Name: Danny Payne
DOB: September 8, 1985
As a result of his injuries, Payne never seemed to get into a rhythm – making the 2008 season a wash. He missed two months from late August through late June and was lost again in late July. When he returned in August, he collected three hits in his final 47 at-bats – a .064 average.
Injuries to his legs sapped his ability to turn on the ball and maintain a consistent swing. Power is generated from the lower half and any issues with the legs will lead to disastrous results – as Payne can attest.
"Danny has been hampered by his leg injuries three different times so we really haven't gotten a chance to get him out there much, but there is no question that this kid can swing the bat," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said.
He played in 39 games this season, hitting .172, but the barometer for the year can't be measured due to the amount of time he missed during a 140-game campaign.
The year before, he had a foot injury and was eventually put in a cast after the season. Staying healthy may be his biggest hurdle moving forward.
With time to get in sync, Payne showed why he was such a high pick during the Padres Instructional League. He led the team in plate appearances in an effort to get him the looks he missed during the year. Payne consistently worked the count and led the team in walks with 21. He hit .340 during the fall and sported a .544 on-base percentage.
In 34 percent of his at-bats at instructs, Payne registered a ‘hard contact' – a stat the Padres keep regarding how well each ball in play is hit.
That was the kind of play the Padres expected from the 64th overall pick.
Payne has a stocky build that many believe will show more power in the coming years, despite his single homer in two professional seasons. He has a compact stroke that is conducive to line drives, but he may need to add loft as his body continues to fill.
"It is tough making the adjustment to the wood bat and then trying to find out who you are as a hitter, defensively and as a hitter," Payne said. "That is something I struggled with to find my identity as a player and as a hitter. That is something all the coaches helped me figure out."
"He has some power for a short but stocky guy," Dascenzo said. "Throws the ball very well and is a good defender. Right now, he just needs to get out here and get some at-bats under his belt."
The expectation is his average speed will dissolve and his power numbers will blossom but changes will need to be made to a swing that doesn't create enough backspin but does follow through on balls to hit them into the outfield.
He is very adept at stealing bases but leg injuries sapped his ability to take an extra bag in 2008. He will likely be able to take a few bags each year; his ability to read the pitchers is fantastic. Seeing the number go up would be a stretch since he will have to continually work on keeping his agility up and first-step quickness in check.
Payne is a patient hitter who averages over four pitches per plate appearance. If the ball is not in his zone, he doesn't swing. There are times, however, when Payne can get too complacent and allow good pitches to skirt by.
While he had the patient approach down, Payne was not staying aggressive. As a result, bad hitting counts would follow.
He is an easygoing player that keeps to himself. That can come off as being uncoachable. That isn't a demerit on his character – he simply prefers to know people before opening up.
A plus defender with solid range and good route running, Payne can track down balls with grace and reads the ball off the bat well – making him a viable candidate to play all three outfield positions.
"I am not worried about my defense," Payne said. "I think that is one of my strong suits."
Conclusion: The conundrum is that Payne tried to hard to hit the ball over the wall in his debut season and was vilified for it. Now, he might be asked to change his ways and adapt. Hitting more extra base hits might be a goal but the changes have to be gradual and comfortable. If wholesale efforts are made, the odds are not in his favor.
Payne has the ability to be an on-base machine that can regularly tag doubles and do some damage. The homers will follow. He is a plus defender that can play multiple positions and offers a variety of skills that can play offensively. Payne needs to find out exactly which player he is and stick with it.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards