If you follow the game enough, you probably already know that catchers make a popular choice for big league managers.
After all, there’s currently 12 of them managing in the big leagues. It’s the understanding of knowing the total game — the pitching aspect, handling a staff, take-charge attitude, the offensive component and knowing the true grind of the game, etc.
I’m sure there’s more reasons why catchers make for good managers. Those are just a few.
I’m always curious, in dealing with players on a day-to-day basis, who might make for a good manager down the road, after their playing days.
It’s always struck me that now former Padres catcher Nick Hundley — traded Saturday to the Orioles — might eventually land there when his playing days are over.
Today, I asked Padres manager Bud Black — not a former catcher, mind you — if he felt the same way. Here’s what he said:
“I do. Of all the guys that come through that you touch as players, there’s a few guys that you jot down as future staff guys,” Black said. “Managers, coaches, instructors, announcers, whatever. Nick tracks toward the field as a future manager or coach.”
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nick’s father, Tim, is a assistant football coach at UNLV and has had several Division I coaching stops — Oregon State, Colorado, SMU and Washington, to name a few.
Maybe the apple doesn’t fall from the tree?
– Corey Brock
The Padres parted ways with Kyle Blanks on Thursday, sending him to the A’s for a Minor League outfielder and a player to be named later.
I referred to Blanks’ time with the Padres as ‘star-crossed’ … and I truly believe that. What an interesting career arc, one that was often interrupted by injury but sprinkled with flashes of wonderful talent.
What would Blanks do with, say, 500-600 plate appearances? I still wonder, though I think after 800+ PA’s with the Padres, we do have a pretty good idea what kind of player he his; You’ll get some pop, some strikeouts.
Blanks was a 42nd-round Draft choice in 2004 as a draft-and-follow guy (a rule now since abolished). He signed before the 2005 for fifth-round money, as the consensus was he would have been drafted in the top 10 rounds that year.
The Padres loved how athletic he was — not just for a big man, but athletic in general. This is a kid who played some shortstop in high school and summer ball. He could pitch. He had nimble feet. The Padres thought they were getting a gem.
Blanks made his big league debut at age 22 in 2009. He showed some amazing raw power. A first baseman by trade, he took well to the outfield. Remember his inside-the-park home run against the Cubs? The 88-train, chugging around the bases.
Heck, the Padres even decided to give him his own bobblehead in 2010 — they team went a little bobbleheads crazy that year — even if he played in 54 games the following year. Fifty-four games!
But Blanks’ career was derailed on numerous occasions by injuries — he had Tommy John surgery, shoulder surgery and has had various issues over the years. Staying on the field became an issue. When that becomes a trend, it’s hard for a team to pencil you into their long-term plans.
Now, at 27, Blanks is at the point where he has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. He heads to the A’s where he’ll likely be part of a platoon at first base.
I find it a little ironic that Blanks’ hometown, Moriarty, M.M., is know as the “Crossroads of Opportunity.”
We’ll see where this deal takes him.
– Corey Brock
You might have noticed the news Friday that the Padres (finally) signed 27-year-old Cuban pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne to a Minor League deal. If not, here’s the story.
This would have likely happened sooner but Despaigne had to obtain a visa and pass a physical. The Padres saw him several times play in Mexico and he worked out at the team’s Spring Training facility in February.
The deal is a Minor League deal, as mentioned, with a $1 million bonus. Pretty low risk investment.
So what to expect?
He will head to extended Spring Training in Arizona for at least two weeks to get in game shape. Now matter how much work he’s done to get ready to pitch, he’ll need to get in game shape, arm and all.
He’ll likely head to Double-A San Antonio, a far better pitcher environment than, say, than the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes said Despaigne reminded him of the “old generation” Cuban pitchers who have come to the big leagues before him, such as Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras and Livan Hernandez. in the sense that he is a creative pitcher in terms of the number of pitches he’ll use and also in terms of various arm angles.
From a velocity standpoint, Byrnes said Despaigne has topped out at 94 mph, but certainly sits lower than that.
My guess is we’ll see him here in San Diego at some point. He’s an intriguing guy, to be sure. But the fact that his deal was a Minor League one with a small bonus leads me to believe that there’s probably not much of a ceiling.
