It wasn't just his workout routine that molded Paul McAnulty into the player he
is today. He also worked on the mental aspect and came back with renewed
confidence in his game.
"Fantastic," Tye Waller, the Padres' Director of Player Development, said when
asked about his season.
After winning the batting title in 2002 with Idaho Falls, everyone knew he could
hit but a down year in 2003 with Fort Wayne brought more questions than answers.
Moving from first base to the outfield seemed to do the trick in 2004. Many had
tabbed him as the "John Kruk" of the organization, a player that did not have
the agility to be moved around. He proved everyone wrong and the suddenly
light-footed McAnulty enhanced his all-around game.
At the plate, McAnulty was steadily consistent. In his worst month, he batted
.283 and his best month he swatted .337. He led the Storm in most major
categories: homers (23), RBI's (87), runs scored (98), walks (88), doubles (36),
and hits (147). His walk total tied for the California League lead and his .404
on base percentage was good for fourth in the league.
"Here is a guy that believes he can hit," said Waller. "If you talk to him he
will tell you so. That goes a long way - believing you can put the bat on the
ball. He would even have had better numbers if he had someone around him to
force the opposition to pitch to him."
McAnulty had three ten-game hitting streaks on the year and batted .298 with
runners in scoring position, one point higher than his season average of .297.
He walked once every 6.6 plate appearances and struck out once every 4.63 at
bats. The Padres believe he will become a "Moneyball" player who can draw more
walks than K's.
His statistical oddities came when he played at first base or in right field.
He hit just .216 in 26 games at first base and hit just .176 in seven games in
right field. By contrast, he batted .311 in 61 games in left field and .342 in
42 games as the designated hitter.
"There is a guy that we wanted to try and do some things where we could find a
hole for him - find a position - and down the road he can be a first
baseman/outfielder. As he climbs the ladder, we are just looking for a place he
can call home and get 500 at bats every year."
His poise at the plate may never be in question. When he went up to Mobile to
help them out in the playoffs, he continued his torrid pace, prompting one scout
to say, "Paul McAnulty is the reason Mobile won that series against Birmingham."
The real question will rely with his defense and ability to play in the
outfield. His defense was never that good at first base and he rose to the
occasion in the outfield, making just eight errors on the year. He lacks great
range but has worked this offseason to increase his mobility. That could be the
determining factor in his future.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com