|Tuesday, March 30
Updated: March 31, 12:52 PM ET
Padres minor league report
By Vin Vitro
A once dormant player development system has been revitalized since the arrival of owner John Moores four years ago. It is now a decent all-around system with future everyday contributors in C BEN DAVIS and RHP MATT CLEMENT, both selected to the HOWE SPORTSDATA All-Prospect Team in 1998.
It also has a deep but underachieving shortstop group, replenished outfield depth and some strong right arms. Lefthanded pitching and first base are weaknesses.
Davis has all-star potential, combining a vastly improved bat and an outstanding defensive game. 3B GEORGE ARIAS, an ex-Angel farmhand who no longer is a rookie, had a tremendous Triple-A campaign in '98 (.308, 36 HR, 119 RBI) and is the favorite to take over the hot corner from Ken Caminiti.
The organization has four highly regarded players at shortstop, including two first-round picks, MATT HALLORAN and KEVIN NICHOLSON, who combined to hit .220 with six homers, 206 strikeouts and 76 errors in 1998. SS JUAN MELO and SS CESARIN CARMONA also have promise, but have yet to put up the numbers.
The area the San Diego Padres have really solidified over the past few years has been the outfield. Homegrown GARY MATTHEWS is a legitimate prospect while the Padres have brought in RUBEN RIVERA, MIKE DARR and PETE TUCCI, among others, from the outside.
Clement, who has been one of the top pitchers in the game the last two years, has a starting job to lose. At Double-A in '98, 20-year-old RHP BUDDY CARLYLE, acquired from the Reds in the Marc Kroon deal, won 14 games while exhibiting an advanced feel for the game. Class-A arms RHP HARRY HERNDON, RHP JASON MIDDLEBROOK, who was hitting 95 mph by season's end, and RHP WASCAR SERRANO have up-sides. Another power arm is RHP DOMINGO GUZMAN, whose power arm ranks with the best in the organization, fell off some because of arm problems, but he could be a real surprise.
RATING THE ORGANIZATION
HITTING - C Davis and decent outfielders, but shortstops must step up PITCHING - C Clement, projectable power arms, but no lefties
TOP PROSPECTS AND PERFORMERS (WITH FUTURE PROJECTIONS)
BEN DAVIS (C) - ALL-STAR
The Padres' catcher of the future, Davis is a top-flight defensive catcher who will control an opponent's running game and handle the pitching staff well. He has a terrific arm behind the plate and threw out 56.6% of opposing basestealers last season, the best percentage of any Double-A catcher. The 21-year-old was named to HOWE SPORTSDATA's All-Prospect Team as the minors' top catching prospect.
After batting just .182 in April, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound backstop used a shortened swing in 1998 to hit a career-high .286 with 14 homers and 75 RBI at Double-A, including .327 with 19 doubles away from pitcher- friendly Mobile. A switch-hitter, Davis hit equally well from both sides of the plate but had a little more pop from the right side where he is strictly a pull hitter. He also showed much better discipline from both sides, walking a career-high 42 times while cutting his strikeouts from 107 in '97 to just 60, an excellent sign for future success. While defense will always be his strong suit, the Southern League All-Star should more than hold his own offensively. He hit well in the Arizona Fall League, batting .300 (30- 100) with a pair of homers and 13 RBI for Scottsdale.
The second overall pick in the 1995 draft, Davis was a Pioneer League All-Star that summer with Idaho Falls (.279, 5 HR, 46 RBI) before struggling in 1996 at Rancho Cucamonga (.201, 6 HR, 41 RBI) against much older competition. He reaffirmed the Padres faith in him with a solid '97 season with the Quakes (.278, 17 HR, 76 RBI) before jumping to Double-A in '98.
GARY MATTHEWS (OF) - MAJOR LEAGUE REGULAR
Gary Matthews, Jr. is a tools player with excellent athletic ability. He is solid defensively and has the range to play centerfield and an arm strong enough for right. Offensively, the 24-year-old switch-hitter has a nice swing, especially from the left side, some speed on the bases and a little pop in his bat.