Then again, who cares? If he can help you win games today, does it really matter what the guy will be in two, three, four years?
– Corey Brock
Hey gang, in case you missed it, I wrote a story Thursday on Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley.
I feel I’ve developed a good relationship with ‘Bals’ in my seven-plus years covering the team but, before Thursday, had never profiled him in a story.
There’s a good reason for that: Balsley hates talking about himself. And hate, I feel, might be putting it lightly. You want to talk about his pitchers, mechanics, fantasy football, then he’s your guy. But turn the subject and spotlight on him, and he clams up.
Anyway, it was a fun story with some things I just couldn’t squeeze in. Here they are:
– From this last road trip, a tight game in Milwaukee, and Balsley makes a visit to the mound. Let catcher Nick Hundley take it from here:
“They had the bases loaded with one out and Dale [Thayer] is on the mound,” Hundley said. “Bals comes out to the mound and says, ‘here’s what’s going to happen … if you do this one thing, then we are going to get a groundball, double play.’ So Dale executes the pitch [fastball away] and we get a double-play on the first pitch.”
A look of incredulity washes over Hundley’s face as he’s telling the story.
“He actually told us what was going to happen. That’s a pretty cool thing,” Hundley said. “You can allow yourself to be a little excited about that one.
– Some great stuff from Jake Peavy, who had Balsley in the Minors and the big leagues:
“I had a great privilege of being there when Darren and Darrel Akerfelds were there and I had such good friends and two great pitching guys who worked as a team. Those two guys for me were a team. Both mechanically and mentally. As friends, they knew me better than most people knew me and they, obviously, knew my craft so well. They had seen me since I was a kid. Growing, learning, becoming better. I feel like they took pride in that process with me.”
“Darren helped me in every walk of life — off the field, being a man, growing up, having children. Our sons are two days apart and both named Jacob. There are a lot of cool similarities that me and him have. We will be friends until we die.”
“Mentally. Darren has his quirks, we all do. He has different stuff he likes to do that make him feel comfortable. Darren is unbelievably comfortable at coaching the individual and making the individual believe. Sometimes he is even better getting something out of the individual that has never come out because that person never had the confidence or the belief in himself that Darren gives that person.
“Then on that given day to talk you off the ledge, so to speak, and into doing well. Hes just a great baseball mind and great coach.”
– Finally, from Padres bullpen coach Willie Blair, who was a teammate of Balsley’s back in their Toronto days. I asked Blair what kind of pitcher Balsley was”
“Darren was really good,” said Blair, who won 60 games over parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues. “He would have been a big league pitcher had he not gotten hurt. He had a good fastball that cut, a nasty slider and a good curveball. He was very aggressive and could throw his slider for a strike anytime he wanted to.”
– Corey Brock
You might have read a report Tuesday that, according to sources, the Padres made a run at signing third baseman Chase Headley to a contract extension over the winter, a proposed deal between $33-$39 million.
Obviously, no deal was ever struck, nor can we say for sure this was ever truly offered. Too many unknowns, too many people wishing to stay mum on the topic.
But Headley told me in a long interview at the end of Spring Training — you can read the story here — that there’s no hard feelings that his representation and the team couldn’t strike a deal.
“We have a good relationship with the front office, everything has been cordial. We both have an idea where the other is,” Headley said. “I think that it’s all about timing. With the ownership changes we’ve have had, I just don’t think it was ever the right time. It’s no one’s fault.”
There was, he said, sizable differences between what the team and what Headley were looking for in a long-term deal.
“I think there was some differences in both. There’s enough ground in between us to where it wasn’t going to work out right now. We understood what they were saying, and they understood what we were saying. We just couldn’t find that common ground,” he said.
I asked Headley — a homegrown player who has never played for another organization — if he thought he would/will be a Padre for the rest of his playing career.
“You understand that it’s part of the game and guys come and go. In a perfect world, you’d like to keep more guys than we have since I’ve been here,” Headley said. “And I think that’s the direction it’s going [in San Diego]. I think that’s what they want to create moving forward, more continuity. But it [change] happens when you have a bunch of philosophy changes and changes in ownership.”
So what happens now?
– Do the Padres trade Headley before the non-waiver deadline (July 31)?
