. He has a special bat, and his left-handed swing, which produces good power and solid line drives to all fields, would fit in very well at PECO. The team just needs to find out if his glove can so he can have the opportunity to compete for the everyday third base position in 2007.

Right now his fielding percentage at third base is .886, while at first its .989. He obviously needs to work on his defense at third base and the best place to do this work is in Portland.

Others of Note: Jon Knott, 28, and Jack Cust, 27, played well, but both are playing more for a possible utility role at best or could be used in trade. Knott hit .290/.368/.490 with three home runs and 22 RBIs and Cust hit .330/.464/.530 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.

The problem with both of these guys is neither really fit into the category that we described above that the Padres are seeking. Both are below-average defensively in left field and at first base and with players such as Dave Roberts, Ben Johnson and McAnulty ahead of them it's hard to see either of them getting much of a chance.

Justin Leone, 29, had a monster April, but eight of his 12 home runs are from his first month and after hitting .387 in April he's hit .211 in May and .274 in June.

Disappointments: Kennard Jones, 24, .122/.245/.122, really hasn't gotten much of an opportunity but should get more playing time with Ben Johnson with the big club.

Think about this, the starting infield that Portland has trotted out many times during the season, Jon Knott at first base, Hill (28)/Leone at second, Manny Alexander, 35, at shortstop and McAnulty at third base is older than three of the four infield starters in San Diego.


Luis Cruz
Second Base

For the second straight month, Cruz, 22, continues to prove that his hitting in May was no fluke, leading all regulars in slugging percentage for the month. Cruz has played shortstop, third base, but mainly second base with the BayBears and after has really hit since starting off with a bad April of .189/.238/.297.

Nearly half of his 30 hits were for extra bases, 11. While he's not walking much, four times in 97 at-bats, he also only struck out nine times.

Jason Kirksey, the BayBears Director of Baseball Operations, said about Cruz, "It seems that everything he has hit since April has been hard. Even the outs he's making are line drives."

Disappointments: The heat may be getting to George Kottaras, 23, who had a tough month hitting .198/.316.272, but then again this is when the heat in Mobile really starts to affect you, especially if you are behind the plate. Kottaras was, howeverm still in the top five in the Southern League for OPS on July 4.

Despite making the Southern League all star team, Drew Macias, 23, had a second straight down month after a strong April hitting .242/.327/.297. Michael Johnson, 26, despite leading the team in home runs with four for the month, also struggled at .198/.333/.395.

Prospect Watch: Left fielder Vince Sinisi, 24, the other player acquired along with John Hudgins for Freddy Guzman, has started to return to the promise that earned him a $2 million dollar plus bonus out of Rice in 2003 with a strong May hitting .280/.331/.402.

Lake Elsinore

Chase Headley
Third base

Headley, 22, narrowly defeated super utility man Peter Ciofrone, 22, and outfielder Nic Crosta, 23, for the player of the month primarily because he played in 25 games compared to 13 for Ciofrone and 17 for Crosta.

The switch-hitting Headley led the team in home runs with four, struck (15) as many times as he walked and has an overall fielding percentage of .947 which is impressive when you remember that third base is where the Diamond has the dirt bike jump when they host motocross.

The one glaring weakness in Headley's game is his batting average against lefties, which is a paltry .190 compared to .322 against righties.

Disappointments: The two biggest prospects for the Strom going into the season were catcher Colt Morton 24, and second baseman Sean Kazmar, 21, both of whom are having bad seasons. This month Morton hit .208/.358/.396 while Kazmar was worse at .165/.273/.200.

Prospect Watch: Both Ciofrone (.435/.525/.565) and Crosta (.282/.325/.482) continue to show that they can hit. Ciofrone has played the outfield, but he really needs to find a steady place at either second or third to have his best chance, he was playing third base earlier in the month for Mobile when the BayBears were hit hard by injuries.

Fort Wayne

Nick Hundley

While I was in Fort Wayne, catcher Nick Hundley, 22, told me that his girlfriend reads religiously and reports back to him everything positive and negative that we write. Well this month the news should be pretty good since he is the player of the month for Fort Wayne.

Left Fielder Will Venable, 23, had another very good month, but it's hard to go against someone who posts a .852 slugging percentage while playing catcher. Hundley struggled at the beginning of the season living up the pre-season hype, but has really come on this month.

Hundley put together the best month of anyone in the system hitting all seven of his home runs in June with 13 of his 25 hits going for extra bases in 61 at-bats. He also led the team with 21 RBIs in May.

Disappointments: Center-fielder Mike Sansoe, 23, after a good year in Eugene, has had an awful month in Fort Wayne hitting .164/.246/.180. He's a solid defensive centerfielder with speed, but he's got to hit better. Also first baseman/DH Kyle Blanks, 19, had a down month with 27 strikeouts in 102 at-bats.

Prospect Watch: Left fielder Will Venable .361/.413/.546 has been good right out of the box, and now the power is starting to come around, his best power numbers yet with ten extra base hits in 97 at-bats.

Outfielder Javis Diaz, 22, hit .309/.377/.345 and stole five bases in six attempts, but he's going to need to cut down on his strikeouts, 18, for a leadoff hitter.

Finally, Matt Bush, although in limited number of games (9), had his best month ever at .296/.406/.370.

Eugene and the Arizona League

Both just started so we really don't have a large enough sample to award a player of the month, but we'll have something next month.

Contact senior writer John Conniff at

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