Matthews got off to a fast start in '98, hitting .395 (30-76) with a pair of homers, 25 RBI and five steals in his first 21 games before a right wrist injury sidelined him for two months. He hit .270 (48-178) after his return to wind up at .307 with seven homers, 51 RBI and 11 steals. The 6- foot-3, 200-pounder struggled against lefthanded pitching, hitting just .210 (13-62) compared to a .339 (65-192) mark against righthanders.
The son of former major leaguer Gary "Sarge" Matthews was the Padres' 13th-round pick in 1993. He split the 1997 campaign between Rancho Cucamonga and Mobile, hitting .288 with ten homers, 52 RBI and 13 steals. Matthews also missed time in '97 with an injury to his left wrist.
DAMIAN JACKSON (SS) - PLATOON/BACKUP
Acquired from the Padres in the Greg Vaughn deal in February, Jackson can fill a utility role with the ability to play middle infield and in the outfield. A low draft pick by the Indians in 1992, Jackson went to the Reds in the John Smiley trade a couple of years ago.
A slow starter, Damian batted just .194 in April of '97 and finished at .288. Last season, Jackson batted .186 in April, was batting just .216 at the end of July but hit .374 the rest of the way to finish at .261, reaching career-highs in runs (102), doubles (36) and triples (10).
Jackson's forte is spectacular defense and speed. The California native has tremendous range, a great arm and quick body actions, however he did make 44 miscues for Indianapolis at shortstop, up from 29 at Buffalo two years ago. A two-time American Association All-Star, the 5-foot-10, 160 pounder has not been able to make consistent enough contact or hit the ball on the ground enough to take advantage of his speed. In his seven-year career, Jackson has swiped 205 bases in 281 attempts for a 73% success rate.
JUAN MELO (SS) - PLATOON/BACKUP
Melo, a solid defensive player with size and a strong arm, is a switch-hitter who prefers the left side.
The 22-year-old Dominican hit .272 with six homers and 47 RBI for Las Vegas in '98, following up on a .286-8-73 campaign in '97 spent mostly at Mobile. He's strictly an opposite field hitter from both sides with limited power and is not too quick. He chases too many bad pitches and needs to be more disciplined at the plate.
Melo had his finest season in 1996 at Rancho Cucamonga, hitting .304 with eight homers and 75 RBI for Rancho Cucamonga. In six years of pro ball he has hit .284 with 30 home runs, 40 stolen bases and just 147 walks in 2256 at-bats.
SEAN BURROUGHS (3B) - MAJOR LEAGUE REGULAR (based on tools at this point)
The son of former major leaguer Jeff Burroughs was the ninth overall pick in the draft last June. The 18-year-old accepted a big bonus from the Padres just before he was scheduled to start classes at USC and just after the '98 season ended, so he will make his pro debut in 1999.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound former Little League World Series hero is a big kid with a potent bat. He has the potential to be an offensive force that can hit for power and a high average. Burroughs also has the tools to become a solid defensive third baseman.
Given the current lack of depth at the corner infield spots in the Padres' organization, Burroughs has a chance to move rapidly through the system, though it is very unlikely to expect him to make his major league debut at the age of 19 like his father did.
MIKE DARR (OF) - PLATOON/BACKUP
Darr is a solid all-around player who does a lot of things well. A pure hitter with a good eye at the plate, he has a chance to add some power to his game. The 22-year-old runs well and has a strong arm in right or centerfield. He is the son of former pitcher Mike Darr, who made it to the big leagues with Toronto in 1977.
