Position Player - Fernando Valenzuela Jr., 1b
Fernando Valenzuela Jr. started the year off hot and continued his offensive
production into May. Not a traditional power hitting first baseman,
Valenzuela is a solid gap hitter posting an OPS (on base percentage plus
slugging percentage) of .908, with overall numbers of .335/.420/.488
(batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage), with 5 home
runs and 34 RBIs in 53 games. As stated in other columns, Fernando is a good
player, but being limited to first base without demonstrating “light tower
power” makes it difficult to break into the major leagues as a first
baseman. Still Valenzuela’s excellent strike out to base on balls ratio
(29/26) and ability to drive in runs will keep forcing the Padres to give
Outfielder Steve Baker, going into his second season with the Storm, is
leading the California League in batting at 377, but his OBP is still lower
than Valenzuela’s (.420 to .412) despite a batting average forty points
higher. Baker is a hitter similar to Valenzuela in that he doesn’t have
great raw power, just 3 home runs in 167 at bats, but will hit the ball
hard, as evidenced by his team leading 14 doubles and .527 slugging
percentage. The most noticeable improvement for Baker from previous years
has been the decrease in strikeouts (35), which unfortunately hasn’t been
accompanied by an increase in bases-on-balls (8).
Third baseman Brett Bonvechio also had a solid May. At .270 Bonvechio is
hitting 65 points below Valenzuela in batting average, but his OBP is only
17 points less thanks to a team leading 38 walks in 189 at bats. Brett is
second on the team with 6 home runs, but his 18 errors in the field and team
leading 65 strikeouts need to be improved upon.
Catcher George Kottaras continues to enhance his top prospect status.
He's hitting, .304/.387/.435, with 4 home runs and 24 RBI’s and shown
improved defense behind the plate. With the exception of some stiffness in
his shoulder late in the month, Kottaras has been the workhorse behind the
plate for the Storm this year.
Pitcher - Jared Wells (RHP)
Jared Wells is a guy that the Padres hope really comes around. He has two
things you can't teach, great size (6’4”, 200 lbs) and velocity (a mid-90’s
fastball). Wells was ranked as the Padres #15 overall prospect by
Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook. Currently Jared is leading the
Storm in innings pitched (63) and has posted a very solid strikeout to
base-on-balls ratio (45 to 16) and has a very good WHIP at 1.22. His ERA,
4.14 is still a little high, but he has improved in each of his recent
Of those in Lake Elsinore, after Jared Wells, and since the departure of
Sean Thompson, Javier Martinez (RHP) is the next high ranking Padres
prospect, #28, according to Baseball America. Martinez has posted
similar numbers to Wells, a strikeout to base-on-balls ratio of 47/14 and 34
earned runs in 55.1 innings, but he’s also given up the big hit (11 home
runs to 5 off Wells) and hasn’t been quite as consistent as Wells has.
Javier is still very young, 22, and coming off a lost year to injury the
Padres will probably keep him in Lake Elsinore for the remainder of the
Leo Rosales is the Storm’s closer, has a nice strikeout to base-on-balls
ratio (29/8) but has also been hit this year as evidenced by his 4.50 ERA,
which is high for a closer. Still 29 strikeouts in 24 innings is impressive.
Commentary - When Mike Thompson is promoted to Portland from Mobile, we
should see Wells move up the ladder as well. A trio of Travis Chick, Sean
Thompson and Jared Wells will make a very solid rotation for Mobile in the
second half of the year.
Before he got hurt first baseman Michael Johnson seemed a lock to be
promoted to Mobile by now, but will probably spend more time in Lake
Elsinore regaining his timing once he returns from his hand injury.
Valenzuela, Kottaras and Bonvechio will likely be in Lake Elsinore for the
whole year, because of both their ages and the people ahead of them in the
system. Steve Baker could be promoted for the exact same reasons, he’s going
into his second year in Lake Elsinore and right field has not been a source
of strength for the BayBears in 2005.