– Do they hope he rebounds and then make him a qualifying offer after the season with the thought he’ll test free agency, sign elsewhere and they can add an additional draft pick?
– Do they make a run at him in terms of a deal following the season?
Headley said that at some point, someone is going to take that qualifying offer, which could be north of $15 million. To date, no one has taken the QO. Headley, for one, doesn’t believe draft pick compensation should be tied to the QO.
“We weighed that [in talking with the Padres] and it’s not a great system for the player,” Headley said. “You have to play six full seasons just to get to free agency. The average Major League career is not six years long. When you get to that point in your career, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to have this one shot at free agency affected by that [qualifying offer]. At some point, someone is going to take one of those.
“It’s not a bad way to go. That’s a pretty big number for one year.”
– Corey Brock
By now, you’re probably well aware of the $35 million contract extension the Padres have given to second baseman Jedd Gyorko. If not, here’s my story from Monday.
In case you don’t want to read it, I’ll save you the trouble: $35 million, as it turns out, can and will buy a lot of diapers (Gyorko’s wife is expecting twin boys).
If you’re a Padres fan, I’m sure you’ve followed Gyorko’s career with the team going back to his Minor League days when he terrorized pitching at several levels. The numbers are pretty stunning and as teams are trying to predict how Minor League numbers will translate to Major League success, I’m certain the Padres looked at Gyorko’s track record in the Minor Leagues as a predictor of sorts of what kind of Major League he can become.
Last season was certainly a good start.
But what about Gyorko, the amateur? Ever wonder what the scout who recommend Gyorko thought of him the first time he saw Gyorko at West Virginia University.
Me, too. So I asked Padres’ scout Andrew Salvo about Gyorko. I talked with Salvo in 2012 about Gyorko, trying to get a read on him as a player. Here are some of Salvo’s observations:
— “All I heard was that he could rake. I also heard he was a bad athlete, had a bad body, and couldn’t defend. I thought the complete opposite when I saw him that first weekend down. The hit tool was evident, he could swing it and had all the components of what you look for in a good hitter (bat speed, hand strength, balance, hand/eye, among others).
— “He’s a better athlete than what a lot of people give him credit for. Jedd was recruited to play some Division II basketball. He played shortstop all three years at a Big East program, too. Just because he doesn’t run fast doesn’t mean he’s not a good athlete. It’s not the ideal looking body, but he has strength in all the right places (hands, wrists, forearms, core, thighs).
— “He’s just a true grinder. Great makeup guy who’s super self motivated to prove all the doubters wrong. He was an easy one to go to bat for in the draft that year because he had that “it” factor about him to go with the tools.
— “I was just stoked we had a chance to get him. With the way bats fly off the board in the draft I didn’t think we had a shot at him where we got him.”
Gyorko was taken with the 59th overall pick in the 2010 draft. That was an important pick for the Padres, especially after their first-round pick, Karsten Whitson, opted not to sign.
Anyway, just a few thoughts from the scout who saw Gyorko the most. It should be pointed out that Salvo was also the guy who recommended first-rounder Hunter Renfroe a year ago.
– Corey Brock
There’s a lot to like about Minor League baseball.
Those funky promotions, the fan-friendly nature of it all, the history (Player X once played here and hit a ball XXX feet etc.) and, of course, the not-so recent trend of off-the-wall mascots and uniforms.
As you’re probably aware, the Padres’ Triple-A franchise has moved to El Paso, where the team will eventually play in a new downtown ballpark. The move has been very well received from all that I’ve heard, even if you’re not enamored with their mascot — the Chihuahuas.
Yes, the Chihuahuas.
On Wednesday, the team unveiled its different uniforms for the upcoming season (see photo). There’s five variations, including — paying homage to the Padres and the Swinging Friar — the Swinging Chihuahua.
Holy merchandise boon! Let’s not kid ourselves here: Minor League baseball is about moving merchandise. I’m sure the folks in El Paso will get a nice financial boost from their new ballpark, but they’ll really clean-up in terms of merchandise.
The last that I hear, El Paso gear was flying off the shelves — at the team’s actual store and through online sales. If you’re interested in gear, here’s the link: www.EPChihuahuas.com.
