Two of the Padres’ brightest prospects received word Tuesday that they were headed to the minor leagues. For now, at least.
Second baseman Matt Antonelli and lefthander Wade LeBlanc, both products of the 2006 draft, will likely open with Triple-A Portland, brushing up for the all-but-inevitable call to San Diego this summer.
Chase Headley, the switch-hitting third baseman-turned-left fielder and the club’s top prospect, is still with the big league team and likely will make the final cut. He’s hitting .371/.385/.771 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 18 spring games.
LeBlanc, a second-round pick from Alabama, has yet to struggle as a pro, thanks largely to a plus-plus changeup—he has two types of changeups, actually—that rivals that of any hurler in the minors. But this spring, it’s all about his fastball, which sits in the mid 80s and touches 88 mph on occasion. He told the North County Times about his spring priority:
"I have to be more consistent with the fastball," LeBlanc said. "That’s Step 1, that’s Step 2, that’s Step 3. The changeup’s there when I need it. I just have to use whatever innings I can get here to really work on my fastball. Because if I can’t locate my fastball, especially in midseason when those guys are in top shape, I could get in trouble."
In his 203 minor league innings, LeBlanc has struck out 192, walked 52 and given up 14 home runs.
Taken 17th overall from Wake Forest, Antonelli experienced no attrition in his conversion from third base to second, or in his move from high Class A to Double-A last season. Because he’s so athletic, the Padres even gave him a look in center field this spring.
Antonelli sits atop the prospect depth chart at second base because of his breadth of skill. And really, it’s impossible to argue against the merits of a 20-20 middle infielder—21 homers and 28 steals, actually—who hit .307/.404/.491 last season. Though he represents the future in San Diego, Antonelli told the Salem (Mass.) News (he was born in Peabody, Mass.) that he understands the situation:
"I was still playing with the big league guys today and I’ll probably stay with that until I go to Portland. It makes sense to go down. I’d rather be playing every day and that’s what they want. I was told I’d be called back if Tadihito Iguchi got hurt," Antonelli said.
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