Darr was a Southern League All-Star in 1998 after batting .310 with six homers, 90 RBI and 28 steals for Mobile. He ranked second in the league in runs (105), was third in doubles (41) and ninth in hitting. After a slow start, he hit .343 (86-251) with four homers and 45 RBI in the second half. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder strung together a 17-game hitting streak June 29-July 18, batting .437 (31-71) with a homer and 16 RBI. Darr played for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League and hit .272 (34-125) with three homers and 21 RBI for the Scorpions. The lefthanded hitter batted .272 against fellow lefthanders, but if he is to hit more homers he'll have to start turning on more pitches.
Originally drafted by Detroit in the second round in 1994, Darr was traded to the Padres in 1997 late in spring training for veteran second baseman Jody Reed. A bit of a disappointment with the Tigers, he responded to the trade with an All-Star season in the California League (.344, 15 HR, 94 RBI, 23 SB) and was named the Padres' minor league Player of the Year.
PETE TUCCI (OF) - PLATOON/BACKUP (bat could carry him to ALL-STAR)
Tucci put together a tremendous season in 1998, hitting for both power and average for the first time. The Florida State League All-Star hit .329 at Dunedin before getting the call to Double-A at the end of July. At the time of his promotion, the 23-year-old was leading the Florida State League with 23 homers and 30 doubles, both on pace to break the league records of 33 and 48, respectively. After hitting .291 with 36 RBI in 38 games for Knoxville, the righty swinger ended the season with 112 RBI, tied for ninth in the minors, and the National Association's eighth-best total base (299) and extra-base hit (74) figures.
With a prototypical flyball-producing swing, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder took advantage of the homer-friendly Dunedin and Knoxville parks by clubbing 23 of his organization-leading 30 homers at home. Still, he hit reasonably well on the road in the Florida State League. He hit .410 in June, fifth in the minors, including a streak of eight consecutive multi-hit games. In the Southern League, Tucci was not so fortunate on the road, hitting just .164 with one homer.
Originally a supplemental first-rounder of the Blue Jays in 1996, Tucci came to the Padres as part of the recent Joey Hamilton deal. The Providence College product's biggest liability is his defense in the outfield. He does not have a very good arm and does not track fly balls well. Given the Padres' relative depth in the outfield, a move to first base to try to replace the aging Wally Joyner could be in Tucci's future.
KEVIN NICHOLSON (SS) - PLATOON/BACKUP
Nicholson's sweet swing and switch hitting ability made him one of the top college hitters available in the 1997 draft. The Padres made the British Columbia native the first Canadian ever selected in the first round of the draft when they tabbed him with the 27th overall pick that year. The Stetson product was a second team All-American and Trans America Conference Player of the Year in his junior year with the Hatters. He also showed he could swing the wooden bat in the Cape Cod League in 1996 when he was named the league's MVP.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder started his pro career with a short stint in the Arizona League (9-34, 2 HR, 8 RBI) before joining Rancho Cucamonga to close out the '97 campaign. He hit .323 (21-65) with a homer and nine RBI in 17 games for the Quakes but broke the hamate bone in his wrist, missing the season's last two weeks and leading to a winter of rehab.
The Padres pushed Nicholson in 1998, starting him at Mobile, and the 22-year-old struggled against the advanced competition. On his way to a .215 average, he hit .138 (13-94) in July, the lowest average in the minors that month, and ended the season in a 5-for-43 funk. He hit .272 (40- 147) against lefthanders but batted just .191 (65-341) against righthanders and went more than three straight games without a strikeout just twice on the year.
Despite the poor '98 season, Nicholson remains an excellent prospect with a great, short swing and some gap power, though he will need to make better contact at the plate. Defensively, he has a strong arm but may not have the range to stay at shortstop and could move over to second base.
KEVIN EBERWEIN (3B) - FRINGE
A fifth-round draft pick in 1998 from UNLV, Eberwein went to the Midwest League, slugged .522 in 65 games and played pretty well at the hot corner. The 6-foot-4, 200 pounder started his pro career 4-for-30 with 11 strikeouts before settling into a groove and finishing with a .296 average, 20 doubles, ten homers and 38 RBI, excellent power numbers for the pitcher- friendly league.
