Only the month of July produced a team average above .260. Yet, Chase Headley, Brett Bonvechio and Nick Hundley each had on base streaks that lasted over 20 games and Will Venable ended up fifth in the league in hits. Headley earned a trip to San Diego with his massive start to the year, and Colt Morton was a surprise addition to the Padres, called up because of his tremendous power.
The $64,000 question – Chase Headley is arguably your best prospect and Kevin Kouzmanoff has really come on for San Diego, what is going to happen?
Grady Fuson: "Were just going to play it out and see what happens next year in camp. Headley may get a little more time in the outfield."
At the beginning of the year, you said that you wanted to see Will Venable hit and get comfortable playing in the middle of the field and thought his power would eventually come. Is he still on track?
Grady Fuson: "He's still on track. He got into some poor habits with his stride which hurt his ability to hit the ball with a little more damage, but he made a big jump this year to Double-A and played multiple positions in the outfield so he's still on track."
Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards, whichever team the player or pitcher appeared at the most determined their eligibility. For the top prospect we took into account not only the future potential that the player or pitcher may have along with their performances, but also the needs of the organization which will allow them to rise the fastest.
With the suspense over, I have to touch on Venable. People will say he had a down year, but the truth is the Padres challenged him and he responded. While I agree it would've been nice to see a few more homers, the kid skipped a level and still hit .278, placed fourth in the league in hits and swiped a team-high 21 bags. A nice year. The expectations will grow next year when he will face similar challenges to what Headley saw.
There were questions about a number of players coming into the year, but none had more than Headley – a great defender with good plate discipline who lacked power. The 23-year-old laid those questions to rest, swatting 20 homers and connecting for 63 extra base hits in a tough hitter's league. His .330 average was 21 points better than his closest competitor, and he ranked in the top five in nine different offensive categories. He ended the year posting 27 straight games without an error.
This was a runaway. His consistent approach in the field and at the plate was a product of a demanding off-season that saw him work hard to get stronger, add weight to his frame, and work out kinks in his switch-hitting swing. He put in the effort and it paid off.
Others of Note: Nick Hundley hit 20 homers and his defense was much improved. Morton's power earned him a shot in San Diego. Drew Macias recaptured his defensive prowess and is again back on the radar, showing more patience than he ever had previously. Matt Antonelli kept hitting well, although he qualified for Lake Elsinore. How can you not like the usefulness of Brett Dowdy? Luis Cruz disappointed mightily. Sean Kazmar wasn't any better. Juan Ciriaco was worse than them all. Peter Ciofrone did not have the big year we are all accustomed to. Michael Johnson was released.
With the mid-season addition of Antonelli, Huffman, LeBlanc and Ayala the Missions were the best minor league team the Padres have put on the field that I can remember. Venable, Huffman, Headley, Antonelli, and Hundley are all legitimate position prospects.
At the beginning of the year, we wrote that we liked what Headley did with his batting average and OBP, but we wanted to see a little more power if he was going to have a chance. He answered that wish with .580 slugging percentage and 63 extra base hits, 20 of which went out of the park.
Defensively, I was impressed by the improvement that I saw in Headley, but I would still classify him as a good, but not great, defensive player. He can be a little stiff in the field and can unleash a few wild throws.
Others of Note: To continue on the theme that Denis started, Venable did everything that the Padres asked him to do this year; 143 hits, which was tied for first on the team, and 192 total bases for second, while showing he could play a position other than left field. At the beginning of the season, the Padres believed that Venable had come a very long way already; remember this is a guy who didn't play baseball his senior year of high school, his freshman year of college and only had 317 at-bats in college. The Padres believe next year will be the year he puts it all together.
A sleeper to keep an eye on is Ciofrone, who, as Denis noted, didn't have his normal year but came up huge in the playoffs, hitting .381. Teammate Brett Dowdy hit .379 and led all Texas Leaguers with 11 RBIs. Both of these guys aren't going to appear on any top prospects lists, but they always seem to be in the lineup for big games.
Manager's Commentary – Randy Ready: "He really had an opportunity to put things together in San Antonio and did that," he said of Headley. "Player of the Year voted unanimously by all the managers. He was the most consistent player throughout the whole summer."
Top Prospect: Chase Headley
Denis and John agreed on the top prospect
Coming into the year, MadFriars.com had Headley ranked fourth in the organizational prospect rankings. After his monster year, it is easy to see why he sits atop the prospect depth chart in San Antonio. The Padres expect this off-season to be similar to last – continue to add weight to a frame that can pack on another 10-15 pounds, gain strength, and continue to hone his skills. Given Headley's makeup and will to succeed, we can expect the positive results to continue. Another big year will make for an interesting situation in San Diego – and one they will be happy to have with Kevin Kouzmanoff settling in and Headley on his heels.