The rash of injuries to big name players last season has the San Diego Padres on edge. The result…
Top 40 Padres Prospects: 11-20
12. Ben Howard – 25 – LHP – How will Howard handle being sent back down to Portland. Many pitchers who make it to the big leagues and get sent down never make it back. The main issue for Howard in 2003 was the long ball. If he can limit the big hit, he will be fine. His ERA was actually better in the Majors than it was in the Minors last season. Howard is still learning how to pitch effectively after toning down his mechanics to improve his pitch location. He did lose speed off his fastball, but it could prove to be a huge win for him in the end. He is the top candidate to be pitching in the Bigs come 2005.
13. Dennis Tankersley – 25 – RHP – Tankersley remains one of the most talented pitcher in the organization. The Padres kept him this offseason specifically to give him time with pitching coach Darren Balsley. Word is he has lost some speed off his fastball, but that could just be a lack of confidence in his delivery and overall stuff. This is likely the last season he will have a chance to prove he belongs with the club, otherwise a change of scenery could be on the horizon.
14. Freddy Guzman – 23 – OF – The speedster is garnering praise from everywhere inside the organization and out. He is a darkhorse to make the Padres and certainly will be on the squad sometime this year. He is an ideal leadoff man, a singles hitter that draws the occasional walk and can turn on the jets. If he can keep his average high, he will earn a spot in the Majors with ease.
15. Alex Fernandez – 22 (?) – OF – By now, everyone has heard about his age. Simply put, no one believes he is what he says he is, 22. The feeling is two clubs gave up on him far too quickly for his age. He has a good bat and makes contact, but almost never walks. Considering his free-swinging mentality, he does not strike out as much as one may think. For him to be successful, he must hit well over .300 and draw some more walks. If his true age comes out, he will drop like a rock from this list.
16. Brian Whitaker – 24 – RHP – Does not have overpowering stuff, but does possess a nasty sinker/cut fastball that induces a lot of ground balls. In a perfect world, he will just continue doing what he has been doing. He throws first pitch strikes and gets people to put the ball in play. Consider this: 22 of his runs against were unearned. While old for his league, he may very well skip the Cal League and head straight to Mobile as the Padres think he has the attitude to handle the jump.
17. David Pauley – 20 – RHP – Young pitcher that came in and immediately understood the jump he made. He is one of the hardest working pitchers in the organization, committing to the game in his first years in the Minors. At his age, Pauley is poised and has the attitude to succeed. He will need to fill out his frame a little more as he ages and how that affects his pitching will determine his fate. He has plus pitches across the board.
18. Jake Gautreau – 24 – 2B/3B – A second baseman who will see a lot of time at third base, which will actually hurt him. Depending on where Josh Barfield ends up, Gautreau could see second base again. His future relies on his bat. Many within the organization wonder if he will ever be able to hit at the level they expect, but his numbers have never been that bad until 2003 when his strikeouts skyrocketed. While it is true many have soured on him, Gautreau could prove last year was a fluke and he will again be bumped up the list…if not he may fall off it completely.
19. Bernie Castro – 22 – 2B – Many are high on the potential for Castro. Castro was in San Diego staying with friends this past week and he is getting ready for spring training. He believes he has a chance to make the Major League squad, but that may be farfetched with the increased depth in the infield. He has speed, a good eye for contact, but needs to be a bit more patient at the plate. If he can up his on base percentage, he will be looked at more seriously.
20. Luis Cruz – 19 – SS – At 19, Cruz is a shortstop the Padres are extremely high on. You may never have heard of him, but keep an eye on Cruz for the future. He could be in the top 10 soon. His age, coupled with his tools and range make him one of the brightest unheard of prospects in the system.
Spring training note:
Word from one of our reporters in Peoria explains the team spent a lot of time stretching on Sunday and the yelling from the coaching staff is to "get used to it". The Padres are making a primary focus of their season to stay healthy. It won't surprise to see everyone that comes back from an injury get a little extra time during the rehab process.
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