Monday, December 15, 2014

The Price Of Acquiring Justin Upton

Last week, the Padres pulled off one of the biggest deals of the off-season in acquiring Matt Kemp. Despite the star-studded addition of Kemp, the Padres clearly need to do more. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has reported that the Padres are interested in acquiring outfielder Justin Upton of the Atlanta Braves.

The deal would surely be a pricey one for San Diego, in both money and potentially with players and prospects. Atlanta has already dealt Jason Heyward this off-season and Upton might be next. The Braves got young, controllable pitching from St. Louis in Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Rosenthal pointed out that the cost of Upton will likely be far greater than the return that Atlanta received for Heyward.

San Diego has the trade chips to make a deal, but must also take on Upton’s salary. Upton is due $14.2 million in the final year of his contract. The Padres would likely have to push their payroll past $100 million in order to acquire Upton, which doesn’t seem too far-fetched after the Kemp deal.
Do the Padres and Braves match up in a deal? Here are a few trade scenarios that could play out between the two clubs:

Padres send SP Andrew Cashner and minor league SP Justin Hancock to Atlanta for Upton: In this scenario, the Padres essentially offer two years of Cashner for a year of Upton, plus a promising prospect.

The Padres have intimated that they want to keep Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Cashner together, in hopes of chasing a playoff berth. However, adding Upton, while not depleting the farm system. Cashner, 28, had a sparkling 2.55 ERA in 19 starts, but has not seemed open to a contract extension with to stay with the Padres. Cashner would give the Braves a talented arm to put at the front of their rotation.

Hancock, 24, was the Padres ninth round pick in 2011. He suffered through an injury-marred campaign in 2014, and also pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Hancock produced a 4.12 ERA in Double-A last year, and could be a contributor by 2016. He has a sinker that can reach 94 MPH, but he has also had injury issues in 2014.

Padres trade SP Matt Wisler, 2B Taylor Lindsey, RP Tayron Guerrero to Atlanta for OF Justin Upton: In this scenario, the Padres give up their top prospect, pitcher Matt Wisler. Including Wisler, who is the #44 prospect in the game, according to MLB.com, would be a steep price to pay indeed.
After a rough start in Triple-A, Wisler recovered nicely, and pitched well down the stretch. Wisler features a fastball that sits between 93-95MPH, with remarkable command. Wisler has only walked 2.4 batters per nine innings in his professional career and could easily win a spot in Atlanta’s rotation.

San Diego acquired second baseman Taylor Lindsey in the Huston Street deal last July. Prior to the 2014 season, Lindsey was rated a top-100 prospect by Baseball America, but he suffered through a lackluster campaign. Lindsey produced a meager .238/306/.372 slash-line as a 22-year-old in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Lindsey is still very young, and could give the Braves some middle infield depth.
Guerrero, 23, has never pitched above High-A, but the Padres added him to the 40-man roster this off-season. Guerrero has pitched primarily out of the pen in the Padres system, and is armed with a fastball that touches 100MPH. Guerrero would be another intriguing prospect that Atlanta can add to the system.

In lieu of trading a top prospect like Wisler, the Padres could offer lesser prospects, and take on a bloated contract like Chris Johnson or B.J. Upton. That scenario seems unlikely, however.

Quite frankly, the Padres interest seems strange. Even with Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, the Padres are still short of becoming a contender. The everyday lineup still features Yonder Alonso, who was a non-tender candidate and Jedd Gyorko, who had a .280 on-base percentage. Upton would not likely be a long-term solution, as he has just one year of control.


An Upton trade would excite fans in San Diego, and perhaps the Padres have another hitter in the lineup breakout. The Padres could also recover a draft pick, which would ease the blow of trading precious prospects. Either way, the Padres have become a team to watch in the off-season, which is something one could not say before. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Padres Season In Review

Coming into the 2014 season, there were hopes that the San Diego Padres could contend for a Wild-Card berth as one of the surprise teams in the National League. Instead, the franchise endured one of the most tragic and difficult years in the history of the franchise. 

Marred by the death of two icons, the firing of their general manager, a horrid offense, and countless injuries, the Padres struggled to a 77-85 record in 2014. The 77 wins were actually an improvement from 2013, when the team limped to a 76-86 record. 
The 2014 season got off to a depressing start when beloved broadcaster Jerry Coleman died on January 5th. Coleman, who was 89 at the time of his death, was the Padres play-by-play voice for over 40 years, and also managed the team during the 1980 season.

In June, the Padres lost Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn, as he passed away from cancer at the age of 53. Nicknamed Mr. Padre, Gwynn's tragic passing sent shock waves throughout San Diego, as 30,000 fans packed Petco Park for a public memorial. 
Despite the miserable season in San Diego, some really positive things happened on the field. Here are a few things that went right in 2014: 

1. The emergence of Rene Rivera: Rivera was the best story of 2014 in San Diego. Just last year, Rivera was playing in Triple-A with the Tucson Padres, with little chance of cracking the big league roster. Then catcher Yasmani Grandal suffered a torn ACL, and the Padres needed a backup catcher. Thus, Rivera's contract was purchased from Triple-A and the rest is history. 
Rivera initially served as a backup to Nick Hundley, but received regular at-bats in 2014. Rivera rewarded the Padres with a solid .252/.319/.432 slash-line, with 11 home runs and 44 RBI's. Rivera was also praised for his ability to handle the pitching staff. Rivera has developed himself into a solid, and perhaps more importantly, an affordable option at catcher in 2015. 

2. Tyson Ross and the starting pitching: Ross was this writer's choice for breakout pitcher for 2014. The 27-year-old did not disappoint, as he established himself as the Padres ace. Ross started 31 games for San Diego, and won 12 games. He fell just shy of 200 innings and had an ERA of 2.81. Ross is under team-control for three more seasons, and it would not be surprise to see the team talk about an extension. 
Ian Kennedy quietly had a tremendous year as well. Kennedy surpassed 200 innings, and was among National League leaders with 207 strikeouts. Kennedy, who was acquired at the trade deadline last season, has one more year of team control. 

3. The Bullpen: The Padres 'pen led the National League with a 2.73 ERA, even after dealing away All-Star closer Huston Street. Joaquin Benoit filled in nicely after the deal, and Kevin Quackenbush picked up some saves in September when Benoit dealt with a sore shoulder. The Padres have only one free agent in the pen (Tim Stauffer), and the unit will have young arms like R.J. Alvarez, Leonel Campos, and perhaps Burch Smith in the mix for a job in 2015. 
While there were a few bright spots in 2014, the reality is that the Padres finished with a 77-85 record and only finished ahead of two of the worst teams in baseball. San Diego suffered through injuries, and the worst offense in baseball. Here is a list of what went wrong for the Padres:

1. Yonder Alonso: The downfall of former general manager Josh Byrnes was the trust he instilled in a few of his acquisitions. Yonder Alonso was the centerpiece of the unpopular Mat Latos deal, as Alonso's gap stroke was considered a better fit for spacious Petco Park. After a promising rookie campaign, Alonso has been prone to injuries, in addition to inconsistency at the plate. Alonso played in just 84 games (down from 155 in 2012) and produced a career-low OPS of .682. Alonso will be 28 in April, but he might have played himself out of a starting gig. 

