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Though he had obvious bloodlines as the son of former American League home run king Jesse Barfield, Barfield didn't get a ton of play as a high school prospect. The Padres did a good job of scouting him, however, and signed him away from a Baylor scholarship by giving him $400,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2001. After leading the minors in hits (185), doubles (46), RBIs (128) and extra-base hits (68) while bothered by a sore wrist in 2003, he entered last season as San Diego's top prospect, just ahead of eventual Baseball America Rookie of the Year Khalil Greene. Barfield injured a hamstring in spring training and it never fully healed, hurting his offensive game. He batted just .248--68 points below his previous career average--but missed just two games, set a career high with 18 homers and led the Double-A Southern League with 90 RBIs. Even with his off year, he's still easily the top hitter in the system. Barfield has a quick swing and uses the whole field, with no discernible weakness when it comes to pitch location. His power continues to develop and he projects to hit 20-25 home runs annually in the big leagues. Barfield provides an argument to those who believe that there's no such thing as clutch hitting. He seems to take pressure situations as a personal challenge. Over the last three years, he has hit an average of 52 points higher with runners in scoring position, including a .331 mark in 2004. He's an average baserunner, making up for speed that's a tick below-average with excellent instincts. Once thought to be destined for left field, Barfield has put considerable effort into his second-base defense. He should be able to stay at second and provide average glovework with a plus arm. His makeup is another positive. Barfield became frustrated by his inability to find a groove in 2004 and pressed at times. That led to a long swing and a pull-happy approach. He's guilty of guessing on pitches too often. He has a bit of a late trigger in his swing, so he can be neutralized with good fastballs when he's looking for something else. Barfield has problems with righthanders--he hit .196 against them last year--particularly with diving after breaking pitches that finish outside of the plate. Defensively, he still needs to work on his lateral movement and his double-play pivot. He has played all but seven games the last two years, but he rarely has been completely healthy during that time. San Diego sees Barfield's batting average as the only real bump in the road from his Double-A performance, and has no worries about him. With Mark Loretta coming off a career year and locked up through 2006, the Padres have no reason to rush Barfield. He's expected to be 100 percent physically in spring training and should spend most of the season at Triple-A Portland. He'll likely make his major league debut in September.
Guzman's prospect status took a hit after the 2002 season when his age was revised upward by 21⁄2 years. Still, he led the minors with 90 steals in 2003 and had another solid season last year, surfacing as San Diego's starting center fielder for two weeks in August. The Padres called him up for his defense, but his bat wasn't ready. Guzman has game-changing speed, with 253 stolen bases in 369 minor league games and an 83 percent success rate. Unlike many minor league burners, he has a solid understanding of the strike zone. Defensively, he accentuates his speed with good jumps, allowing him to effortlessly run down balls from gap to gap. Guzman has little power and tries to do too much at the plate instead of concentrating on reaching base. He can get out of control at times and expand his strike zone, a weakness that was exploited in the majors. He has a below-average arm. The Padres believe Guzman needs another half-season in Triple-A, so they acquired Dave Roberts as a stopgap in center field. Guzman could push Roberts to a bench role by July.
Signed for fourth-round money ($375,000) as a draft-and-follow, Kottaras played just 78 games last year because he spent a month with the Greek Olympic team, for which he went 3-for-12 as a backup in Athens. A native Canadian, he played more fast-pitch softball than baseball as a youth. Kottaras has a natural swing with plenty of power, and he projects as a 20-homer hitter. His understanding of the strike zone is advanced for a player with such little experience. He's a hard worker and takes well to instruction. He is mobile behind the plate and is good at blocking balls in the dirt. Despite a solid arm, Kottaras is easy to run on because he has a long release. He also needs refinement in the other nuances of catching. He can get overly patient at the plate. Like most catchers, he's a slow runner, but he's not a baseclogger. Kottaras boosted his stock more than any player in the system last year. The Padres see him as similar to Jason Kendall but with more power and less speed. His progress will continue at high Class A Lake Elsinore in 2005.
