Padres' Prospects of the Month: July

The first player of the month series with six teams, a lot to cover so lets get started.

Portland

Jon Knott
First Base/OF
.327/.379/.708

In April, I wrote that Jon Knott might be on his way out of the Padres organization after hitting .170 and with seemingly better options at his position. Knott, however, proved me wrong and bounced back, having perhaps his best year in the organization, hitting .268 in May, .290 in June and this month .327 to be among the league leader in home runs (8) and RBIs (34).

Knott can play both corners and first base and may have put himself in the running for a spot on the Padres next year as a right-handed bat off of the bench, or at least a call-up in September. His defense isn't great, but the question now is whether his bat has progressed to the point the team has to consider him a possibility?

Prospect Watch: Paul McAnulty continues to hammer the ball, hitting at a .327/.389/.549 clip this past month with 16 of his 37 hits for extra bases. With the Padres questions about who will be at third base in 2007, McAnulty may be a longshot option – but he is hitting.410 in 105 at bats at the hot corner. In order for him to have a realistic shot at playing third in San Diego, it's probably going to take a lot of work in the winter leagues.

Jack Cust continues to be a stathead's dream, with a .253/.471/.434 line, leading the Beavers with 34 walks, but also was the team leader in strikeouts with 27. His MLB chances are hurt by questions whether his offensive approach will work at a higher level and he is a sub par defensive player at any position.

Disappointments: With Ben Johnson on the big team, Kennard Jones was given a chance to play in Triple-A and just hasn't produced, hitting .205/.340/.227 with only two stolen bases in three attempts.

Mobile

Stephen Smitherman
First Base/OF
.329/.424/.646

The Padres signed Smitherman, 28, after he had been cut loose by the Reds organization, where he was once a top prospect. A huge [6-foot-4, 230-pounds] right-handed hitter, he led the Southern League with RBIs [34] and was second in home runs with seven for July and has been everything the Padres thought Michael Johnson would be, but wasn't.

Prospect Watch: The trade of Freddy Guzman has already paid dividends for the Padres with the performance of pitcher John Hudgins, but this month former Rangers top prospect Vince Sinisi appears to have finally recovered from a potentially career ending forearm injury. In Mobile, Sinisi hit .276/.345/.449 rotating between first base and left field, his second straight strong month with the BayBears.

Colt Morton continued his yearly pattern of playing better at a higher level than he did at a lower one, going from one of the worst hitters in the California League [.167] to hitting 286/.388/.571 in the much more challenging Southern League in a limited sample of 42 at-bats.

Disappointments: How about my pre-season pick as Mobile being the best team in the Padres system this year, but I digress. Luis Cruz had a bad month [.209/.265/.341] after two straight months of being named the player of the month. Drew Macias [.216/.302/.311] continues to struggle in the Southern League, despite being named to the All-Star team.

Lake Elsinore

Chase Headley
Third Base
.347/.461/.505

With the Padres struggles at third base this year the team has to wish that Headley was putting up these numbers at Portland, but so far they have been more than pleased with their 2005 second round draft pick out of Tennessee. Headley, 22, got the slight nod over left fielder Peter Ciofrone, who led the Cal League in RBIs with 33, raking at a rate of .318/.403/.505.

Headley, a switch hitter, is not a big right-handed power hitter that the team has said that it desires, but he's a solid fielder [.949] in one of the organizations toughest parks to play defense, and is an on-base machine. He walked more than he strikes out [18/15] and 11 of his 33 hits were for extra bases. His biggest weakness is still as a right-handed hitter, batting only .213 against left-handed pitching.

Prospect Watch: As listed above, Peter Ciofrone, 22, was another of the Padres good acquisitions from the Red Sox organization. While obviously not at the level of Josh Bard or Cla Meredith, Ciofrone was the proverbial "player to be named later" in a 2004 trade for Brandon Puffer to the Sox, who is now out of baseball. Blocked by Sean Kazmar at second and Headley at third, Ciofrone has played left field for the first time this year.

According to Jeff Kingston, the Padres Director of Baseball Operations, he has the best strike zone judgment of anyone in the organization. Ciofrone is a mini version of Paul McAnulty, a good hitter in need of a position. It will be interesting to see if left field becomes his permanent position; his bat is too good not find a home.

Fort Wayne

David Freese
Third Base
.344/.400/.578

From Headley on down, one of the strongest positions in the Padres' system is third base. The organization picked up two solid players in this year's draft, first round draft pick Matt Antonelli and David Freese, a 9th round selection. Throw in Felix Carrasco in the Arizona League, and the organization is definitely on the right path.