2. Jedd Gyorko: Gyorko showed promise as a rookie, swatting 23 homers and provided the Padres with the best offensive season from a second baseman since Mark Loretta manned the keystone position. The franchise also invested heavily in the West Virginia-born slugger, as they signed him to a 5-year, $35 million extension. Gyorko hit just 10 homers and was beneath the Mendoza line for most of the year. The Padres need Gyorko to produce in 2015. 
3. Everth Cabrera: Cabrera was an All-Star in 2013, and seemingly cemented himself as a core producer for the club. Then, Cabrera's season ended abruptly after a 50-game suspension in the Biogenesis scandal. Cabrera was apologetic, made amends, and was welcomed back with open arms by the organization. Cabrera responded with a .272 OBP and a DUI arrest. Cabrera is under team-control through 2017, but the team could seek an upgrade outside the organization. 

2014 will go down as one of the most challenging years in San Diego Padres history. Tragedy, injuries, and dismal performances all around were the main story lines. The team should have some financial flexibility in the off-season, and the Padres are interested in upgrading their offense. The team will need to improve offensively if they expect to contend in 2015. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Moosethumbs: Moustakas' Late Inning Homer Gives Kansas City Game One Win Over Los Angeles

Mike Moustakas had a rough year in Kansas City. A slow start led to a demotion to Triple-A. He also hadn't homered since the end of August. However, he is a star in October.

Moustakas homered in the bottom of the 11th inning off of Angels reliever Fernando Salas, and the Kansas City won Game 1 of the Division Series, as they defeated the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2.

The game started as the Lorenzo Cain show, as the Royals centerfielder made a leaping catch at the wall in the first inning, and a diving catch in the outfield to end the second inning.

Kansas City got on the board in the third inning when Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar doubled deep to left, driving in the aforementioned Moustakas.

The Angels bounced back in the bottom of the third, when Chris Iannetta tagged Royals starter Jason Vargas with a long homer to left to tie the game.

The Royals were able to manufacture a run in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly off of the bat of Omar Infante. The RBI gave Kansas City a 2-1 lead.

The runs came off of Angels starter Jered Weaver, who pitched brilliantly, allowing just two runs, on three hits in his seven innings of work.

Once again, the Angels had an answer for Kansas City, as 2012 World Series MVP socked his eighth career postseason bomb off of Vargas to tie the score. Vargas pitched well for Kansas City, allowing just the two runs in the sixth inning.

The game turned into a game of bullpens, as neither team could manufacture a run. The Angels tried to play small-ball and bunt runners over, but they could not push across a run.

In the 11th inning, Moustakas crushed what appeared to be a changeup from Salas into the right field seats to give the Royals the lead.

Greg Holland pitched a spotless ninth, as Josh Hamilton flied out harmlessly to left field to give Kansas City a Game One win.

The Royals lead the best-of-five series, 1-0.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Royal Victory: Kansas City Outlasts Oakland In Wild Card Classic

Most experts expected a pitcher's duel between Royals ace James Shields and A's ace Jon Lester. Instead, fans were treated to a wild, dramatic finish.

Royals catcher Salvador Perez delivered with a game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning, and the Kansas City Royals outlasted the Oakland Athletics, 9-8, in the American League Wild Card game.

The Oakland A's jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first when A's designated hitter Brandon Moss slammed a James Shields changeup into the right field seats. It was the beginning of a special night for Moss, who would play a prominent role in the game.

Kansas City scored in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single off of Lester. The Royals had runners on the corners with two outs, but Billy Butler was caught too far off of first. While Butler was in a rundown, Eric Hosmer broke for home and was thrown out easily.

The Royals took the lead in the third inning on an RBI double from Lorenzo Cain and an RBI single from Eric Hosmer.

While the good vibes were flowing in Kansas City, the Oakland A's had different thoughts. The A's led off the sixth inning with a single from pesky Sam Fuld and a walk to Josh Donaldson. The Royals went to the bullpen and plucked Yordano Ventura.

Ventura served up a meatball and Brandon Moss slammed a three-run shot to center to give the A's the 5-3 advantage. Derek Norris and Coco Crisp followed with RBI singles, and the A's took a commanding 7-3 lead with their ace still on the bump. Moss finished the evening with two homers and five RBI's.

With the score 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Kansas City began their comeback. Alcides Escobar singled, and promptly stole second. Lorenzo Cain singled to center, driving in Escobar and Eric Hosmer followed with a walk.

The A's went to the bullpen and grabbed ace setup man, Luke Gregerson. The Royals used speedy Terrance Gore as a pinch-runner for Butler, and Gore stole 2nd immediately. Kansas City scored another run, when Gregerson through a wild pitch with Alex Gordon at the plate, scoring Hosmer. Gordon later drew a walk.

With runners at the corner's, Gregerson struck out Salvador Perez on three straight sliders and ended the inning by striking out Omar Infante.

Oakland entered the ninth with a one-run lead, and they turned to their closer, Sean Doolittle. The Royals used Josh Willingham as a pinch-hitter to lead off the ninth. Willingham dumped a single into right, and Kansas City was in business. The Royals brought in Jarrod Dyson to run for Willingham, and he advanced to 2nd on a bunt.

In one of the more pivotal moments of the game, Dyson stole third base, and scored on a Nori Aoki sacrifice fly. The flyout ended the inning, but not before the Royals tied up the score.

In extra innings, the A's were introduced to Royals rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan. Finnegan, who was pitching in college in May, mowed down the A's lineup in the 10th, which gave the hometown nine a chance to win in extras.

Eric Hosmer opened the bottom of the tenth with an infield single. After a sacrifice bunt, Doolittle was able to induce feeble grounders to end the inning.

In the 11th, Finnegan continued his brilliance, retiring the first two hitters of the inning, before allowing a single to Josh Donaldson. Brandon Moss had a chance to be a hero once more, but instead was dispatched on a strikeout to end the frame.

Once again in the bottom of the 11th, the Royals got the leadoff man on, when Omar Infante singled. After another sacrifice bunt, Alcides Escobar grounded out, and Jayson Nix struck out looking.

