Name: Paul McAnulty
DOB: February 24, 1981
Whenever someone has told him he can't, he has proven he can. They said he would struggle because of his frame so he worked hard to mold his body from Jon Kruk comparisons to being his own man. They said he was too slow so he became smarter than everyone else on the basepaths. When they said he didn't have a position, McAnulty took extra grounders and shagged more fly balls, even jumping at the chance to play third base in Triple-A – a position he had never played before.
The Padres realize his bat is special. It is one of the reasons they have encouraged him to continually add to his versatility in the field. He now has taken reps in both corner outfield spots, first base, and third base.
Originally taken in the 12th-round of the 2002 MLB Draft, Paul McAnulty has had a steady rise through the system, moving up a level every year. He has been called to San Diego for brief spurts, appearing mostly as a pinch-hitter with limited success. When his bat is regularly in the lineup, McAnulty uses his sweet line drive swing to hit the gaps and a keen eye to get the pitch he wants.
"He really has a lot of confidence in himself as a hitter," Portland hitting coach Jose Castro explained. "He has an attitude about him that he can hit, which is big. Put that together with his ability to swing the bat and it is a good combination."
Playing a full season in Triple-A Portland, McAnulty swatted .310 with 58 extra base hits over 125 games. He drew 62 walks, posting a .388 on base percentage (OBP) – ten points off his career minor league OBP of .398.
A left-handed bat, he has been known to torch right-handed pitching through his career and has a penchant for the clutch hit. He has power to all fields but is at his best when sprays line drives. Occasionally, he will try and add lift to the ball, resulting in less than stellar results. Given his overall confidence with his swing, McAnulty falls into the trap of becoming over-aggressive, chasing two-strike pitches he would normally lay off.
"He has a clean swing – short and quick," Bill Bryk, the Padres' minor league field coordinator, said.
McAnulty works the count well but is not afraid to jump on his pitch. He has a sizeable hitting zone that he is comfortable with and generates tremendous bat speed through the zone. He keeps his head aligned to the ball with very little movement. His lack of movement allows for great bat control.
While he will never be known for his speed, McAnulty offers the intangible qualities of hustle and smarts. He has a firm understanding of the game, and his joy comes from adding to his repertoire.
When the Padres presented third base to McAnulty this season, he dove at the chance. The hot corner is obviously still a work in progress but he turned in some solid performances that surprised many.
"The footwork, getting it right and being in a position to make the throw," McAnulty said of the adjustment. "It just takes a lot of time and repetitions to get it right."
"He did as good as he can and he surprised me on some of the plays he made," former Triple-A Portland manager and current Padres' bench coach Craig Craig Colbert said. "I was surprised with some of the plays he made and some of the plays he didn't make were routine plays you are not really surprised about because it is a tough position to walk in if you have never played there and start playing there."
But 50 games do not a third baseman make. He was scheduled to go to winter ball to continue learning the position but had off-season knee surgery, precluding him from getting the extra work. He has since resumed workouts and will be in full health when spring training commences next month.
Shining when major league chances arrive hasn't come often enough for the Oxnard, California native. While he smacked a walk-off homer on September 6, he logged just 13 at bats this year, all as a pinch-hitter. Big on timing and getting into a rhythm, McAnulty has had a difficult time assimilating to a role off the bench.
"It is difficult but it is something every Triple-A player knows when they go up unless you can see the fact that you are going to be playing everyday, which does happen very often, they are going to start out as a bench player and they have to be prepared to do that," Colbert said. "Obviously, playing everyday in Triple-A and then going four of five days and only getting one at bat it is difficult but that is just something that is part of the game and you have to deal with it.
"It is something that is very tough but then again it is an opportunity. When you get an opportunity, whether it is one pinch-hit or maybe one start, you have to be able to perform at a high level to stay there. That is why it is a difficult thing to do as a player when you do get called up and say only get one start a week but you have to perform. Every time you are given an opportunity you have to be able to do something with it and look like you know what you are doing at least."
ETA: McAnulty, who owns his own batting cage company, will turn 26 this spring. Technically, he has already arrived. McAnulty should be in the mix for a bench job this season and how he performs in spring will go a long way to determining his future status. He clearly has the bat but will it respond in limited action and will he get enough playing time under the new coaching regimen to be successful. Working in his favor is the addition of Colbert to the coaching staff.