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Carrillo was a star both on the mound and as a shortstop at Chicago's Mount Carmel High, which has a rich athletic track record. It has produced pro football stars Donovan McNabb and Simeon Rice, basketball's Antoine Walker and baseball's last 30-game winner, Denny McLain. Scouts knew about Carrillo when he was in high school, but he dropped to the Royals in the 33rd round in 2002 because he committed to Miami and had a bout of biceps tendinitis. After sitting out 2003 in a dispute between the school and the NCAA over his ACT score, Carrillo was the Hurricanes' top pitcher for the next two years, beginning his career with a 24-game winning streak, the fourth-longest in NCAA Division I history. The 18th overall pick in the 2005 draft, he signed for $1.55 million and hopped on the fast track. He started his career at high Class A Lake Elsinore before going 4-0 in five starts for Double-A Mobile. When he returned to Lake Elsinore to pitch out of the bullpen in the California League playoffs, Carrillo was hit hard as the impact of pitching since January took its toll. Between college, the regular season and those playoffs, Carrillo pitched 192 innings in 2005. Some scouts believe Carrillo could get major leaguers out right now, as he combines the arsenal of a power pitcher with the command of a finesse specialist. His fastball is regularly clocked at 91-94 mph with late life and sinking action, and he can ratchet it up to 96 at times. Despite his slender build, he carries his velocity deep into games, hitting 96 on his 100th pitch in a college game last spring. His curveball has tight downward break, and Carrillo has the ability to drop it into the zone for a strike or bury it in the dirt as a chase pitch. His changeup has the makings of a plus pitch and he throws it with good arm action. He not only throws each of his offerings for strikes, but also works them down in the zone, generating lots of grounders. His arm is loose and quick, and his delivery is effortless. He displays a mature mound presence, pitches with confidence and isn't easily flustered. He's an excellent athlete who fields his position well. Carrillo lacks the physicality of a classic power pitcher, and his skinny frame offers little in the way of projection. He can become too enamored with his fastball at times, causing him to lose touch on his secondary pitches, both of which can be above-average when he keeps them in the mix. While his changeup is deceptive, it could use a greater difference in velocity from his fastball to keep hitters more off balance. The Padres targeted a polished college pitcher who could provide help quickly with their first-round pick, and Carrillo is poised to rocket through the system. He'll begin 2006 in Double-A and could make his big league debut later in the year. He should be a fixture in San Diego's rotation for years to come, possibly as a No. 2 starter.
After signing in May 2003 as a draft-and-follow for early fourth-round money ($375,000), Kottaras played a full season of pro ball for the first time in 2005. He played just 78 games in 2004 because he was a backup on the Greek Olympic team, going 3-for-12 in Athens. Kottaras profiles as an offense-oriented catcher. He displays natural hitting instincts and commands the strike zone. He generates easy line-drive power with a quiet setup and fluid swing, projecting to hit 15-20 home runs annually. He's athletic behind the plate and has plus arm strength. Kottaras has a tendency to get pull-happy, and needs to focus simply on centering the ball and letting his strength work for him naturally. His arm plays only average because of a slow glove-hand exchange and a long release. He's a bit small for a catcher, leaving some to wonder if he can handle the rigors of a full season. Kottaras' bat separates him from the rest of San Diego's catching prospects. He'll begin 2006 back in Double-A and is on schedule to be the starter at the big league level by the end of 2007.
On the heels of a disappointing Double-A performance in 2004, when he was hampered by hamstring troubles, Barfield improved his conditioning. He got off to a slow start at Triple-A Portland in 2005, but recovered to hit .343-11-50 over the final three months. His father Jesse hit 241 career homers in the majors, and his brother Jeremy is a rising high school prospect. Barfield has excellent bat speed and is at his best when he drives the ball to right-center. He has worked to improve his patience at the plate. He made strides defensively and is no longer expected to have to move to left field. Barfield can be unorthodox both at the plate and in the field, yet it's hard to argue with the results. Pitchers can beat him inside, and he pulls off pitches to compensate. He hits better in clutch situations because he concentrates on using the whole field, an approach he should take into every at-bat. The trade of Mark Loretta to Boston for Doug Mirabelli cleared a path to the lineup for Barfield. Unless he flops in spring training, he should be San Diego's Opening Day starter.
