Sunday, July 20, 2014

So Close: Despaigne's Near No-No Caps Padres Series Win

The Padres opened up the post All-Star game portion of the season with a weekend series with the New York Mets. San Diego closed the first half with back-to-back 1-0 shutout losses at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the series opener against the New York Mets, the Padres bats showed some life, and the team received a pair of tremendous outings from starters Tyson Ross and Odrisamer Despaigne to win the series. 

Ian Kennedy started Friday night's game and struggled with his control. He was unable to throw strikes consistently, which led to an inefficient and ineffective outing. Kennedy lasted five innings and threw over a hundred pitches. He gave four runs and left the game with the Padres trailing 4-0.

San Diego tied the score in the fifth inning, when they put up a four-spot. Second baseman Chris Nelson, who was brought up from AAA El Paso before the game, came through with an RBI single. Alexi Amarista followed with an RBI single of his own, and Chase Headley capped the scoring with an equalizing two-run single. 

The Mets took the lead in the ninth when catcher Travis D'arnaud poked the game-winning RBI through the infield for the game-winning RBI off of Joaquin Benoit. The Padres were turned away in the bottom of the ninth, and lost the opener, 5-4. After the game, the Padres traded closer Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels for four prospects. 

On Saturday night, the Padres handed the ball to All-Star Tyson Ross to help even the series. Ross' slider/sinker combination kept Mets hitters off-balance all night with some of the best
stuff he has displayed all year. Ross pitched seven shutout innings, and the Padres cruised to a 6-0 win over New York.

The Padres offense came on the strength of three solo HR's -- one apiece from Yasmani Grandal, Will Venable and Seth Smith. For Smith, it was his team-leading 11th home run of the year. Chase Headley also continued his hot hitting with two hits and an RBI. 

On Sunday, San Diego sent Cuban sensation Odrisamer Despaigne to the mound to clinch the series victory. Despaigne almost made history. 

Despaigne pitched 7.2 innings without allowing a hit, before David Murphy whacked an opposite-field double into the left center gap. The hit ruined what could have been the Padres first no-hitter in team history. Despaigne baffled Mets hitters all day by constantly changing speeds and his arm angles. Despaigne threw fastballs in the low-90's and breaking balls that danced to the plate at 64 MPH. Despaigne's brilliance was wasted as the Padres allowed a run to score in the eighth and Despaigne left the game with a no-decision. 

With the score tied at 1 in the ninth, the Padres started a rally. Pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin led off the inning, and was replaced by pinch-runner Cameron Maybin. Alexi Amarista attempted to sacrifice the runner over, but ended up reaching on an error by Mets pitcher Vic Black. After Chase Headley grounded into a double play, Seth Smith stepped to the plate with a chance to win the game. He responded with a dribble to the pitchers mound that Mets hurler Josh Edgin could not field. The play allowed Maybin to score, and the Padres escaped with a 2-1 win. Yasmani Grandal had the other RBI for the Padres when he homered for the second consecutive game. 

The Padres took the series, and will head to Chicago to take on the Chicago Cubs in a three-game series. The Padres will be off on Monday. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Breaking Down The Huston Street Deal

The Padres and the Angels agreed upon a trade that will send RHP Huston Street and minor league pitcher Trevor Gott to Los Angeles. In exchange, the Padres will acquire INF Taylor Lindsay, right-handed pitcher R.J. Alvarez and shortstop Jose Rondon and pitcher Elliot Morris
The teams had been discussing a deal for about a week, and things have seemingly come together quickly. On the surface, it seems like the Padres got a good return for their All-Star closer. Here is a little more about the players San Diego acquired. 

2B Taylor Lindsey: Lindsey, 21, was ranked as the Angels #1 prospect (per Baseball America) coming into the 2014 season. He is described by Baseball America as a "scrappy line-drive type of hitter." He is also regarded as a very good low-ball hitter. He is the #93 ranked player in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects. He swings from the left-side and his ceiling is expected to be a .270-.280 hitter with 20 homers. He has drawn comparisons to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. Lindsay was the 37th overall pick in the 2010 Amateur draft. He is currently playing for AAA Salt Lake in the Angels organization, and has produced a triple-slash line of .247/.323/.400, with eight homers and 30 RBI's. Lindsay is expected to report to AAA El Paso. 

