Fort Wayne Wizards Player of the Year

There really isn't any way to sugarcoat it, despite being a good year for the San Diego Padres' minor league teams as a whole, the Portland Beavers and the Fort Wayne Wizards vied all year for the worst record in the system, but the Wizards won the race in the end with a .396 winning percentage.

For Wayne Wizards Summary: The difference between the Wizards and the Beavers is that the Wizards actually had a few players that could develop in the future, namely centerfielder Cedric Hunter. Much to the chagrin of the Wizards fans, the best players from the Padres 2006 draft class headed west to Lake Elsinore, leaving Fort Wayne with a very young and inexperienced team.

Grady Fuson on the Fort Wayne Wizards:

Some people are writing that Cedric Hunter was a disappointment to the Padres this season, while Madfriars believes he had a pretty good year in the Midwest League for a 19 year old. How would you rate his performance?

Grady Fuson: "Well I think anyone is crazy who thinks he had a bad year. He's a 19-year-old kid who put up some pretty good numbers in a tough league. He's durable and there is still a lot of growth that needs to come baseball wise and physically. When you're talking about a teenager you are never talking about a finished product. We think he's going to fill out a little more and there are some things with his swing we weren't able to fix last year because he was a little overwhelmed in Instructs last year."

Robert Perry, a late round pick out of Long Beach State, played pretty well for the Wizards. Can you tell us a little about him and does he have a shot to start for the Storm in '08.

Grady Fuson: "Very polished player knows the game and played at three different levels this year. He can play all three outfield positions, good base runner and controls the strike zone."

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards, whichever team the player appeared at the most determined their eligibility. For the top prospect we took into account not only the future potential that the player may have along with their performances, but also the needs of the organization which will allow them to rise the fastest.

Conniff Confidential

Although the Wizards didn't post a good record, Hunter is still one of the best prospects in the San Diego system and outfielder Robert Perry had one of the better debuts of the 2007 draft class.

Player of the Year
Cedric Hunter

Hunter, 19, led the team in total bases with 185, hits with 140, 47 base-on-balls, 20 doubles and played 129 of a 140 games for the Wizards. He answered questions about his ability to play centerfield every day and showed a better arm than he did last year in the AZL, when he was battling through an injury suffered while pitching in high school.

On the negative side he didn't post the eye popping statistics that he did last year, especially for power [.484 to .373] and in stolen bases [17/22 to 8/17], but then again he didn't really have the same array of talent as compared to last year's championship team.

Others of Note: First baseman Jeremy Hunt and right fielder Sam Carter had good years, Hunt leading the team in home runs with 13 and finishing off at .260/.328/.417 and Carter at .267/.332/.440, but at their age you expect to see a little more production than they provided.

Left fielder Javis Diaz stole 31 bases in the leadoff role, but was also caught 14 times and had 103 strikeouts in 515 plate appearances which is high for a contact hitter. Third baseman Rayner Contrearas has some ability, but was hampered by injuries for most of the year and struggled to play third base, after shifting from second, with an .859 fielding percentage.

Outfielder Robert Perry proved to be a nice boost from this year's draft, hitting .273/.409/.398 with a 15/11 BB/K ratio while playing all three outfield positions.

Savage Sub-rosa

Overall, the Wizards weren't a terrible hitting team. Where they were awful, however, was with runners in scoring position, hitting .236 as a team. Fort Wayne was worse with runners in scoring position and two out – batting just .215. They could get runners on but no one could knock them in. Their leading RBI man trailed the league leader by 35.

Player of the Year
Cedric Hunter

After an explosive season in the Arizona Rookie League, Hunter went through adjustments this season to become a better hitter. His swing was tinkered with to give him more plate coverage and he still responded with a productive year, leading the team in hits, walks, and RBIs. He is still learning pitch recognition, but had a tremendous year as a 19-year-old without much in the way of help.

Because he was the most consistent threat in the lineup, Hunter faced more breaking balls than any normal hitter should. The outfielder is well ahead of the learning curve and could have a huge season with some backing in the lineup at High-A Lake Elsinore.

Others of Note: Rayner Contreras was on his way to a big year when he got injured but has a lot of promise to be a top prospect. Javis Diaz showed a surprising amount of pop but needs to strikeout less. Daryl Jones was turning his season around after a terrible start but the injury bug hit. Jesus Lopez had a better season than his numbers indicate. Tom King was having a good year but after his injury he never seemed to be the same. Keep an eye on Robert Perry. Jeremy Hunt showed some pop but the expectations have to be higher.

Manager's Commentary – Doug Dascenzo: "Nothing seemed to shake him up," he said of Hunter. "At least he never showed it. For him to be a second year guy fresh out of high school and hit .280-.285 is pretty impressive."

Top Prospect: Cedric Hunter
Denis and John agreed on the top prospect

Hunter entered the year as the Padres' centerfielder of the future and after his first full-season he's still the Padres' centerfielder of the future. He put up some solid umbers, as essentially a freshman in college facing players who were frequently three to four years older than him without much protection around him.

He showed considerable plate discipline with a BB/K ratio of 47/78 and in August he hit .317/.395/.471, with 10 of his 33 hits going for extra bases. His power numbers weren't there for most of the year, as he was still making minor adjustments to his swing, but it's there in batting practice and will eventually work its way into games. Most of the year the Wizards had him hitting in the third slot, but his best position in the order may be in the #2 hole where he can take more advantage of his speed and gap power.

Hunter should put up better numbers in 2008 with the Storm than he did this past year with the Wizards for several reasons. The warm weather and hard infields will add points to his average as compared to the high grass and soft infields of the Midwest League. He's going to have the experience of already having a full 140 game season under his belt, and finally, he will have a better team around him with the Storm where a few of the 2007 draft picks, such as catcher Mitch Canham, third baseman Justin Baum and right fielder Kellen Kulbacki should join him and give him a little more protection in the order.

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