Players of the Month: April

April was a good month for many players. It was a better month for these players. digs through each affiliate to find the Players of the Month before handing out the award to one from the pool of four. This month, an infielder gets the crown.

Portland Beavers
Craig Stansberry
366/. 430/. 538
Positions: 2B/SS/3B

A waiver wire pickup by the Padres from the Pirates organization, Stansberry, out of Rice University, has played wherever the team has asked and may have a chance down the road as a utility player with his ability to play anywhere in the infield. This is a kid who had five games with three or more hits and notched a .500 average with runners in scoring position. He also scored a run in 10 straight games and was tied for second in the PCL with 22 runs scored. He also paced the league with 11 doubles.

Outfielder Jack Cust has another, and typical, good month hitting .297/. 436/. 703. So the quick questions are (1) why isn't he the player of the month and (2) why isn't he in the big leagues right now? The quick answers are two-fold. One, in a stadium like PETCO, Cust with a bad arm and very limited range would probably cost the Padres more runs than he could produce. Remember, Paul McAnulty is considered a much stronger defensive player than Cust. Second, although his numbers are good, he has also struck out 27 times in 93 plate appearances which many believe against much stronger pitching in the big leagues wouldn't bode well for his success. Do I think Cust is a good player and could contribute to another major league club? Absolutely, a team like Tampa comes to mind that could use a left-handed hitter and DH/1B type. Getting to the majors is as much about the right opportunity as it is talent.

Vince Sinisi played first, center and right field for the Beavers and hit .330/.372/.477, his best month ever with the Padres. Keep an eye on Sinisi with his defensive versatility and patient left-handed approach – he could get an opportunity.

Disappointments: Luis Cruz hitting .158/.238/.304 and .094 when behind in the count. The top rated position prospect going into the year with the Beavers by

San Antonio Missions
Chase Headley
.360/. 444/. 651
Position: 3B

At the end of the month, Headley was either first or second in the Texas League in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage, extra base hits, RBIs and runs scored. But when your line is what Headley's was good things will happen. The only real negative we can find with Headley is the right side isn't as advanced [.287] as the left, but we are really reaching here.

First baseman Tim Brown, .275/.354/.565, and Michael Johnson, .263/.349/.513, split time between the first and DH, and Johnson has shown he will put up numbers when he can stay healthy. Centerfielder Drew Macias only hit .250, but showed a vast improvement in his patience and power at the plate with a .349 OBP and a .486 slugging percentage to go along with his standard plus defense. Right fielder Will Venable made a smooth adjustment to Double-A after skipping Lake Elsinore hitting .349, but his secondary statistics, on-base and slugging percentage, .349 and .407, respectively, could use some improvement.

Disappointments: Second baseman Sean Kazmar (.221/.269/.360) and catcher Nick Hundley (.206/.271/.365), although there are signs they will snap out of it. Kazmar was third on the team in RBIs (13) and hitting .350 with runners in scoring position while Hundley's average has climbed over 50 points in the last week of April.

Lake Elsinore Storm
Kyle Blanks
.315/. 385/. 522
Position: 1B

When the team average is .275, you have a pretty good hitting team and in April seven players had an OPS over .800. While Blanks, 21, had the best month, second baseman Matt Antonelli may be on the road to establishing himself as the team's best prospect. Antonelli hit .291/.413/.453, with three doubles, three home runs and six stolen bases in seven attempts. The Padres have been trying to develop a middle infielder that can hit at the top of the order and Antonelli with his high OBP, speed, and athleticism could be their man.

The three big right-handed bats that the Padres drafted last year and promoted to Lake Elsinore this year, third baseman David Freese (.293/.374/.489), left fielder Chad Huffman (.284/.370/.481) and first baseman/outfielder Craig Cooper (.290/.395/.406) have all produced. Freese may be the most advanced of all of them, leading the team in RBIs with 21 and playing a solid hot corner on the toughest infield in the system with only one error. Usually most players skipping a level will struggle for at least a month, but all three have hit. Expect to see their power numbers go up as the season goes on.

Catcher Jose Lobaton has been with the Padres since 2003 and put together his best month – one that nearly won him player of the month hitting .313/.438/.531 and leading the team with eight doubles. Seth Johnston saw time at three positions, second, third and short and hit .347/.377/.431. If Johnston can become a little more selective at the plate, his on base and slugging numbers will go up even higher. The former Texas All-American has as much talent as anyone in the organization and this year could be the one he demonstrates it.

Disappointments: In 2006, Nic Crosta absolutely tore apart Fort Wayne in the first half of the season, but this year he has struggled with injuries hitting .196/.220/.482.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Tom King

After hitting .411 at Troy State, King struggled last year in Eugene with a .231 average. Taking the lessons that he learned in the Instructional League and in spring training, specifically being more patient at the plate, King has returned to form, leading the team in doubles (10), second in total bases (31) and hitting .346 with runners on base. First baseman Jeremy Hunt also put together a nice month in limited playing time, hitting.324/.405/.432 along with Javis Diaz at .286/.329/.455, although Diaz was caught five out of the six times he attempted to steal.

Centerfielder Cedric Hunter had a good month hitting .292/.386/.361, especially considering that at 18 he is playing against players frequently four to five years older than him. Look for Hunter's numbers to pick up as he becomes more comfortable. Finally, outfielder Sam Carter, in limited opportunities, is making a case for more playing time putting together a nice month, hitting .367/.459/.567.

Disappointments: Although he started to rebound at the end of the month, last year's first round supplemental draft pick Kyler Burke had a tough month hitting .215/.278/.292 with twenty strikeouts in 70 plate appearances. Player of the Month for April – Chase Headley

"I feel really good," Headley said. "I feel a lot stronger than I did last year. Everything feels great so far. I think at the end of last year I wore down a little bit and wasn't as strong as I would normally be. A little bit more weight hopefully helps out this year."

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