The righthanded hitter's bat is his best tool. He committed 17 errors in 51 games at third base, a .902 fielding percentage, but the Padres liked what they saw.
The 21-year-old batted .377 with 16 homers and 52 RBI last spring for the Runnin Rebels.
GREG LaROCCA (INF) - FRINGE
A gritty player who gets the most out of his ability, LaRocca has worked hard to put himself in line for a shot as a utility player at the major league level. He has a good glove and is versatile enough to play second, third and short, and he also played some outfield for the first time in his career in 1998. Offensively, he is a decent hitter who uses the whole field and has a .287 career average and surprising pop in his bat.
A California League All-Star in 1995 as a shortstop (.322, 8 HR, 74 RBI, 15 SB), LaRocca spent the next two seasons at Double-A (.271, 9 HR, 73 RBI) before moving up to Las Vegas in '98. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder took to the utility role with the Stars, playing 26 games at third, 24 at second, 22 at short and 19 in the outfield and hitting .309 with eight homers and 39 RBI. He hit over .300 against both righties (.313) and lefties (.301), and he also hit for the cycle (4-5, 3 RBI) July 1 in a 7-4 win over Nashville.
LaRocca was the Padres' tenth-round pick in 1994 out of Massachusetts after a standout collegiate career for the Minutemen.
CESARIN CARMONA (SS) - FRINGE
Carmona is an exciting prospect with great tools at shortstop. Though he is still very raw, the 22-year-old Dominican has a terrific arm, great range, excellent speed and some power potential.
A former switch-hitter, Carmona hit a career-high .261 with a pair of homers and 45 RBI while batting mostly out of the ninth spot in the order for Rancho Cucamonga in 1998. He hit better as the season went on and hit .282 (58-206) in the second half. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder began using his speed more at the end of the season, bunting for base hits and getting more aggressive on the basepaths. Seventeen of his 21 steals came in the final two months of the season.
Carmona's strike zone judgment must improve as he had just 17 walks while striking out 99 times last season. He also needs to become more consistent defensively. He is prone to lapses in concentration in the field and will occasionally boot the routine grounder.
After hitting just .197 with two homers and 21 RBI in 104 games with Clinton in 1996, Carmona spent the first two months of the 1997 season in extended spring training before returning to Clinton to hit .252 with 11 homers, 32 RBI and 15 steals in 65 games for the Lumber Kings.
MIKE MITCHELL (1B) FRINGE
A ninth-round pick in 1994, Mitchell was released by the Yankees after the '95 season because docters said he could no longer play again because of a shoulder injury. He sat out '96, was signed by the Padres for '97 and earned California League All-Star honors in '97 (.350, 17 HR, 106 RBI) and Southern League All-Star honors in '98 (.318, 15 HR, 97 RBI).
Mitchell will be 26 by Opening Day, but he has proven he can hit, hit for power to all fields and make consistent contact. He's no bargain defensively, but with San Diego lacking in first base alternatives to Wally Joyner, Mitchell could get a shot in the near future.
JOHN POWERS (3B) FRINGE
A 21st-round draft pick in 1996, Powers has surprised the organization with the extra-base pop, his ability to command the strike zone and his relatively smooth conversion to the hot corner.
Drafted as a second baseman, Powers made the swicth in 1998 and fielded a very respectable .941 while batting .303 and finishing fourth in on-base percentage (.406). The 24-year-old lefthanded hitter slugged 27 doubles, hit 12 homers, drove in 52 runs and walked as many times as he struck out, 76.
At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, the University of Arizona product doesn't have the stature or raw power for the hot corner, but with second base experience, Powers could find himself fighting for a utility job in a year or so.
SHEA MORENZ (OF) FRINGE
Morenz, the former quarterback at the University of Texas and the Yankees first-round pick in 1995, was acquired last August in the Jim Bruske deal.