Johnson earned baseball and football scholarships to Mississippi State out of high school before opting to sign with the Cardinals, who sent him to San Diego in a 2000 trade for Carlos Hernandez. He spent parts of three seasons in Double-A but started to take off in mid-2004 and ended 2005 in San Diego, even making a playoff start. Johnson has all the tools to be an everyday outfielder in the big leagues. He has shortened his swing and developed above-average power while improving his grasp of the strike zone. Once a plus-plus runner, he's now just a tick above-average. He's a good right fielder with a solid arm. Johnson has a tendency to overswing, as he did in the postseason. He still has troubles with breaking balls, particularly against righthanders, and some scouts project him as a platoon player. The Padres have been patient and believe Johnson is ready to contribute in San Diego. With Brian Giles' surprising return, however, Johnson doesn't have an obvious opening in the lineup.
Headley led Pacific in hits and the Big West Conference in walks as a freshman in 2003 before transferring to Tennessee, where hamstring problems limited him as a sophomore. He finished second in NCAA Division I in walks (63) last spring before signing for $560,000. Headley is adept from both sides of the plate, showing outstanding pitch recognition and average power. He's a fundamentally sound third baseman with soft hands and an average, accurate arm. A high school valedictorian and academic all-American, he boasts excellent baseball instincts and makeup. Headley's power ceiling has long been a question, leaving some to wonder if he profiles as an everyday third baseman. He makes the routine plays, though his feet are a little slow and restrict his range. He's a below-average runner but not a clogger. Sean Burroughs never worked out at third base, but the Padres believe they have found their long-term answer in Headley. He tore up instructional league and could move fast after starting his first full season in high Class A.
Hensley didn't play baseball for nearly four years after graduating from high school in 1997, reappearing as a closer at Alvin (Texas) CC. The Padres acquired him from the Giants for Matt Herges at the 2003 non-waiver trade deadline, and everything clicked once Triple-A pitching coach Gary Lance dropped Hensley's arm slot in 2005. He pitched in all three playoff games for San Diego. Hensley's best pitch is a hard, late-breaking slider. His fastball velocity sits at 90-91 mph, but its darting sink and run and his command make it effective. He consistently works down in the zone, understands how to set up hitters and has great makeup. Hensley doesn't get much downward plane on his pitches and lacks a true strikeout offering. His changeup and curve are merely decent. He needs a better changeup to keep lefthanders at bay. While he has already proven to be a pleasant surprise, Hensley has a new challenge to show he can hold up in the rotation at the big league level. If he can't, he could fall back to being a solid contributor again in the San Diego bullpen.
Wells had struggled to find consistency in the minors but took a step forward by leading the California League in ERA in 2005. He turned in quality starts in his first four Double-A outings and later was Team USA's top starter in the World Cup in September. Wells has an ideal power pitcher's frame, good arm action and solid stuff. His four-seam fastball runs from 91-93 mph, and his new two-seamer features plenty of sink. He mixes in a hard-breaking slider and commands all of his pitches well. A former high school quarterback, he's a good athlete and a tough competitor. While Wells has the stamina to be an innings-eater, his ability to remain a starter hinges on the development of his changeup, which is currently below-average. He doesn't own a true out pitch, as he has little trust in his slider. He tries to get batters to chase it as opposed to throwing it for strikes. Wells projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter and could end up in the bullpen. Still unrefined, he has his best days ahead of him. He'll return to Double-A in 2006.
Former Padres scout Jason McLeod (now Red Sox scouting director) and crosschecker Chris Gwynn fell in love with McAnulty's bat at Long Beach State in 2002, when he hit .360-9-55. He won the Rookie-level Pioneer League batting title in his pro debut and hit his way to the big leagues in three years. McAnulty has a quick bat, quiet swing mechanics and no problem hitting lefties. He shows good patience at the plate and crushes mistakes. He's a gritty player who always gives full effort. Though he's a better athlete than his stocky frame suggests, McAnulty offers little more than his bat. He has below-average speed and arm strength. He lacks the power to profile as an everyday first baseman or corner outfielder, and he's no better than an adequate defender at those spots. McAnulty has little chance at earning a full-time job in spring training, so he's likely ticketed for a return to Triple-A. He could emerge as a valuable bat off San Diego's bench.