Finnegan returned for the 12th, and walked Josh Reddick to end the inning. Jed Lowrie sacrificed Reddick to 2nd, and the Royals brought in veteran Jason Frasor to take over for Finnegan.

After a wild pitch, A's infielder Alberto Callaspo singled to left to give the A's the 8-7 lead in the 12th inning. Frasor was able to stop the bleeding by retiring Derek Norris on a strikeout and Nick Punto on a pop-up.

The Royals had one last change in the 12th to keep the classic game going. A's reliever Dan Otero retired Lorenzo Cain on a groundout to start the inning. With one out, Eric Hosmer hit a smash deep to left-center. Both A's left fielder Johnny Gomes and center fielder Sam Fuld attempted to make leaping catches at the wall, but both failed. When the dust settled, Hosmer was at third on a one-out triple.

Royals infielder Christian Colon tied the game on an infield RBI single, and Alex Gordon followed with a pop-up into foul territory. Christian Colon got himself into scoring position by stealing second. Salvador Perez, who was hitless in his first five at-bats, roped a single down the left field line to score Colon.

After over four hours, the Royals won the first playoff game in Kauffman Stadium since 1985. Kansas City used a barrage of timely hitting, seven stolen bases, and small ball to advance in the playoffs. The Kansas City Royals will battle the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Awful Padres Trade No One Talks About

Do you remember the last time the Padres were buyers at the trade deadline? If not, it is a completely forgivable offense, since it was in 2010. Back then, the Padres had Adrian Gonzalez in their lineup and Mat Latos in the rotation. David Eckstein was the scrappy veteran second baseman and Tony Gwynn Jr. was patrolling center field.

Those scrappy Padres had a paltry payroll of $37 million, but were the best team in the National League for most of the season. Those 2010 Padres, much like today's current squad, were desperate for offense. They pulled off a couple of deals to boost an anemic offense.

First, they traded highly regarded pitching prospect Wynn Pelzer to the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for shortstop Miguel Tejada. Pelzer was the Padres #7 prospect at the time of the trade (according to Baseball America) and was projected to be the Padres closer of the future.

The next day the Padres shipped out minor league pitchers Nick Greenwood and Corey Kluber in a three-team deal. The Padres received power-hitting outfielder Ryan Ludwick in return. Jake Westbrook ended up in St. Louis. Oh, and yes, that Corey Kluber ended up in Cleveland.

Ludwick did next to nothing in San Diego, as the team missed the playoffs in 2010, in part because of a 10-game losing streak towards the end of the year. Naturally, the Padres were awful in 2011, and Ludwick was moved to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

At the time of the trade, Kluber was not considered a top prospect. He was the Padres fourth round pick in 2007, taken in the same draft as Cory Luebke and the aforementioned Pelzer. Kluber was merely a guy in the Padres system.

In Kluber's first full season of pro ball, he threw 141.1 innings, pitching to a 4.90 ERA in Single-A, doing work for both the Storm and Tincaps. He did show the ability to miss bats, but not the ability to impress the scouting brass of the Padres system.

In 2010, when Kluber was traded, he was throwing very well for Double-A San Antonio. He had a 6-6 record, with a 3.45 ERA. After the trade, Kluber advanced to Triple-A with Cleveland, but didn't show the type of abilities to believe the Padres made a terrible move.

Then, as an article in Sports Illustrated chronicled, Kluber stopped throwing his four-seam fastball. Kluber had difficulty locating the pitch, and his results suffered because of his lack of command. Kluber had the ability to command his two-seamer, and it danced all over the strike zone. His ability to command his nasty sinker led to his rise to stardom.

This year, Kluber might be the best pitcher in baseball, not named Clayton Kershaw. Kluber leads the American League in strikeouts, is 2nd in innings and wins. Kluber might be the leading candidate for Cy Young Award in the American League. Perhaps it was a tweak to have Kluber throw his two-seamer more often. Maybe the Indians coaching staff was able to make adjustments to Kluber's delivery that allowed him to maximize his abilities.

From the Padres perspective, the team traded a decent pitching prospect for a bat they thought would protect star slugger Adrian Gonzalez in a pennant race. It didn't work out.

The trade has left Friar fans to dream of a rotation of Cashner, Kluber, Ross and Kennedy. One could argue that that pitching staff might be one of the finest in baseball. Even with the anemic offense the Padres feature, the team would likely be more competitive and fun to watch.

For what it is worth, Pelzer never pitched in the bug leagues, and played the 2014 season in the independent Atlantic League with the Camden Riversharks. Nick Greenwood, the other pitcher the Padres traded, has reached the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jake Westbrook has retired, Ludwick is in Cincinnati. The Indians won this deal quite handily.

That is the beauty of baseball. Sometimes you never know those prospects you give up in trades. Sometimes you trade a Wynn Pelzer. Other times its a Corey Kluber. The Indians scouting department and minor league coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for developing Kluber into the beast he is today.

Many Padres fans always remember the awful trades the team has made over the years. Moving Adrian Gonzalez, Roberto Alomar, Jake Peavy and Fred McGriff among many others. I loathe the day that a young, nasty, controllable ace like Corey Kluber was dealt away for an unproductive outfielder. It is indeed, the awful trade no one talks about.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Runday: Padres Offense Breaks Out To Sweep San Francisco

The San Diego Padres are not going to the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season, but that doesn't mean that they can't interfere with the postseason plans of the San Francisco Giants. The Padres offense produced timely hits and Ian Kennedy pitched brilliantly, as the San Diego Padres defeated the San Francisco Giants, 8-2 on Sunday afternoon. The win gave San Diego a three-game sweep in the weekend series.

The game started as a pitcher's deal as Padres starter Ian Kennedy set down the first nine Giant batters in order, before Buster Posey had an infield single in the fourth inning. Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong was equally as brilliant, as he didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, a Seth Smith double. The double was Smith's 30th of the season.

After the Smith double, Rene Rivera followed with a single to left, to give San Diego runners on the corners with no one out. The Padres scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by Alexi Amarista. Vogelsong was able to get out of the fifth without further damage.

The sixth inning was much different for Vogelsong, as he was done in by small ball. Yangervis Solarte led off the inning with a single, and Will Venable singled as well. Jedd Gyorko reached on a Pablo Sandoval error, to give the Padres a prime scoring opportunity. Yasmani delivered with a sacrifice fly, and the Padres took a 2-0 lead.

San Diego broke the game open when Cameron Maybin delivered a clutch two-out single to center that scored Jedd Gyorko and Seth Smith to give the Friars a 5-0 lead.