The Padres got away with larceny when they acquired Chick from the Marlins for veteran Ismael Valdez in July. After starting the year in the bullpen, Chick found a groove after moving into the rotation at low Class A Greensboro and built upon that success after switching organizations. Chick's size, aggressiveness, velocity and ability to throw strikes remind some scouts of a young Curt Schilling. He consistently gets ahead in the count with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 94-95. He has a hard slider and an advanced changeup for his age. Chick can depend on his fastball too much, and his changeup will improve more quickly if he uses it more often. He overthrows his slider, causing it to lose its horizontal break. He also works too high in the strike zone at times. Chick continued to impress in the offseason, as San Diego named him the MVP of its instructional league program. He'll likely begin the year in high Class A and could reach Double-A Mobile by midseason.
Originally offered $2.6 million as the fourth overall pick in 2003, Stauffer settled for $750,000 after an MRI revealed weakness in his shoulder that hadn't been detected before the draft. He didn't require surgery but wasn't able to make his pro debut until 2004. He tied for the system lead with 11 victories while progressing from high Class A to Triple-A. Stauffer's best pitch is a plus changeup. He also throws an 89-92 mph fastball, a cutter and a developing curveball. His pitches work better than their grades because he can throw all of them for strikes at any point in the count. Managers and coaches at every level praised his grit and determination. Stauffer lacks a true major league out pitch, and he was hittable last year. He's close to his ceiling, leaving little room for projecting him beyond a No. 3 or 4 starter, not the typical expectation for a No. 4 overall choice. His curve can flatten out at times. The signings of Woody Williams and Darrell May lessen Stauffer's chances of making the big league club. He'll probably spend the year in Triple-A and won't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2006 season.
A local two-way star who went No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft when San Diego looked to save money, Bush had a rough introduction to pro ball. After signing for a club-record $3.15 million, he was suspended before playing a game for his part in a fight outside of an Arizona nightclub. After taking the field in July, he never found a rhythm at the plate or in the field as he dealt with a hamstring injury. Taking Bush with the first pick was a reach, but Bush was a consensus top 10 talent. The best defensive player in the draft, he has a cannon for an arm and plus range to both sides. Some scouts have concerns about his offensive ability, but the Padres believe he'll hit. They say he understands the strike zone and has surprising strength for his size. He's an average runner out of the box, and above-average once he gets going. Bush's performance at the plate in his debut didn't quiet his critics. He needs to focus on making contact and not worry about trying to be a power hitter. He can get out of control at times trying to make flashy plays, the main reason he committed 17 errors in 28 games. San Diego hopes Bush can see 2005 as a fresh start after he showed marked improvement both on and off the field during instructional league. He'll begin his first full season in low Class A.
Germano continued his history of overachieving and rapid development in 2004, forcing his way to Triple-A after just five starts and making his major league debut on May 22, earning the win with five solid innings against the Phillies. Germano is a strike-thrower with an advanced feel for pitching. His fastball features good movement, and he can ratchet it up into the low 90s at times. His out pitch is his curveball, an overhand bender that he can break into or out of the zone. His changeup is average now and could become a plus pitch. His fastball velocity is a tick below-average at 87-89 mph. For the first time in his career, Germano didn't trust his stuff when he got to San Diego. He tried to nibble, leaving him behind in the count and hittable. Germano is currently a step ahead of Stauffer because of his experience, and he'll be first in line if an opening develops in San Diego's rotation. He should join Stauffer in the Triple-A rotation to start the season.
Off-the-field problems led to Thompson changing high schools and living with a foster family as a senior. His full-season debut in 2004 was a huge success, as he allowed two or fewer earned runs in 21 of 27 starts. Thompson has a plus-plus curveball, a true knee-buckler that's the best in the system. He's aggressive on the mound and thrives on competition, tossing seven shutout innings against Lansing in Mark Prior's highly publicized first rehab start last May. He has an excellent pickoff move. His fastball has below-average velocity at 86-89 mph, but it has just enough juice and movement for Thompson to set up his curve. He's still prone to bouts of wildness, and when he misses he's vulnerable because he misses up in the zone. He's a slow starter, often not finding his groove until the third or fourth inning. Logically, Thompson's next assignment would be to high Class A. However, because of his success and his flyball tendencies (which wouldn't be a good fit in the California League), he may be pushed to Double-A.