I know when the team announced its mascot, there was some flak about it. And, really, you’re going to have that with no matter what you choose. But you know what? It’s fun. And it got a lot of people talking about baseball in El Paso.
And, of course, it’s already helped move a lot of merchandise. For me, I kind of dig them, name and uniforms. Good for them for (and I hate this term) thinking outside the box.
The Padres enter the All-Star break with a 34-53 record, which has them tied for last place in the National League West with the Colorado Rockies.
So that means they’ll be sellers at or before the July 31 trade deadline, yes?
Not so fast.
While the Padres certainly have some interesting pieces they could move — and, as you might expect, they’re getting plenty of hits on third baseman Chase Headley — general manager Josh Byrnes might not be inclined to make many deals if any at all.
Why? Because the Padres like Headley just like they like outfielder Carlos Quentin, closer Huston Street as well as starting pitchers Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez.
The popular thought is a team would have to blow the Padres away for them to part with Headley, who is still under team control for two more years, is durable, a good defender and a switch-hitter.
Quentin, the San Diego native, has struggled in July after a torrid start. He could be a nice piece for a team looking for a right-handed bat with pop.
Street, the Padres lone All-Star representative, has converted all 13 of his save opportunities and might make the most sense to move in a deal.
Richard and Volquez? They’re under team control through 2013 (or 2014 in Richard’s case) and they have been durable. In a strange season that has seen the Padres make 19 disabled list move and with seven — yes, seven, starting pitchers currently on the disabled list, it doesn’t make sense to move them.
Hey, it could be an interesting few weeks for the Padres, who are playing better — 15-13 over their last 28 games. Or it could be downright quiet.
— Corey Brock, MLB.com
@FollowThePadres on Twitter
After four picks on Day One of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, the Padres continued their busy draft schedule with two picks in the first ten of Tuesday’s second round (68, 70). If pitchers (three of four picks) were the focus yesterday, San Diego snagged some offense with its first opportunities Tuesday, selecting junior outfielder Jeremy Baltz of St. John’s University with the 68th pick, and using the 70th pick, compensation pick from the loss of reliever Heath Bell, to snag Oklahoma City University catcher Dane Phillips.
Baltz, a 6’3″, 205-pounder, boasts a right-handed power bat that earned him consensus All-American honors as a freshman for the Red Storm in 2010. A first-team All-Big East selection in 2011, Baltz was named MVP of this weekend’s Chapel Hill, N.C. NCAA Baseball Tournament Regional after hitting .400 (4-10) with a home run, two doubles,eight runs, and a .900 slugging percentage in three games. The projected corner outfielder has shown his ability to perform on the big stage before, as he was also named MVP of the Charlottesville Regional as a freshman.
His All-State high school career at Vestal High School in Vestal, N.Y. earned Baltz a pick in the 45th round by the New York Yankees of the 2009 Draft before he headed to St. John’s to post one of the most decorated seasons in school history as a freshman. The 21 year-old showed he can hit with the wood, as well, hitting .329 and being named an All-Star with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League last summer.
Phillips is a left-handed hitting catcher out of Oklahoma City University, and was a first-team NAIA All-American for the Stars following his stellar 2012 campaign. The Oklahoma State transfer was the leading hitter for OCU this year, posting a .410 average to go along with 14 home runs and a .762 slugging percentage.
After a strong freshman season in Stillwater that saw him post a .337 average and three home runs in 54 games, predominantly as a designated hitter, Phillips continued to impress with the bat as a sophomore, posting a similar .339, four-home run season in 2011. But Phillips, frustrated with his lack of time behind the plate, transferred to Arkansas, where he was expected to compete for the starting spot. Unfortunately (or fortunately for OCU), the NCAA denied his request to transfer, and Phillips found his way to the NAIA’s Oklahoma City, where he has found offensive success while honing skills behind the plate.
The 6’1″, 195-pounder out of Nacogdoches, Texas, boasts a college baseball pedigree, as his father, David, played baseball and football at Texas A&M, while his brother, Dan, played baseball at Mississippi. Phillips, 21, was drafted in the 49th round of the 2009 draft by Seattle before heading to Oklahoma State.