The 25-year-old, who hit .246 with ten homers in his first three years, batted .252 with 15 homers at Double-A Norwich prior to the trade last season, and .297 with another homer in 13 games at Triple-A Las Vegas after the deal.
The 6-foot-2, 205 pounder hasn't lived up to his power potential and his other skills are adequate at best.
MATT CLEMENT (RHP) - TOP OF ROTATION STARTER (has ALL-STAR stuff)
One of the top pitching prospects in the game, Clement is the name that always comes up in trade talks with other teams. The Padres have wisely held on to him, and the 24-year-old should fill one of the holes created by the recent losses of Kevin Brown and Joey Hamilton from last year's rotation.
Armed with a low-90's sinking fastball and a nasty slider, Clement induces ground ball after ground ball to go along with his high strikeout totals. The 1998 Howe Sportsdata All-Prospect team member also throws a changeup and is an aggressive pitcher with excellent command of his pitches. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound righthander loves to come inside on hitters as he led the minors in hit batsmen for the second straight season last year. He drilled 30 batters in '98, the most in the Pacific Coast League since 1909 when Oakland's George Boice hit 35 in a whopping 391.2 innings.
Clement went 10-9, 3.98 ERA for Las Vegas last season, leading the PCL in strikeouts (160) while ranking second in walks (85) and fifth in innings (171.2). He was a September call-up and went 2-0, 4.61 ERA in four games with the Padres, picking up his first major league win (5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 SO) September 19 in a 4-1 win over the Rockies.
The Padres' third-round pick in 1993, Clement emerged as a top prospect with a fantastic '97 campaign. He put earlier control problems in the past and started throwing more strikes and the result was a 6-3, 1.60 ERA start for Rancho Cucamonga. He was promoted to Mobile at mid-season and was 6-5, 2.56 ERA for the Bay Bears. His overall 2.05 ERA and 201 strikeouts both ranked among the minor league leaders.
HARRY HERNDON (RHP) - TOP OF ROTATION STARTER
Herndon emerged as one the Padres' top prospects last summer, showing a plus arm and maturity beyond his years. The just-turned-20-year-old opened the '98 season at Clinton and went 10-8, 2.99 ERA in 21 starts there, including an eight-start stretch in June and July where he was 6-0, 1.15 ERA. He was promoted to Rancho Cucamonga in late-July and went 3-2, 3.40 ERA in six starts there. He also pitched well in a pair of playoff starts for the Quakes, going 0-0, 1.93 ERA (14 IP, 11 H, 0 BB, 14 SO).
A ninth-round pick out of high school in 1997, Herndon went 3-2, 4.42 ERA and led the Arizona League in innings pitched (77.1) that summer. He tossed five scoreless innings in his only start for Idaho Falls.
Herndon is a fastball-curve-change pitcher and is very polished for someone with his limited pro experience. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has excellent movement on a fastball that he can bring in the low-90's. He also showed good control of his curveball and the ability to throw strikes, as evidenced by a SO/BB ratio of nearly three-to-one.
BUDDY CARLYLE (RHP) - MIDDLE OF ROTATION STARTER
The winningest pitcher in the Padres' farm system in '98, Carlyle went 14-7, 3.43 ERA in 28 Double-A starts, beginning the year as the second youngest pitcher in the Southern League. Originally Cincinnati's second-round pick in 1996, he opened the season at Chattanooga but made just one start there before getting traded to the Padres for Marc Kroon in April. The 21-year-old spent the rest of the campaign at Mobile and wound up leading the Southern League in innings (188.2) while ranking second in wins, setting a club record, and fourth in ERA.
Carlyle pitched at least five innings in all 28 of his starts and reeled off six straight wins June 26-July 27, another club record, posting a 2.88 ERA over that stretch (50 IP, 46 H, 14 BB, 30 SO). The 6-foot-3, 175-pound righthander continued to pitch well in the playoffs, going 2-0, 3.86 ERA in two starts for the Southern League champs.