Hundley was a fifth-round pick by the Marlins out of high school, and he did little to improve his draft stock until his junior year at Arizona, where he led the Wildcats in home runs (15) and walks (42). His father Tim is the defensive coordinator for Texas-El Paso's football team. Hundley is a strong, powerful hitter with natural loft in his swing, and he also has good pitch recognition. Behind the plate, he has above-average agility and arm strength. He consistently puts his throws on the bag and threw out 35 percent of basestealers in his pro debut. Hundley is a dead-pull hitter with a power-only approach not conducive to hitting for a high average. Normally fundamentally sound, he often came out of his crouch too early during his pro debut and struggled to block balls. More advanced than 2004 third-round pick, catcher Billy Killian, Hundley will be tested in his first full season with an assignment to high Class A. If he polishes his receiving and blocking skills, he could reach San Diego in two-three years.
Guzman was poised to compete for San Diego's center-field job last spring before blowing out his throwing elbow. Tommy John surgery kept him out until he played in the Dominican League over the winter. The elbow injury had no effect on Guzman's best tool--game-changing speed. He impacts the game on the bases and in the field, and he led the minors with 90 steals in 2003. His center-field range borders on exceptional, as he gets good jumps and effortlessly reaches balls in both gaps. He's a contact hitter with decent plate discipline. Guzman's arm already was below-average, and could get worse after surgery. He doesn't always make good reads on balls, relying on his quickness to make up for mistakes. He pressed during his big league stint in 2004 and expanded his strike zone, undermining his ability to make use of his speed. The Padres traded for Mike Cameron, ending any longshot chance Guzman had of starting for them in 2006. He'll open the year in Triple-A and will push for a reserve job in the second half.
Ramos was drafted in the sixth round by the Devil Rays out of high school, but decided to attend Long Beach State, where he became the winningest lefty in school history and followed fellow 49ers pitchers Abe Alvarez, Jason Vargas and Jered Weaver into the top two rounds of the draft. Ramos showed signs of fatigue late last spring and was pounded in the NCAA regionals. After signing for $950,000, Ramos got knocked around for much of his pro debut as well. He relies on his command and aggressiveness on the mound. His fastball tops out at 91 but sits at 86-88 mph. Ramos mixes in a low-80s two-seamer with good movement. He also has confidence in his slider and changeup, both of which are effective. He commands all of his pitches with pinpoint accuracy, working in all four quadrants of the strike zone. He's not overpowering, and needs to find a pitch to get righthanders out. That might be his changeup, though he all but abandoned it after signing. He'll need to keep an eye on his weight and work habits. He doesn't offer much projection, but his feel for pitching should carry him. He'll begin the year in high Class A and could reach Double-A by midseason.
Coming out of a Denver high school, Thompson needed two years of short-season ball before advancing to low Class A, where he led Fort Wayne in wins and strikeouts in 2004. He started off last season in lights-out fashion in high Class A but struggled after a promotion to Double-A, though he still led the system in whiffs. Thompson's best pitch is a curveball that rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, a big breaker that's considered the best in the system. He also flashes a plus changeup at times and works with an 85-88 mph fastball. A good athlete who earned NCAA Division I-A scholarship offers in football, Thompson fields his position well and has a terrific pickoff move. After finding adversity for the first time in Double-A, he needs to set up more experienced hitters for his secondary stuff more efficiently and improve his fastball command. He takes the mentality of a power pitcher on the mound but lacks the fastball to back it up. The Padres see Thompson's ceiling as a potential No. 4 or 5 starter, and at worst he should become a lefty bullpen specialist. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2006.
