Putting the finishing touches on our Spring Training coverage for the upcoming 2008 minor league season, we dissect some of the San Diego Padres prospects that stood out and seem to be on track to have solid seasons in the upcoming year.
The clear winner on the hitting side was outfielder/first baseman Angel Mercado. The Bethune-Cookman alumnus has a chance to be a special hitter. He was held back by injuries last year and could have a monster season in the middle of Fort Wayne's lineup. He has hit everywhere he has gone and has power; he flashed it all spring. Keep an eye on this cat.
On the mound, Will Inman was particularly nasty. Hiding the ball well, he had more velocity on his pitches than he flashed after he was acquired from Milwaukee, as he promised to show the real pitcher he can be in the coming year. With some deception and a funky delivery, Inman could be poised for a big season with the Missions.
Former USD outfielder Shane Buschini was a standout this spring with the stick. The southern California native brought an easygoing approach into the season and has slowed down his approach, letting his natural power come through. After a down season in his professional debut, Buschini could be ticketed for a big season that shows what he is truly capable of.
Left-handed sidewinder Colt Hynes just keeps on doing it. After a successful debut in Eugene, Hynes continued to hit his spots, work ahead in the count and get ground ball outs. A proven winner, Hynes won't overpower anyone but has enough movement and command to continue getting outs as he moves up the chain.
Eric Sogard was so good this spring that the Padres decided to move him up to Lake Elsinore. The second baseman continued to show a patient approach at the dish and improved on his defense at the keystone. Sogard has the tools to be successful and focused on staying up the middle with his approach after getting a little anxious last year.
Reliever Jon Ellis was on point during the month of March. The right-hander has a knack for getting ground balls outs and worked extremely well with runners on base in spring. Cutting down his walk totals, Ellis was efficient in spring and figures to play a prominent role in the San Antonio pen.
There was a reason Daryl Jones became expendable and it was the consistent play of Jeremy Hunt. The first baseman showed more pop in his bat after coming to camp in great shape. Hunt was much more selective at the dish, looking for his pitch to drive – that alone should help propel his numbers from the middle of the Lake Elsinore lineup.
Mike DeMark has a new delivery that allows him to hide the ball and pounds the zone with mid-90s heat – making his fastball appear even more impressive to hitters. He has worked hard on the changeup and has assimilated to the pen after spending his career as a starter. With the familiarity, his first-pitch strikes are up and his walk totals figure to go down.
A leader on the field, Keoni Ruth showed veteran experience with his ability to recognize pitches, take the ball where it is pitched, while also showing gap power. He does the little things right and has terrific baseball acumen. Ruth could become a valuable member of the Storm this season.
Mike Adams is back after a year off thanks to surgery and the right-hander looks good. His fastball may not be reaching the mid-90s that it did in the past but he was commanding the pitch well and had his off-speed pitches rounding into form. If his splitter comes back, Adams could figure into the bullpen plans of the Padres sometime this season – he is, after all, a former big league pitcher.
They said outfielder Robert Perry had more power in his frame than he was given credit for and the former Dirtbag showed it in spring. He came out early to spring to work on his approach and lets the ball get deep consistently, giving him great recognition of pitches. He rarely swings at a pitch out of the zone and looks for his pitch to drive better than most.