The 14-win season was the second straight for Carlyle, who was coming off a 14-5, 2.77 ERA performance for Charleston-WV in 1997 that included a seven-inning no-hitter and a South Atlantic League record 40 consecutive innings without a walk. He handled the jump from low Class-A to Double-A well and seemed to pitch better as the season wore on.
Carlyle's great control and mound savvy are his greatest attributes, but he also has excellent arm strength and the stamina to be a workhorse starter. His fastball is clocked around the 90 mph mark, and he could add a little velocity as he fills out his frame. He has a good overhand curve that he can throw for strikes and a straight change to complement his heater.
HEATH MURRAY (LHP) - SWINGMAN
In an organization void of lefthanded pitchers, Murray is the best and perhaps only southpaw the Padres farm system has. A Southern League All-Star in 1996 (13-9, 3.21 ERA), the 25-year-old hasn't been as effective the last two years. He's gone a combined 15-17, 5.17 ERA at Triple-A and got hit at a .376 clip in 17 major league appearances.
Murray has got above average stuff for a lefthander, including an upper-80 mph fastball, and has command of four pitches. The changeup is his best pitch.
WASCAR SERRANO (RHP) - SETUP MAN
Serrano is a hardthrower with a great arm and body who throws strikes. He throws his fastball in the low-90's and can move it around the plate. The 20-year-old Dominican also has a curveball that can be very effective when he keeps it low in the strike zone. Like most young pitchers, he needs to work on a changeup and learn to change speeds better.
After two years with the Padres' co-op club in the Dominican Summer League, Serrano made his debut in the States in 1997. He had an impressive stint in the Arizona League that summer, going 6-3, 3.18 ERA. The 6-foot-2, 178-pound righthander tied for the league-lead in wins and was sixth in ERA while fanning 75 and walking 22 in 70.2 innings and holding opposing hitters to a .221 average.
At Clinton in 1998, Serrano went 9-7, 3.22 ERA. He led the Lumber Kings' staff in strikeouts (143) and ranked third in the Padres' farm system in strikeouts and fifth in ERA. He finished the season on a roll, going 5- 0, 1.86 ERA in his last seven starts (48.1 IP, 37 H, 15 BB, 47 SO).
BRYAN WOLFF (RHP) - FRINGE
Wolff may have turned his career around after a terrific 1998 campaign. After starting the season in the bullpen at Mobile (2-2, 4.31 ERA), the 26-year-old joined the rotation in June and went 3-0, 1.50 ERA in his first four starts, including an 11-strikeout performance June 2 at West Tenn and a two-hit shutout June 7 at Jacksonville, to earn a promotion to Las Vegas. He pitched out of the bullpen for the Stars (0-0, 6.75 ERA) for a month before re-joining Mobile and went 4-1, 1.74 ERA in ten more starts there. On the season, he was 7-1, 1.67 ERA in 14 starts and added three complete games and two shutouts.
Wolff pitched into the sixth inning in all 14 starts, went at least seven innings ten times and added four double-digit strikeout games for good measure. He won the Southern League ERA title (2.29) and tied for the lead in complete games. He also led the league's starters with a .181 opponents' batting average and a baserunners/9 IP ratio of 8.36 while ranking second in walks/9 IP (2.11) and fourth in strikeouts/9 IP (8.97).
The Oral Roberts product kicked off the post season by retiring the first 23 batters he faced before surrendering back-to-back singles with two out in the eighth inning, settling for a two-hit, 3-0 shutout over Huntsville September 9. He fanned ten, including the side in the second inning, while walking a batter in the ninth inning. Wolff pitched a complete game (9 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 SO) in his other playoff start, stopping Jacksonville 8-1 on September 14. He continued to pitch well in the Arizona Fall League, going 3-0, 2.33 ERA in nine starts (46.1 IP, 32 H, 16 BB, 56 SO) for Scottsdale and leading the loop in strikeouts and ranking second in ERA.