Baker looked like a local kid made good when the Red Sox made him a supplemental first-round pick in 1999, and he rated as their top pitching prospect following his first full season. Inconsistency afterward led to his inclusion in a trade for Alan Embree in 2002. Baker's struggles continued until he became a closer in mid-2003, and his turnaround included being named the Southern League pitcher of the year in 2004. Often described as a trick pitcher, Baker has one of the best changeups in the minors. It draws comparisons to Trevor Hoffman's, and he sets it up by commanding an 88-91 mph fastball. His fearless nature allows him to thrive in pressure situations. Baker has yet to develop a breaking ball of note, which is why he didn't develop as a starter. His fastball is average at best, and he'll have little margin for error, even as a set-up man. Baker will compete for a role in a crowded Padres bullpen this spring. He'll probably have to spend extended time in Triple-A before getting his first big league rotation.
McAnulty led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in batting (.379) in his 2002 pro debut, but followed that up with a mediocre showing in low Class A as his weight ballooned to 260 pounds. He showed up to camp last spring in the best shape of his career and responded with a breakout season. He went 8-for-17 with a homer as Mobile shared the championship in the Southern League playoffs. McAnulty's hitting ability is obvious. He has quick hands, developing power and an excellent feel for the strike zone. He projects to hit for average with 20-25 homers a year. He has great instincts at the plate and makes savvy adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. Other than the bat, McAnulty offers little else in terms of tools. Both his range and arm are lacking in left field, so he'll probably have to play first base in the majors. He's slow, though he runs the bases intelligently. His build and offensive package have drawn comparisons to Matt Stairs, who has created a lengthy career for himself as a grinder who can swing the bat. McAnulty will begin 2005 at Double- A.
The Padres have as many prospects who were signed out of indy ball or tryout camps as any organization, and Knott remains the poster boy for the team's success outside the draft, after he went undrafted out of Mississippi State due to a leg injury. Knott's pure power ranks with any other Padres farmhand in the upper levels of the system. An imposing presence at the plate, Knott takes a long swing, but makes enough contact to prevent it from becoming an issue. He has a good feel for the strike zone, though his plate discipline took a dip in 2004 against stronger pitching. He's an average runner but a below-average fielder, often getting bad jumps on balls and taking poor routes. Some feel Knott's game is better suited to the American League, where he can serve in a first base/DH role. Still blocked in San Diego, he's slated for a retrun to Triple-A , but could be one of the Padres' stronger trading chips.
Bozied's second go-around at Triple-A was off to a strong start in 2004, as he matched his previous year's home run total in just 46 games. His season ended in freakish fashion less than two weeks later, as he ruptured his left patella tendon when he jumped on home plate to celebrate hitting a game-winning grand slam. Bozied has the ability to clear the fence from pole-to-pole, while making excellent contact for a power hitter. He could draw more walks, but coaches don't want to tinker with the success he had in 2004. He has worked hard to become an adequate defender, but he won't ever be more than that. Bozied still has holes in his swing and a tendency to chase breaking balls on the outer half. His power against lefthanders is limited, reducing his value as a potential platoon player. Bozied is expected to be healthy for spring training, but the presence of Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin mean he'll return to Triple-A, where he'll look to pick up where he left off.
Quintero has hit .305 over the past two seasons in the minors to establish himself as more than just a defensive specialist. Quintero's contact-focused approach allows him to hit for a high average, though he offers little in the way of power, plate discipline or speed. Quintero's glovework alone should guarantee him a major league career. He has the ability to shut down the running game with a plus-plus arm and excels at blocking pitches in the dirt. Quintero needs to add an element to his offensive game to project as more than a backup. Bulking up would not only possibly give him more power, but it would also allow him to better withstand the grind of a full season behind the plate. Quintero will enter 2005 as the favorite to earn the backup job behind Ramon Hernandez in San Diego.
Killian is the son of Padres part-time scout Bill Killian, but he earned his $450,000 bonus as a third round pick on talent. While he did little in his pro debut outside of playing three games at Triple-A Portland as an emergency backup, the Padres attributed his struggles to the expected adjustment period after he played lower-level competition in northwest Michigan. A fresher Killian looked much better in instructional league, and displayed all the skills scouts look for in a catcher. He's a switch-hitter with quick wrists and a mature approach, already showing power from both sides of the plate in batting practice. Defensively, he has a strong, accurate arm, but needs to work on nuances of catching like blocking balls and working with pitchers. He's surprisingly fast for his position, but the Padres would like to see him bulk up to withstand the rigors of catching. Killian is a baseball rat with great instincts and an excellent work ethic. Killian's ceiling is higher that any other Padres catching prospect, but his development will require patience. He'll likely begin the year in extended spring training before reporting to short-season Eugene.