With their third-round pick, 102nd overall, the Padres select SS Fernando Perez out of Central Arizona College. Perez skipped his senior season at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista, Calif., earning his diploma in November to head to the junior college scene in time for the 2012 season. He impressed as a freshman, hitting .341 with an impressive 11 triples, 20 doubles, and four homers. Listed as a shortstop, but probably better suited to third in the majors, Perez garnered interest for his offensive prowess from the left-side, more than his defense up the middle.
The Padres went back to pitching with their first pick of the fourth round, selecting high-schooler Andrew Lockett 135th overall. At 6’5″, 225, the right-hander is in keeping with the kind of big-time (literally) pitchers the Padres seem to be looking at early on. Lockett, known better as “Walker,” is committed to the University of South Florida, and was also a strong offensive contributor at first for the Providence School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Speed in the outfield emerges as another trend in the Padres draft so far, as San Diego spends its fifth-round pick on JUCO Centerfielder Mallex Smith, a 5’9″, high-speed dynamo out of Santa Fe Junior College in Florida. Smith swiped 31 bases in 37 attempts this season, while posting a .387 average. Smith was selected in the 4th round of the 2011 draft by Milwaukee after an impressive prep career at Rickards High School in Tallahassee, Florida, and is a left-handed hitter whose speed aids his potential defensively.
More speed for the Padres in the sixth-round comes in the form of Alabama high school shortstop Jalen Goree. A 5’10”, 175-pounder from Bibb County High School in Centreville, Alabama, Goree will most likely be a second baseman at the next level. The right-handed bat has made moves in the JUCO direction, signing with Northwest Florida State College in January, and joins comp pick Travis Jankowski and 5th-round pick Mallex Smith as top speed players joining the Padres system in this draft.
Padres return to pitching – and to the southeast – grabbing Central Florida pitcher Jose (Roman) Madrid with their seventh-round pick, 225th overall. Madrid is a right-handed reliever who posted a 1.00 ERA in 45 innings of work in 2012…45 innings in which he struck out 46.
Another athletic outfielder is headed to the Padres system, as San Diego takes Kentucky outfielder Brian Adams with the 225th pick. Adams is a scholarship wide receiver for the Wildcats’ football team, but make no mistake: Adams is a baseball guy all the way, having announced recently that he will forego his final two seasons on the gridiron to focus on the diamond. That’s probably a good decision: Adams took over as the starter in centerfield as early as his freshman season, and hitting .288 in his first full season at that position as a sophomore. He hit .250 in limited action (27 games) in 2012, but with a full-time focus on baseball and the athleticism that got him a Division I chance in football, Adams joins guys like Jankowski and Smith as stellar athletes in the Padres’ system’s outfielding corps.
The Padres used their ninth-round pick on infielder River Stevens, who posted an off-the-charts .449 batting average at Allen Hancock College in 2012. Stevens has committed to Cal State Fullerton after one year with the Bulldogs, a team managed by his uncle Chris Stevens. A prep standout at San Diego’s Mission Hills high, Stevens transferred to Allen Hancock after one injury-shortened season at Palomar College in San Marcos.
Stephen Carmon, a shortstop from the University of South Carolina-Aiken, is the Padres tenth-round selection, 285th overall. A .348 hitter in 2012, he is yet another player to fit the ultra-speedy mold that is coming to characterize Padres position-player selections in this draft. The small, quick lefty (he’s listed at 5’7″, but so is Alexi Amarista…) was 45-47 on stolen base attempts as a senior.
You mean you didn’t expect to see two SUNY Stony Brook guys in the Padres system by the end of the day…? San Diego grabbed its second Sea Wolf of the day in Maxx Tissenbaum, a 5’11”, 191-pound infielder who earned First Team All-America East honors for his performance as a junior in 2012. A third-team All-American selection, Tissenbaum hit .390 with 48 RBIs – two more than his teammate, Padres day one pick OF Travis Jankowski – this season. The story on Tissenbaum is his propensity for contact: the Ontario native struck out an astonishing SIX times in 223 at-bats in 2012, making him one of the most difficult players to strike out in NCAA history.
After four straight position players, the Padres went back to the rubber in the twelfth-round with lanky 6’5″, 185-pound lefty Drew Harrelson, Georgia’s 1-AA HS pitcher of the year in 2011 for a season in which he struck out 97 in 61 1/3 innings pitched. Harrelson is currently planning to head to junior college, having committed to Middle Georgia College.
