Scouting Padres Prospect Aaron Poreda

Aaron Poreda was the centerpiece of the San Diego Padres trade of Jake Peavy at the trading deadline. His success will determine whether it was a win for the club. He has the potential but has things to rectify before meeting a significant ceiling.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Aaron Poreda
Position: LHP
DOB: October 1, 1986
Height: 6-foot-6
Weight: 240
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

A key component acquired along with Clayton Richard, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter in a deal that sent Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox at the trading deadline, Poreda made his system debut in Triple-A Portland.

Originally drafted in the first round in 2007, the left-hander began his career in the Pioneer League. He went 4-0 with a 1.17 ERA that season, giving up just 29 hits while striking out 48 in 46.1 innings.

He moved to the High-A Carolina League to begin the next season, posting a 3.31 ERA across 12 starts before being promoted to Double-A Birmingham in his first full season. Across 15 starts, Poreda went 3-4 with a 2.98 ERA, fanning 72 across 87.2 innings.

The 2009 season saw him back in Double-A. After 11 starts, which produced a 5-4 record and 2.38 ERA, Poreda was summoned to the big leagues. The southpaw made 10 appearances with the White Sox, going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. In 10 innings he allowed nine hits, walked eight and struck out 12. He made two starts in Triple-A Charlotte before getting traded.

Thrust into Portland, Poreda went 0-3 with a 7.16 ERA for the Beavers. In 32.2 innings he allowed 28 hits and walked 37 – a 1.99 WHIP. He made four appearances with San Diego late in the year, posting a 3.86 ERA while giving up five walks in 2.1 innings.

He has held the opposition to a .226 average throughout his minor league career.

His walks increased significantly in 2009. He issued a free pass to 88 men across five teams that produced 6.58 walks per nine innings pitched. A lot of that had to do with his mental mindset through the season. Being advanced so quickly at a young age, Poreda felt like he had to change his game to be finer and it worked against him. The wheels ultimately came off when he was traded to Portland, as the young fireballer had to adjust but did not and the spiral out of control consumed him.

Poreda throws in the upper-90s with his four-seam fastball – a pitch that is relatively straight but can blow hitters away. He also elevates the pitch well to change a hitters eye level, getting the swinging strikeout. He can reach 97-98 mph with the heater and it sits in the 94-95 range.

He has also instituted the use of a two-seam fastball. The two-seamer has more movement but the location has been spotty. It still comes in at 91-93 mph from a three-quarters arm angle that produces late sink. The two-seamer will be important to his overall success, as he works on throwing it to both sides of the dish.

"His fastball is alive, it naturally cuts," former Portland and current San Antonio pitching coach Glenn Abbott said. "He never threw a two-seamer since college and it's got good late life on it. We were throwing in the bullpen and as a matter of fact it had the type of life where a catcher wouldn't know if it was a two-seamer or a four-seamer – it had good life on it. It's just getting him in the zone is the thing."

His slider has shown flashes of being a plus pitch. There are times when he can expand the zone with it or use it for a needed strike, but the consistency is not there. He does not always stay on top of the pitch in his delivery, causing the slider to flatten out and produce more lateral movement than tilting action. When the slider is on, it becomes a quality swing-and-miss pitch.

"He's a strong kid with a strong arm," Abbott said. "His slider is pretty good, his slider will be better once he gets in the zone with a better confidence level. A lot of his sliders – he had guys keep swinging and missing with the sliders in Portland."

One thing that has hurt his development is how the White Sox handled the development of his changeup. They did not stress the pitch enough during his two-plus years with them. His changeup, therefore, is a below average offering. He worked more on it during instructs this year, throwing it nearly 20 percent of the time. Still, it is a pitch that needs a lot of refinement – especially if the plan is to keep him in the starting rotation.

The changeup is a pitch that will help him immensely against right-handed hitters. He pitches well inside to lefties and righties alike but does not have that pitch that goes the other way to right-handed hitters.

"All of the scouting reports before the trade told (the Padres) that he was inconsistent within the strike zone and that there would be a lot of work to be done to make him a starter," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "It's funny to nearly all of the guys we got from the White Sox the changeup is something of a foreign object. If you can find me a major league starter that doesn't have a changeup, shoot me an email."

Poreda has undergone a number of changes with his delivery over the last year. He has two different motions – one from the windup and one from the stretch and is more comfortable out of the stretch. His work in the windup looks labored and uncertain, as he does not follow through on his pitches. His arm slot is varied and the action on his ball becomes unpredictable.

"He needs some help mechanically, he needs help with the secondary pitches," former pitching consultant Bob Cluck said. "The reason they took him to San Diego is so Darren (Balsley) could work with him and get him to whatever point he gets to him, and then we'd pick it up from there. The guy's not, they know he's not, big-league ready just because of his command, but the upside is good."

"One game we were playing Iowa or Omaha and he threw five innings and he was very good," Abbott said. "He was very good for five innings and then the sixth inning all of a sudden he started walking everybody again. They didn't hit a ball off the barrel of the bat. Everything was a little nice, easy, routine, ground ball. He's just got to get in the zone, and I know he wants to do whatever it takes to get there. I just think he's a little green, he just wasn't quite ready for the Triple-A level when he came up there."

Reaching the big leagues at 22 may have been a hindrance. The pressure to perform adversely affected Poreda. He tried to do too much rather than letting his natural ability work. The result was a mental and physical strain that pushed his mechanics out of whack and made it difficult for him to avoid the big inning. When the control problems began, the mental block was heightened and the strike zone a mystery.

During one day during instructs, the effort level of Poreda was not evident. Team insiders, however, contend that it is an aberration and not the norm. They cite his hard working ways, openness to the idea of adjustments and working on using more changeups in his pitch sequencing.

Working on holding runners close has to be in Poreda's mind. As a left-hander, he is not cognizant of the running game. Part of that was due to his lack of control this season and desire to focus on the batter but it also speaks to his in-game awareness. He must vary his looks to curtail would be base stealers. Twenty-three successful stolen bases against are too many for a southpaw.

"It's going to take awhile, but he does have quite a bit of potential," Fuson said.

"Here's a guy if he could throw it over the plate, he'd pitch in the big leagues today," Abbott said.

Conclusion: Being around big league players may have awakened Poreda's senses, bringing his confidence level back. If he only fixes his mechanics to get command of his fastball and slider, Poreda is a potential closer or late inning man. If he can add in the changeup and make it an average pitch, Poreda has frontline starter potential. There are ifs but slowing him down a tad to focus on his liabilities will be beneficial. He can make a difference in some capacity in the majors. Which way will be determined with time and experience. The Padres plan to use him out of the bullpen to begin the 2010 season.

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