The offensive outburst was more than enough for Ian Kennedy, as he held the Giants at bay for most of the afternoon. Ian Kennedy pitched six shutout innings, before allowing a two-run home run to Chris Dominguez, the first of his Major League career. Kennedy got his 12th win on the season, as he allowed just two runs in 6.2 innings.

The San Diego Padres will open up their final home series of the year against the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.

Is Yasmani Tomas A Possibility For San Diego?-

The free agent market this season will be very light in the power hitter department. Hanley Ramirez is the most accomplished power threat, however, Cuban-born Yasmani Tomas is the biggest X-factor in the free agent market.

Tomas is prolific power hitter in his native Cuba, and has played five seasons in the Serie Nacional professional league, despite being just 23. His youth and power potential will make him the one of the most sought after free agents, despite the fact he has never played a game in the United States.

Rusney Castillo, the most recent Cuban defector signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox last month. While Castillo is 27, and viewed as more of a finished product than the raw, but powerful Tomas. Some experts have predicted that Tomas' contract could surpass the massive commitment that Castillo obtained.

When a player with Tomas' ability and potential hits the market, one would expect the usual suspects to be involved in negotiations. According to Peter Gammons, that prediction is correct. The New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers are all considered to be early front-runners for the powerful Cuban. However, according to the same article, Gammons mentioned that the San Diego Padres are interested as well. Those San Diego Padres?

The Padres are typically not a team that is involved in any big-name free agent contracts. The Padres signed reclamation project Josh Johnson and reliever Joaquin Benoit to free agent deals totaling $23.5 million last season.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lake Elsinore Drops Game One of California League Playoff Series

The Lake Elsinore Storm, the Padres Single-A affiliate had a tremendous season. The team lost All-Stars Joe Ross, Hunter Renfroe and Diego Goris to a Double-A promotion, and outfielder Corey Adamson to retirement. Despite all of the changes, the Storm qualified for the California League playoffs, and were rewarded with a matchup against the Inland Empire 66'ers (Angels affiliate). 

The Storm got a solid outing from starting pitcher Bryan Rodriguez, but the bullpen could not hold the lead, and the Inland Empire 66'ers defeated the Lake Elsinore Storm, 4-2. 
The 66'ers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by Angel Rosa, after Rodriguez allowed a two-out walk to Dennis Raben. The next hitter, Cal Towey singled to right. Rosa attempted to score on the play, 
but was gunned down by Storm right fielder Luis Domoromo. 

The first inning blemish was all that Storm starter Bryan Rodriguez. Rodriguez allowed just the one run, on six hits in six innings of work. He struck out three and walked three. 

The Storm took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, when they plated a pair of runs. After a leadoff single by Alberth Martinez and a walk to Benji Gonzalez, outfielder Jeremy Baltz tied the game with an RBI single. The go-ahead run scored on an RBI ground out from Dane Phillips. 

Powerful young reliever Tayron Guerrero came on to pitch for the Storm in the eighth, but ran into some trouble. Guerrero cracked the Padres Top-20 prospect list this season, and represented San Diego in the Futures All-Star Game. Guerrero did not look like an All-Star on Wednesday evening, as he walked the leadoff hitter. Guerrero then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing the runner to move to second. Inland Empire first baseman socked a booming double to left-center, and the 66'ers took the lead. 

Raben delieverd an important insurance run in the ninth, when Storm outfielder Alberth Martinez attempted to make a diving catch, but was unable to make the play. The ball rolled to the wall, and Raben scored on an inside-the-park home run. 

The Storm were retired in order, as the 66'ers won game one, 4-2. 

The series will shift to San Manuel Stadium tomorrow night. The 66'ers lead the best-of-three series, 1-0.

Fort Wayne Wins Game One Of Midwest League Playoff Series

The Fort Wayne Tincaps, the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, experienced all the plateau's that any baseball club can endure over course of a season. Their Opening Day starter, Walker Weickel, was demoted to short-season Eugene. The team lost 13 games earlier in the season. Tonight, after making the Midwest League playoffs as a wild-card, the team is just one win away from advancing in the playoffs. 

The Tincaps rode a clutch hit from second baseman Josh VanMeter, and the bullpen preserved a dramatic, come-from-behind 7-5 win over the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers affiliate). 
The game started as a pitcher's duel as both Tincaps starter Jimmy Brasoban and Whitecaps starter Austin Kubitza looked strong early. Brosoban had a no-hitter through the first three innings, before allowing a single to Midwest League MVP Wynton Bernard. Bernard then stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error, and scored on an RBI ground out. 

Fort Wayne took the lead in the bottom of the 4th on a clutch two-run double by designated hitter Dustin Peterson. His drive scored Franmil Reyes and Jake Bauers to give the Tincaps the 2-1 lead. 
West Michigan took a 5-2 lead on a pair of homers -- a solo shot from Domingo Leyba and a devastating three-run bomb from Bernard, Bernard went 2-for-4, with two runs, a homer and three RBI's. 

The Tincaps battled back again in the battle of fifth with a pair of runs to cut the lead to 5-4. Second baseman Josh VanMeter scored on a wild pitch, and Tincaps RBI leader Fernando Perez delivered with an RBI single. 
After tying the game in the bottom of the sixth, on an RBI single from outfielder Nick Schulz, the Tincaps had a chance to go ahead in the eighth innings. Dustin Peterson led the inning off with a single, and catcher Ryan Miller followed with a bunt single. After a sacrifice bunt, Josh VanMeter singled to left, scoring both Peterson and Miller to put Fort Wayne ahead.for good. 

Ryan Butler pitched the ninth to close out the win for Fort Wayne. The bullpen came up huge for the Tincaps, as Nick Mutz, Jason Jester and Butler allowed just two hits, while hurling 4.2 innings of shutout ball. 
The two teams will play tomorrow in Game 2 at Comstock Park, home of the Whitecaps. Fort Wayne leads the best-of-three series 1-0. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

So Close: Despaigne's Near No-No Caps Padres Series Win

The Padres opened up the post All-Star game portion of the season with a weekend series with the New York Mets. San Diego closed the first half with back-to-back 1-0 shutout losses at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the series opener against the New York Mets, the Padres bats showed some life, and the team received a pair of tremendous outings from starters Tyson Ross and Odrisamer Despaigne to win the series. 

Ian Kennedy started Friday night's game and struggled with his control. He was unable to throw strikes consistently, which led to an inefficient and ineffective outing. Kennedy lasted five innings and threw over a hundred pitches. He gave four runs and left the game with the Padres trailing 4-0.

San Diego tied the score in the fifth inning, when they put up a four-spot. Second baseman Chris Nelson, who was brought up from AAA El Paso before the game, came through with an RBI single. Alexi Amarista followed with an RBI single of his own, and Chase Headley capped the scoring with an equalizing two-run single. 

