It’s no secret that the Padres value hitters with plus makeup and a strong sense of the strike zone above all other position players—especially when evaluating college amateurs. Still, it’s a bit startling to see three of their top four picks from last year’s draft occupying three of the top four spots on the minor league walks leaderboard.
Low Class A Fort Wayne third baseman James Darnell (second round, South Carolina) leads the field with 46 free passes. He’s followed closely by his TinCaps teammate, first baseman Allan Dykstra (first round, Wake Forest), who has 45. Third baseman Logan Forsythe (supplemental first round, Arkansas), who plays for high Class A Lake Elsinore, occupies the fourth spot with 44 walks.
Not to be outdone, Fort Wayne left fielder Jaff Decker, a supplemental first-round pick last year from a Peoria, Ariz., high school, has drawn 32 walks in 32 games. But he suffered a concussion in spring training and missed a few weeks at the season’s outset. If not for that, he might be the minor league leader for free passes—his .474 on-base percentage ranks fourth in the minors, after all.
Forsythe, despite missing most of his pro debut last year after tearing a thumb ligament in game No. 3, has shown the most polish. The 22-year-old righthanded batter went 2-for-3 yesterday, contributing a double (10), a triple (two), two runs (38) and two RBIs (22) in a Storm loss to Rancho Cucamonga. He’s batting .331/.484/.521 through 169 at-bats on the year, showing tremendous balance at the plate and solid power (six home runs) despite having more of a line-drive, all-fields approach.
Grady Fuson, Padres VP of scouting and player development, lauds Forsythe for great feet at third base, his physical strength and his baseball instincts. And don’t forget that batting eye. Forsythe has compiled a nifty 44-to-32 walk-to-strikeout ratio thus far.
Though Dykstra, 22, is batting just .213 on the year, he showed a much more consistent approach in 27 May games, batting .231/.432/.418 with both of his home runs. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound first baseman has had to deal with spotty Midwest League weather, which at one point in April kept the Fort Wayne club off the field for BP for eight straight games, but the Padres also want the lefthanded batter to address a mechanical flaw in his swing.
Said Fuson: "(Dykstra) was so guilty of being back-doored with breaking balls in college that he was always diving into pitches trying to get to that outer half. He got himself into a habitual rut. It’s something we’re working to clean up with a wood bat, getting the bat head out there instead of rotating early."
Flying High Again
Blue Jays second baseman John Tolisano already has a home run title to his credit, which he attained by clubbing 10 in the ’07 Gulf Coast League. But after a tough season in the Midwest League a year ago, in which he hit just six homers in 120 games, he’s re-established himself as a power-hitting middle infield prospect with high Class A Dunedin.
Maybe it’s a Florida thing.
A second-round pick in ’07 from Estero (Fla.) High, Tolisano has performed when playing in Sunshine State-based leagues, first in the GCL and now in the Florida State League. His fifth home run yesterday, which was part of a 5-for-5 effort featuring four RBIs, moved him into the Dunedin team lead.
The 20-year-old switch-hitter is batting .257/.346/.441 through 136 at-bats, giving him a .787 OPS that compares favorably with the league average of .679. An American League scout who saw him play as both an amateur and a pro praised Tolisano for his smooth swing and sound approach, adding that the second baseman had cleaned up his body in the intervening two years.
Toronto farm director Dick Scott has taken note, crediting Tolisano for having plus power for his size (5-foot-11, 190 pounds).
"He’s hit some home runs every year, but what impressed us most about last year was that he didn’t get tired," Scott said. "He had a routine and he stayed with a plan the whole year. Sometimes in the Midwest League, you can’t get on field for days because of rain and snow, but Tolisano worked hard the whole year. As a result, he learned to take a better BP, and he kept that same high energy level all year."
Man Among Manatees
High Class A Brevard County righthander Evan Anundsen already has a no-hitter to his credit this season, which he achieved on April 28, but the 21-year-old’s dominance in that game has hardly been an isolated incident. He racked up his second double-digit strikeout game of the season yesterday in fanning 11 Fort Myers batters in seven three-hit, shutout innings. His career high for strikeouts in a game entering the season: eight.
A Brewers’ fourth-round pick out of high school in ’06, Anundsen has gone 6-3, 1.87 through his first 10 starts this season, allowing 41 hits and walking just 14 in 53 innings. He has yet to allow a home run. But best of all, Anundsen’s ERA ranks third in the Florida State League, while his 54 strikeouts rank second—though that’s a distant second to Clearwater’s Kyle Drabek, who has 74.
Seven Up, Seven Down
We present the top seven and bottom seven minor league clubs through games of Monday, June 1. The carrot (^) indicates a team that did not appear in last week’s ranking.
Why seven teams? It may not be as comforting to us as numbers ending in five or zero, but this way we encompass all the teams playing at the extremes. That is, all the clubs with .700 (or better) winning percentages are included, as are all clubs residing below the .300 line.
|TOP 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|1||Brevard County||30||14||.682||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||W1||7-3|
|6||Fort Myers||32||17||.653||Florida State||HiA||Twins||L1||7-3|
Dropped Out: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, .627; Fort Wayne, .620.
|BOTTOM 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|7||West Virginia^||19||32||.373||South Atlantic||LoA||Pirates||L1||4-6|
Dropped Out: Myrtle Beach, .380; New Orleans, .392.
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