Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jump start on the farm

A select group of 36 Padres minors leaguers, among them 2011 draft picks Austin Hedges, Jace PetersonJoe Ross, and Cory Spangenberg, will begin a two-week mini-camp on Friday. Below you'll find the roster, which includes Drew Cumberland, a second baseman and .316 career hitter whose entire 2011 season was lost to concussion-like symptoms.

Mini-camp's purpose is to "jump-start our better prospects who are entering their first full season or jumping a level," said farm director Randy Smith.

Mini camp is like a baseball laboratory. The teacher-to-student ratio is tiny because the other minor leaguers haven't arrived for spring training. Campers won't be able to walk 90 feet without bumping into a former big leaguer. Among the pitching coaches will be two former Padres, Willie Blair and Tim Worrell, and guest instructor Brian Moehler, who pitched for 14 seasons in the major leagues. Serving under hitting coordinator Sean Berry, the former Expos and Astros third baseman, will be guest instructor Dean Palmer, a 14-year veteran; and Jacque Jones, the former San Diego High outfielder who played for 10 years in the big leagues.

If one needed a reminder that Sandy Alderson's Moneyball crowd no longer oversees the Padres, Jones' presence as a Single-A hitting instructor would hammer home that fact. Jacque, who was groomed by the Twins, had little patience for taking pitches.

For inspiration, the campers can walk 30 feet to the major league clubhouse. They'll see five minor leaguers who participated in last year's mini-camp: outfielder Rymer Liriano, pitcher Jorge DePaula and infielders Jedd Gyorko, Jonathan Galvez and Edinson Rincon.

The 14 pitchers are Mike Andriese, Johnny Barbato, Frank Garces, Tayron Guerrero, Justin Hancock, Cody Hebner, Michael Kelly, Mark Pope, Adys Portillo, Kevin Quackenbush, Colin Rea, Genison Reyes, Ross and Matt Wisler.

At age 18, Ross is the youngest of the 14. Both he and Kelly were among the top 50 players drafted last June.

Signed for $3 million last August, Hedges will be joined by fellow catchers Rodney Daal, Robert Kral and Casey McElroy. A year ago, McElroy was Auburn's shortstop and best hitter; the Padres will try to make him into a catcher, where his lefty bat could play up. At 5-foot-8, McElroy will not present a large target but he does have an inch on Yogi Berra's listed height. As for Hedges, this blog rates him as potentially the farm system's No. 1 prospect. We'll write more about him late in spring training.

This camp can't come soon enough for Cumberland, who at 23 will be the oldest participant. The other eight infielders are second basemen Spangenberg and Chris Bisson; third basemen Duanel Jones and Gabriel Quintana; shortstops Peterson and B.J. Guinn and first basemen Jose Dore and Luis Tejada.

The outfielders are Corey AdamsonLuis Domoromo, Rey Fuentes, Kyle Gaedele, Alberth Martinez, Kyung-Min Na, Rico Noel, Donavan Tate and Everett Williams.

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