30th. 20th. 26th. 27th.
Those numbers used to be reserved for the rankings of the Rockies pitching staff. Now, they signify the last four years' rankings for the San Diego Padre offense. Needless to say, their offense could use a savior coming up through the minors to bail out their sickly O. Adrian Gonzalez can't do it all himself. Could Chase Headley be "The One?"
San Diego CEO Sandy Alderson has been quoted specifically as saying he shouldn't be seen as such. Naturally, Padre fans quickly nicknamed him "The Savior."
Who is "The Savior?"
Headley, not to be confused with the late Harvey Korman, holds two distinctions of interest to Coloradoans. He is a Colorado product from Fountain, where he graduated valedictorian in 2002. After attending the University of Pacific, he transferred to Tennessee, where he broke Todd Helton's record of 62 walks in a season. The Padres made Headley their fourth pick in the 2005 draft, behind RHP Cesar Carillo, LHP Cesar Ramos, and C Nick Hundley.
Headley would take less than two years to make it to the Major Leagues, earning an eight game call-up in June of 2007 when 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff was injured.
After his demotion back to the minors in June of 2007, Headley was the MVP for the AA San Antonio Missions as he led them to the 2nd half championship. That team earned Baseball America's Minor League Baseball Team of the Year Award. Headley hit .330 with 17 HR and 78 RBI with a 1.017 OPS that year for the Padres' first-year AA affiliate. Complete Minor League Stats
His efforts in 2007 led to high accolades last offseason, when Baseball America rated Headley as the #1 San Diego prospect including the distinction as the best hitter for average in the organization. He also ranked #32 overall in Baseball America's top 100 prospects. For comparison, current Rockies Franklin Morales, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Stewart were ranked 8th, 22nd and 38th, respectively on that same list. Despite this, Alex Eisenberg at Baseball Intellect listed Headley among his most underrated prospects.
Headley resurfaced in SoCal in mid-June of last year, about three years after being drafted in the second round. Accoring to Dex at GasLampBall:
A lot of fans were disappointed/irritated that it took so long to call him up. It appeared mainly to be a budget consideration to limit his Major League time despite him being "ready."
For comparison, the Rockies also had four picks in the top two rounds in 2005. Troy Tulowitzki is the only player to don the purple pinstripes thus far, and RHP Chaz Roe, who was picked before Headley, has yet to even reach AAA.
"The Savior" has been a shortstop and third basemen throughout his career. Despite the signing of OF Cliff Floyd, fresh off of winning a pennant as the DH for the Tampa Bay Rays, Headley will be the Padres' starting left-fielder in 2009. He may eventually move back to third base, but for now he is blocked by Kevin Kouzmanoff. The switch-hitter, who is about even from both sides of the plate as shown by his .001 differential in OPS last season, recently discussed his position change and its challenges with Padre beat reporter Corey Brock:
San Diego Padres Spring Training Feb. 26 (via sandiegobrock)
Despite his distinction as high average hitter, Headley actually exhibits solid atience and power. He managed at least a .380 OBP every year in the minor leagues and routinely flirted with a 1.000 OPS.
However, Headley has been unable to replicate those results in his 99 career games, in part because he is striking out over 30% of the time. That may be less than Ian Stewart or Joe Koshanksy, but he still needs to control his long swing and limit his K's. Otherwise, there are not a lot of weaknesses to Headley's swing. Frank Neville at The Sporting News predicts Headley will one day be .300-25-110 player.
Chase proved to be a below average defensive outfielder in 2008. He should improve some with a full spring to work at it, but it will still be beneficial for him to defend a short porch at Petco Park.
Verdict: Headley exhibits above average ability with multiple tools, but does not possess one single otherworldly impressive skill. Long-term, I suspect Headley will be a solid major league bat but have a ceiling as a fringe All-Star, similar to Brad Hawpe. It certainly won't help his cause to play in the stifling venue that is Petco Park half of the time.
