Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moorad on Tate

In response to the suspension of Donavan Tate, who twice has tested positive for a "drug of abuse," the Padres will not try to recoup any of the $6.25 million they guaranteed Tate in August 2009, Padres CEO Jeff Moorad said today to this blog.

Moorad said of the Tate fallout: "I think we need to do a better job as an organization understanding the character and makeup of players who we bring in."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tate suspended

Is the $6.25 million the Padres guaranteed to Donavan Tate starting to look like the $3.15 million the Padres spent on Matt Bush, a fellow top-3 pick in the draft?

West Coast Bias doesn't hear a flushing sound just yet.

But Tate is serving a 50-game suspension for a "drug of abuse" violation, major league baseball announced today. The drug is Spice, a synthetic cannabis. Tate also tested positive for a "drug of abuse" sometime between when the Padres signed him in August 2009 and the start of this season. After a first positive test, a player is told he will be subjected to additional tests, beyond the random tests for all players.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Confidence dividend

Corey Luebke brought a lot of confidence to the mound today in his first start of the season. In all five of his innings, Luebke attacked the Braves with fastballs. He worked fast. He acted like he was in charge.

"He's coming at you," Chipper Jones said after San Diego's 4-1 victory, which decided the series. "He says, 'Here it is. Hit it.' "

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Luebke

Cory Luebke, the lefty pitcher who starts for the Padres tomorrow, is many things to many people.

In tiny Maria Stein, the Ohio town where he grew up, the lanky 26-year-old is a source of pride and diversion. Everybody in Maria Stein knows that Luebke's dad works as a laborer for Crown Equipment, which makes lift trucks. Go to the courthouse and you'll find Cory's mom, a clerk.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Newsstand

After the Padres won at Fenway Park Tuesday, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz praised Mat Latos for breaking tendencies when behind in the count. Source: Boston Herald. West Coast Bias caught up with Padres broadcaster Dick Enberg before he left for Wimbledon one last time; Padres draftee/UCLA recruit Austin Hedges was part of a WCB story last week. Wily Mo Pena -- remember him? -- swatted a memorable home run for the Diamondbacks, whose success is past the point of being surprising.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gonzo (again)

Adrian Gonzalez wanted out. That's what he told a few friends in June 2009 as the Padres floundered on and off the field. Gonzalez would continue to give the Padres his best -- and did so for a team that would win 90 games in 2010 -- but he wanted to compete for championships and doubted San Diego would be the place to do it. The prospect of a long-term rebuilding plan turned him off. Petco Park wore on him, too. He doubted that would change, either.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo passed along quotes from Adrian Gonzalez, who will face the Padres in a few days at Fenway Park.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scouts chat draft

Today, we push the envelope for baseball geekness.

Below you'll see a smorgasbord of comments from major league scouts appraising the recent draft, West Coast-leaning. If you'd rather read a lawnmower manual, West Coast Bias' feelings will not be hurt.

History shows that most players taken even in the top few rounds fall well short of stardom. Dozens of others among this year's top-100 will tumble after climbing the six-step ladder to the big leagues.

Another hitch in the giddyup is that baseball draftees, relative to NFL and NBA draftees, are anonymous. A month ago, WCB could identify Joe the Plumber but not Joe Ross or Joe Panik, soon to be taken in the first round by the Padres and the Giants. Our scouts, conversely, could tell you about the girl Joe Ross took to his prom in Oakland, or Panik's course of study at St. John's University.

Over the last several months, these scouts watched scores of games and workouts, hustled to airports, chatted up dozens of baseball people, pored over video clips, filed countless reports and ate too much fast food. Yet the draft conducted June 6-8 was only a beginning. Some players will forgo a signing bonus and return to school. Others may hold out for more money and sign with an independent league club. Some pitchers who sign may be mothballed until the fall. Others players such as Panik and Corey Spangenberg, the Padres' first pick, have already signed and soon will play in minor league games.

The comments below come from six scouts, five employed outside of the Padres. Naturally, WCB cared most about teams in the West. At the bottom, two from the Evil Coast get attention.

Padres

Players discussed: Florida junior college 3B/2B Cory Spangenberg, selected 10th and signed; Oakland prep RHP  and UCLA recruit Joe Ross, 25th;  Orange County prep catcher and UCLA recruit Austin Hedges, 82nd.

"If the Padres sign Hedges, that'd be a hell of draft," one scout said. "He's the real deal behind the plate and might hit."