A high-profile draft-and-follow, Wells' production continued to fall short of his stuff in his full-season debut. Wells has a prototypical pitcher's body and can light up radar guns with a mid-90s fastball, while also delivering a sharp-breaking slider. His changeup is still in the developmental stage, but should become a usable pitch. Wells is raw and illustrates the difference between control and command. While his walk rates are low, he often leaves his pitches too hittable and needs to work the count and get batters to chase his breaking ball. A star high school quarterback, Wells brings a gridiron mentality to the mound, and at times his attitude borders on arrogance. His work ethic and conditioning have come into question as well. One of the few pitchers in the Padres system who features a power arsenal, Wells will return to high Class A in 2005, and some say he's a few refinements from taking off.
While Johnson's tools compare with those of anyone in the organization, the Padres may have rushed him after acquiring him from the Cardinals at the 2000 trade deadline. Johnson began to translate many of his tools to in-game situations last year in his third Double-A season. Much of his success was credited to extensive sessions with roving hitting instructor Rob Deer. He continued to impress people with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Johnson grades out at least average in all five tools. He's an excellent athlete with plus power and a plus arm. He's no longer the burner he once was, but he's still an above-average runner who can hold his own in center field, though he's better suited to right. Johnson has a good feel for the strike zone, but still has an all-or-nothing swing. Johnson's 2004 season did wonders for his confidence, and that may be all he needed to reach his potential. He'll begin the season at Triple-A, looking to prove his breakout campaign was no fluke.
Oxspring is a testament to the tenacity of Padres scouts, who decided to look at a few independent Frontier League pitchers when the game they attended in order to scout batters was rained out. Oxspring became a national hero in his native Austrailia in 2004 when he pitched 15 scoreless innings in a pair of victories to guide his squad to the silver medal in the Athens Olympics. Oxspring has solid stuff, with a low-90s fastball, plus slider and improved changeup. His control is erratic, and at times he can get frustrated and overthrow, which leads to greater troubles. His inability to trust his stuff has been a concern, but he returned from Athens a much more confident pitcher. Oxspring is 27, so there's little projection left in him, but his stuff is good enough to be a fifth starter. He'll go into spring training with a chance to earn a bullpen role, but he'll likely return to Triple-A.
The Padres selected college players with their first 25 picks in 2003, but they reversed that trend by taking high school players with their first three picks in 2004. The last of the group was Jones, who participated in Major League Baseball's RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program as a youth player. He reached base in all but five games before his season was cut short by a sprained ankle. Jones' raw power ranked among the best of prep players available in the draft. Just 17 when drafted, Jones' long, muscular frame generates plus power to all fields. He's a surprisingly adept defender, with soft hands and a solid arm. Padres officials were impressed with his desire and work ethic. Jones' swing has a bit of a hitch, and coaches are working with him to get his bat into the zone quicker. He is learning how to pick his pitch, and needs to develop a better understanding of the strike zone. Yet the Padres were surprised by the overall polish in Jones' game. His performance in the spring will dictate whether he reports to low Class A or extended spring training.
Pitching in Venezuela as a 16-year old, Jimenez's raw arm attracted the interest of other teams, who have already inquired about him in trade talks. He has the highest upside of any lefthander in the system. Tall and lanky, Jimenez delivers fastballs in the 90-92 mph range, and the Padres believe he could reach the mid-90s as he matures. He generates considerable tilt on his breaking ball, has a good feel for pitching and knows how to set up hitters. Jimenez is still young and raw, and has problems with keeping his mechanics consistent, leading to control problems. He needs to learn how to throw his breaking ball out of the strike zone and get hitters to chase the pitch. His changeup is still far from being a usable offering. With youth on his side, there's no need to rush Jimenez. The co-winner of most improved pitcher honors during instructional league, he'll likely play at Eugene in 2005, but could see time in low Class A if he progresses more quickly.
Tucker is one of the better stories in the Padres system. Drafted in 2001, he touched the low 90s in his pro debut, but began the 2002 season sitting in the mid-90s and touching 99 He shot through the Padres system and looked like the team's closer of the future before he had Tommy John surgery in August 2003. Tucker's rehab went as scheduled, and he returned to the mound for late-season work in high Class A last year. When healthy, Tucker's velocity was the best in the system, and he was back to throwing consistently in the low 90s during instructional league. He needs to find the velocity he once had, as his heater offers little in the way of movement. His breaking ball has always been slurvy, and his command spotty. The Padres hope the injury will be a blessing in disguise, forcing Tucker to become more of a pitcher than a thrower. He'll begin anew in 2005, most likely in Double-A.