The Mets took the lead in the ninth when catcher Travis D'arnaud poked the game-winning RBI through the infield for the game-winning RBI off of Joaquin Benoit. The Padres were turned away in the bottom of the ninth, and lost the opener, 5-4. After the game, the Padres traded closer Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels for four prospects. 

On Saturday night, the Padres handed the ball to All-Star Tyson Ross to help even the series. Ross' slider/sinker combination kept Mets hitters off-balance all night with some of the best
stuff he has displayed all year. Ross pitched seven shutout innings, and the Padres cruised to a 6-0 win over New York.

The Padres offense came on the strength of three solo HR's -- one apiece from Yasmani Grandal, Will Venable and Seth Smith. For Smith, it was his team-leading 11th home run of the year. Chase Headley also continued his hot hitting with two hits and an RBI. 

On Sunday, San Diego sent Cuban sensation Odrisamer Despaigne to the mound to clinch the series victory. Despaigne almost made history. 

Despaigne pitched 7.2 innings without allowing a hit, before David Murphy whacked an opposite-field double into the left center gap. The hit ruined what could have been the Padres first no-hitter in team history. Despaigne baffled Mets hitters all day by constantly changing speeds and his arm angles. Despaigne threw fastballs in the low-90's and breaking balls that danced to the plate at 64 MPH. Despaigne's brilliance was wasted as the Padres allowed a run to score in the eighth and Despaigne left the game with a no-decision. 

With the score tied at 1 in the ninth, the Padres started a rally. Pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin led off the inning, and was replaced by pinch-runner Cameron Maybin. Alexi Amarista attempted to sacrifice the runner over, but ended up reaching on an error by Mets pitcher Vic Black. After Chase Headley grounded into a double play, Seth Smith stepped to the plate with a chance to win the game. He responded with a dribble to the pitchers mound that Mets hurler Josh Edgin could not field. The play allowed Maybin to score, and the Padres escaped with a 2-1 win. Yasmani Grandal had the other RBI for the Padres when he homered for the second consecutive game. 

The Padres took the series, and will head to Chicago to take on the Chicago Cubs in a three-game series. The Padres will be off on Monday. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Breaking Down The Huston Street Deal

The Padres and the Angels agreed upon a trade that will send RHP Huston Street and minor league pitcher Trevor Gott to Los Angeles. In exchange, the Padres will acquire INF Taylor Lindsay, right-handed pitcher R.J. Alvarez and shortstop Jose Rondon and pitcher Elliot Morris
The teams had been discussing a deal for about a week, and things have seemingly come together quickly. On the surface, it seems like the Padres got a good return for their All-Star closer. Here is a little more about the players San Diego acquired. 

2B Taylor Lindsey: Lindsey, 21, was ranked as the Angels #1 prospect (per Baseball America) coming into the 2014 season. He is described by Baseball America as a "scrappy line-drive type of hitter." He is also regarded as a very good low-ball hitter. He is the #93 ranked player in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects. He swings from the left-side and his ceiling is expected to be a .270-.280 hitter with 20 homers. He has drawn comparisons to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. Lindsay was the 37th overall pick in the 2010 Amateur draft. He is currently playing for AAA Salt Lake in the Angels organization, and has produced a triple-slash line of .247/.323/.400, with eight homers and 30 RBI's. Lindsay is expected to report to AAA El Paso. 

P R.J. Alvarez: Alvarez, 23, was the Angels' 3rd round pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft. Alvarez has pitched almost exclusively in relief in his young career. Alvarez is the #4 prospect in the Angels system, and is described as a power arm with a mid-nineties fastball that can touch 98. His heater is also often praised for its movement and explosiveness. He also has a slider that is described as "plus-pitch" that can touch 85. Alvarez will report to AA San Antonio for the Padres organization. On the year, Alvarez has a 0.33 ERA (1 run in 27 innings), and is averaging nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings. 

SS: Jose Rondon: Rondon, 20, is a shortstop out of Venezuela. He is the Angels 12th ranked prospect, according to Baseball America. Rondon does not display much power, but scouts have praised his ability to make contact, even though he does not walk much. Rondon also has above-average speed and projects to be an above-average defender. Rondon will head to Single-A Lake Elsinore, allowing Padres fans to get a sneak preview. Rondon has a triple-slash line of .327/.362/.418, with 0 homers and 24 RBI's. 

P Elliot Morris: Morris is not considered one of the Angels top prospects, but was a 4th round pick in the 2013 Amateur Draft. Morris, 22, has a fastball that sits around 89-93 MPH. He has a curveball and a changeup, but he has yet to find consistency with either pitch. Morris will head to Lake Elsinore, to play for the Storm. On the season at Single-A Inland Empire, Morris has a 3-3 record, with a 4.17 ERA in nine starts. 

Trevor Gott, the player the Padres sent to Los Angeles with Street, is not regarded as one of the Padres top-30 prospects. Overall, it seems that the Padres did very well. as they acquired three of the Angels top-12 prospects.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Major League Baseball And FOX Fail To Mention Tony Gwynn During All-Star Game Broadcast

Major League Baseball and FOX Sports have created a tremendous amount of controversy this evening during the broadcast of the Major League All-Star game, as they failed to mention Padres legend Tony Gwynn, who passed away last month from cancer. 

The broadcast was billed as a swan song for Yankees shortstop and legend Derek Jeter, who was playing in his final All-Star Game. Jeter deserves all the accolades he gets, which included a standing ovation when he left the field and an in-game interview that was essentially a rehash of everything Jeter has accomplished. 

However, Gwynn was a legend in his own right, and his premature death last month only reaffirmed how beloved Gwynn was in the baseball community. The outpouring of grief for the San Diego legend was widespread across the nation, which proved that Gwynn was more than a great player in a sleepy town -- he was one of the most popular baseball players of the last 30 years. 

Perhaps Major League Baseball felt that Gwynn has been honored enough. He was a top story on ESPN for several days and his memorial service attracted more than 20,000 fans to Petco Park. Maybe they felt like a Jeter tribute would cause droves of Yankees fans to flip on their television sets and provide a boost for sagging ratings. Bud Selig and company made sure that the night belonged to Jeter. 

The game also featured one of the most awkward interviews in recent memory when Cardinals pitcher had to apologize for stating that he intended to "groove a few pitches to Jeter." All-Star MVP Mike Trout had to answer a few questions about Jeter in his post-game interview. There was no doubt that the All-Star game became a three-hour informerical for the legendary shortstop. 