The Padres narrowed their choices for the No. 1 overall pick in 2004 down to Stephen Drew, Jeff Niemann and Jered Weaver before settling on Drew. But three days before the draft, San Diego's upper management decided Drew wasn't worth his asking price--he eventually signed a $5.5 million major league contract with the Diamondbacks--leaving the scouting department scrambling for an alternative. That turned out to be Bush, a local twoway star and projected top-10 talent. Bush signed quickly for a $3.15 million bonus, but before he even took the field, he was suspended for his role in a fight outside an Arizona nightclub. Then he hit .192 in his pro debut. While he was on his best behavior in 2005, Bush never got going with the bat, collecting more than two hits in a game only once while recording just 18 extra-base hits. He made progress in instructional league after being drafted, but regressed into bad habits last year. He's a good contact hitter, but he tries too hard to pull pitches, doesn't work deep counts and then presses when he falls behind. Bush isn't without tools, however. He's a potential Gold Glove shortstop with plus range to both sides, an excellent double-play pivot and a powerful arm that ranks as a pure 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He hit 95 mph as a prep pitcher. Neither the Padres nor scouts have given up on Bush, who draws comparisons to a young Royce Clayton. That's not ideal for the first pick in a draft, and Bush may never live up to that status. The Padres will keep Bush's electric arm in the back of their minds, and he ultimately could end up back on the mound if his bat doesn't improve. He's ticketed for high Class A, where the hitter-friendly parks of the California League could help spur his career.
Like Sean Thompson, Kroschell was a Colorado prep product the Padres kept in short-season leagues for two years to allow him to get used to the higher level of competition. He looked like one of the best arms in the system in 2004 instructional league, but started slowly at short-season Eugene last season. He came on strong late in the year and again looked sharp in instructional league. Krosschell is all about projection. Long and loose with a quick arm, he has a fastball that sits at 89-91 mph. He flashes 93 at times and San Diego believes he has all the ingredients to pitch with plus velocity as he fills out his skinny frame. His slider is inconsistent but shows the potential to be an above-average pitch, while his changeup, once nonexistent, has come along nicely. Krosschell displays good command for his age. He still needs to improve his offspeed stuff to give him a viable option against lefthanders, who batted .316 off him last year. The Padres are looking forward to what he can do over a full season, and he'll spend 2006 in low Class A.
Area scout Jake Wilson was one of the few to see Blanks as a prep star in the tiny New Mexico town of Moriarity, and he persuaded the Padres to take him as a draft-and-follow in 2004. Their secret was unearthed at Yavapai (Ariz.) Junior College, as Blanks led the wood bat Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in batting (.440), doubles (25) and RBIs (47) while earning national juco defensive-player-of-the-year honors. San Diego signed him for $260,000 before the 2005 draft, where Blanks figured to go in the first five rounds if he was available. Blanks hit seven home runs in his first 14 games as a pro, but failed to homer in his final 34 while striking out more than once a game. The seven homers held up for the Rookie-level Arizona Fall League lead, however. His raw power is the best in the organization, and he can punish the ball to all fields. He's a patient hitter who draws walks despite a sizable strike zone. His approach at the plate is single-minded--every swing is designed to hit the ball a mile--causing his swing to get long and leading to high strikeout totals. Scouts joked that the 6-foot-6, 290-pounder would dwarf Frank Thomas, but Blanks exhibits good athleticism for his size. He's an average runner and an excellent defensive first baseman with a strong arm. Some scouts think he even could play left field. The Padres would like to see him get down to 270 pounds, and he has the work ethic and makeup to do it. His combination of size and athleticism has San Diego dreaming about Dave Parker. While Blanks' ceiling is enormous, it also is distant. He'll move up to low Class A this year.
The Padres have seen Santo as one of the better pure arms in the system since his strong showing in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2002. He was finally ready for full-season ball last year, and while he was rarely dominant, his ERA improved every month during the season. Santo is projectable and he's already strong. He operates with smooth mechanics and an effortless delivery. His fastball resides in the low 90s and hits 95. He has good makeup and an aggressive approach, with a strong drive to improve. Santo's offspeed pitches are still a work in progress. He throws his slider too hard, eliminating its downward break, and he has demonstrated little feel for his changeup. He offers considerable upside, but until he refines his secondary stuff he's a likely candidate for an eventual move to the bullpen. His development will require patience, and he'll most likely return to low Class A for 2006.
