Sizing up the Padres First Base Prospects

The San Diego Padres have not ignored a position currently manned by Adrian Gonzalez, focusing on powerful prospects that have a lot to offer but also have risk, as we seek out the prospects with the highest ceilings, closest to the majors, sleepers, who need to make a move, and where the jury is still out.

Highest ceiling:

Allan Dykstra

A totally revamped swing started to bear fruit at the close of the '09 season. The towering first-rounder has immense power potential but also came into the organization with holes in his swing. He has worked diligently at lengthening his separation and staying more in line with his stride towards the pitcher, allowing him to hit the inside fastballs. He is a solid target at first but needs help with his footwork. His pitch selection remains a strength.

Nate Freiman

One of the tallest players in the system, Freiman has come a long way in a short span. He dropped his hands nearly six inches in his load, allowing him a truer path to the ball. He has room to put weight on his frame but must continue to work on keeping his swing compact – a challenge for someone with long limbs. The strides he made from the beginning of the year until the end say he can make adjustments. He will have to learn better pitch selection.

Matt Clark

He may very well have the most power in the organization but also has a long swing that needs constant and consistent maintenance. A fall down defender, Clark misses a lot of hittable pitches. Some of that is due to his lengthy stroke and some of that is forgivable because of his power. He still needs to work on his pitch selection, as someone with his bat should be drawing more walks. If he connects with the ball, Clark can send moonshots over the wall.

Closest to the majors:

Craig Cooper

For years, the Padres have been trying to get Cooper to turn on the inside fastball to take advantage of his power. It has not come to fruition as quickly as hoped. He has versatility because of his ability to play the outfield and is a plus defender at first base – likely the best in the organization around the bag. He has a line drive stroke that bodes well for average, but first base is a premium position that demands more power. If he can up those numbers, Cooper could play a role at the big league level.

Sleepers:

Jonathan Alia

Signed as an undrafted free agent, Alia has a potent bat that still needs some tweaks to set straight. A big, physical body has come a long way defensively and played at third base but may profile better at first. He is a smart player with good instincts for the game and is always working to improve. He has to shed some of the aluminum bat swing and begin shortening up his stroke but has serious potential because he can hit the ball out of any park.

Need to make their move:

Felix Carrasco

A disappointing year overall for the slugger. A big body that has to work on conditioning, Carrasco has the power to hit it out of all parks. In the California League, the switch-hitter should have put up serious numbers but only netted nine homers. He still needs to improve his pitch selection and time may be running out as the depth around him continues to improve.

Manuel Nuno

His third year with the Dominican Summer League Padres should have been the one that saw him taking steps forward, but it appeared he took one backwards. While his power numbers went up from a season ago, he remains a guy that is too often rolling over on pitches and making weak contact. He has a long swing that has not shortened up, making him susceptible to off-speed pitches.

The jury is still out:

Cody Decker

Yes, he won the Arizona Rookie League MVP, but he also did it at the age of 22. Credit Decker for tearing up the circuit and leaving no doubt in Arizona, yet the doubt remains on how it will translate at the higher levels. Decker has an incredible work ethic that will serve him well and is a natural leader on the field. Given his shorter stature, he has to overcome odds, especially if he lacks the mobility to move to the outfield. Regardless, Decker deserves the opportunity to prove himself at the next level with a starting gig. Decker has also seen time catching bullpens and would be an immediate upper echelon prospect if he moved to the position and showed himself capable defensively.

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