Furmaniak was seen as an organizational player before finding his stroke in high Class A in 2003. Promoted to Triple-A early in 2004 to replace an injured Jose Nieves, Furmaniak took over at shortstop and never relinquished the position. He has a tremendous work ethic and baseball instincts that allow him to consistently play better than his raw tools would lead you to expect. He doesn't have the prettiest swing, but he gets the job done while showing surprising pop for a middle infielder. Defensively, Furmaniak has a solid arm, but lacks the soft hands required for an everyday shortstop. He would make an excellent utility player, and the Padres sent him to play winter ball in Mexico, where he got time in at second and third base for the first time since 2002. He has an outside chance of earning a utility role in spring training, but at the least should make his major league debut in 2005.
Villatoro continued in his quest to become the first player of El Salvadorian descent to reach the majors with a solid showing in high Class A in 2004. He missed the first month of the season with visa problems and got off to a slow start, but was lights-out in the second half of the year, holding his opponents hitless in 11 of his last 16 outings. Villatoro effortlessly throws a lively fastball that sits at 90-92 mph and can touch 94, a velocity reading that could become more common as he fills out his skinny frame. His slider has a strong break across the plate, but lacks sink and is left up in the zone too often. He has long arms, and his whip-like motion makes his pitches difficult to pick up. He can overthrow at times, sacrificing both command and movement. His slight stature and lack of an offspeed pitch relegate him to the bullpen. He'll get his first big test in 2005 in Double-A.
A series of minor, nagging injuries have limited Ramirez to just 88 games in his three years, frustrating team officials who see him as possessing possibly the best all-around package of tools in the organization. He flashed them all in Arizona, while also still showing how raw he is. Ramirez has a smooth swing and gap power that should increase as he learns to incorporate his lower half into his swing. He's a flashy center fielder with plus speed and the best outfield arm in the organization. He's too aggressive at the plate and needs to get on base more to take advantage of his excellent baserunning skills. Health is the key for Ramirez, and the Padres would like to see him get a full season in. He made progress in instructional league, choking up on the bat in order to make more contact, and spent the winter on a conditioning program. He'll spend 2005 patrolling center field in low Class A.
Mateo had pitched for five seasons before making his stateside debut. Both the Phillies (for whom he pitched in the Dominican Summer League) and the Hiroshima Carp (for whom he pitched in the Japanese minor leagues) gave up on Mateo, who was signed by the Padres after the 2003 season on the recommendation of one of San Diego's Dominican scouts. Mateo has a live arm, sitting at 90-93 and often touching the mid-90s. He has excellent command of the pitch, not just throwing strikes, but also consistently painting the corners with it. That pitch alone was enough to succeed in A-ball, but he'll need to expand his repertoire to succeed at the higher levels. His slider is flat and slurvy and his changeup is well-below-average. Mateo's delivery is somewhat violent, and he has problems getting into fielding position after release. He will continue to struggle against lefthanded batters, who hit .293 against him last year, unless he can find a secondary offering to combat them. The Padres hope he finds a second pitch quickly as he begins the year in Double-A.
Inneffectiveness and ineligibility (as a senior) pushed Bukvich down in the draft coming out of college, but Royals scout Mark Willoughby persuaded Kansas City to take him based on the arm strength he showed at Division II Delta State (Miss.) as a freshman. He looked like the Royals' closer of the future after shooting through the system, but problems with command and finding a secondary pitch kept him bouncing between Triple-A Omaha and the majors last season, and the Royals included him with Darrell May in a trade that netted Terrence Long and a Triple-A pitcher the Padres were frustrated with, Dennis Tankersley. Bukvich still has a plus fastball, a power pitch that sits in the mid-90s and generates plenty of swings and misses. But his slider is too slurvy and his changeup lacks movement. He hasn't been able to develop either into an effective offering, and his command has regressed. The Padres still believe in his upside, and hope a change of scenery will be just the ticket for him to put things together at Triple-A and finally break through to the big leagues.