"Signing Austin Hedges would be like signing a top-5 talent," said a second scout. (UPDATE: Top-5 seemed high for a player whose bat is iffy. Pressed on it, the scout said: "Top 10. Best high school catch-and-throw guy I have ever scouted."

"Hedges is a typical Scott Boras-represented guy, so you're shooting in the air on whether you sign him," a third scout said. "But that's what you've got to do there in San Diego. You can't not spend in the big leagues AND not spend in the draft, too. Every year you should strive to get a guy that's unsignable. That's what Toronto did way back. That's what the Marlins try to do."

Fourth scout: "Very polished. Very advanced defensively. The bat is just iffy."

Ross

"Clean delivery and I love his athleticism. You go see Joe Ross play shortstop, you say, 'If I'm a college guy, I'm recruiting him.' He's got feet, he's got actions. That athletic part of pitching is very important in projections. Athletes get better."

"Ross has now velocity -- 90-95 -- but you're just going to have to wait for the breaking ball. It's in there."

"He's going to be a big, physical kid."

"Ross just started pitching like a year and a half ago. People were smart -- they didn't push him into it."

"In the past, he had something going on with his arm but it was nothing at the time to be concerned about."

"I think the Padres sign him even with the UCLA commit. His dad e-mailed scouts, letting them known when Joe was pitching."

"He hasn't pitched a full summer. Got tons of rest this year, made me wonder about whether they were protecting his arm. There will be an adjustment there. Pro instruction will help. Is he mentally tough?"

Spangenberg

"This guy can be a batting title contender. That guy, he can really hit and he can really fly."

"Defensively, he'll be fine at second base. A lot of people think he's a little rough at third."

"He's a gamer. Has the makeup, the grind. Focused. Very explosive body. Throws average. OK actions. Can really hit."

"He can hit."

Diamondbacks

Players discussed: UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer, third; Oklahoma prep pitcher Archie Bradley, seventh; Coastal Carolina RHP Anthony Meo, 63rd.

"Arizona had a huge draft. Quality pitching."

"I would've taken Bauer over Gerrit Cole (another UCLA junior righthander, drafted first by the Pirates)."

"Bauer has a lot of energy and is a character. Bauer is going to be good for baseball."

"They got one of the top three high school pitchers in Archie Bradley."

"Bradley, the area guys were all disappointed in this guy early in the year, said he was lazy. Didn't come out in great shape. I saw him when he broke loose--outstanding."

"If someone told me Bradley was a makeup risk, I'd buy into it."

"I love Bauer. He's a guy, for sure. I don't think there's any question Bauer is going to pitch in the big leagues. Bradley, toward the end of year, he was fabulous. I think they did real well."

"Meo is going to be a power reliever."

Giants 

Players discussed: St. John's SS Joe Panik, 29th, signed; Oregon State catcher Andrew Susac, 86.

"Their draft was sneaky good."

"San Francisco was kind of vanilla in the first round with the St. John's shortstop."

"Panik, I thought, was a very under-rated player. Good-body middle infielder that ought to stay at shortstop. Should really hit. Gamer, just doesn't have big tools. The throwing is average, the running is on the bubble, but he has instincts for the game. Baseball player pick."

"I was a little suprised the Giants took the St. John's guy in the first round, because he had labrum surgery as a freshman there. He is supposed to be a good player."

"Panik is the kind of guy who has to overachieve."

"Panik -- definitely one of the better hitters in the draft.  Not real quick twitch. I thought that was an extremely safe pick for the first round. We thought he was a guy who could stick at shortstop but probably would end up at second. He definitely can hit."

"Susac, he's going to be a feast or famine guy. Has pretty big power, has arm strength. Yet to be seen if he's going to be a good catcher. It depends on if he wants to show up every day or not. Moody kid. Turned down $900,000 out of high school. "

"Susac, this past year, it was almost a role reversal for him. He was more offense than defense. Has a lot of raw power. Has arm strength. To me, his catching has regressed, not from a physical standpoint, almost a mental standpoint."

Dodgers

Players discussed: Stanford LHP Chris Reed, 16th; NC State catcher Pratt Maynard, 103; former San Diego State RHP Ryan O'Sullivan 134th; University of Oregon RHP Scott McGough, 164th.

"Bland draft."

"They certainly didn't wow me."

"The Stanford reliever (Chris) Reed was a little bit of a surprise in the first round. He's got first-round stuff. He throws hard. He's big. Physical. He's got a decent slider, but, he's just never really been a starter, and from people who've seen him start, he's gotten his butt kicked. But he's got three pitches."