P R.J. Alvarez: Alvarez, 23, was the Angels' 3rd round pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft. Alvarez has pitched almost exclusively in relief in his young career. Alvarez is the #4 prospect in the Angels system, and is described as a power arm with a mid-nineties fastball that can touch 98. His heater is also often praised for its movement and explosiveness. He also has a slider that is described as "plus-pitch" that can touch 85. Alvarez will report to AA San Antonio for the Padres organization. On the year, Alvarez has a 0.33 ERA (1 run in 27 innings), and is averaging nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings. 

SS: Jose Rondon: Rondon, 20, is a shortstop out of Venezuela. He is the Angels 12th ranked prospect, according to Baseball America. Rondon does not display much power, but scouts have praised his ability to make contact, even though he does not walk much. Rondon also has above-average speed and projects to be an above-average defender. Rondon will head to Single-A Lake Elsinore, allowing Padres fans to get a sneak preview. Rondon has a triple-slash line of .327/.362/.418, with 0 homers and 24 RBI's. 

P Elliot Morris: Morris is not considered one of the Angels top prospects, but was a 4th round pick in the 2013 Amateur Draft. Morris, 22, has a fastball that sits around 89-93 MPH. He has a curveball and a changeup, but he has yet to find consistency with either pitch. Morris will head to Lake Elsinore, to play for the Storm. On the season at Single-A Inland Empire, Morris has a 3-3 record, with a 4.17 ERA in nine starts. 

Trevor Gott, the player the Padres sent to Los Angeles with Street, is not regarded as one of the Padres top-30 prospects. Overall, it seems that the Padres did very well. as they acquired three of the Angels top-12 prospects.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Major League Baseball And FOX Fail To Mention Tony Gwynn During All-Star Game Broadcast

Major League Baseball and FOX Sports have created a tremendous amount of controversy this evening during the broadcast of the Major League All-Star game, as they failed to mention Padres legend Tony Gwynn, who passed away last month from cancer. 

The broadcast was billed as a swan song for Yankees shortstop and legend Derek Jeter, who was playing in his final All-Star Game. Jeter deserves all the accolades he gets, which included a standing ovation when he left the field and an in-game interview that was essentially a rehash of everything Jeter has accomplished. 

However, Gwynn was a legend in his own right, and his premature death last month only reaffirmed how beloved Gwynn was in the baseball community. The outpouring of grief for the San Diego legend was widespread across the nation, which proved that Gwynn was more than a great player in a sleepy town -- he was one of the most popular baseball players of the last 30 years. 

Perhaps Major League Baseball felt that Gwynn has been honored enough. He was a top story on ESPN for several days and his memorial service attracted more than 20,000 fans to Petco Park. Maybe they felt like a Jeter tribute would cause droves of Yankees fans to flip on their television sets and provide a boost for sagging ratings. Bud Selig and company made sure that the night belonged to Jeter. 

The game also featured one of the most awkward interviews in recent memory when Cardinals pitcher had to apologize for stating that he intended to "groove a few pitches to Jeter." All-Star MVP Mike Trout had to answer a few questions about Jeter in his post-game interview. There was no doubt that the All-Star game became a three-hour informerical for the legendary shortstop. 

The intent here is to take nothing away from Jeter -- this writer grew up idolizing the Yankee great, however, there was plenty of room to mention Gwynn. Does FOX really need to interview the managers of each team? In a three-hour broadcast, a legend like Gwynn deserves a little love, a little remembrance in a game he participated in fifteen times. 

