Minor league notes from Thursday's intrasquad

Peoria, AZ-- Matt Antonelli, who ventured back to third base defensively on Thursday, exemplified why he makes a potential top-flight leadoff hitter. After starting the game with a leadoff walk, Antonelli's takeout slide broke up a would-be double play on a grounder by Cedric Hunter.

Later in the intrasquad match-up, Antonelli led off the fifth inning with a single to right field on a two-strike count, showing his own confidence in his ability to make contact. His base-running skills reemerged here: he was well prepared for pickoff moves and kept himself close enough to first base on a left-field fly ball that he had ample time to return to first. Though Antonelli did strike out in his last at-bat of the game, he did so stubbornly.

Craig Cooper was my pleasant surprise of the day on four accounts: hacking a solid opposite-way line drive in his first appearance (I complained about his lack of opposite-way hits in a prior report), drawing a four-pitch walk to lead off an inning later in the game, subsequently stealing a base to put him into scoring position, and then scoring the lone run for his team on a sacrifice later in the inning. I only wish I had gotten to see Cooper play first base the entire game; he started as DH and only played first in the later innings.

Brian Lauderdale had a breakout performance that should silence critics who believe he doesn't have the ability to perform. After some speedy base-running down to first to net an infield single early in the game (which turned into an extra base on a wild pitch to the next batter), he drew a four pitch walk to leadoff the inning in his next at-bat. He was the only batter to come close to a home-run in the ballgame, a warning track shot to deep right on a 3-1 count when most hitters would be taking. Defensively, Lauderdale made a diving stab on a liner in the gap between first and second, a move which earned him a few ‘ooh's and ‘ahh's from the crowd, myself included. This negated a throwing error later in the game. Overall, Lauderdale's performance secured him the "I can handle anything" award.

Rayner Contreras played shortstop, but his ability to handle all but routine plays is questionable. He bobbled a playable ground ball that was barely a stretch and wasn't able to recover in time to make a play of it at first. Later, however, he scooped a slow-roller and fired an on-target throw to beat out the runner. These plays offset in my mind, but I think Contreras is a more natural second baseman than a shortstop.

Before I segue into pitching, there were a few other players to note from Thursday: Tom King, Kyler Burke, and Michael Campbell. King's range was tested on a grounder that I considered playable several feet from his left – had he only knocked it down, it would have saved the resulting double. On offense, he was particularly patient, adhering to the Padres mantra. His patience gave him two hittable pitches: one that he sent into the gap in right-center for a long single, and another that he took for a standing strikeout. Of course, a strikeout is never a positive thing (unless you're the opposing pitcher), but I was impressed by his selectiveness at the plate.

Burke had the only multi-hit game of the day, a grounder up the first-base side that got through to left field and a similar but harder hit line drive to the same spot. In the latter at-bat, Burke was caught in a run-down between first and second and tagged out by the pitcher, Derek McDaid, on a heads-up defensive move. But with a runner heading to third, more conservative base-running would have given his team first and third with one-out. Either way, Burke continued to display the power to left-field to which I alluded in a previous observation.

Michael Campbell is unquestionably an up-and-coming fielder with a very strong, accurate arm. Though his adept play didn't earn him an outfield assist in the game, he threw two rockets into the infield that made seemingly easy slides turn into close plays. He was robbed of two potential hits: a would-be single on a tight play at first and a would-be double on a line drive nabbed by first baseman Justin Pickett.

On the pitching front, Mike DeMark may be deserving of a roster spot. His fastball looked strong, and his quick slide-step delivery with runners on should make him difficult to steal on. He has a super quick move to first base for a righty, too. Yefri Carvajal and Luis Durango seemed to be a bit behind the fastball, though Brian Lauderdale caught up to it on his deep fly to right.

I must contest the scouting report on Richie Daigle which placed him second on the list of "best mechanics." Daigle's delivery looked pressured; I feel sorry for his neck muscles. His delivery reminded me of major league reliever Brendan Donnelly. He was hit very hard by several batters, though solid defense behind him kept his run total to one. But he likes to throw first-pitch strikes, a definite asset.

I thought Derek McDaid threw a hard fastball, though his extensive follow-through might make his fielding mechanics a little shaky. His fielding acumen, however, was not in question. He covered first-base quickly enough to make Kyler Burke pay for his base-running errors.

Steve Delabar put up impressive strikeout numbers, but he must learn to throw strikes early in the count. He was behind every batter he faced. Had those batters been more patient, he would have given up several walks, since his out pitches were would-have-been-ball-fours. I hesitate to say it, but I feel that opposing coaches might have sound advice if they tell their batters to "just stand there" when Delabar throws. On the plus side, he did get the four strikeouts, two on nasty sliders.

-Brad Honigman

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