Name: Felix Carrasco
DOB: February 14, 1987
The Padres had actually tried to sign the third baseman previously but could not meet his demands. Carrasco came down with a back injury that curtailed his worth, enabling the Friars to come to terms with the burly man.
"He was a guy who was out for a while because his coaching was asking for more than $600K," international scout Felix Francisco explained. "The first time I saw him was three years ago when I saw him with Randy Smith. We didn't make him an offer because at that time he was asking for $700K to $1 million.
"Two years later, after going through some back injury, he showed up in good shape. He has always been a guy who can hit the ball. He had a lot of organizations after him but the two things that didn't allow an organization to sign him was number one money and number two, before we signed him, he had six months without working out for anybody else because he was hurt. We were lucky to be around when he came back and his coach and agent finally decided to ask for money we were able to afford."
Signed on the international market at the age of 19, Carrasco was immediately brought stateside to compete in the Arizona Rookie League (AZL).
Carrasco paid immediate dividends.
The slugger notched a hit in each of his first 15 games, posting a .358 average and .397 on base percentage. It was tied for the second longest hitting streak in the AZL. He would wind up with a 22-game on base streak – the third best total accomplished in the league.
"He is a really, really talented young individual," 2006 Eugene manager Doug Dascenzo, who saw him in extended spring training, said. "He is young and there is no need to move him quickly. We have time."
In his first 29 games, Carrasco notched 29 RBIs, ending the year with 37 in 46 contests.
Over his last 25 games, however, Carrasco would go 16-for-83, a 193 average that brought his average for the season down to .273. Most believe it was due to him playing in more games than he had ever experienced.
"He played almost every day, every inning of every single game," 2006 AZL Padres manager Carlos Lezcano noted. "He got a little sore and then he came back towards the end. A kid that got a little tired. That's all."
"Everyone asked me the same thing, ‘what was it with Felix?' I said, ‘Come on guys, this guy has never played in Arizona first of all and second has never played this many games,'" AZL hitting coach Manny Crespo said.
"He swung the bat well in the Dominican," Padres' director of international scouting Randy Smith said. "He swung the bat real well here and then started to scuffle that last stretch of the summer. Young guys, the first time they scuffle it wears on them somewhat. I think he was getting paralysis by analysis for the last part of the season and Instructional League."
A left-handed hitter, Carrasco has power to all fields and will go with the pitch rather than pulling everything he sees. Of course, given his experience, he does leave pitches that can be pulled hard on the table, shooting them to the opposite field instead of raking them and taking advantage of his power.
Carrasco holds his hands at waist level as the pitcher goes into his windup and it has the appearance of taking power away from him. While his hands are relaxed with little movement it is tough to see how he generates any power without a higher trajectory in his hands to whip down and level through the zone.
It also gives him less plate coverage on the inside of the plate as he has to fight pitches off rather than getting a good inside-out swing.
But he does end up using his lower body well to pivot and put his weight behind his stride.
"He drops his hands – (minor league hitting consultant Jim) Lefebvre has a name he uses for it," Smith said. "I would say it is an Eric Davis hand hitch.
"But this guy has as much raw power as maybe anybody in the organization at the minor league level. He has hit some long home runs left-handed – I saw him hit a ball out of Scottsdale Stadium in the Arizona League."
"There was a lot of tweaking with him this year," Padres' minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk said. "We are still not where we want to be. I will say this, we saw him in the Dominican and Rob Deer made a few adjustments with him and he looked better than I have ever seen him. "It is a process, especially with the hitting."
Projected as a 60 in power potential on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale, the Padres are enamored with his stout build, thick trunk and lightning quick hands.
As with most young Latin players, Carrasco doesn't work the count deep enough and is prone to chasing pitches outside the zone because of his aggressive nature and the inside half of the strike zone is a problem because of where his hands begin. The result was 48 whiffs in 46 games.
"He is a guy that plays hard and surprises with his size because he can run," Francisco said. "He is a 6.8 runner in 60-yards. The thing with him will be consistency. Hit the ball the other way; not try and pull the ball too much. He has a chance to be a special player."
He came to the Padres' Instructional League in the fall and worked on being more selective at the plate, averaging 3.9 pitches per plate appearance. But he also was aggressive early in the count, second on the team in swinging at the first pitch. The Padres are trying to impress upon him the need to let that first pitch go if it isn't the right one and Carrasco has had a tough time learning the trait. It isn't that they don't want him to swing but he isn't hitting the ball when he does offer at that first pitch.
After the stateside fall tenure, Carrasco made it down and participated in the Dominican League Instructs. Rob Deer changed his swing slightly, moving his hands to give him better extension and the results were immediate. Carrasco began to launch balls out of the park at a more consistent clip. The hope is he carries it over into this year.
"The last week of Instructs we started to hit him left-handed and Robbie made some adjustments and when we saw him in the Dominican he was crushing the ball," Smith said.
Carrasco does not offer up much in the speed department. He is more of a station-to-station runner that needs help to move around the bases.
In 42 games at third base, Carrasco committed 23 errors – and the Friars knew it would be a work in progress.
What is ironic is he can make the strong charging play on a bunt and come up with an impressive throw and rush the very next play, bobbling the ball or making an errant throw.
While Carrasco has agility, he does not possess very good footwork, and his balance is slightly off when he ranges to either side, causing him to rush the exchange and the throw because he is leaning to one side or the other. He also does not plant his feet well and stay in front of the ball.
"He is, for a big man, agile," said Smith. "I have talked a lot about his body and he has to maintain his body. He is going to be a solid defender and he will have some power. We will see what happens as he moves up. He needs to be challenged a little bit."
He will get lots of grounders in the future to iron out those deficiencies but will likely never be a top-flight defender.
"He is 19-years old, and, yes, he is very strong, but the factors are not in his favor right now," said Crespo. "I think we should expect some big things from Felix, especially when he came back bigger, faster and stronger this year. He is going to put up some pretty impressive numbers, I believe."
ETA: His bat is his ticket and the Padres are confident it will emerge as a consistent threat in the not so distant future. Still, he is a long-term project that will be coddled. He had a tough time down the stretch mentally but had a great fall and winter. If he carries it into this season and shows more patience at the plate the kid could be a special talent.