The intent here is to take nothing away from Jeter -- this writer grew up idolizing the Yankee great, however, there was plenty of room to mention Gwynn. Does FOX really need to interview the managers of each team? In a three-hour broadcast, a legend like Gwynn deserves a little love, a little remembrance in a game he participated in fifteen times. 

It warms the heart of this San Diego sports fan to see all of the national media who were offended by Gwynn's omission from tonight's broadcast. For those of us in San Diego, it seems pretty trivial. San Diego knows what a great player and person Gwynn truly was. Stories of his abilities,
accomplishments, warmth, kindness and generosity will be reverberated throughout San Diego for years to come. Despite the faux pas during the FOX broadcast, no baseball fan will ever forget the impact Gwynn on San Diego. Shame on Major League Baseball and FOX for failing to recognize that.

An Interview With Padres Prospect Marcus Davis

For many Padres draft picks, their professional careers start in Eugene, Oregon, the home of the Padres short-season affiliate in the Northwest League. It is one of the lowest levels of professional baseball, but for many young players, it is the realization that they are getting paid to chase their dreams of playing Major League Baseball. 

When a player is drafted in the 24th round, the odds are obviously stacked against him.  The Pacific Northwest might be the beginning and the end of the pursuit of a dream most young boys long for. For Marcus Davis, 2013 could have been the end of that journey. A journey that would have ended before it really took flight. A poor season might have led to a career change. 

Davis, 22, struggled out of the gate in Eugene last season, hitting just .176, along with a slugging percentage of .206. Davis admitted that he pressed in attempting to impress the organization. 

"Last year I really struggled. I made all of this way harder than it needed to be. I just tried to remember that it was the same game that I have been playing my whole life." 

A relaxed approach and more experience have truly benefited Davis in his second professional season. Coming into Tuesday night's game for the Eugene Emeralds, Davis is tied for Northwest League with seven homers, and he leads the lead with an impressive 1.111 OPS. Davis credits Emeralds hitting coach and former Padres prospect Homer Bush with helping him alter his approach.

"He helped me simplify my approach. It is really about being selectively aggressive and waiting for a pitch that I know that I can do damage to. That approach has helped me draw more walks and hit for more power. This is my second season of professional baseball so I know what to expect, and Homer has really helped drill a lot of information into my brain. 

Davis has only played professional baseball since last season, however, he is already in Cooperstown -- sort of. Davis played for the Midland Redskins, an amateur baseball team that is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Davis' team won the 2009 Connie Mack National Championship. Davis had his jersey on display in the Hall of Fame. 

"The Midland Redskins are a pretty well-known team around the Midwest. The team is based in Cincinnati (Davis' hometown) that has had a long history of success at the amateur level with players and teams. Since I am from the Cincinnati area, they decided to use my jersey as an example of what it means to play for Midland. It was extremely humbling to see a jersey that I wore hung in Cooperstown. It was one of my proudest moments in baseball." 

Davis went on to play college baseball at Florida State, but left after his junior season. In his only year as a Seminole, Davis finished fifth in the ACC with 62 RBI's and was one of only two players to play all 64 games for the Seminoles. Playing in the ACC helped prepare Davis for a professional career.

"Playing at a winning program definitely teaches you how to compete. Coach Mike Martin and the whole coaching staff do a great job of preparing you to play professional baseball, while having success year-in and year-out." 

Despite the success Davis had his junior year, he slipped to the Padres in the 24th round. Instead of returning for his senior season and perhaps attempting to raise his draft stock, Davis chose to sign with the San Diego Padres. It was a choice that did not involve a lengthy sales pitch from the San Diego brass.

"It has always been a life-long dream of mine to play professional baseball. They did not need to say much, because I was just looking for an opportunity to play baseball professionally. It was really difficult to leave Florida State, but I had to do what was best for myself and my career."

Davis' long-term goal isn't to make a ton of money and buy sports cars or mansions, but to take care of his family, who have made sacrifices to help him achieve his dreams. 

"I want to repay my parents for everything they have done for me. Advancing through professional baseball and achieving my goals will help me do that."

Davis is showing the San Diego organization that he can fulfill his potential, and give the Padres the slugger they so desire. For Davis, he hopes that 2014 is just the beginning of something special.

Monday, July 14, 2014

San Diego Padres Trade Chips: Who Gets Dealt?

When the San Diego Padres raised their payroll to a club-record $90 million for the 2014 season, the ownership group and many fans expected the team to be more competitive than they have been in years past. However, the team's offensive has struggled badly and general manager Josh Byrnes has already been thrown overboard on the sinking ship that has become Padres baseball. Despite the team's struggle, they do feature a number of veterans who have drawn significant interest from contending teams. This author has assessed the Padres trade chips and the odds of the player being moved at the trade deadline. Get ready to place your bets. 

CP Huston Street: Street seems to be generating the most interest among relievers in baseball. The Angels have expressed interest in the Padres closer, and other contenders such as the Pirates and Tigers could use an upgrade in the back-end of their respective bullpens. Street, 30, is in the midst of his finest season as a professional, and is headed to his second All-Star game. For the year, Street is 1-0, with 1.09 ERA in 33 games. His 24 saves rank fifth in the National League and he has blown just two save chances in the last 1 1/2 seasons. Street is making $7 million this year and has a reasonable option of $7 million for next season. Odds of being moved: 85%.

SP Ian Kennedy: The Padres traded for Kennedy at the deadline last season as a buy-low acquisition. Kennedy has quietly had a solid season for the Friars. Kennedy, 29, is 7-9 with a 3.47 ERA on the year, and is third in the National League in strikeouts. Kennedy's fastball is averaging nearly 92 MPH on his fastball, per Fangraphs, which is the best velocity he has displayed in five years. Kennedy is earning $6.1 million this season, and is eligible for arbitration one last time in 2015. The Angels have expressed interest and the Orioles, Mariners, Royals and Indians could ask about the San Diego righty. Odds of being moved: 65%.

