San Antonio Missions 2010 Season Preview

Synopsis: The best pitching in the system, led by Simon Castro, will be helped out by the organization's best defensive shortstop in Beemer Weems for the San Diego Padres Double-A squad. At the plate, look for James Darnell and Logan Forsythe to try to conquer the foreboding Nelson Wolff Stadium and Cedric Hunter and Kellen Kulbacki need to rebound from disappointing seasons.

Three Strikes with Randy Smith, Director of Player Development and International Scouting:

It's very rare when the organization jumps anyone from Fort Wayne to Double-A and you did this year with Simon Castro. What was the impetus behind this?

Randy Smith: Really, that was almost a slam dunk. He could have been moved from Fort Wayne to Lake Elsinore last year, but we decided to keep him in the Midwest League. His numbers in camp have been ridiculous, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was the (Mat) Latos of 2010 and ended up in the big leagues. I am not saying he will, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Most of the spring Logan Forsythe was at third base in the big league camp. Did you guys plan to move him to second base all along?

Randy Smith: Right now, he is a tremendous third baseman, but when we looked at our system and his path to the big leagues, we wanted to see if he could also be an everyday second baseman; find out if its an option. He had a great camp, and we were really impressed with his versatility.

What were the reasons for starting Aaron Poreda in Double-A as opposed to Portland. Also, in the pen as opposed to a starter?

Randy Smith: If you look at all the relievers that we had coming back from the big leagues and the experience that they have in Portland, it was a natural place to put him. As for starting as opposed to relief, we just thought this was the best place for him and us where he had the potential to help the team. He could easily go from San Antonio to the big leagues like he did last year with the White Sox.

Projected Lineup:

1B Matt Clark SP Nathan Culp
2B Logan Forsythe SP Corey Kluber
SS Beamer Weems SP Simon Castro
3B James Darnell SP Wynn Pelzer
C Luis Martinez SP Jeremy Hefner
RF Sawyer Carroll Closer Craig Italiano
CF Cedric Hunter Relief Brandon Gomes
LF Kellen Kulbacki Relief Aaron Poreda
DH Mitch Canham--

*Cory Luebke is on the disabled list with an oblique strain. Top 20 Prospects in San Antonio: (7) Simon Castro #1, James Darnell #3, Cory Luebke #4, Logan Forsythe #5, Wynn Pelzer #8 , Aaron Poreda #9 and Sawyer Carroll #16. Craig Italiano is considered a sleeper and had a very good camp.

Catch a Rising Star: Simon Castro and James Darnell - Castro is the pitcher the team raves about, and if he can master the changeup, he will be in San Diego pretty quick. During Fuson's tenure, it would nearly be a given that he would be at San Antonio the whole season. Under Randy Smith, it may be a different case. Darnell is a rangy third baseman with patience and power whose only downfall last year was a wild arm. Padres' third base coach Glenn Hoffman worked hard with him in the spring at the hot corner, and it seemed to pay off in the spring. His bat is real and one could make a strong case that he was the best hitter in the organization at two different levels last year.

Pitching: The best in the system, and in pitcher friendly San Antonio, this could be pretty special. Castro, Luebke and Pelzer are the top three pitchers in the system – but Castro should be the one to watch. The big Dominican posses a wicked two-seamer and can dial it up to 96 mph. The key to him is the development of his changeup, the vaunted third pitch. Once he has that, it's off to San Diego. Both Pelzer and Luebke had their best seasons in Lake Elsinore last year and are both a few adjustments away from being ready. Italiano, acquired from Oakland in the Scott Hairston trade has size and a big fastball. A very strong bullpen with Gomes, Scribner, Oland, Poreda and DeMark. Scribner and Oland were closers last year and Gomes, Poreda and DeMark have major league quality velocity.

Position Players: The offense will be led by Darnell who is the second best position prospect behind Jaff Decker in Lake Elsinore. Darnell looked much better defensively in the spring, and if he can conquer Nelson Wolff Stadium, San Diego will find a place for him to play. Forsythe looked very good in camp, and if he can handle second defensively, it could be a major battle between him and Lance Zawadzki or Matt Antonelli to be the starter in 2011. Weems is a truly spectacular defensive shortstop, and if he can hit as he did from April to July last year, he has a chance. Matt Clark put up some strong numbers in Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, but there are some questions if he has the bat speed to make it the big leagues. This year will go a long way to prove or disprove this theory. Outfielder Sawyer Carroll jumped three levels last year before ending up with the Missions. If he can hit with some more power, he has a chance. Both Hunter and Kulbacki have put up big numbers in the past but are coming off disappointing seasons. Hunter looked stronger and more selective in the spring, and Kulbacki is finally healthy after a missed year. The Padres plan to use Canham as a super-utility man seeing time behind the plate, first, corner outfield positions and third.

On the Spot: Cedric Hunter – The former top prospect had a tough year where he didn't hit for average, on-base percentage or power. He came into camp stronger and with a more patient approach at the plate, but he has some competition in the center field slot both in front and behind him if he doesn't progress.

Under the Radar: Beamer Weems – A poor August at the plate, where he just wore down, prevented him from really putting up the type of numbers that he did in the first four months. A truly spectacular defensive shortstop, if he can hit and get on base, he has a chance. Seriously, watching him take infield may be worth the price of admission.

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