Name: Chase Headley
DOB: May 9, 1984
The Padres were confident Headley would perform in High-A, citing his makeup and workmanlike attitude. He didn't disappoint.
"He prepares and gets his mind in the right frame and concentrates on what is in front of them instead of being scattered and thinking about too much," 2006 Lake Elsinore manager Rick Renteria said. "Players have a tendency to think about a whole lot of things. When you have them able to think about what is at hand, understand the situation, and focus, that is an advantage. We are happy with how he went about his job."
After coming out of the gate slowly with a .238 average in April, he hit .303 the rest of the way.
"He did skip a league and it does make a difference," 2006 Lake Elsinore hitting coach Tom Tornicasa noted. "He actually worked hard on his swing from the start. He wasn't expected to hit here. He did a good job and swung the bat well."
The Colorado native also showed good strike zone judgment, collecting a .389 on base percentage with 74 walks.
He has a level swing that has some loft but is still growing into his lean body. His goal this off-season was to add 15 pounds of muscle to his frame with the hope of creating more power. He did produce 33 doubles and 12 homers but those numbers tailed off towards the end of the year when he appeared to tire.
"The thing that is going to separate him from being a normal big leaguer will be his power numbers," Padres' minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk said. "I see him as a steady third baseman who will hit for average but not necessarily for power – a Jeff King type with 15 to 20 homers. If he develops those power numbers than he becomes first division and I would count him out. He is going to get bigger and stronger."
He is an extremely smart player that will take the ball the other way just as easy as he will pull it and he has a firm understanding of the little things. He is ideal as a hit-and-run threat because of his ability to make contact and will move runners over when he is called upon. His five sacrifice flies placed second on the team.
A year after the Padres considered ditching his left-handed swing, it was his right-handed batting that gave him trouble. Headley admitted difficulty maintaining both swings simultaneously and it is clear that the extra 150 at bats he took left-handed made its mark.
The Padres still believe the right side would be a better fit for him down the road – he has more power potential from that side and has the makings of a smooth swing.
MadFriars.com respectfully disagrees. It is his John Olerud style swing from the left side that should be nurtured. He seems to view the ball more clearly, catching the spin and following it through the zone with his bat head.
His right-handed swing often gets elongated and erratic as a result of its less often use. He also gets antsy at the plate when he hits right-handed and isn't his usual selective self, chasing pitches in the dirt that he would normally lay off batting southpaw.
Moving forward, it would be wise for Headley to perfect one swing and stick to it.
"It is harder for the right-handed side because he was not seeing left-handed pitching as much," Tornicasa said. "He was getting more swings left-handed. When he came out for early work, we worked on both sides. We tried to keep them both going. We tried and worked on that right-handed swing a little more because he was not getting many repetitions. Even in BP, he was hitting mostly left-handed."
The big question – as a third baseman – always comes back to the power he generates.
"He is one of those players – the more you see him the more you like him," Bryk admitted. "I saw him in the Instructional League and liked him more and got to know him and got to know what he was all about – that he had more raw power than I gave him credit for."
He doesn't offer up much speed but runs the bases wisely. He will take a steal opportunity when it is presented and looks to take an extra base on sleeping outfielders.
The third baseman handled the fast track and thin grass in Lake Elsinore with relative ease, showing range and impressive footwork to nimbly make plays. While he does not have a rocket arm, he is fundamentally sound and makes transfer from glove to hand smoothly. He is the best fielding third baseman in the system.
"Chase and Kaz (Sean Kazmar) had a good thing going and it definitely helped me as a pitcher," left-hander Cesar Ramos said. "Trusting my defense is good for me. Knowing I can just get that ground ball and let them do their thing – it was fun watching them do that."
ETA: Headley will up to Double-A in 2007 with a shot at ending up in Portland before the year is out. How his body adjusts to the extra poundage will bear watching and if he is able to turn up the power things could get interesting. Because of his generally patient approach and attitude to be the best, Headley is a safe bet to make the major leagues. He will hit for a high average, knock in some runs and provide a high on base percentage – a surge of power the only thing keeping him from potentially being great. Look for Headley in 2009 and keep a close eye on him this season.