San Antonio Missions Hitter of the Year

Summary: The Missions hit .269/354/.399 as a team, which is very good considering that the team plays in the PETCO Park of the Texas League. When the wind is blowing in, which it is most nights, a batter needs to have some serious power to yank one out.

This year, San Antonio fans saw the continued improvement of Kyle Blanks, and the resurgence of Drew Macias and Sean Kazmar as prospects in the Texas League.

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 what the players did this year, but their age and potential to improve.

Conniff Confidential

Player of the Year: Kyle Blanks
First Baseman – .325/.404/.514

Runner- Up: Drew Macias
Outfielder – .288/.393/.423

After Blanks struggled after the All-Star break last year in the Cal League, many, including myself, questioned if he had the stamina to play a full season. He answered that question this year by performing even better in the second half than he did the first, hitting .336/.402/.591. Blanks, 21, finished in the top five in the Texas League in batting average, OBP and slugging percentage to go along with a .993 fielding percentage in really his first full year that he didn't split time between DH and first base. He led the Missions in hits, extra-base hits, RBIs and home runs.

Blanks did all of this while considered young for the league. The $64,000 question that looms over everyone's head with Adrian Gonzalez at first base, however, is whether this will be the year the Padres finally try him in the outfield?

Macias, 25, has always been the organization's best defensive outfielder and has a better outfield arm than anyone. The question with Macias has always been how consistent he could be at the plate. After a brief trip to Portland last year, Macias began to fully buy into the Padres offensive philosophy, curtailing over aggressiveness at the plate and becoming more selective, which resulted in many more balls into the gap that took advantage of his speed.

He finished second on the team in hits, extra-base hits, home runs, and tied for second in RBIs. He led the league in walks and was in the top 10 in OBP. He should be the starting centerfielder in Portland next year, and if someone is injured or falters, he will be in the San Diego outfield.

Savage Sub-Rosa

Player of the Year: Kyle Blanks
First Baseman – .325/.404/.514

Runner- Up: Drew Macias
Outfielder – .288/.393/.423

The easiest race to pick by far and without debate or conscious thought. Blanks continued his torrid pace through the Padres' minors – taking out his frustrations on the Texas League this year. Most of all, he was consistently good all season. Blanks hit over .300 in all but one month and actually got stronger as the year wore on, hitting 14 of his homers after the All-Star break while also swatting 11 at home – accounting for nearly 30 percent of the homers hit by the Missions in San Antonio.

Blanks power has never been questioned. Given his youth, it has always just been a matter of time before really taking off. And there is plenty more in his tank. He has a more level swing than your normal power hitter but has such immense strength that a solidly hit ball will go out of the park on a line. Blanks also improved with his movements around the first base bag and became a complete player in 2008. He should have himself a feast in Portland as the lone player in the minor league system to record 100 RBIs.

Macias was also a no-brainer. He was 13th overall in the minors with his 83 walks and combined a patient approach with a gap-to-gap approach. He took on the San Antonio home park with the same approach each game, not letting the 15 MPH winds blowing in affect him adversely. With a focus on line drives, he was able to overcome the park and play his game.

The outfielder also became a better stolen base threat, using his smarts and instincts to take the extra base. Macias was also clutch, hitting well with runners on base and really finding a home in the two-slot in the lineup where he could use his pitch selection and skillset to do some damage. Macias has been on of the best defensive outfielders in the system and that continued in 2008.

Others of Note: Chad Huffman, 23, had a good season, hitting .284/.383/.423 but fell short of doing the type of damage that many thought he was capable. The main problem is that San Antonio is a brutal place to hit, especially for right-handers. On the road, he hit .318/.405/.513, as compared to a home mark of .256/.365/.343. Sean Kazmar, 24, had a brutal first two months, hitting .203 and .193 before swatting .356 in June and .368 in August, earning a call up to San Diego. Like Macias, Kazmar has always been one of the better defensive players in the organization; he led the league in fielding percentage among shortstops prior to his promotion. Craig Cooper and Seth Johnston had their ups and downs this year. Cooper, 23, can play multiple positions well but doesn't really hit with enough power, notching a .282/.354/.407. Johnston, 25, was third on the team in extra-base hits with 41 and second on the team in RBIs but struggled with offensive consistency throughout the season and in the field with 27 errors. Josh Alley was his usual self – sporting a high on-base percentage and providing a catalyst when he was in the lineup. Mike Baxter posted his best walk-to-strikeout numbers at 39-to-41 and is getting work in as a catcher during the fall. Jose Lobaton has some pop but has struggled putting it altogether on a consistent basis. He is a six-year free agent. Colt Morton did not hit at all this year, striking out 55 times in 165 at-bats while hitting .188.

Manager Commentary: "The most impressive thing about Kyle is his ability to be a complete hitter for his size. Most guys you see the size of Kyle Blanks are trying to hit the ball 500 feet over the light tower. Kyle is not afraid to take a base hit to right field if he has to." - manager Bill Masse on Kyle Blanks.

Top Prospect: Kyle Blanks

"Gigantor" has always received a tremendous amount of attention because of his size and also because he is incredibly athletic for someone that is 6-foot-6, 285-pounds. His story has always seemed like something of a fairy tale, a huge man-child is discovered playing shortstop and hitting tape measure home runs in a small New Mexico town and goes on to stardom in the big leagues.

He was graded in the ‘80' range for power potential [scouts use a 20-80 range] and the past two years has started to show it. Blanks is obviously a big man and is going to have to work harder than most to stay in shape and needs to be a little more aggressive earlier in the count to take full advantage of his vast potential; but right now his development is right on track.

The big question is, and this is going to get louder at the beginning of next season, especially if he puts up numbers in Portland, where does he fit in San Diego?

John and Denis both agreed on the top prospect

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