Back-to-back infielders and now back-to-back pitchers snagged by the Padres as the thirteenth round sees Puerto Rican Baseball Academy product Malcom Diaz join the Friar fold. At 6’2″, 185 pounds he, like his fellow 18 year-old Harrelson (see above), have some filling out to do…but all that means is more strength is coming to what many seem to think is very solid raw arm strength. Diaz has signed with Alabama State, and it remains to be seen just how strong his commitment to the Hornets is. (Side note: regardless of what comes from these prospects in the future, you now know the mascots of Alabama State, SUNY-Stony Brook, Oklahoma City University, and Allen Hitchcock College. Knowledge you didn’t know you couldn’t live without…and now don’t have to.)
And now for something completely different, (at least geographically) a Missoula, Montana native, high school standout Andrew Sopko, is the Padres 14th-round selection, 435th overall. While he certainly is the only new Padre so far from Big Sky Country, Sopko is in keeping with San Diego’s recent (and by recent I mean…the past two rounds) emphasis on long, lanky arms. At 6’2″, 185, Sopko can also still fill out, and the righty is currently signed to do so at Gonzaga.
UPDATE: Day Two at the draft is officially complete for the Padres. San Diego rounded out their Tuesday with another pitcher, six-foot right-hander Cory Bostjancic of Marin Community College in California. Bostjancic was named to the All-Bay Valley second team as an outfielder after hitting over .300 in 2012, but can hit 90 mph with his fastball, which will earn the 19 year-old a chance on the rubber in the Padres system.
Day Two Draft Blog by Chelsea Janes, Associate Reporter MLB.com, San Diego Padres
Before we pass judgement on the first week of the regular season — and, really, it wasn’t even a full week, instead, the Padres played all of four games, dropping three before defeating the Dodgers on Sunday.
I’m not a big fan of passing judgement — good or bad — on small sample-sizes. It’s not a good way to go through life and in terms of a full Major League season of 162 games, it’s mostly a pointless venture.
That said …
Let’s look at a few things that really stood out during these first four games. As you might guess, most of them aren’t really pleasant. This wasn’t a team that was snake-bitten or largely unlucky in these three games. You can’t really argue that they ‘should have won’ this or that game. You don’t play well, you lose. It’s pretty simple.
Still … it’s four games and if this funk happens in June, few notice. But we don’t have a lot to compare this week with (not Spring Training results, since those are about as salient as the Pet Rock).
So what did we see this week?
— Not much in the way of defense. Through their first four games, the Padres have eight errors. That’s two more than the Giants. Eight errors for a team that has/will depended/depend heavily on run prevention? That was surprising. I don’t think the Padres are a bad defensive team, but I don’t think the will be as good as, say, 2010. We could easily check back in next week and the team might still have eight errors. This looks like a little bit of an aberration to me. Again, let’s give this a little time with the understanding that this team can’t be successful at their current defensive rate.
— The starting pitching scares me. It was easy to pinpoint the Padres hopes for a big season on an improved effort offensively. That’s still the case, but I think what got overlooked some was the starting pitching and that you had two starters coming off surgery (Moseley, Richard) and all without much in the way of a history of being innings-eaters, guys capable and with a history of working deep into games. The first three starters of the year go 5, 4 2/3 and 5 innings. That places a tremendous burden on the bullpen. Add to that Tim Stauffer’s strained right elbow. This is something well worth watching moving forward. The Padres don’t need everyone to do what Clayton Richard did Sunday (7 innings, no earned runs), but it would certainly help.
— The offense. Again, no need to read too much into numbers here, though the 36 strikeouts in four games is a little alarming. No matter what you think of Chad Billingsley, you have to give him some credit for having a monster outing (11 strikeouts, 8 1/3 innings) on Saturday, even if he’d never really shown some of the things he did well (according to the Padres) in his previous starts against them (he has defeated them 12 times, I should add). Are the Padres missing Carlos Quentin? No doubt. They should be better off when he returns from the DL. Strikeouts are bad, hits are good. Duh, I get it Corey.
Again, it will be interesting to review these points in a week, two weeks to see if there’s improvement.
Corey Brock, MLB.com