It warms the heart of this San Diego sports fan to see all of the national media who were offended by Gwynn's omission from tonight's broadcast. For those of us in San Diego, it seems pretty trivial. San Diego knows what a great player and person Gwynn truly was. Stories of his abilities,
accomplishments, warmth, kindness and generosity will be reverberated throughout San Diego for years to come. Despite the faux pas during the FOX broadcast, no baseball fan will ever forget the impact Gwynn on San Diego. Shame on Major League Baseball and FOX for failing to recognize that.

An Interview With Padres Prospect Marcus Davis

For many Padres draft picks, their professional careers start in Eugene, Oregon, the home of the Padres short-season affiliate in the Northwest League. It is one of the lowest levels of professional baseball, but for many young players, it is the realization that they are getting paid to chase their dreams of playing Major League Baseball. 

When a player is drafted in the 24th round, the odds are obviously stacked against him.  The Pacific Northwest might be the beginning and the end of the pursuit of a dream most young boys long for. For Marcus Davis, 2013 could have been the end of that journey. A journey that would have ended before it really took flight. A poor season might have led to a career change. 

Davis, 22, struggled out of the gate in Eugene last season, hitting just .176, along with a slugging percentage of .206. Davis admitted that he pressed in attempting to impress the organization. 

"Last year I really struggled. I made all of this way harder than it needed to be. I just tried to remember that it was the same game that I have been playing my whole life." 

A relaxed approach and more experience have truly benefited Davis in his second professional season. Coming into Tuesday night's game for the Eugene Emeralds, Davis is tied for Northwest League with seven homers, and he leads the lead with an impressive 1.111 OPS. Davis credits Emeralds hitting coach and former Padres prospect Homer Bush with helping him alter his approach.

"He helped me simplify my approach. It is really about being selectively aggressive and waiting for a pitch that I know that I can do damage to. That approach has helped me draw more walks and hit for more power. This is my second season of professional baseball so I know what to expect, and Homer has really helped drill a lot of information into my brain. 

Davis has only played professional baseball since last season, however, he is already in Cooperstown -- sort of. Davis played for the Midland Redskins, an amateur baseball team that is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Davis' team won the 2009 Connie Mack National Championship. Davis had his jersey on display in the Hall of Fame. 

"The Midland Redskins are a pretty well-known team around the Midwest. The team is based in Cincinnati (Davis' hometown) that has had a long history of success at the amateur level with players and teams. Since I am from the Cincinnati area, they decided to use my jersey as an example of what it means to play for Midland. It was extremely humbling to see a jersey that I wore hung in Cooperstown. It was one of my proudest moments in baseball." 

Davis went on to play college baseball at Florida State, but left after his junior season. In his only year as a Seminole, Davis finished fifth in the ACC with 62 RBI's and was one of only two players to play all 64 games for the Seminoles. Playing in the ACC helped prepare Davis for a professional career.

"Playing at a winning program definitely teaches you how to compete. Coach Mike Martin and the whole coaching staff do a great job of preparing you to play professional baseball, while having success year-in and year-out." 

Despite the success Davis had his junior year, he slipped to the Padres in the 24th round. Instead of returning for his senior season and perhaps attempting to raise his draft stock, Davis chose to sign with the San Diego Padres. It was a choice that did not involve a lengthy sales pitch from the San Diego brass.

"It has always been a life-long dream of mine to play professional baseball. They did not need to say much, because I was just looking for an opportunity to play baseball professionally. It was really difficult to leave Florida State, but I had to do what was best for myself and my career."

Davis' long-term goal isn't to make a ton of money and buy sports cars or mansions, but to take care of his family, who have made sacrifices to help him achieve his dreams. 

"I want to repay my parents for everything they have done for me. Advancing through professional baseball and achieving my goals will help me do that."

Davis is showing the San Diego organization that he can fulfill his potential, and give the Padres the slugger they so desire. For Davis, he hopes that 2014 is just the beginning of something special.

Monday, July 14, 2014

San Diego Padres Trade Chips: Who Gets Dealt?