The Padres are one of the few teams to scout extensively in Colombia, and they've discovered a few high-ceiling pitchers in Frieri and Fabian Jimenez. Frieri's U.S. debut in 2005 was an eye-opener, as he led the Arizona League in wins and ERA. His fastball has no more than average velocity, but he features two quality breaking balls: a hard, cutting slider and a big, looping curve. Both generated plenty of swings and misses in the AZL. Frieri's penchant for breaking balls has led to a number of nagging hand problems, including an ingrown nail early in the year and a blister problem in instructional league. His command is spotty, and most of his strikeouts came when inexperienced hitters chased pitches out of the zone. He can get away with that now, but Frieri will need to hone his command and learn to throw more quality strikes. San Diego used Frieri in a swingman role to limit his innings and might continue that practice if he jumps to low Class A to start 2006. The other option is to work with him in extended spring training before putting him in the rotation at Eugene.
The Devil Rays made Geer a 19th-round pick in 2003 following his freshman year at Navarro (Texas) Junior College, but couldn't sign him as a draft-and-follow in 2004 and he headed on to Rice. The Owls were rebuilding arguably the best rotation in college history-- Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend led Rice to a 2003 national title and went in the top eight picks in the 2004 draft--and Geer became the ace, leading them in wins and innings. His polished four-pitch arsenal attracted the Padres, who signed him for $395,000 as a third-round pick. He works consistently in the zone with an 86-90 mph sinker. He throws both a slider and curve, and his best pitch is a deceptive changeup. Geer sat out several weeks before signing, and as a result his velocity was down and his breaking stuff wasn't nearly as sharp in his debut. Scouts are concerned they haven't seen his velocity consistently sit in the low 90s since he was at Navarro. Geer doesn't have overpowering stuff and lacks a true out pitch. He didn't miss many bats as a pro, and he may need to scrap one of his breaking pitches in order to refine the other. His slider has more promise. San Diego hopes Geer just needed the offseason to regain his stuff with rest, and will return in 2006 poised to move quickly through the system. He'll begin the year in Class A.
The Padres haven't fared well with their Dominican Republic operations. They have yet to develop an everyday player from the Dominican, and owner John Moores was underwhelmed by the club's academy there when he toured it last spring. San Diego tried to take a more aggressive approach in 2005, offering $1 million to outfielder Fernando Martinez, only to lose him to the Mets for $1.4 million. The Padres did land Carvajal for $350,000 in July. His short, stocky frame and lightning-quick bat elicit comparisons to Bill Madlock, Kevin Mitchell and Kirby Puckett. Carvajal has excellent hitting instincts, plus power to all fields and an aggressive approach. While his bat offers plenty of reason for excitement, his other tools are ordinary. He's an average runner with a decent arm, so he projects as a corner outfielder whose bat will have to carry him to the big leagues. Carvajal is currently a little too spread out at the plate, and San Diego is trying to straighten his stance and incorporate his lower half more into his swing. He should make his pro debut in the Arizona League this summer.
Baugh no longer has the look of a first-round pick, but he does have the look of a fringy No. 5 starter who should contribute in the big leagues. The Padres picked him up from the Tigers in a mid-December trade for low Class A righthander Ricky Steik. The 11th overall choice in the 2001 draft, Baugh pitched 205 innings that year between Rice and the minors. The workload took a toll on his shoulder, as he had a torn labrum that required surgery and cost him the entire 2002 season. Baugh has shown improved health and durability the last three seasons, and in 2005 he led the Triple-A International League in starts while ranking second in wins and fifth in ERA. He had two playoff victories to help Toledo win the IL championship as well. Baugh no longer has first-round stuff, as his fastball now sits at 87- 89 mph. He does spot his fastball well, however, and generally uses his height well to keep it on a good downward plane. He also throws a spike curveball and an improved changeup that helps him handle lefthanders. San Diego will give Baugh a look in spring training but he could be headed for more time in Triple-A.
Rosales was a workhorse starter at Cal State Northridge before blossoming into one of the top relief prospects in the Padres system. He led the low Class A Midwest League in saves in 2004, then repeated the feat in the California League last year. He put an exclamation point on the season by recording a win and two saves in four scoreless postseason appearances. Rosales features the best changeup in the system, a plus-plus offering one scout referred to as a "changeup from hell." His fastball has average velocity, sitting at 89-91 mph, but it's straight and he leaves it up in the zone too often. He does use a curveball but it offers little break. Rosales' mechanics are violent, the main reason his command is spotty. He has the same repertoire that Trevor Hoffman has used for years, though Hoffman threw much harder in his younger days and has top-of-the-line command. Rosales' changeup is good enough to carry him to the majors, but his ability to develop an effective second pitch will define whether his future is as a long reliever or a valuable set-up option. He'll face a big test in Double-A this season.