Originally drafted by the Padres in the 18th-round in 1993, Wolff was traded to the Royals along with Bip Roberts in the Wally Joyner trade before the 1996 season. He returned to the Padres as a free agent after Kansas City released him early in the '97 season. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound righthander entered the '98 season with a career record of 14-29 with 49 saves and a 4.26 ERA.
Wolff finally began to trust his stuff, which was always good, and threw strikes in 1998. His fastball doesn't reach the 92-93 mph range from a few years back, but it along with his changeup is a good pitch. He's also learned how to pitch.
DOMINGO GUZMAN (RHP) - FRINGE
One of the best pure arms in the organization, Guzman has the stuff to be a solid major league pitcher. His fastball is regularly clocked in the mid-90's, he has made great progress with his breaking ball and he also throws a decent changeup. The 23-year-old Dominican has battled tendinitis in his shoulder, and there is a concern that he is unwilling to try to pitch through his injuries and some have questioned his makeup.
After back-to-back injury-shortened seasons at Class-A in '96 (4-7, 6.17 ERA) and '97 (7-7, 3.92 ERA), Guzman missed the first two months of the '98 campaign with an elbow strain. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder made four starts for Rancho Cucamonga (1-1, 3.74 ERA) before joining Mobile. He made eight starts for the Bay Bears (4-2, 4.64 ERA) through July 30 before another bout with tendinitis limited him to just four more relief appearances (1-0, 1 SV, 3.38 ERA) over the final five weeks.
JASON MIDDLEBROOK (RHP) - FRINGE (could be TOP OF ROTATION STARTER if arm stays sound)
While his numbers were not outstanding, the Padres had to be happy that Middlebrook remained healthy all season while his fastball edged back to the 95 mph mark. The 23-year-old tied for the California League-lead in starts (28) and led the Rancho Cucamonga staff in innings (150) and strikeouts (132) while going 10-12, 4.92 ERA. He was the Quakes' most consistent pitcher down the stretch, going 6-3, 2.20 ERA in his last nine starts (57.1 IP, 42 H, 17 BB, 49 SO).
After a stellar year at Stanford in 1994 that saw him make the Freshman All-America team and earn Pac-10 All-Southern Division honors, Middlebrook was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the country and figured to go in the first few picks of the '96 draft. Two potentially career-threatening elbow operations later, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder was considered a gamble when the Padres took him in the ninth round and paid him a sizable bonus to skip his senior season with the Cardinal.
Finally healthy enough to pitch, Middlebrook made his pro debut in May of 1997 and went 0-2, 4.03 ERA for Rancho Cucamonga before finishing the season with Clinton (6-4, 3.98 ERA).
Middlebrook has two solid pitches with a good overhand curve and a mid-90's fastball with movement, and he is working on his changeup. He is a good competitor who is not afraid to work both sides of the plate. Middlebrook has not missed a start in a season and a half, and he could move quickly if his elbow holds up.
JOSH HARRIS (RHP) - FRINGE
After posting a 4.77 ERA and allowing opponents a .311 average in two years at rookie-level Billings, Harris had a breakthrough year at Burlington in 1998 and was traded to the Padres in the Greg Vaugn deal in February.
Despite a 10-12 record, the 21-year-old led the organization with a 3.05 ERA, even though his ERA had been 2.58 before giving up eight runs in his second-to-last start. Harris also led the organization in strikeouts (169), tied for the Midwest League lead in complete games (6) and shutouts (2), ranked second in innings (177), tied for third in starts (27) and finished fifth in strikeouts (169).
The 6-foot-3, 220 pounder posted seven games with ten or more strikeouts, six coming in the second half, and 17 of his 27 appearances were quality starts. In addition to his punchout prowess, the 21-year-old had good control as his 3.8:1 strikeout to walk ratio will attest.
Despite having the size of a power pitcher, Harris, a 26th-round pick in 1996, is not overpowering. He matured over the last year and reported in better shape, improved his changeup while continuing to throw his fastball in the low-90 mph range.