Tool Time: Top Plate Discipline

The San Diego Padres bread and butter – plate discipline. It is preached throughout the organization with a firm belief that if you are selective in the pitches you swing at, you will see a higher rate of success, harder contact, with more time on the base paths. These San Diego Padres prospects lead the charge.

Jaff Decker

Posting a ridiculous .523 on-base percentage was simply ridiculous and Decker did it with a fantastic batting eye that he didn't compromise, regardless of the hitting situation.

Decker drew 55 walks compared to 36 strikeouts and sported 23 walks with men in scoring position. He believes in his approach and isn't willing to sacrifice and hitting himself into an out when he can reach base to allow his teammates to do damage.

Drew Macias

The outfielder had a firmer understanding of his own strike zone in 2008, shrinking his hitting zone to see maximum benefit. He hit a lot of balls hard that didn't fall, and it is tied directly to pitch selection.

Macias drew more walks than strikeouts in '08 and has become increasingly confident in his ability to drive balls and do damage. His baseball acumen has increased and his pitch recognition has continually improved, making him a poster child for the Padres approach.

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 202-to-155 walk-to-strikeout ratio over his minor league career.

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 swing at balls outside the zone but make no mistake about his abilities to work the count.

Add in his knack for fouling off tough pitches and Sogard can be a pitch count's worst nightmare. Not giving at-bats away, the infielder rarely misses his pitch and can hit the gaps to do consistent damage.

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.

Honorable Mention:

Matt Antonelli

While his average dipped significantly, Antonelli has incredible strike zone judgment. 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.

Cole Figueroa

As soon as he entered the Padres system, Figueroa was instantly placed on this list. He has an uncanny ability to focus on his pitch and rarely misses his opportunities.

Dan Robertson

The Northwest League MVP is feisty in every aspect of the game, including his work out of the box. Robertson grinds on every pitch and fights off pitches to setup a pitcher to throw the one he wants.

Robert Lara

The backstop proved to be adept at working the count and knowing the strike zone. His plate awareness and patience led to a high average and on-base percentage.

Robert Perry

A savvy player with knowledge of the strike zone, Perry hones in on his pitch and doesn't chase outside the zone. With his ability to recognize pitches, Perry forces the pitcher to throw strikes.

Jason Codiroli

Another battler that doesn't give at-bats away, Codiroli is an ideal leadoff man that works deep into counts, giving his teammates a look at the opposition.

Mike Baxter

It wasn't always this way for Baxter but the outfielder has made tremendous strides in his ability to control the zone. His Arizona Fall League performance is a direct result of swinging at better pitches.

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