Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union Tribune

With Spring Training in it's final weeks, Union Tribune's Tom Krasovic stopped by for a Spring Training report on the San Diego Padres.

Todd Kaufmann: From what you've seen of this Padres' ballclub thus far in Spring Training. Give me a few things that you really liked and a few things that the Padres should be concerned with?

Tom Krasovic: The most significant positive development for the Padres is that Chase Headley is showing that he can be a competent left fielder. He doesn't have the footspeed to outrun the ball or overcome most bad reads, but he has generally shown decent tracking skills in very difficult conditions. His arm strength is OK, but he needs to learn how to throw the ball 200-250 without having it tail so much. That was to be expected, though. Bottom line: Because Headley is showing enough comepetence in left, his bat should come into play for the Padres at some point in 2008. As for his offense, another positive is that his swings and approach are more "orthodox" than those of Sean Burroughs and Josh Barfield. Not that being unorthodox is fatal. Obviously it isn't. But Headley has a simple, sound swing that scouts say should hold up in the majors. Burroughs and Barfield really didn't have a "load" to their swings. That's an obstacle at the higher levels, unless you're as freakishly talented as Paul Molitor or Moises Alou.

A few other positives: Left-hander Wade LeBlanc looks fairly comfortable against major-league hitters. The Padres expect him to join them at some point in 2008. Outfielder Jody Gerut is moving fairly well, always a big thing for someone who's had reconstructive surgery on both knees. He's also hit the ball hard consistently since the first intrasquad game. Outfielder Scott Hairston, who's been diverted by injuries a few times in his career, also is running well. Brian Giles and Mark Prior have had smooth comebacks, so far, from surgery -- though it's still very early for Prior, who has yet to face a hitter.

Concerns: I wouldn't be surprised if Jim Edmonds comes back from his calf strain and delivers a few big hits in the first week. That's what he did in 2003 after suffering a calf strain. But he's lost some hard-earned conditioning to this injury, and at 37, his ability to bounce back can't be what it was in 2003. Justin Hampson is off to a bumpy start, largely because he lost 10 days to shoulder tightness. Shawn Estes struck out one of his first 30 hitters. Just a hunch, but I'm not so sure things will come quite as easily for a few relievers as they did in 2007.

Todd Kaufmann: You had an article on Wade LeBlanc towards the end of February about his "stupid good" changeup. How good is this left hander and is he a legit candidate for the #5 spot in the rotation?

Tom Krasovic: He's a longshot for the No. 5 spot probably because there are veterans there who have the inside track, but Bud Black is intrigued with LeBlanc, and the front office believes he'll be up here in 2008. He does need to improve his fastball accuracy. But if you're a lefty with a good changeup and a decent fastball, you're halfway home at Petco Park.

Todd Kaufmann: What's the progress of Jim Edmonds?

Tom Krasovic: Edmonds is moving better but it still looks like at least two more weeks before he's ready.

Todd Kaufmann: How impressed are you with Chase Headley? Do you think he's a shoe-in to make the club out of spring training?

Tom Krasovic: Headley may be the most impressive position prospect I've seen from the Padres since I got the beat in January 1995 -- though Khalil Greene's defensive instincts and bat speed really jumped in the 2004 spring camp, and Derek Lee was obviously a fluid athlete with a ton of raw power. Headley is solid across the board and his power has exploded the last two springs. Sure, maybe he will strike out a tad more than you'd like, and I think some of his tendencies in this area aren't getting exposed in the Cactus League. But he's got a broad set of advanced hitting skills, and he's exceptionally mature for a 23-year-old.

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