Prospects are aiming for PETCO

Leadoff guys built for PETCO Park – does Mike Epping fit that bill? Corner outfielders that can leave that big San Diego yard – Chad Huffman wants a say. A shortstop that can track down balls deep in the hole – Jesus Lopez is working on adding a bat to the mix.

Leadoff hitter Mike Epping was a catalyst for the offense and oftentimes scoring when he did reach base. Strike zone discipline has to be on the agenda moving forward, right?

Matt Howe: Mike Epping had a solid season. Hits the ball to all fields. In our opinion, he is chasing too many pitches. He has quite a few strikeouts for a leadoff guy. He needs to work on his strike zone and discipline as well. But he had a solid first year, scores a lot of runs, steals some bases and has shown a little bit of power as well. He has a lot of promise and just needs to work on his plate discipline.

What kind of drills can you put them through to work on plate discipline or is it a matter of getting more at bats?

Matt Howe: It is kind of the same deal. I think these kids gets a little anxious, especially this being their first year in professional baseball. They get themselves into holes and once they get to two strikes they tend to chase just because it is their first year and get anxious. Once they get a better idea of what the pitchers are trying to do to them, patterns, they will have a better chance.

There was, arguably, no better player than Chad Huffman. Not only did he cope with learning a new position but he also provided consistency at the plate – was there anything he didn't do?

Matt Howe: Huffman hit the ball ever since he got with this organization. He has a great approach, great plate discipline. The ball just carries off his bat. He got the big hits and when he gets hot you just can't cool him off. He starts smoking. He hit for a high average, his power numbers were good, his on base percentage – through the roof – he did it all.

Shortstop Jesus Lopez is a defensive whiz – there is no question about that. And the Padres are high on him – but in this day and hitting pays the bills. With that in mind, what did you do with him this year to make him a better hitter?

Matt Howe: Lopez – his deal is his defense. And the organization has been working on his offense. His approach has improved. He hits the ball well to the opposite field and he needs to stick with that approach. He gets a little aggravated at times but doesn't chase too much. He has pretty good plate discipline but needs to keep his emotions under control and he will do well.

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