Somewhere, Matt Bush – and this time legally, might I add – is toasting the baseball gods for drawing the attention away from being a homegrown bust, albeit just for a moment. As expected, the local radio hosts and message boards are having a field day criticizing a draft that, seemingly, couldn’t get anything right. That is, when users aren’t busy being witty (“Can’tonelli?” Ray, you clever bastard).
And, to be completely honest, it’s easy to understand these negative perspectives. I’m not going to blow sunshine up your ass: there are a lot of big questions revolving around some of our top selections. Were they the best players available? Were they drafted due to financial reasons (cram it with walnuts, Scott Boras)? In the name of all that is holy, why did we draft four corner infielders in our first six picks?!
I have a slight inkling as to why the front office may have gone in the direction that they did, but seeing as the front office employs baseball minds much, much more intelligent than my own, I’d say my opinions are suspect at best. Also, keep in mind that most of these “kids” are younger than me (and I can’t even legally rent a car). There’d be no way for me to properly evaluate a bunch of rug rats without first taking into account that these pitchers are still tossing it up to juveniles and the sluggers are still hacking with metal bats. It’s an inexact science.
Having said that, the media wasn’t short on their opinions regarding some of the problem areas they felt the Padres should address. Every armchair GM and their basement dwelling friends had constructed a mock draft. Our biggest deficiencies, as documented ‘round the Internet, radio, and print, seemed to be in this particular order:
- CF: Actually, this could just as easily be expanded to the OF in general. Our organization hasn’t been particularly shy at acknowledging our shortcomings when it come to OF development. They tipped their cards on such issues when top prospects Chase Headley and Matt Antonelli were given a crash course in the OF back in January. As it stands, they addressed such problems when, early in the season, Jim Hollywood Half-Shirt Edmonds turned to bust and LF became a merry-go-round of offensive inconsistency. They stood in awe as they watched far younger outfields – such as the Arizona Diamondbacks – run circles around our club. Both Sandy Alderson and Kevin Towers made it clear during their weekly radio interviews on XX 1090 that those are the prototypical players to fill Petco’s OF. They vowed to target more “toolsy,” “athletic” players in June.
- SS*: I’m not sure if this was necessarily addressed directly by any members of the front office, but it sure as shit seems implied. The deterioration in discussions revolving around a potential long-term contract extension for Khalil Greene seemed to predicate a landslide of equal parts discussion and criticism from both the front office and critics. What’s Greene’s value on the trade market? Is he worth the investment? And, most importantly, who’s behind him on the depth chart? As it turns out, there isn’t a plan B within the organization should the organization let Khalil walk. Therefore, these issues compounded with Greene’s offensive struggles to this point, led to the hot topic discussion of who we’d be targeting at SS during this draft.
- P: It’s no secret – the Padres’ home park necessitates the need for quality pitching. This isn’t really a unique argument for any team, but it weighs greatly upon a team that plays 81 games in the most offense-stifling environment in Major League Baseball. What made the argument to select an impact pitcher in the top rounds of this year’s draft even stronger would be the failures to keep “safe” picks Cesar Carillo and Nick Schmidt healthy. Many critics pointed towards the Padres’ insistence on taking safer picks who worked with pinpoint control. Finesse pitchers, instead of those who fit more of the flame throwing archetype.
*On a minor note, the middle IF might be in greater flux as Antonelli’s well-documented struggles at AAA makes it appear as if our 2B situation isn’t as rosy as it looked two months ago.
With these positions at the forefront of Friars draft discussion and particular college prospects preemptively targeted by every mock draft available, it would seemingly appear that the Padres may have missed the mark…but that’s beside the point. My primary goal of this first installment is to provide the most rudimentary, layman’s introduction (dude, I’m not getting paid to do this [ed. Note: Preston, remind me to fire you. -Melvin]) to some of the newest San Diego Padres. Or, rather, their newest property. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you still have to live with ‘em…at least for the time being.
DAY ONE – THE CAPE COD FOUR
Here’s a nice bit of useless trivia: the Padres first round draft pick, Allan Dykstra (#23), played on the Cape Cod Baseball League’s 2007 East All-Star team with top-ranked catching prospect Buster Posey (#5 overall pick by the San Francisco Giants who was actually a reserve). He also played with fellow 2008 San Diego Padres’ draft picks Cole Figueroa (#195) and Blake Tekotte (#101). Another Padres’ draft pick, James Darnell (#69), played for the West.