When the San Diego Padres raised their payroll to a club-record $90 million for the 2014 season, the ownership group and many fans expected the team to be more competitive than they have been in years past. However, the team's offensive has struggled badly and general manager Josh Byrnes has already been thrown overboard on the sinking ship that has become Padres baseball. Despite the team's struggle, they do feature a number of veterans who have drawn significant interest from contending teams. This author has assessed the Padres trade chips and the odds of the player being moved at the trade deadline. Get ready to place your bets. 

CP Huston Street: Street seems to be generating the most interest among relievers in baseball. The Angels have expressed interest in the Padres closer, and other contenders such as the Pirates and Tigers could use an upgrade in the back-end of their respective bullpens. Street, 30, is in the midst of his finest season as a professional, and is headed to his second All-Star game. For the year, Street is 1-0, with 1.09 ERA in 33 games. His 24 saves rank fifth in the National League and he has blown just two save chances in the last 1 1/2 seasons. Street is making $7 million this year and has a reasonable option of $7 million for next season. Odds of being moved: 85%.

SP Ian Kennedy: The Padres traded for Kennedy at the deadline last season as a buy-low acquisition. Kennedy has quietly had a solid season for the Friars. Kennedy, 29, is 7-9 with a 3.47 ERA on the year, and is third in the National League in strikeouts. Kennedy's fastball is averaging nearly 92 MPH on his fastball, per Fangraphs, which is the best velocity he has displayed in five years. Kennedy is earning $6.1 million this season, and is eligible for arbitration one last time in 2015. The Angels have expressed interest and the Orioles, Mariners, Royals and Indians could ask about the San Diego righty. Odds of being moved: 65%.

3B Chase Headley: In 2012, it appeared that the Padres developed their best homegrown position player since Tony Gwynn. The Colorado native led the National League with 115 RBI's, smacked 31 home runs and posted a WAR north of seven. The organization attempted to extend Headley on a few occasions, but talks never seemed to get very far. While Headley may not be the slugger he appeared to be in 2012, he could still thrive on a team where he is not expected to be the lineup's catalyst. Headley started off slowly in 2014, but has swung the bat well after receiving an epidural treatment in his ailing back. Headley is making $10.1 million this year and is eligible for free agency after the season. The Yankees would be a perfect fit, but the Blue Jays and Royals seem to make sense as well. Odds of being moved: 75%

OF Chris Denorfia: Denorfia is a fan-favorite in San Diego and is a favorite of this writer. He can play any outfield position, has historically mashed left-handed pitching and runs through walls to help his team win. Denorfia is having his worst season in a Padres uniform, as evidenced by his .244 average, but would make a great fourth outfielder on a contending team. The Royals, Red Sox (if they decide to buy) and Atlanta would be great fits. Denorfia, 34, is making a modest $2.2 million this year and is eligible for free agency after this season. Odds of being moved: 85%

OF Carlos Quentin: There is no doubt that Carlos Quentin can be a game-changing bat. Unfortunately, injuries have ruined what used to be a perennial MVP candidate. Quentin hasn't played more than 86 games since 2011, when he was an All-Star for the White Sox. Still just 31, Quentin makes a ton of sense for an American League team that needs a DH -- he simply should not be in the outfield anymore. A trade may be difficult to facilitate, since Quentin has a full no-trade clause and is signed through 2015. The Mariners, Orioles, Angels and Indians could all use another bat. Odds of being moved: 20%

RP: Joaquin Benoit: Benoit has been worth every penny he has made this season, after the Padres rewarded him with a two-year deal. Benoit, 36, has dominated the National League, with a 1.86 ERA. He is one of the reasons why the Padres have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. Benoit is making $6 million this season, $8 million next year and has an option for $8 million in 2016, that vests if Benoit finishes 55 games in 2015. The Tigers have expressed an interest in a Benoit reunion and the Yankees, Brewers and Dodgers could use his services as well. The Padres are not particularly eager to trade both Benoit and Street, so it will be interesting to see who has the greatest value. Odds of being dealt: 25%