Knott went undrafted out of Mississippi State because of a leg injury, but he has been one of the system's top run producers since the Padres signed him out of a tryout camp. While his average took a dip when he repeated Triple-A last year, he still led the organization in homers. Knott is a big-bodied slugger, with classic pull power and a good understanding of the strike zone. His swing can get long and he has problems with good lefties. Knott isn't overly gifted physically. He's an average runner once he gets going but a poor defensive player. He often takes bad jumps on flyballs and has a below-average arm. At 27, Knott is running out of time with the Padres. They passed him over for both Paul McAnulty and Ben Johnson when roster spots opened up at the major league level last season. Knott has the skills to be a solid bench player, but that chance may have to come elsewhere, and some see him as better suited for the American League. With no logical spot for him on the San Diego roster, he faces a third year in Triple-A.
The son of Padres part-time scout Bill Killian, Billy ranked as Michigan's top high school player in 2004, so it wasn't nepotism that led the club to take him. San Diego knew Killian would be a long-term project, and he has spent most of his first two years in Rookie ball. He has made progress both at the plate and behind it, and his upside still excites the Padres. He's a lefthanded-hitting catcher who makes hard contact, though he has yet to homer as pro. His best defensive tool is a strong, accurate arm, and he unleashes throws with a lightning-quick exchange and release. While he's still raw behind the plate from a receiving and game-calling standpoint, he has the makeup and athleticism to improve. San Diego wants him to bulk up in order to withstand the grind of a full season. Because he didn't play in a baseball hotbed, Killian has been slow to adjust to the higher level of competition. Now he's ready for a full-season test and will begin 2006 in low Class A.
Diaz was one of the best prospects on the Padres' Dominican Summer League team in 2003 and 2004, and his U.S. debut last summer confirmed that. He finished among the Arizona League's top five in batting, on-base percentage, slugging and stolen bases. Diaz has a wiry but strong frame, a short swing and a good feel for contact. He can put a surprising charge into the ball for his size, and he's a threat to reach third base every time he rips one into the gap. He bats out of an extreme crouch, and draws a good share of walks because of it. A 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, he's a good basestealer and an excellent bunter. Diaz' outfield work leaves much to be desired, however. While he has the speed to play center field, he's below-average even in left and makes poor reads on balls. His arm is well-below- average. He's 21 and has yet to be tested in a full-season league, though that will change this year when he's sent to low Class A.
San Diego targeted Macias for years, tabbing him as a draft-and-follow out of both high school and junior college. He has worked his way through the system one level at a time. Macias is a good defensive center fielder, utilizing his plus speed while getting good jumps and taking excellent routes. He's more comfortable coming in on balls than going back, so he plays a deep center field. At the plate, he's a patient hitter with an easy, level, contact-oriented swing and good plate discipline. The wiry Macias offers little in the way of strength, and he struggles against lefties with good breaking balls. He's a grinder who shows up early to the park and works hard on all aspects of his game. The Padres think his frame can handle some muscle and expect him to develop average power as he matures. He has added nearly 15 pounds in the offseason, and will begin the year in Double-A. The Padres envision him as a player in the mold of former big league outfielder Dave Martinez.
Former area scout Hank King (who now works as an agent) had a history of finding diamonds in the rough--including Jonny Gomes in the 18th round and Chad Orvella in the 13th while he was with the Devil Rays--and he may have nailed another late-round gem in Vandel. Few teams were on him entering 2005, and the Padres initially selected him as a 34th-round draft-and-follow, but King correctly gauged his eagerness to sign in the summer despite his plans to play for Chipola (Fla.) Junior College. Vandel was downright dominant in his debut and capped his unlikely summer with a pair of excellent starts at Eugene. He has excellent command of an upper-80s fastball with good sink, and he has a feel for a curveball. His changeup is remarkably advanced for his age, and it's already a plus offering that he confidently throws at any point in the count. Vandel is a little undersized, and his fastball will never have more than average velocity. San Diego is understandably excited about Vandel's possibilities and likes his desire and makeup. He has a shot to make the low Class A rotation out of spring training.