Now I’m not sure if this is coincidence or not, or what it would even hint at…but it’d be hard to look past the fact that four of the Padres’ first nine selections happened to play in the same game; three of whom on the same team. Does it display the front office’s concern over the translation of power from college to professional ball? I’d like to think that their participation in such a league was a little bit of a free tryout to see what these kids could do swinging the lumber. And seeing as the CCBL is often compared to the high-A Minor League teams they’re set to join in a few short weeks, it’s probably a safe bet that they got a leg up on their development. Who knows?
#23 – Allan Dykstra, 1B, Wake Forest U:
Fun fact: when the Padres announced Dykstra as their first round pick, most of the Padres-centric baseball world collectively shat their pants (I can’t back this up with fact, but the collective groan heard round the county is enough evidence for me). Reasoning? The Padres’ absolute, no-doubt best player happens to play the same exact position. But there’s a lot to like here: insane raw power, outstanding discipline at the plate, not afraid to draw a walk. In a perfect world, if all holds true, he’ll be the prototypical middle-of-the-order hitter the Padres lacked the majority of their short tenure in Petco Park.
That being said, save for Paul DePodesta’s blog — which, in case you haven’t visited yet, is incredible (please hire me) — there has not been a single site I’ve been to that hasn’t mixed one part optimism with two parts reasonable doubt. Make no bones about it – Dykstra appears to be a one-trick pony. He can’t field, he can’t run…but the man-child can absolutely hit, and that is a well-documented fact. Baseball America is not short on praise for his offensive abilities:
Dykstra adds to the long list of quality first basemen in this draft, and at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he possibly has the greatest raw power of the bunch…
…Due to his size, Dykstra has an intimidating presence in the batter’s box. Dykstra has an advanced approach but at times can be overly patient. combined with being on a Wake Forest team light on hitting, Dykstra is often pitched around and has set the Demon Deacons’ career and season walk records.
DePodesta, of course, sells their first round pick one better:
Allan has had an unbelievably consistent collegiate career, as he’s hit at least 15 homers while also drawing at least 50 walks in each of his three seasons – something nobody else in this draft has done.
So, three consecutive seasons in which he has displayed both outstanding discipline and power. Great news. But this is common knowledge, and mock drafts didn’t shy away from making note of his amazing raw power. To post anything more would be redundant. However, it’s about now that the questions start rolling in regarding the deficiencies in his offensive approach and the rest of his game. The Baseball Prospectus 2008 Live Draft Roundtable was particularly harsh:
Kevin Goldstein: This is surprisingly high. Most saw him as a sup 1st or 2nd rounder. TONS of raw power, not sure where he fits in that organization, but this is defnitely a Grady Fuson type pick.
Bryan Smith: Dykstra: Metal. Bat. Swing.
Kevin Goldstein: …I like Bryan’s scouting report on Dykstra more than Depos.
Now, let me preface this by reiterating how much I love Baseball Prospectus. But outside of questioning his place in the organization, I don’t follow Smith’s assessment. And to be completely honest — it comes off as rather pompous and suggestive without substance. Sure, there has been much to say about Dykstra’s inability to hit the inside pitch, that he’s pull happy, and at times many question his streakiness. But just “metal bat swing?” I understand this is a live blog, but I expect better. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but didn’t this guy make a pretty good impression in the wood bat using Cape Cod League last summer?
“Last summer, Dykstra was named a Cape Cod League all-star after hitting .308 with five home runs,” so sez Baseball America. And DePodesta? “Allan also produced in the Cape Cod League batting over .300 with walks and power, so he has also proven his skills with a wood bat. In short, his track record is impeccable.” Now, this isn’t an end-all fact that his talent at the plate will translate from the Cape Cod League to professional baseball, but if Dykstra has any problem, it’s his inconsistency to command and drive balls in all areas of the zone. As for those questions regarding his position, there’s already rumors – although, mostly unsubstantiated — that Dykstra is slated to try out a corner OF position.
