Lake Elsinore Storm Season Preview

Lake Elsinore Storm Season Preview

The Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League is the High-A affiliate in the Padres farm system. The Storm will play 140 games, with the season divided into two halves. The team will be again be managed by Rick Renteria, who will be going into his second season as the head of the Storm. The California League is very much a hitter's league, so expect to see batting averages rise from the Midwest League and the opposite to happen with pitching statistics.

What Happened Last Year: The Storm had a fairly lackluster year with really only Paul McAnulty (top ten MadFriars.com ("MF"), #10 in Baseball America‘s Prospect Handbook ("BA") and the Madfriars.com Minor League Player of the Year) and relief pitcher Dale Thayer (MF#17, BA#29) showing potential in 2004.

 

Projected Starters

 

Starting Pitching

1B

Michael Johnson/Fernando Valenzuela Jr.

#1

Sean Thompson

2B

Peeter Ramos

#2

Jared Wells

SS

Juan Ciriaco

#3

Javier Martinez

3B

Brett Bonvechio

#4

Dirk Hayhurst

OF

Jordan Pickens

#5

Eddie Bonnie

OF

Steve Baker

 

Bullpen

OF

Drew Macias

CL

Leo Rosales

C

George Kottaras

Set Up

Wilmer Villatoro

 

 

 

 

Who to Watch: The obvious strength of the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2005 will be starting pitching, which will be interesting in the hitter friendly California League. If both Thompson and Wells perform well, they will be in Mobile fairly quickly. Martinez, because of his youth and recent injury problems, will probably be handled with kid gloves by the team. Rosales, who led the Fort Wayne Wizards with 26 saves last year and Wilmer Villatoro, a young El Salvadoran with a big fastball and slider, will anchor the bullpen.

For the position players, not a whole lot to be excited about, with the exception of George Kottaras. At Fort Wayne Kottaras hit .310/.415/.461 (batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage), with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 78 games. The statistic that jumps out at you when analyzing Kottaras is that he walked 51 times, while only striking out while slugging at a .461 pace, the highest of any regular on the Wizards in 2004.

On MLB.com, Padres General Manager Kevin Towers stated, "I think George will be our next everyday catcher. We really like him a lot. He played on the Greek national team and in the Olympics. He's a pure hitter, he can catch and throw -- he has tremendous make up."

Michael Johnson is beginning his third tour of Lake Elsinore, and depending on any trades or promotions the Padres make above, should advance quickly. Fernando Valenzuela has some potential, but must show more power to be considered a prospect. Both Drew Macias and Brett Bonvechio have potential to become prospects. Bonvechio had a great spring, capping it off with a two-run home run off of Jake Peavy in Saturday's exhibition in Lake Elsinore. Bonvechio has a very smooth left-handed swing, is good defensive player with a strong arm and plays a position which is easily the weakest in the entire organization.

2005 Projection: If the Storm can manage to score some runs, and that is a big if, this could be a decent team. A very solid starting pitching staff augmented by a good bullpen could lead to success for the Storm. The key on the offense will be the development of Macias and Bonvechio into prospects, Bonvechio especially.

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