Johnson was one of the biggest disappointments in the organization in 2004. Drafted in 2002 one round after his Clemson teammate, Khalil Greene, Johnson returned to Clemson when negotiations broke down but was able to sign a week before the 2003 draft for $500,000 because he was a fifth-year senior. The Padres planned for Johnson to open his first full season in high Class A with a midseason promotion to Double-A, but a slew of injuries, including a dislocated kneecap that cost him a month, limited his playing time. When he was healthy, he was far from an offensive force. Johnson does have skills. He has plus raw power and draws plenty of walks, and he's a solid defender. Johnson can get too pull-conscious, leaving him susceptible on the outer half of the plate. His confidence took a hit during the year, causing him to get what one scout called "passive aggressive," as he'd wait too long for the perfect pitch and then overswing, trying to hit the ball a mile. He's a below-average runner. Johnson will turn 25 during the 2005 season and needs to start moving. He was impressive in instructional league, so the Padres hope he'll carry that success into 2005 in Double-A.
Originally signed by the Red Sox, Cruz was one of the youngest everyday players in high Class A last year, and he showed marked improvement in his all-around game. Cruz is a defensive whiz, with plus range, a solid arm and remarkably quick hands and feet. He takes an aggressive, contact-oriented approach to the plate, and while he rarely strikes out, he does have gap power. He offers little in the way of projection offensively, however, and too often chases balls out of the zone. Already an average runner at best, he has a thick lower half, leaving a concern that he'll lose quickness as his body matures. Cruz has seen limited time at second base and third in the past two seasons and looked good at both positions, so he projects as a defense-first utilityman in the majors. He'll spend the 2005 season at Mobile, a far different hitter's environment from Lake Elsinore, which should present a significant challenge to his offensive game.
With their major league team just 15 miles from the Mexican border, Padres scouts have worked hard in Mexico, and they still believe they found a gem in Martinez, who has been sidetracked by injuries over the last two years. He was plagued by elbow soreness in 2003, while arthroscopic shoulder surgery cost him the entire 2004 season. When healthy, Martinez' total package still reminds scouts of former Padres farmhand Oliver Perez, another find from Mexico whom the Padres traded to the Pirates in the Brian Giles deal. Martinez has four solid pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and his splitter gives batters a different look and has good movement. Both his curveball and changeup have the potential to be plus offerings. Adjusting his mechanics to catch up with his physical maturity led to injuries, but the Padres say he could be on the verge of a breakthrough if he can stay healthy. Martinez made up for lost time by pitching in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter, and will begin the year in high Class A, with a midseason promotion to Double-A in the plans.
Thayer is yet another free agent find for the Padres, as he went undrafted despite leading the Orange Empire Conference in saves at Santa Ana (Calif.) Junior College in 2001, and earning Division II all-America honors at Chico State in 2002. In his first pro season, managers named him the low Class A Midwest League's best relief prospect. Thayer gave up seven runs in his first outing of 2004, but then just five runs in his next 49 games, settling into the closer role at Lake Elsinore and earning a late promotion to Mobile. Thayer's hard slider is a true out pitch, breaking sharply across the plate. His fastball sits at 89-92 mph, leaving scouts to wonder if his velocity is enough to set up the slider at the higher levels. Short and stocky, Thayer doesn't get much of a downward plane on any of his pitches, so location is a key. The Padres are excited about the trio of relievers who pitched at Lake Elsinore in 2004, and Thayer will join Wilmer Villatoro and Natanael Mateo in the Mobile bullpen to open 2005.
Looking to shore up an organizational weakness in lefty relievers, the Padres made an offseason deal with the Mariners to acquire Williams for 2003 fifth-round pick Billy Hogan, whose play and makeup had been a disappointment. Williams was drafted by the Cubs in 1997, but pitched in just 16 games over four years, sidelined by a variety of injuries including Tommy John surgery in 2000. He gave baseball another shot in 2002, when he dominated in the independent Central League and caught the eyes of Mariners scouts, who like the Padres watch the indy leagues closely. Williams was the pitcher of the year at Triple-A Tacoma in 2004, and earned an emergency callup to the big leagues in September, holding lefthanded batters hitless in seven at-bats. Williams has average velocity and a good slider, which give him a chance to have success as a lefty specialist. At 29, he is what he is, and he'll enter spring training as a favorite to win a bullpen job.