In addition to the aforementioned players, Will Venable, Tyson Ross, Everth Cabrera, Dale Thayer and Alex Torres should generate interest, although it seems unlikely that any from this group will be moved. The Padres are still in the process of searching for a general manager, so it will be interesting to see what moves the front office makes over the next few weeks. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Race For the Padres GM Job: The Contenders

The Padres are searching the nation for their next general manager, as they have profiled close to a dozen candidates since Josh Byrnes was fired. Here are the candidates who have interviewed for the gig: 

Larry Beinfest: Benifest was the first candidate to interview for the position. Beinfest is intriguing for multiple reasons: He is the former general manager of the Florida/Miami Marlins and he built the squad that won the 2003 World Series. Beinfest was raised in California and has experience working with limited resources. The Marlins were a consistent winner with Beinfest at the helm. 

A.J. Preller: Preller is currently an assistant general manager with the Texas Rangers. He has worked for Major League Baseball, as well as for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has worked for the Rangers for the last ten seasons, and is credited with helping Texas scout Latin America and Japan. 

Billy Eppler: Eppler is currently an assistant GM with the New York Yankees. Eppler is actually a native San Diegan and is considered by many to be the "right-hand" man of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Eppler was also a scout for the Padres in the early 2000's. When Brian Cashman created a pro scouting department, he selected Eppler to head the organization. 

Ray Montgomery: Montgomery is currently employed as the director of scouting for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has also spent time with the Milwaukee Brewers and even played three seasons in the big leagues. The Padres offered Montgomery a job as the scouting director in 2009, but he declined. He is credited with discovering Rickie Weeks. 

Logan White: White is currently the Vice President of Amateur Scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has been with the Dodgers for the last 12 seasons. He is responsible for the draft selection of players like Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin. Before his time in Los Angeles, White spent time with the Baltimore Orioles, as the West Coast Supervisor, in charge of overseeing all of the area scouts in the area. He held that same position for the Padres from 2003-2005. 

Mike Hazen: Hazen currently serves as the assistant general manager for the Boston Red Sox. Hazen also worked for current Padres CEO Mike Dee while he was in Boston. Hazen was also drafted by the Padres in 1998 as a player, after attending Princeton University. 

The Padres are also interested in talking to Kim Ng, who currently works as the Senior-Vice President for Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball. She is also the former assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers. She has not interviewed for the job yet. 

In addition to the candidates who have interviewed for the Padres general manager job, several executives have turned down the shot to run the Friars. Cubs executive Jason McLeod, David Forst of the A's, Mike Chernoff of the Indians and Cardinals assistant general manager Michael Girsch have withdrawn their names for consideration for the job. Omar Minaya, who is currently works for the Padres, has declined to interview for the position, citing family reasons. 

San Diego hopes to have a general manager in place by the end of the July, although it is unclear whether the executive will in place in time for the trade deadline.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Padres Sign Seth Smith To An Extension

The Padres made a surprising transaction today, as the team announced that they have signed outfielder Seth Smith to a two-year, $13 million contract. The move was first announced by Padres.com writer Corey Brock. 

Smith's new deal will keep him in San Diego through 2016. Smith will make $6 million in 2015, and $6.75 million in 2016. The deal will contain a $7 million option for 2017, with a $250,000 buyout. 

Smith, 31, is in the midst of his best offensive season, as the outfielder has posted a triple-slash line of .281/.384/.506, with nine homers and 25 RBI's. Smith was slated to hit free agency after the 2014 season. 
The move is interesting to say the least, as the Padres are currently without a permanent general manager. 

Smith figured to be a major trade chip for the Padres, as the veteran has seemingly conquered Petco Park. He seemed likely to fetch the Padres a prospect or two, but now the outfielder will make his home in San Diego for the next few years. 

San Diego is still said to be shopping much of their veteran core, including Chase Headley, Ian Kennedy and Huston Street. From today's transaction, Smith will not be going anywhere this season.