#69 – James Darnell, 3B, U of South Carolina Columbia:
Darnell is an interesting case, for similar reasons as Dykstra. He’s an extreme talent at the plate, and had garnered notoriety as a prospect for being an RBI machine. Yet he was overshadowed by teammates Justin Smoak (#11 to the Texas Rangers) and, oddly enough, a player that many saw as a first round target for the Padres, Reese Havens (#22 to the New York Mets).
Like Dykstra, he also seems to be a player without a position. With Kevin Kouzmanoff currently entrenched at 3B and, whether people want to admit it or not, Headley second on that depth chart. However, fear not: rumor is that he’s a better fit for a corner OF position, which is also a spot on the depth chart the the Padres covet. Not only did DePodesta allude to this in his blog, but many other sites, such as Brewerfan.net, indicate that 3B might not be the ideal position for him on his path to the show:
He generates his power with long, strong limbs despite having a tall and rangy body. His swing can get long, and many believe that he’ll never hit for that high of an average while racking up his fair share of whiffs, but few may care about that if he continues to turn his power potential into power production as he has the past two years. While he’s a good athlete with perfect proportions and a very strong arm, he would be a better fit in right field.
As predicted, the Padres are banking on that corner OF power potential to justify taking Darnell as their fourth overall pick. And it’s a legitimate power threat; Baseball America had Darnell ranked as a Top 30 prospect – slated for the first round – prior to the 2007-2008 season due to his outrageous hitting ability. Contrary to what has been posted at the MLB Draft Central prospect analysis page, they listed him with above-average speed with a lot of athletic ability. It just doesn’t appear as such because the Gamecocks weren’t known for being aggressive on the basepaths (their lead thief was Whit Merrifield with 11). DePodesta makes note of this in his synopsis:
Darnell is a big, strong 3B who is athletic and skilled enough to play all over the diamond. His strength is what separates him, as he has hit 18 and 19 homers in the past two seasons. The ball absolutely jumps off his bat, and it was no different with wood as he hit 8 homers in just 128 ab’s on the Cape last summer.
Overall, this is a very toolsy player with a lot of life and power to his game.
His power generated in the CCBL is impressive as he quadrupled his total from his 2006 campaign then put an exclamation point on his contributions in 2007 belting a tape measure shot in the All-Star game. One of the major compliments that follows Darnell has been his diligence to weight training, and it shows with his output on the field. Either way, the Padres are banking on seeing him excel at the plate while filling a corner OF spot. With his credentials, there’s high hopes that will follow.
#101 – Blake Tekotte, CF, U of Miami*:
Really appreciating Blake Tekotte isn’t difficult. Considering his great collegiate career and our need for a fleet-footed, top of the order threat, he seems like the ideal player to draft. However, there people who have overlooked his talent due to the belief that there were better options available. Before the draft, a lot of Padres-centric sites focused on Jordan Danks, a White Sox seventh round draft pick out of the University of Texas, to fill our need for a the prototypical lead-off hitter. Danks was formerly projected by Baseball America to go as a first round pick in 2005 out of Round Rock High School (TX). He saw his draft stock fall after adamantly maintaining dedication to join the Longhorns. There’s a good synopsis of his risky decision and journey in this 2005 Baseball America article. This season, sites such as Mad Friars made a strong argument to sink our hooks in Danks early as our supplemental draft pick at #46.
His brother John pitches for the White Sox. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder is a five-tool player (his power should had been better by now but is getting better). He has plus speed with his long-legged stride. Has a great eye and will take a walk. He played leadoff in the first two years in Texas.
Don’t get me wrong, he fits the bill much of the same way Tekotte does. But there’s a reason he fell between a first round to projected third round pick. He is still rail thin and his the power many projected simply hasn’t come about as expected. Checking out any photo of him is evidence enough. Additionally, in what has become a very well-publicized story, both of the Danks brothers were represented by Scott Boras and the asking price likely drove his value down.
Anyway, the only reason I’m really going on about Danks is that I can’t understand how an overdraft obsession with Danks and his former value as a first rounder would keep anybody from being overjoyed with Tekotte. He’s essentially the same burner on the base paths, hits for average, gets on base at a higher clip. Here’s the kicker: Tekotte he has greater power. During his time in the Cape Cod League, he received All-Cape Cod League honors while leading his team in SB, R, and ranking second in hits. A recent Baseball America writeup of Tekotte reads like most Padres’ fans wet dream:
Tekotte…owns an intriguing all-around package of speed, power potential and defense. He makes consistant, hard contact with gap power and enough bat speed to hit occasional home runs. Tekotte plays a shallow center field but has no trouble tracking down balls over his head thanks to his plus speed and excellent instincts. He also has an above-average arm and is an intelligent baserunner.”
