Padres Prospect Hitters of the Month - August

The last Player of the Month series of the year and in it some real standouts, as the Padres' system continue to improve, especially at the lower levels.

Portland Beavers

Terrmel Sledge

Sledge, 29, had the best single month of anyone in the organization this year. This month 21 of his 37 hits went for extra bases, 11 of which went over the wall. He is a much better all-around defensive outfielder than he showed in a brief stint with the Padres earlier this summer and may have cemented the fourth outfielder slot in San Diego next year. He can play all three outfield spots and with a .583 slugging percentage for the year has some pop as well.

Others of Note: Despite the perception and possible reality that he is a "4A" player, Jack Cust, 27, keeps doing the one thing that is in his control to fight that perception, put up numbers. Sledge had to put up arguably the best month that anyone has had this year to beat out Cust who slugged 12 home runs and finished off the month with at .327/.496/.694.

Sledge is a much better fit for the coveted fourth outfielder position in the majors because of his ability to play centerfield. The Padres are Cust's fifth organization, but his numbers this year are hard to argue with. He may have earned himself another shot, if not with the Padres than somewhere.

Jon Knott, 28, the other slugging "4A" twin, reached a career high 100 RBIs on a monster 5-6 night in late August. Knott, who hit .280/.374/.520 this month, is a classic underdog who went un-drafted out of Mississippi State in 2002 and probably should have gotten a shot in San Diego a few years ago.

Knott has the same problem that Cust does, is his bat good enough to offset being a sub par defensive player?

Disappointments: Justin Leone, 29, hit .181/.256/.314 and saw his chances of being a member of the Padres fade even further as he was removed from the 40-man roster in early September, the dreaded designated for assignment moniker.

Mobile BayBears

Jeremy Cleveland

Cleveland is another one of Grady Fuson's refugees from the Texas Rangers organization. He put up a solid month after hitting .143 in July. Cleveland, 24, a 6-foot-3 right-handed hitter destroys left-handed pitching at a .354 clip, but is going to have to do a lot better against righties in the future if he wants to advance, hitting only .190 against them.

Michael Johnson's final month has helped to offset what has been a bad season for him beset with injuries (again) and slumps. Johnson, 26, hit in August, albeit only in 11 games, what many of us thought he might for the whole season .381/.458/.571 [okay, maybe a little less, but you get the point].

Prospect Watch: Vince Sinisi, 24, is the most promising position prospect in Mobile and his power might have finally started to come back after a long recovery from a bad forearm injury. The former Rice University star is starting to show the promise that made him one of the better college baseball players in 2003 with the Owls, hitting .280/.367/.470 this month, his best performance to date with the Padres.

Centerfielder Drew Macias, 23, reversed the downward pattern of his bat for the first time this year hitting .272/.316/.424, but his overall production has still been far less than the heightened expectations for him after a strong Instructional League performance this past winter.

Disappointments: After an all star season in the California League last year, Juan Ciriaco, 23, was moved from shortstop to second base to make room for plus-defender Luis Cruz and saw his bat go south as well, hitting .161/.288/.268.

Lake Elsinore Storm

Tim Brown
First Base

Brown is another one of the minor league free agents brought in by the Padres to compensate for two bad drafts in 2003 and 2004. Brown, 23, was in the Pirates organization for four years and then with Kalamazoo of the Independent League before signing with San Diego in the off-season.

In August, Brown led the team in OPS at .952 and had an even walk-to-strikeout ratio (15-to-15) to go along with a tie for the team lead in home runs with three.

Prospect Watch: At the beginning of the year I wrote that Sean Kazmar, 22, would be the big "sleeper" in the Padres' system. Slept he did – for four months. Kazmar finally had the type of month he is capable off hitting .287/.372/.426. Kazmar led the team in RBIs with 24, tallied five stolen bases and tied for second on the team with nine extra base hits. He also showed superior strike zone judgment, walking more than he struck out [19/16]. He needs to tighten up his defense at second base with six errors, which was second only to team leader shortstop Skip Adams.

Yordany Ramirez, 22, is the Padres best defensive outfielder and potentially a five-tool player, and until this month this is all we really wrote about, potential. In August, Ramirez had his best month as a professional, hitting .312/.346/.377. Only four of his 24 base hits were for extra bases, but seeing him finally start to hit is a big bonus.

Disappointments: After scorching the Cal League in June [.435] and July [.318] Peter Ciofrone, 22, fell off in September hitting .200/.345/.286.

Fort Wayne Wizards

Mike Sansoe

A very tight race between Sansoe, Mike Baxter and Will Venable, but in the end Sansoe's .431 OBP and team leading 22 runs scored carried the day. Sansoe, 23, did all that was expected of him in August, playing his typical solid centerfield, consistently getting on base as a leadoff man and leading the team with five stolen bases in six attempts.

Prospect Watch: Mike Baxter, 21, after a tough season, had his best month in August hitting .337/.375/.510 leading the Wizards with 35 hits and 15 extra base hits. Baxter, in his second season with the Wizards, can play all three outfield positions and first base and could be someone to watch next year in Lake Elsinore.

Will Venable, 23, did what he has all year, had another solid month, hitting .311/.353/.528 leading the team in slugging percentage, home runs [5] and RBIs [29].

Finally, David Freese, 23, may be the big right-handed power hitter the Padres are looking for at third base, hitting .262/.361/.466. Freese finished second on the team in RBIs [22], home runs [4] and for a power hitter also shows good strike zone judgment, posting a good BB/K ratios of [15/22].

Disappointments: Its always the same with Seth Johnston, 23, its either feast or famine. For August, famine, 217/.266/.250 with a team leading six errors. However, to be fair, he was also trying to play with a pretty bad hamstring injury.

Eugene Emeralds

Chad Huffman
Left Field

Except for stolen bases, there isn't a whole lot Huffman, 21, didn't lead the Emeralds in for August. He had the most hits [35], extra-base hits [14], home runs [4] and RBIs [18]. Additionally, just to finish off the month, he also led the team in OBP and slugging percentage.

Big surprise, Chad was promoted to Fort Wayne at the end of August.

Prospect Watch: First baseman Craig Cooper, 21, wasn't far behind at .333/.431/.483 and 2006 first round pick Matt Antonelli, 21, continues to show an ability to get on base [.404] but also a negligible slugging percentage at .351.

Disappointments: Catcher Kody Valverde [.196/.305/.294] had a tough month, but his battery mate Matt Stocco [.204/.278/.449] was a little better with three home runs.

AZL Padres

Cedric Hunter

Yeah, that is correct a .524 OBP. Hunter, 18, reached base in his first 48 games as a professional. In a solid 2006 draft class, Hunter may become the brightest star. He had 35 hits in 21 games, leading the team in stolen bases with 10 in 11 attempts and walking 18 times against only eight strikeouts.

Prospect Watch: Shortstop Rayner Contreras had a good month .295/.350/.400, but has struggled at Fort Wayne. Outfielder Luis Durango .369/.461/.431 and Sam Carter .333/.436/.540 also hit well for the Arizona League Champion Padres.

Disappointments: The Padres' second overall selection of the 2006 draft Kyler Burke's peripheral numbers are actually better than his batting average of .218. His OBP was .371 and he had a very good BB/K ratio of 14/17 for an 18-year old. Third baseman Felix Carrasco, after tearing up the AZL in June and July had a tough month at the plate [.208/.300/.340] and worse with the glove, a team leading nine errors.

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