"Reed, I had him in the third round."

"I liked the reliever the Dodgers took. That could turn out real good. He's an interesting guy. We thought maybe he would be a starting pitcher. He's got a changeup. He just doesn't get to use it coming out of the 'pen.''

"The catcher out of North Carolina State is OK. Thick body. Generic arm. Not a lot of power."

"We weren't on O'Sullivan. Big arm. But if you can't stay eligible at San Diego State, c'mon."

"I like the reliever they got out of Oregon. Saw him good. Very athletic."

"It looks like Logan White doesn't have much money to spend."

Rockies

Players discussed: University of Oregon LHP Tyler Anderson, 20th; Texas prep SS Trevor Story, 45th; New Jersey prep OF Carl Thomore 77th.

"Tyler Anderson is a poor man's (Barry) Zito. He carved up college baseball."

"We liked Tyler Anderson. He's a competitor, he's a battler, he's not a big bat-misser. He's not a soft-toss lefty by any means, either. He competes his ass off, He's strong. He's athletic. For that park, a little surprising pick."

"Trevor Story had a bad look on defense when I saw him. His swing and approach looked pretty good. Defensively, my gut said this isn't what a shortstop looks like." 

"Our question was does he stay at shortstop?"

"Carl Thomore is very athletic. Starting from scratch in the outfield. A rough steelworker kind of guy who doesn't look half the athlete that he is. Has raw power."

"Thomore, I really liked that kid. He's interesting. Big and physical and strong. Has an awkwardness to his game. Kind of a high school version of Hunter Pence. This kid is very strong. Has a lot of raw power." 

Mariners

Player discussed: University of Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen, second.

"The Mariners talked a lot about taking the Rice third baseman (Anthony Rendon) and they liked him a lot. We like the guy they took. It's tough to take Rendon there because you don't know about his shoulder injury and Boras controls the medicals."

"Hultzen, I hear his dad has like more money than all of the clubs."

"Hultzen may be the best pitcher in this draft. He is really a good pitcher. We really like him a lot."

"Hultzen probably had the best feel to pitch of any of these guys in the draft. The only negative is he's a little bit different because he's got the lower slot. He can get a little sweepy with his breaking stuff. He may need to be a little more upright. Slot is a little low."

"Hultzen was first one to write a letter and tell major league baseball exactly how much money he wanted. Family is very wealthy. He wants $13 million and four semesters of school paid for, and he's not going to pitch this summer. Blah, blah. He's not getting $13 million."

Etc.

The Mets' choice of Wyoming prep CF Brandon Nimmo 13th overall created a stir. The pick was made by Paul DePodesta, the former Padres exec hired last offseason by former Padres CEO Sandy Alderson. "I applaud them picking Nimmo," one scout said. "He could be an All-Star." Nimmo's  medical file dropped him from one club's first-round consideration...Regarding the Rays, who made 10 picks in the top-60, one American League scout said, "They got a lot of guys, but it didn't really wow me."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Healthy but rusty

If Nick Hundley never hears the word "oblique" again, that'd be fine by him. The first oblique strain of his life derailed Hundley in early May and kept him on the disabled list for a month. When he returned seven days ago, his side muscle no longer pained him. But stepping into the batter's box was like jumping into rush-hour traffic in a Jetsons episode. "My timing is off," Hundley said today by phone from Denver, where he had just finished batting practice. "That's the hardest part. It's something I'm battling right now." When he went onto the DL, Hundley was batting .263./.336./.421, Piazza-like relative to several Padres then. Since his return on June 8, he is 2-for-22 with 10 strikeouts. Hitless with five strikeouts in the two games at Denver, he is taking the start off today as Rob Johnson again caddies for Mat Latos. The good news is that when Hundley swings or throws, it no longer feels like a knife in his side. He said he feels "a stretch" on some throws, which isn't of concern. "I  feel like my swing is the same," he said, "but the timing isn't good."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Newsstand

Sean Burroughs tells MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch that he was a party animal late in his Padres tenure. Two weeks ago, WCB looked at the puzzling Rockies, who take a 31-34 record into tonight's game against the Padres. What scouts do and don't see from Anthony Rizzo encourages WCB.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Parched at home

The shutout the Padres suffered today was their 11th this season and eighth at home, extending their Petco Park record and moving them closer to the franchise mark of 13 home shutouts at The Murph in 2001.

