Hitter of the Year

While many San Diego Padres' farmhands took big steps forward this year no one came close to matching the season Cody Decker had with the AZL Padres.

Cody Decker posted a .354/.421/.717 line while setting many AZL season records.

"That is great news, I'm really surprised," said an excited Decker upon hearing the news. "I thought I had a pretty good year, just haven't gotten that much attention by the media."

The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Decker was a 22nd-round selection out of UCLA who fell in the draft because of his age and concerns that he was limited to first base or DH.

"When he first came out with us, he was so gung-ho he literally swung at everything before he calmed down a little," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "As you can see, he put up an offensive display in that league that no one has seen for awhile."

Another reason that Decker fell so much in the draft was coming off of a bad junior year, hitting .218/.340/.382 after two years solid campaigns that saw him hit .302/.343/.571 and .307/.376/.583.

"With the draft being the giant elephant in the room, I thought after my past two years at UCLA, I was going to be drafted really high," Decker said. "I just got in a hole that year and never really got out.

"But I really learned a ton from of it. I took a summer off from playing the game and decided that my big problem was that I wasn't having enough fun playing the game. I mean whether you become a major league player or not, its a great game, and if you are not enjoying yourself while playing it, it really doesn't matter if you are being successful or not."

Decker bounced back his senior year, hitting .322/.434/.683, leading the league in home runs with 21 and earning his second all PAC-10 selection.

Once he got to Arizona, as his numbers indicate, he simply tore up the competition. Decker led the league in extra-base hits, home runs, total bases and an eye popping .717 slugging percentage. As good as his numbers were, he didn't immediately tear it up when he went there, hitting .276 in his first 29 at-bats.

"It usually takes me 15 to 25 at-bats to feel out my surroundings, something that I would really like to change next year," Decker said. "The big thing for me was keeping the right approach, being patient and waiting for my pitch, which is great because it matched what the Padres have always preached."

While Decker was putting up some outstanding numbers in the AZL, Eugene first baseman Nate Frieman, the Padres' 8th-round draft pick out of Duke, was also putting up good numbers, which kept him in the AZL.

In late August, the Padres' promoted him to Fort Wayne, where he played a game in left field, in addition to DH/1b.

"That was pretty good," Decker said. "I played some outfield in college, so I have trained a little to play out there. I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but I will get to those balls.

"It was a nice change of pace, and when one of our catchers went down, I even went out and caught some bullpens. I really enjoyed and they seemed to think I looked ok back there.

"Heck, as long as I am out there, I will play anywhere they want me too. They want me to start being the left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, give me some time I'll figure that out too."

Despite putting up the big numbers, Decker is not high on post-season prospect lists, mainly because of his age and the perception that he is limited to first base.

"It's really fine whatever anyone says or writes, and it bothers my parents much more than it does me," said a laughing Decker. "I've been proving people wrong for the last year and half. Regardless of what anyone thinks, I'm going to be playing everyday next year with a chance to become a major league player; and I will take that any time. Hitter of the Year: Cody Decker

John Conniff and Denis Savage collectively chose Cody Decker as our Hitter of the Year

Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards

Join on Twitter at

MadFriars Top Stories