Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday notes

* The Padres are overdue to get good results from starting pitchers they drafted. The only starting pitcher to pan out from among the hundreds they drafted since John Moores bought the club in late 1994 were Jake Peavy and Brian Lawrence. You'd expect better. Petco Park is an extreme pitchers park, and the National League is easier for pitchers. This summer I reached Mark Wasinger, the scout who signed both Peavy and Lawrence, at his home in El Paso between scouting trips. "The common thread between Jake and Brian is they both had great makeup -- great competitors who had a feel for pitching," said Wasinger, who scouts for the Red Sox.

* Drafted in the 11th round by the Padres in 2006, Mat Latos looks like he has a chance to become a frontline starter if he can continue to mature. His easy fastball from a downhill delivery recalls Chuck Finley, says manager Bud Black, and led to a 2.43 ERA after five major league starts. Latos then struggled and was shut down to protect his arm. "From spring training, he came miles," said an American League scout. "I liked him. I was impressed."

* The question wasn't whether Latos would reach the major leagues if he could stay healthy, but how well he would handle success and failure after the got there. That remains to be seen. Four years ago, Latos' tantrums, notably a helmet-splitting conk to his own head with a metal bat, scared off even some wealthy clubs that loved his powerful arm. It's encouraging to the Padres that Latos, 21, seeks out teammate Chris Young for advice.

* Tim Stauffer brought a career ERA of 6.37 into this season and was coming off surgery to repair torn cartilage in shoulder. He might never regain the lively fastball that induced the Padres to draft him fourth overall in 2003, but at 27, he's producing a nice comeback story.

* Before a foot injury ended his rookie season, Kyle Blanks hit six home runs at Petco Park and 10 overall in 148 at-bats. Maybe the Padres are finally developing some power hitters. Since 1988, the only 20-homer season they got from a homegrown hitter was Khalil Greene's 27-homer year in 2007.

* Blanks still sparks lively discussions among scouts. Some expect him to become an above-average player, even invoking former slugging star Frank Thomas. Another scout said his potential is more like that of Carmelo Martinez. Others are skeptical of how he'll fare after opponents break down his game. Here's one conflicted scout: "Blanks is a big leaguer. I don't believe he's Frank Thomas. I can't see him with a lot of conviction. In the Coast League, Seth Etherton just pounded him inside and he struggled. I don't see batspeed." Blanks turns 23 on Friday.

* The buzz surrounding Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera continues to grow. "My new favorite player is Everth Cabrera, the best Rule V pick since Johan Santana," said the AL scout. "He's good. I was just amazed at the progress he's made. He's coming to get the ball better."

* The AL scout had several other scouts rank the shortstops from both Western Divisions. Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies) was first. Here's the AL scout: "I had either Elvis Andrus (Rangers) or Cabrera second. Cabrera's better than (Rafael) Furcal (Dodgers). I have him ahead of Erick Aybar (Angels). He has better instincts and better plate discipline, and he's about three years younger. I like Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks); I keep waiting for more. I like Cabrera better than Jack Wilson (Mariners), Cliff Pennington (A's), better than Edgar Renteria (Giants)."

* It's wasn't easy for scouts this summer to watch Matt Antonelli, who works as hard as anybody and showed promise two years ago. "He's got a bad swing," said a non-Padres scout who saw Antonelli in Triple-A. "You'd have to start all over with his swing. I guess you've got to be careful with college statistics, because it doesn't always translate. You have to scout the player and the swing -- but I don't remember the swing being like that in (Single-A) Lake Elsinore. It's gotten worse."

* Despite a 5.08 ERA in August, Padres prospect Cory Luebke impressed a lot of evaluators this season. "Luebke threw very well for me," said a non-Padres scout. "This guy could be in the big leagues next year. He throws strikes and he's got stuff."

* Not knocking Billy Beane here, but I'm still hearing puzzled responses to Oakland's trade of three young pitchers to the Padres for Scott Hairston. It's not that scouts rate the three pitchers as top-drawer prospects. But each throws hard, and power arms are in demand. Further, it's not like the salary-cutting Padres had much leverage. Hairston might command close to $4 million next year and was blocking young outfielders in San Diego. "The Padres got three pitchers who all have a chance to be major leaguers," said the AL scout. "I like (Ryan) Webb. (Craig) Italiano has a really good sinker. Sean Gallagher, I liked him last year. Oakland got smoked on that trade as far as I'm concerned, even if Italiano never gets there."