Morton's raw power and arm strength made him one of the more intriguing catchers in the 2003 draft, despite concerns about his ability to make contact. Both the good and the bad were on display during his first two years as a pro, as he entered 2005 with 31 home runs in 150 games, but also 177 strikeouts and a .216 average. He worked hard prior to last season to improve his approach and responded with encouraging results, including six home runs in his first eight California League games. Morton is an immense presence at the plate, with 70 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale and a patient approach. Despite his size, he's surprisingly agile behind the plate, though his plus arm strength is tempered by a long release. Hitting for average will always be an issue for Morton, and he profiles as a reserve catcher at best. He's prone to chasing breaking balls away, and his loopy swing is designed solely for hitting the ball a long way. Morton struggled with a hamstring injury early in the year and has yet to play more than 104 games or prove himself over the course of a full season. He needs to show that the second half of 2005 wasn't a fluke, and he'll have to do it in the tough offensive environment at Mobile.
The Padres will try to give Meek a fresh start after he lost his command and was released by the Twins last season. He was a priority draft-and-follow coming out of the 2002 draft for Minnesota, and he signed for $180,000 the next May. Shortly before turning pro, he turned in a no-hitter and a one-hitter in consecutive playoff starts for Bellevue (Wash.) Community College. Meek was outstanding in his pro debut at Elizabethton but came down with a case of the yips in 2004, as his control disappeared and his velocity dropped. Things got worse in 2005, and Minnesota released him after 18 miserable innings in low Class A. Padres pro scout Charley Kerfeld, who lives near Meek in the Seattle area, signed him after one look at his lively arm in a private workout. Meek returned to the mound in instructional league and was once again throwing strikes and touching 97 mph with his fastball. The Padres tinkered with his mechanics to allow his free-working arm to do its job. He's still primarily a one-pitch pitcher, though. He hasn't regained the confidence or command of his power curveball, which once was a dominant swing-and-miss pitch. Meek still has to prove he's beyond the mental lapses that led to his demise with the Twins. His ability to throw strikes in spring training will determine his 2006 destination.
San Diego signed Jimenez out of Colombia on his 16th birthday, and his performance in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League in 2003 quickly made him the subject of trade talks involving established major leaguers. The Padres always have loved his upside, which may have led them to be a little too aggressive with him. They sent him to low Class A as an 18-year-old at the start of 2005, and he quickly fizzled after winning three of his first four starts. He went 0-7, 10.58 in his final 10 starts for Fort Wayne before going to Eugene. Long and lanky, Jimenez has intriguing stuff but little feel for his craft. His fastball sits in the low 90s at times and touches 94, but he worked more in the high 80s last year because of sloppy mechanics. He has yet to develop much of a breaking ball, and to call his changeup a work in progress may be giving it too much credit. His control and command also have a long way to go. His raw skills and youth keep the Padres optimistic about Jimenez, who will get another shot at low Class A in 2006.
When the Padres dealt Sean Burroughs to the Devil Rays for Dewon Brazelton in a swap of failed first-round picks at the Winter Meetings, they were more excited about getting Andrade as the player to be named. (In fact, they did not tender Brazelton a contract after the deal.) Tampa Bay selected Andrade from the Blue Jays system in the major league Rule 5 draft and sent him on to San Diego, meaning the Padres will have to keep him on the major league roster all season. If not, Andrade will have to clear waivers and get offered back to Toronto for half his $50,000 draft price before the Padres can send him to the minors. The Blue Jays got Andrade, who was originally drafted by the Angels, in a waiver claim in December 2004. He put up impressive numbers in Double-A as he has throughout his career, averaging 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings in four and a half seasons. Despite the gaudy strikeout totals, he's not a power reliever. His fastball is average at best, but his slider is a plus-plus offering with two-plane break that often makes hitters look foolish thanks to his awkward, deceptive delivery. He can mix in a curveball and changeup, but rarely needs them, and neither is a big league offering. At 28, Andrade is what he is, but he should be good enough for a big league bullpen job with the Padres.
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