Anthony Rizzo jazzed up the homestand with his power and his poise, and Jerry Coleman liked seeing the 1936 throwback uniforms Saturday, which recalled his days as a batboy for the San Francisco Seals. "It was an honor," the Colonel said, remembering Lefty O'Doul was the Seals' manager. He added: "It's good to see the players wearing stirrups again."

 Joining in the spirit of  '36, the Nationals wore the gray, blue and red duds worn by their ancestors the Senators, whose greatest pitcher Walter Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame that year.

Padres hitters, champions of artistic integrity, acted like they were facing The Big Train in the final three games of the series, scoring two runs in the 27 innings, one tally provided by the 21-year-old Rizzo's first career home run.

As the Strategic Thinkers watched them, the Padres dropped six of 11 on the homestand despite facing only losing teams. Those who thirst for trades by the Padres by the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline should be pleased by how the homestand played out.

"We could have done more here," third baseman Chase Headley said.

Headley, making a case for patience, cited the pitching staff's current hot streak and the team's improved defense. Check. He also referred to the National League West's vulnerabilities. Double check. (No offense to the first-place Giants, who've absorbed brutal injuries, or the second-place Diamondbacks, who scarcely resemble their 97-defeat selves of last year, but this is baseball's worst division as of today. All five NL West teams are below average in Baseball-Reference.com's Simple Rating System, which measures the number of runs a team is better -- or, as in the West, worse -- than the average team.)

Heath Bell lamented that he twice entered a tie game on the homestand and gave up a go-ahead run that stood as the winner.

"We could've pulled out of here 7-4 instead of 5-6 if I had done my job," Bell said.

Bell was implying that the Padres (29-38) would've scored a run at some point after he held serve. Considering that the Padres are batting .230 on the season and .208 at home, where they have a sub.-300 on-base average and only 99 runs scored in 40 games, it's easy to disagree with him.

No peeking

Anthony Rizzo doesn't peek for signs or pitch location, Bud Black said this morning in response to an MLB Network segment that suggested Rizzo may have peeked at the Nationals' catcher several times Thursday during the slugger's major league debut. "He's not peeking," Black said. "It's just how he focuses his eyes." Black discussed the matter with Nats manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty, and said they agreed there's nothing to it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rizzo snapshot

Three games into his Padres career, Anthony Rizzo has a home run, a triple, a double, four walks and the respect of the Washington Nationals.

"He's impressed me and he's impressed us with the way he's handled each at-bat," pitcher John Lannan said tonight. "He's going to be really good."

"He's very impressive," said manager Jim Riggleman.

The admiration goes beyond the 400-foot triple double Rizzo hit off Livan Hernandez's 82-miles-per-hour fastball in the series opener Thursday and the home run lined tonight over the right-field scoreboard, off Lannan's 92-mph fastball.

"Our veteran guys like a (Matt) Stairs and a Pudge Rodriguez are just watching him and saying they're impressed with the way he's taking pitches and not offering at bad pitches," Riggleman told West Coast Bias. "And he's aggressive when he takes a swing. It's a short sample size. That's all we have to go on. But he's going to be one of those guys who, when you're looking at your lineup card, you're wondering when he's coming up."

UPDATE: Nats veteran players aren't the only ones impressed by how well Rizzo has taken pitches. According to this report, the MLB Network aired clips that show Rizzo may have peeked toward the Nats' catcher a few times in his major league debut. WCB didn't ask the Nats if they believe Rizzo was attempting to steal signs or determine pitch location. For what it's worth, the Nats didn't fire any pitches tonight that would suggest retaliation.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rizzo

The Pink Pony Scouts Chat here in March included large chunks of praise for Padres first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo and rare unanimity on his chances of sticking in the big leagues. All four scouts who had seen Rizzo said he eventually will establish himself as big league regular, which isn't to say any of them guaranteed he'd stay for good once he got to the majors. One scout likened his swing to that of Adam LaRoche. A fifth scout, speaking last month, said Rizzo should become an average big leaguer, which is more praise than you might think. The average slash line for a major league first baseman last year was .268/.347/.445 with 17 home runs for 502 plate appearances. If Rizzo turns out to be better than average, none of these scouts will be surprised. Recently a scout said Rizzo, in time, should become a good defender (Petco Park's infield, which plays truer than most, several infielders have said, can only help foster his development in that area). On one thing everyone can agree: Rizzo's presence will jazz up tonight's game between the last-place Padres and the last-place Swamp Gnats.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Newsstand

Cory Spangenberg knows how to use a wooden bat. Allan Simpson of scout-driven PerfectGame describes Spangenberg as an offensive machine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Draft, day one

Padres fans have become increasingly smart alecky about their team's first-round draft struggles, judging by their Tweets and comments to West Coast Bias.