3B Chase Headley: In 2012, it appeared that the Padres developed their best homegrown position player since Tony Gwynn. The Colorado native led the National League with 115 RBI's, smacked 31 home runs and posted a WAR north of seven. The organization attempted to extend Headley on a few occasions, but talks never seemed to get very far. While Headley may not be the slugger he appeared to be in 2012, he could still thrive on a team where he is not expected to be the lineup's catalyst. Headley started off slowly in 2014, but has swung the bat well after receiving an epidural treatment in his ailing back. Headley is making $10.1 million this year and is eligible for free agency after the season. The Yankees would be a perfect fit, but the Blue Jays and Royals seem to make sense as well. Odds of being moved: 75%

OF Chris Denorfia: Denorfia is a fan-favorite in San Diego and is a favorite of this writer. He can play any outfield position, has historically mashed left-handed pitching and runs through walls to help his team win. Denorfia is having his worst season in a Padres uniform, as evidenced by his .244 average, but would make a great fourth outfielder on a contending team. The Royals, Red Sox (if they decide to buy) and Atlanta would be great fits. Denorfia, 34, is making a modest $2.2 million this year and is eligible for free agency after this season. Odds of being moved: 85%

OF Carlos Quentin: There is no doubt that Carlos Quentin can be a game-changing bat. Unfortunately, injuries have ruined what used to be a perennial MVP candidate. Quentin hasn't played more than 86 games since 2011, when he was an All-Star for the White Sox. Still just 31, Quentin makes a ton of sense for an American League team that needs a DH -- he simply should not be in the outfield anymore. A trade may be difficult to facilitate, since Quentin has a full no-trade clause and is signed through 2015. The Mariners, Orioles, Angels and Indians could all use another bat. Odds of being moved: 20%

RP: Joaquin Benoit: Benoit has been worth every penny he has made this season, after the Padres rewarded him with a two-year deal. Benoit, 36, has dominated the National League, with a 1.86 ERA. He is one of the reasons why the Padres have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. Benoit is making $6 million this season, $8 million next year and has an option for $8 million in 2016, that vests if Benoit finishes 55 games in 2015. The Tigers have expressed an interest in a Benoit reunion and the Yankees, Brewers and Dodgers could use his services as well. The Padres are not particularly eager to trade both Benoit and Street, so it will be interesting to see who has the greatest value. Odds of being dealt: 25%

In addition to the aforementioned players, Will Venable, Tyson Ross, Everth Cabrera, Dale Thayer and Alex Torres should generate interest, although it seems unlikely that any from this group will be moved. The Padres are still in the process of searching for a general manager, so it will be interesting to see what moves the front office makes over the next few weeks. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Race For the Padres GM Job: The Contenders

The Padres are searching the nation for their next general manager, as they have profiled close to a dozen candidates since Josh Byrnes was fired. Here are the candidates who have interviewed for the gig: 

Larry Beinfest: Benifest was the first candidate to interview for the position. Beinfest is intriguing for multiple reasons: He is the former general manager of the Florida/Miami Marlins and he built the squad that won the 2003 World Series. Beinfest was raised in California and has experience working with limited resources. The Marlins were a consistent winner with Beinfest at the helm. 

A.J. Preller: Preller is currently an assistant general manager with the Texas Rangers. He has worked for Major League Baseball, as well as for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has worked for the Rangers for the last ten seasons, and is credited with helping Texas scout Latin America and Japan. 

Billy Eppler: Eppler is currently an assistant GM with the New York Yankees. Eppler is actually a native San Diegan and is considered by many to be the "right-hand" man of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Eppler was also a scout for the Padres in the early 2000's. When Brian Cashman created a pro scouting department, he selected Eppler to head the organization. 

Ray Montgomery: Montgomery is currently employed as the director of scouting for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has also spent time with the Milwaukee Brewers and even played three seasons in the big leagues. The Padres offered Montgomery a job as the scouting director in 2009, but he declined. He is credited with discovering Rickie Weeks. 

Logan White: White is currently the Vice President of Amateur Scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has been with the Dodgers for the last 12 seasons. He is responsible for the draft selection of players like Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin. Before his time in Los Angeles, White spent time with the Baltimore Orioles, as the West Coast Supervisor, in charge of overseeing all of the area scouts in the area. He held that same position for the Padres from 2003-2005. 

Mike Hazen: Hazen currently serves as the assistant general manager for the Boston Red Sox. Hazen also worked for current Padres CEO Mike Dee while he was in Boston. Hazen was also drafted by the Padres in 1998 as a player, after attending Princeton University. 

The Padres are also interested in talking to Kim Ng, who currently works as the Senior-Vice President for Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball. She is also the former assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers. She has not interviewed for the job yet. 

In addition to the candidates who have interviewed for the Padres general manager job, several executives have turned down the shot to run the Friars. Cubs executive Jason McLeod, David Forst of the A's, Mike Chernoff of the Indians and Cardinals assistant general manager Michael Girsch have withdrawn their names for consideration for the job. Omar Minaya, who is currently works for the Padres, has declined to interview for the position, citing family reasons. 

San Diego hopes to have a general manager in place by the end of the July, although it is unclear whether the executive will in place in time for the trade deadline.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Padres Sign Seth Smith To An Extension

The Padres made a surprising transaction today, as the team announced that they have signed outfielder Seth Smith to a two-year, $13 million contract. The move was first announced by Padres.com writer Corey Brock. 

Smith's new deal will keep him in San Diego through 2016. Smith will make $6 million in 2015, and $6.75 million in 2016. The deal will contain a $7 million option for 2017, with a $250,000 buyout. 

Smith, 31, is in the midst of his best offensive season, as the outfielder has posted a triple-slash line of .281/.384/.506, with nine homers and 25 RBI's. Smith was slated to hit free agency after the 2014 season. 
The move is interesting to say the least, as the Padres are currently without a permanent general manager. 

Smith figured to be a major trade chip for the Padres, as the veteran has seemingly conquered Petco Park. He seemed likely to fetch the Padres a prospect or two, but now the outfielder will make his home in San Diego for the next few years. 

San Diego is still said to be shopping much of their veteran core, including Chase Headley, Ian Kennedy and Huston Street. From today's transaction, Smith will not be going anywhere this season. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bud Black's Love Affair With Alexi Amarista

On May 3rd, 2012, the San Diego Padres made a trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. San Diego traded reliever Ernesto Frieri and received minor league pitcher Donn Roach and infielder Alexi Amarista in the deal. Amarista was instantly added to the Padres roster and saw a lot of playing time, as the Padres released second baseman and free agent bust Orlando Hudson a few weeks later. 

On the surface, Amarista was kind of an interesting pickup. He is listed at 5'8, but is probably closer to 5'4, and his stature (or lack thereof) earned him the nickname "Little Ninja." He was never considered a top prospect, nor did he flash any tools that would led the average fan to believe that he would bloom into a useful player. 
Sure, Amarista hit in the minors, as his .312 career minor league average dictates. However, he only homered 21 times in nearly 2000 minor league at-bats. and his stolen base percentages were below average. Most scouting reports had Amarista pegged as a utilityman, at best. It didn't matter much to Padres manager Bud Black, who played Amarista in 105 games in that 2012 season. He rewarded the Padres with a paltry .282 OBP. He also rated out as below-average defensively at every position he played, including a -38.3 UZR/150 in center field, where he logged over 500 innings. Amarista proved he wasn't much with a bat and wasn't even useful at any position defensively. 