For 2009, I project Headley to fall within the CHONE/ZiPS range. In an admittedly small sample size, I've been underwhelmed with what I've seen from him. His production in 2008 was similar to that of Ian Stewart but in 65 more AB's. The Padres are counting on Headley to continue to develop into a legitimate threat in their lineup. He will be in the middle of their lineup, be he's not their savior. Not this year.
Arizona (4-5, 1-3 last week)
ESPN's Peter Gammons speculates that Chad Tracy might be a good fit to replace the injured Alex Rodriguez. Gammons also mentioned Rockie Garrett Atkins as a possibility. Tracy won't be leaving Arizona before the season. The D-Backs would either have to start long-time backup Tony Clark or shift Conor Jackson from LF to 1B, while re-inserting Eric Byrnes in left field. Byrnes is currently injured.
LHP Doug Davis may be injured in what was speculated on as a minor left triceps irritation. Davis will play catch today, so we'll know if the cancer survivor has another early season set-back or not.
Jim McClennan at AZSnakePit explores the prospect of the Diamondbacks leaving Tucson and getting a new ballpark in depth. Included is an interrview with team president Derrick Hall.
Los Angeles (5-6, 3-3 last week)
In case you've been living under five thousand rocks, the Dodgers signed Manny Ramirez to a 2-year $45million contract earlier this week. The terms are similar to the original contract the Dodgers offered, but in return for a no-trade clause and opt-out clause after 2009, the Dodgers also have the ability to defer payments through 2013. The rest of the NL West hopes Manny returns to his destructive ways, but unfortunately, he appears quite happy to be a Dodger. Still, Brad Hawpe and Chris Iannetta know Manny is just one man.
Dodger Mark Sweeney retired this week after a 14-year career that leaves him ranked second in MLB history in pinch hits. Los Angeles immediately hired the former Rockie as an assistant coach. Sweeney definitely has the material for a future managerial career.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Dodgers won't wash their hands of Juan Pierre as they did with Andruw Jones. Pierre would likely need a re-structured contract to complete his trade request. Even then, Pierre would need to defer his contract 50 years to be worth acquiring, according to Tom Tango. So for now, it appears our former CF will still be riding the pine for Joe Torre.
Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA examines the market value for RHP Chad Billingsley by comparing recent deals with Red Sox LHP Jon Lester, Angels RHP Ervin Santana and and Rockie RHP Ubaldo Jimenez.
San Diego (3-6-2, 1-5 last week)
GM Kevin Towers is apparently comfortable with the Friars' rotation, but he wants more arms in the bullpen. LHP Joe Beimel is not on their radar, but even Beimel couldn't help the Padres out of the cellar. Unlike Towers, I find their rotation highly suspect as well, especially if/when Jake Peavy is traded.
Everth Cabrera's has caught the eye of third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. His comment is about 85% of the way through. Hopefully he'll catch his eye more with three errors a day! Kouzmanoff also talks about the altitude of Colorado.
Tim Dierkes at MLBTradeRumors grades San Diego's offseason. Of note is the included CHONE projection of 80 wins for the Padres. For that to happen, Headley would have to be their savior, along with another four or five breakout players.
Tim Sullivan at the San Diego Union Tribune explores the sale of the Padres to Jeff Moorad. Rumors have swirled that the economy and ensuing financial difficulties will be a deal-breaker, but Sullivan isn't worried.
San Francisco (5-8, 3-5 last week)
Released OF Dave Roberts Thusday after being unable to ttrade him all winter. The Giants prefer to give the fifth OF spot to Eugenio Velez or John Bowker. The Giants will eat the $6.5million remaining for Roberts in 2009. ESPN's Rob Neyer says GM Brain Sabean got what he deserved for offering him such a ridiculous contract in the first place.
Giants players aren't terribly upset upon losing out on Manny Ramirez. Said OF Randy Winn: "I don’t think there’s anything to be disappointed about...we’re happy with what we have here."