Padres Reunite Prospects With Fuson

Grady Fuson served as Rangers assistant general manager in charge of scouting and player development from 2002-04 before taking a similar role with the Padres last year. On Thursday, Fuson was reunited with two of his favorite prospects from the Texas system when San Diego dealt outfielder Freddy Guzman and righthander Cesar Rojas for first baseman Vincent Sinisi and righthander John Hudgins.

Sinisi, 24, signed as a second-round pick in 2003 after helping Rice win the College World Series championship. Considered one of the best pure hitters in that year’s draft, he slid out of the first round because of signability concerns, as he was a sophomore-eligible at a strong academic school advised by Scott Boras. Signed for $2.07 million, Sinisi hasn’t played a full minor league season. He signed late in 2003, broke his left forearm in 2004 and battled a possibly life-threatening bacterial infection in 2005. He has hit as expected only for brief spurts, and has yet to show much power (18 homers in 209 pro games). He has played some left field in the minors, but his below-average speed and defensive ability make him better suited for first base. Sinisi has split 2006 between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma, hitting .271/.341/.339 with no homers and 16 RBIs in 32 games.

Though his Stanford team lost to Rice in the championship series, Hudgins was named Most Outstanding Player at the 2003 College World Series. The 24-year-old righthander signed as a third-round pick that year and reached Triple-A in his first full pro season. Hudgins has slowed down since, battling bone chips in his elbow in 2005 and getting hit harder at the highest level of the minors. In seven games (two starts) at Oklahoma this year, he went 1-1, 6.38 with a 16-7 K-BB ratio, .250 opponent average and three homers allowed in 18 innings. Hudgins’ best pitch is a changeup with sink, and he also has a fringe-average fastball and an average curveball. Though he throws strikes and has a deceptive delivery, he may not have enough stuff to be more than a middle reliever. The Padres assigned both Sinisi and Hudgins to Double-A Mobile.

Guzman, 25, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2000. One of the fastest players in the minor leagues, he led the minors with 90 stolen bases in 2003. Guzman’s speed also allows him to cover the gaps in center field, though his route-running can improve. He missed all of 2005 following Tommy John surgery, and his arm was below average to begin with. Offensively, Guzman is all speed and no power, focusing on making contact so he can get on base. He draws a decent amount of walks but strikes out more than he should. Guzman was batting .274/.348/.411 with two homers, 14 RBIs and 11 steals in 30 games at Triple-A Portland. Assigned to Oklahoma, he soon could press the slumping Laynce Nix for the Rangers’ center-field job.

Rojas, 19, has been brought along slowly since signing out of Venezuela in 2002. He has a strong arm but is raw, and he didn’t make his U.S. debut until last year, going 2-4, 6.75 in 13 games (11 starts) at the Rookie-level Arizona League. He had a 33-32 K-BB ratio in 49 innings as opponents batted .261 with one homer against him. Rojas has spent 2006 in extended spring training.

When Fuson went from the Athletics to the Rangers after the 2001 season, he engineered a similar trade to reclaim some of his favorite prospects from Oakland. In January 2002, the A’s sent Jason Hart, Gerald Laird, Ryan Ludwick and Mario Ramos to Texas for Carlos Pena and Mike Venafro.

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