He might not have the power that would translate as a five-tool threat at the professional level, but he’s a solid CF and the Padres are desperate for just that. DePodesta writes:
Blake is a true leadoff hitting centerfielder who is an above average runner and defender. The best part is that he’s also a hitter. Going into the regionals last weekend, Blake was hitting .374 with a .487 obp and a .598 slg to go along with 25 stolen bases. Blake is an exciting top of the lineup guy who sets the tone for that Miami team. He always seems to be in the middle of the action.
The Padres got a free preview of Tekotte during last week’s Miami vs. Arizona match-up on ESPN2 and will be getting an extended preview during the rest of the College World Series. I’d suggest taking a look if you get the chance, he’s definitely a player to watch.
*On a slightly more depressing note, Tekotte had an amazing homepage hosted by the University of Miami that was recently pulled from circulation. It was the inspiration for this entire draft overview. Rumor has it that he actually responded to a couple e-mails from fans welcoming him to San Diego. Either way, in hopes that Tekotte and the University of Miami come to their senses and reactivate his site, I’ve posted this link for your (possible) viewing pleasure.
**Edit: Melvin Nieves to the rescue. Check out the banned photo of Blake Tekotte.
#195 – Cole Figueroa, SS, U of Florida:
Rounding out the Cape Cod League’s Fearsome Foursome (™, ©, ®) is Florida’s Stephen/Cole Figueroa (seriously, can we get some clarification on this dude’s name?). Figueroa is probably the player I’m personally most interested in. That’s because of his status as a draft-eligible sophomore, plus the minor fact that he has absolutely mashed these past two years. Outside of demonstrating an ability to improve upon his AVG, OBP, and SLG, he also demonstrates value from either middle IF position. Most importantly, many critics thought he was both one of the best freshman in last season’s Cape Cod League, but also them most polished. Bryan Smith, analyst for Baseball Prospectus, noted in a post-Cod League article highlighting the league’s Top 5 freshmen:
Perhaps, in my talk with Cape coaches, Cole Figueroa was the group’s favorite player in the league. All agreed that his upside wasn’t equal to those ranked above him, but his make-up and present ability are light years ahead of his contemporaries. From a baseball standpoint, Figueroa gets great points for his ability to repeat his swing and never give up at-bats. The two, combined with his hand-eye potential, give Figueroa the freshman class’ best plate coverage. However, Cole doesn’t have fantastic power potential, as coaches believe he will be a leadoff hitter at the next level. Figueroa might be able to stay at shortstop but could be a better fit at second base…
The plate coverage and consistent approach is one of the biggest positives of Figueroa’s game. Nearly every first round pick the Padres selected seem to have some sort of hole in their swing. DePodesta is equally impressed with Figueroa’s approach:
At the plate he is a handsy hitter who will hit the ball where it’s pitched but also has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Cole hit .350 this year with a .422 obp and a .534 slg to go along with 20 stolen bases.
A speedy, top of the lineup hitter, with great intangibles who’s seemingly destined for 2B. Sound familiar? To me, it sounds as if Figueroa is the Padres’ back-up plan for Antonelli should his struggles continue. But DePodesta is cautiously optimistic:
Cole is a draft-eligible sophomore, so he still has two years of eligibility left in school. Hopefully we can convince him to start his pro career, as he is a solid left-handed hitting middle infielder who has terrific instincts for the game. He’s another player who seemed to raise his game when it counted the most.
As everything is still up in the air regarding Figueroa’s place with the Padres, I’ll refrain from getting too excited about this pick. But the thought of having him and Tekotte as a staple one-two punch at the top of the lineup is enough to get somebody justifiably excited. Hopefully, things work out and we can add another vital piece to our ever evolving middle IF scene. But I wouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. From the sound of it, Figueroa has a great opportunity to build on two strong seasons and increase his 2009 draft value.
Thanks to Ray & Melvin, I’ve been invited back for two more installments of draft recap. Stay tuned tomorrow for the Best of the Rest (of the first round) as well as an overview of what other needs were met in day two.