Flash forward to 2013 and Amarista posted a .282 OBP, identical to the number he posted in 2013. Again, he was far below average at every single defensive position he played at. Oh, did this author mention he tied for the team lead with 146 games? That seems like an awful lot of time for a utility guy that cannot hit or field. Oh, it gets worse: 132 of those games were starts. In terms of WAR last season, Amarista rated out at -0.8. Amarista was a Swiss Army Knife for the Padres, except he made fans wish they could slit their wrists with said knife. 
Despite all the aforementioned instances of terrible work, Amarista was once again on the big league roster once again. In 2014, Amarista has somehow been even worse with the bat. currently sporting a Rafael Belliard-esque OPS of .559. The Padres are currently without second baseman Jedd Gyorko, who is on the disabled list. The team sent down prospect Jace Peterson to the minors on Saturday, which means that Amarista has become the de facto everyday second baseman for the Padres. The Padres have made some questionable decisions over the last few years, but the playing time that Amarista receives has to be near the top of the list.

Padres manager Bud Black has been reassured by Padres management that he will remain the manager of the club for the rest of the season. The vote of confidence comes, despite a team-record $90 million payroll and nearly every position player (except for Seth Smith and Cameron Maybin) having a career-worst season.  
However it is easy to question Black's decision to play Amarista so much. Is there a deeper reason he plays that the Padres fanbase is not privy to? 

Does Amarista have evidence of Bud Black cheating on his taxes? Or does Amarista have incriminating photos of Black that could erupt in a scandal? Who knows why Amarista started 132 games last season, and could match that number this season -- however production and potential cannot even be in the discussion. 
Obviously, a utility infielder who could fit into a Little League uniform is not the major reason why the Padres are one of the worst teams in baseball. There are a plethora of reasons that we are not going to get into now, however, Amarista is a microcosm of why the Padres have been so awful: they have been doing the same thing and they expect different results.

As the author mentioned before, Amarista has had an identical .282 OBP two seasons in a row, remarkably consistent as it is disguisting. What the statistics show is that Amarista is clearly not deserving of the playing time he receives, yet he continues to get opportunities to play everyday. No one can argue that the Padres can't do better, as a .282 OBP in 700 at-bats and below-average defense everywhere is not hard to replicate. Bud Black loves trotting him out, so fans are forced to deal with one of several automatic outs in the worst lineup baseball has seen in nearly 100 years. 

This author is not trying to pick on Amarista, but is just using the infielder as an example of why the Padres and Bud Black have failed. Doing the same thing and getting the exact result means one thing: its time to make a change. Bud Black and Alexi Amarista are examples of the entropy of losing that the Padres have fallen into. Heck, Amarista and Black might be baseball soul mates: two entities that will forever be joined in the black abyss that has become Padres baseball.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Interview With Padres Prospect Casey McElroy

The rigors of professional baseball can be overwhelming. The long bus rides, the terrible hotels and the small and sometimes non-existent crowds. Those obstacles can be difficult enough, but missing a whole season due to an injury? That can be catastrophic, especially when you are not identified as a "can't miss" prospect. It would be quite easy to give up and move on to the next phase of life. 

The aforementioned scenario is what Padres minor league second baseman Casey McElroy endured. McElroy was selected by the Padres in the 11th round in the 2011 MLB Draft, out of Auburn University. In his junior season at Auburn, McElroy batted a robust .372, with nine homers and 53 RBI's, Auburn finished that season with a .500 record and McElroy had the option to return for his senior season. He decided to go pro. 

"I made the decision to go pro, mainly because I wanted to start my professional career and get closer and closer to my dream of becoming a major leaguer." McElroy said in an interview with this writer recently. 
McElroy made his professional debut in 2011, playing with the AZL Padres and the short-season Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League. In 105 plate appearances for both squads, McElroy posted a robust slash-line of ..293/.365/.446 with two home runs. His first professional experience proved what the Padres believed when they drafted him: McElroy can hit.

The 2012 season saw McElroy progress to High-A Lake Elsinore, after a stint with Fort Wayne. McElroy tormented California League pitching that summer, with a .327 batting average. His plate discipline was vastly improved as well, as he walked 27 times, with only 32 strikeouts in 258 plate appearances. While McElroy was not considered a top prospect, his bat was attracting attention in the system. However, the start of the 2013 season dealt McElroy a painful blow.

During Spring Training, McElroy suffered a sublaxtion of the right shoulder. He was expected to miss the start of the season, but never played a game in 2013. The adversity he faced gave McElroy time to reflect.
"Last year was an extremely tough year for me. I worked so hard in the offseason to get ready to play, only to have an injury wipe out the whole year. I mainly coped with the injury by keeping my mind focused on what I needed to do, in order to get back on the field as soon as possible. Missing the whole year gave me a new appreciation for the game. I learned that you cannot take anything for granted, because it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye." 

After a year away from playing the game he loves, McElroy started this season in Lake Elsinore, in order to get reacquainted with playing baseball. McElroy played in 15 games with the Storm, before earning a promotion to AA San Antonio. Missions manager Rich Dauer inserted McElroy into the trusted three-hole in the batting order -- an assignment that McElroy relishes.

"I try to be a fastball hunter. I look for a fastball early in the count that I can drive to right, or left-center field. If I am behind in the count, I try to get my foot down as quick as possible with a short swing and hit the ball to the center of the field."

San Antonio has recovered from a slow start, to finish the first half of the season with a 39-37 record. The team also features some of the Padres top prospects, including Rymer Liriano and Austin Hedges. McElroy does not allow their profiles to distract him on the path to his ultimate goal.

"I never compare myself to those guys. Austin (Hedges) and Rymer (Liriano) are awesome players and deserve all of the accolades that they get. I just can't compare myself to anyone else. I am competing with only myself to become the player I want to be, and the goals I want to achieve."

One skill that will help McElroy realize his dream is his versatility. He was drafted as a shortstop, but has played mostly second base in his professional career. McElroy realizes the value in playing multiple positions.
"When you can play more positions, it will only help the manager to give you more playing time. Guys who can play multiple positions tend to stick around much longer."

At just 24, McElroy has already battled the baseball gods and has not stopped on his journey to San Diego. The Texas League is not known as a hitter's league, but McElroy has held his own with a triple-slash line of .269/.360/.394, with five homers and 22 RBI's. Despite all the adversity he has faced, Casey McElroy keeps grinding. It is quite simple to root for the young man from Florida. McElroy is an example of what our parents try to instill in all of us: never give up and always work hard. McElroy continues to chase his dream. Grind on, Casey.