Freese, 23, is more like the type of player that the Padres envision playing third, a big right-handed hitter [6-foot-2, 220-pounds] capable of jacking the ball out of the park on a consistent basis. After punishing the Northwest League to a tune of .379/.465/.776, the Padres promoted Freese to the Midwest League, the first true promotion of any of their 2006 draft picks. Freese led the Wizards with 13 extra base hits, tied for the lead in home runs with four and made only one error in 23 games at third. He's a bit old for the Midwest League, but has so far had the best year of any of the Padres' 2006 draft picks.

Prospect Watch: Kyle Blanks is back to his old form .338/.403/.446, but had only three extra base hits in 65 at-bats and is out for perhaps the rest of the year after an ankle infection. Seth Johnston was hitting .304 before going down with a hamstring injury and was showing the power that has been expected of him with a .519 slugging percentage since moving back to second base. When your on-base percentage matches your batting average [.304] you need to start taking a few more walks. Javis Diaz continues to make a case for himself as a leadoff man, posting a .406 OBP for the month, but you would like to see a little more pop and more stolen bases than three. Finally, Mike Sansoe after a few tough months came back with a solid .316/350/.421 for July.

Disappointments: Daryl Jones had a tough month hitting .209 with one home run, but still posted an OBP of .311.

Eugene

Chad Huffman
Left Fielder
.299/.411/.471

Huffman, a second round pick of the Padres in this year's draft, slightly edged out Emeralds first baseman Craig Cooper with a solid performance across the board. For a while now, we have been writing about the influence of the type of college players that the Padres are looking for in the drafts, guys who hit with power and control the strike zone. Huffman, Cooper, second baseman Tom King and top pick Matt Antonelli all fit that mold.

Huffman, 21, who played second and third base at Texas Christian, has been in left field for Eugene. He has some power, and as stated above, good BB/K ratio [11/18] and finished second on the team in home runs [3] and RBIs [15] for the month.

Prospect Watch: Cooper, 21, a tall [6-foot-3] rangy first baseman out of Notre Dame, one of the few left-handers who is right handed batter, nearly beat out Huffman for the player of the month. Cooper leads the Ems in home runs with four and RBIs with 19 while hitting a solid .286/.394/.476, but five errors in 27 games is high for a first baseman. Centerfielder Michael Epping has also put up good numbers hitting .274/.378/.381 along with King .264/.361/.368, but had six errors to lead the team.

First round pick Matt Antonelli has been the on-base machine that the Padres and others thought he would, .420, but his .346 slugging percentage is a bit of a concern. There is a good chance Antonelli, one of the better athletes in the Padres system, could be moved off of third base with Headley and Freese ahead of him.

Disappointments: Kody Valverde, 23, is another guy that doesn't have the greatest batting average, .217 but has found a way to get on base with an OBP of .363. Still he's going to have to make better contact to move forward. Garner Wetzel, 22, has struggled in right field at .194/.260/.284 and is even worse at home, hitting .074.

AZL Padres

Jeremy Hunt
First Base
.441/.524/.750

Jeremy Hunt, 22, shouldn't be in the Arizona League and he's proving it. Hunt, a 28th round draft pick out of Villanova led the Big East with 15 home runs this year. Blocked by Cooper, Hunt is making a strong case for promotion in Peoria. His BB/K ratio is 11/11 and 11 of his 30 hits have gone for extra bases.

Prospect Watch: A lot of potential at this level. The biggest one may be Felix Carrasco, 19, a young third baseman from the Dominican Republic. His bat is good, .307/.379/.466, but his glove may need some work with eight errors in 22 games.

Cedric Hunter was one of two high school picks the Padres selected in their first five picks, the other being Kyler Burke, more on him later. Hunter has spent the majority of his time in centerfield with the AZL Padres. He has an advanced idea of the strike zone, only fanning 11 times against 19 walks and had seven stolen bases in ten attempts while hitting .355/.457/.441. As with most high school draft picks he's described as a "toolsy" player who is a good athlete with a line drive stroke. Not a lot of power, only eight extra base hits in 93 at-bats, all doubles, but a very solid start and he has been on base in every single game he has played.

after hitting .105 with Fort Wayne, second baseman Rayner Contreras, 19, has come back strong hitting .387/.458/.565.

Disappointments: Second round pick Kyler Burke is having a tough time, hitting .160/.229/.240 with 32 strikeouts in 75 at-bats.


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