Padres Prospect Report: Nick Trzesniak

Padres Prospect Report: Nick Trzesniak

A catcher in the San Diego Padres organization has always had a chance. With the futility at the Major League level, any catcher that showed promise was just a step away. Now that has changed and at a time when the team has more potential at the catcher position than ever before. Leading the group of youngsters on the cusp is former supplemental first round draft pick Nick Trzesniak.

"With Nick Trzesniak, he is a young kid who has a good attitude," one Padres scout said. "He listens to feedback and what people are teaching him in the instruction that he gets. I look forward to his progression."

Trzesniak played at Lake Elsinore in 2003, batting .245 with 8 home runs, 45 RBI's and 17 stolen bases in 109 games. Trzesniak brings a rare speed from the catcher position and is considered an excellent athlete.

He is still a youngster at 23 and has room to grow. Trzesniak will head to Double-A this year and that happens to be one of the places the Padres have traditionally looked to for help.

"Nick is close enough, three levels away from the Major Leagues," Storm broadcaster Sean McCall said. "At Double-A, you are a couple levels away. Based on what the Padres have done in recent years with using that level as a stepping stone – the Padres have gone to Double-A and utilized guys as a band-aid if you will.

"Not to say Nick Trzesniak would be that person."

Unfortunately for Trzesniak, Ramon Hernandez is the everyday catcher and Humberto Quintero and Miguel Ojeda are above him on the depth chart – with Ojeda winning the backup job in San Diego and Quintero getting praise from David Wells.

Trzesniak is one of the weaker hitters in terms of overall average and on base percentage at the minor league catcher position. He has hit .251 over five seasons, but that includes a .341 average in the Pioneer League in 2000. Since then he has topped out at .245, occurring last year in Elsinore.

He has improved his plate discipline and upped his OBP over the last three seasons and it is that progression that has the Padres quietly excited. There is concern over his high strikeout rate as he is still whiffing at a clip of one every 4.3 at bats.

Catchers, as a general rule, progress slower than other position players and it is not unheard of to see many making their debuts at 26 and 27 years old. Trzesniak is three years from that plateau.

It is no surprise that the former all-state linebacker, at his Illinois high school, is perhaps the best in the entire Padres system at blocking the plate.

"Nick is a horse behind the plate and he blocks the plate better than any catcher I have seen in my Cal League time," McCall said.

"He takes pride in blocking the plate," a Padres scout confirmed. "A Mike Scioscia demeanor/attitude around the plate saying this is mine, you are going to have to go through me."

"Trzesniak shows his grit, has a toughness about him and it shows on the field. Nick this year was solid for (Lake Elsinore)," McCall added. "I am not the guy who has to evaluate numbers and if people want to base everything on numbers than that's why we have an All-Star game."

Trzesniak will have to continue to excel defensively and show more contact offensively to be tabbed as a legitimate prospect down the road. With Hernandez ahead of him his timetable has been expanded. Still, as a five year minor leaguer, Trzesniak could end up seeing his shot come with another team.

As one scout put so eloquently:

"What Nick has to work on these days is he gets to be reminded that Ramon Hernandez is now the catcher."

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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