Tool Time: Best Plate Discipline

If you are a San Diego Padres prospect, you have to possess some semblance of plate awareness, discipline, and patience. It is a prerequisite. These prospects have that and more.

Josh Alley

If it is a called third strike, there are either replacement umpires or someone other than Alley is up to bat. His eye is so good that he rarely swings at pitches outside of the strike zone.

Alley is a walk machine that works the count in his favor to get a pitch to hit. While he does not have much power, Alley routinely flirts with a .400 on-base percentage – thanks to his 146-to-113 walk-to-strikeout ratio over his minor league career.

Matt Antonelli

While he upped his aggressiveness in 2007 after being a tad too patient the previous year, Antonelli has incredible strike zone judgment that he uses in each at-bat.

He is dead even over his two-year minor league career with a 131-to-131 walk-to-strikeout ratio. With his blossoming power and ability to put the bat on the ball, he will continually be a threat to see that magical .400 on-base percentage.

Danny Payne

Payne might be patient to a fault. He allows pitches slide past that he can drive and will get himself into bad hitter's counts as a result.

For all that talk, however, he still boasted an impressive .435 on-base percentage in his first year professionally. If he can use his innate ability to use selectivity to his advantage, Payne could top this list annually.

Robbie Blauer

There is no doubt this behemoth has a good eye at the dish. Using it to his advantage, however, has been a problem – particularly in the power department.

Weight problems affected his bat speed in 2007, and insiders feel he needs to remain lithe to use a tremendous eye. He should be able to for power if he remains loose and fluid through the hitting zone.

Clint Naylor

Catchers that know the strike zone should be commonplace, it seems. But, that isn't usually the case – except with Naylor. He has impeccable strike zone judgment.

Naylor took a small step backwards this year, as he began to press. Instead of letting balls slide by that were marginal, he felt he needed to make something happen – swinging at them instead. With more strength added to his frame this off-season, it will be interesting to see how he reacts.

Honorable mention:

Jesus Lopez

Lopez made tremendous strides in 2007 in the strike zone judgment department. Where he swung at a lot of balls in the past, Lopez was more confident in his abilities, only swinging at pitches he could potentially drive.

Drew Macias

The outfielder had a firmer understanding of his own strike zone in 2007, shrinking his hitting zone to see maximum benefit. He, like Lopez, hit a lot of balls hard that didn't fall and it is tied directly to pitch selection.

Eric Sogard

Every time Sogard gets to the plate the pitcher can expect a battle. With excellent bat control, Sogard has a good understanding of the strike zone. He may not walk as much as the next guy but make no mistake about his abilities to work the count.

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