Headley Times Ahead For Padres

Chase Headley represents more than Kevin Kouzmanoff’s injury replacement as Padres’ third baseman. The 23-year-old switch-hitter represents more than the Double-A Texas League’s top hitter and top slugger.

As the first player to the majors from the Padres’ 2005 draft‘"the club’s first under vice president of scouting and farm director Grady Fuson’"Headley represents something of a test case for the organization’s emphasis on accomplished college players.

Headley, a second-round pick from Tennessee, appears up to the challenge. Even after a so-so campaign in the high Class A California League in 2006, during which Headley slugged just .434 in the most favorable hitter’s league of them all, Fuson was sure his young third baseman would learn to pull the ball, that he would develop the power to hold down a big league corner.

If a half season with San Antonio is any indication, consider Fuson’s faith well-placed. Through his first 227 Double-A at-bats, Headley batted .357/.433/.648 with 37 extra-base hits, figures that all led the league at the time of his promotion. In fact, the only major category in which Headley did not rank among the top three was triples’"and that, in all likelihood, was because he’s a below-average runner.

So while Headley’s Double-A Missions were in last place, he gets a fresh start with the Padres, a team in the thick of a very competitive National League West race. San Diego, though, ranks next-to-last in the league in on-base percentage, and is middle-of-the-pack in homers and runs scored, so if Headley hits, he’ll likely be more than a temporary fill-in.