The simple comment by one non-Padres scout that the team's first selection today, second baseman Cory Spangenberg, "can hit" inspired several snippy responses, all within five minutes. "So could Sean Burroughs," wrote Loren. Joe H typed: "Just like Burroughs, Dykstra and Tate. Yippee!!" Padres fan Cheri promptly noted that Spangenberg, a second baseman, wasn't ranked among Baseball America's top 30 prospects.

The Padres drafted Spangenberg 10th overall. A second non-Padres scout implied to WBC that Spangenberg would've been there 25th, when the Padres would select high pitcher Joe Ross. "Could have waited," the scout said. "Money may have played a part in their pick." (UPDATE: Yet another scout from a club outside of San Diego told WCB Tuesday that the Padres were wise to jump on Spangenberg because another team, in fact, would've grabbed him well before the 25th pick.)

The way the Padres told it, they doubted Spangenberg (pronounced SPAN-jen-berg) would've lasted past 15th. "We felt like he was probably the second-best hitter in the country," Jed Hoyer said tonight.

Here is what the three non-Padres scouts said about Ross, whose brother Tyson, 24, has a 2.75 ERA for the A's this year.

* "A much better athlete than Tyson. Much better delivery. Had him going late in first round or compensation round."

* "Arizona was going to take him at 43. Tampa Bay was gonna pick him. (The Padres) had to do it there. Injury prone. He's a projection draft."

* "I've seen him real good, especially last year. Good upside. Has command."

The Padres will not recoup a draft pick if they fail to sign Spangenberg, who was drafted with the compensatory pick the club got after failing to sign its first-round pick of 2010, pitcher Karsten Whitson. So it was extra important that the Padres believed they will sign Spangenberg, and in such instances, it's not unusual for the club and player to have a pre-draft deal in place that gets announced within a week.

The Padres said the talent evaluation drove the selection.

"We may have been the highest team on him," said assistant general manager Jason McLeod, who drafted second baseman Dustin Pedroia for the Red Sox. "We really like this kid a lot."

Scouting director Jaron Madison said the Padres scouted Spangenberg, who plays for a junior college in Florida, eight to 10 times.

Hoyer said the left- right-hander's hitting talent, which McLeod described as "gap to gap," should work in Petco Park and the run-scoring decline in the majors this year reinforced the wisdom of going for a hitter with the first pick.

Hoyer said he felt good about how the day went, largely because the Padres made five picks and the second round isn't here yet. "At this point last year, we had one pick," he said.

Have the Padres broken out of their first-round funk?

Only time will tell, but Hoyer told a funny story, one that the Padres can hope symbolizes tossing aside bad luck.

A pitching prospect named Archie Bradley who met with Hoyer at the GM's office recently asked Hoyer if he had a baseball with which he could show Hoyer how he gripped his curveball. Hoyer grabbed a nearby baseball, not realizing it was autographed by a former Padres prospect, and flipped it to Bradley, who would be drafted seventh today by the Diamondbacks. Later, after Bradley returned the ball, Hoyer looked at the signature.

It belonged to Matt Bush, the local shortstop and pitcher drafted by the Padres first overall in 2004. Bush, as Padres fans know all too well, went down as one of the worst No. 1 picks in draft history. Yippee.

Rizzoites Rejoice

I'm hearing there is a "strong possibility" the Padres will promote first baseman Anthony Rizzo on Thursday or sooner.

Newsstand

The last two times the Padres had a bunch of extra draft picks, it didn't turn out well for them, as John Maffei of the North County Times explains. With two UCLA pitchers likely to go early in the first round today, West Coast Bias asked five scouts and a front office executive, none of whom work for the Padres, which one they'd pick. Both Bruins righthanders likely will be gone when the Padres select 10th.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Scouts and the draft

Draft Day will be here Monday. This time last year, Tony Gwynn and West Coast Bias tried to end the first-round hex that has plagued the Padres in the June draft. It worked, sort of. Or maybe not. We'll get back to that at the bottom here, if we're all still awake.

The Padres, for their part, have been doing something more substantial than having Mr. Padre pull names out of a cup. Jed Hoyer has hired 10 full-time amateur scouts since he took over as general manager two offseasons ago.