Name: Jeremy Hunt
DOB: December 12, 1983
A junior college transfer to Villanova, Hunt led the Big East in homers his senior season with 15, matching the fourth-highest single-season total in Villanova history. He also led the team with a .385 (72-for-187) batting average and was the team leader in nine offensive categories, including hits (72), doubles (14), home runs (15), total bases (139), RBI (56), walks (35), on-base percentage (.481) and slugging percentage (.743).
He ended the year with a 19-game hitting streak and reached base safely in each of his final 33 games.
"Huge numbers, big physical kid, we were looking for another first baseman," Padres' vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said.
But Hunt's name wasn't known until his breakout senior campaign, a primary reason he lasted so late in the draft.
"Some of the guys are tough to scout," Padres' scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton noted. "There were several of us who saw him because the Moseley kid was on that club. Big, strong kid. We'll just see. We're going to see what he's about in pro ball. Some of those guys end up making adjustments and go out and put some numbers up, and as long as you put numbers up, you keep moving."
Selected in the 28th-round of the 2006 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, Jeremy Hunt was a terror in the Arizona Rookie League (AZL), his first taste of professional ball. He accomplished the mission that Chief originally put on him.
The slugger batted cleanup for the AZL squad and reached base safely in all but one of his first 14 games. Included in that stretch was a seven-game stretch that saw him record multiple hits in each, going 16-for-32.
On July 31, 27 games into his season, Hunt was batting .402. Everything was going right – he had scored 25 runs and knocked in 23. Then the Arizona heat began playing tricks on him and he ended up having a heat stroke in the first week of August and was shipped to the hospital for observation.
He felt dizzy while playing in the scorching heat and ended up blacking out at one point. He was replenished with fluids but never seemed to be the same afterwards.
"It is very hot out there," said Carlos Lezcano, 2006 AZL Padres manager. We can't take them out there everyday and work them hard. We pick our spots with them. When you play day games it is cooler in the morning but when we play night games we stretch out around four o'clock and it is very hot. We hit in the cage and alternate it. We kept them out there every other day.
He ended up hitting just .194 in August to lower his season average to .323 – still good enough for sixth best in the league. Hunt also placed fourth in the league in slugging percentage, collecting 16 extra base hits and a team leading five homers.
Hunt shows great discipline at the plate and is very selective, waiting on his pitch to hit or taking a walk as needed. He ended up with 28 walks to 37 strikeouts and a .423 on base percentage.
A right-handed hitter, Hunt feasted on southpaws, hitting them at a .457 clip, picking up the ball better and getting full extension on the ball. He was also more patient without men on base, using his selective approach to hit his pitch.
With runners on base, Hunt would get caught leaning and off-balance in his approach, as he tried to be the aggressor as a run producer.
The North Carolina native has a solid base in the box with a slight uppercut. He uses the whole field but runs into patters of pulling balls low in the zone, resulting in ground balls to the right side of the infield, and going the opposite way with balls higher in the zone, leading to fly outs to right field.
When things were going well, Hunt would hit the pitches in between both zones with shots to left and left center.
"He is a kid with good power," Lezcano noted. "He has a Steve Garvey kind of swing. He plays first and has some power. His power is enough to carry him."
"The heat will wear them out, no matter what," AZL Padres' hitting coach Manny Crespo said. "It is not about mental toughness. It is a fact of life. You have to go out there and really take care of yourself and we have to take care of them so that they are not only ready to play the game but physically healthy to play.
"That is something that happened to Jeremy. He not only played a bunch of games in college and came over to play – it is probably the first time some of these kids played 100 games in a year. It is a big change. He did a fine job."
The questions related to Hunt are relative to his age and respective league. While a lot of college seniors were playing in Eugene, Hunt had to ply his trade in the Arizona Rookie League against inferior competition.
He played the season at 22 – seeing success against players that were coming out of high school or Latin America. So there is a bit of tempered enthusiasm for the first baseman.
Plus, the depth at the position is better and the demands much higher.
Hunt is a solid first baseman and led the Arizona Rookie League in fielding percentage among first baseman at .992. No one who played more than five games in the league had a better fielding percentage. As a former third baseman, Hunt is very adept with the glove around the bag, nimbly picking balls out of the dirt and blocking balls destined for the outfield. What he lacks is range and first step quickness laterally.
Having played other positions, Hunt could see time at the hot corner or even in the outfield. That extra exposure and versatility would be a tremendous boost to his game.
ETA: Hunt has an uphill climb, like any first baseman in the system. He may be old for the league he plays in but more important will be consistent at bats and perhaps a platoon situation where he comes in as the designated hitter. If he can add more positions he becomes more valuable. Given his monster year in college and subsequent smash season in Arizona, the doubters would be wise to not count Hunt out. That said, this year will be telling for the Villanova alumnus.