With one month of baseball in the books, we check up on the four minor league affiliates of the San Diego Padres. We'll take a look at who's gotten off to a hot start and who's struggling, as well as how the Padres' most notable prospects are coming along in the early going.
AAA - Portland Beavers
Who's Hot: The Beavers' pitching staff has carried them thus far, thanks in large part to starters Will Inman and Radhames Liz. Inman, 23, has started four times and boasts a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings. The 26-year-old Liz, a reliever for much of his career, has found success as a starter, striking out 22 in 14 innings and posting a 2.57 ERA.
The bullpen has been anchored by Ernesto Frieri and Ryan Webb, each of whom has thrown 10 scoreless innings. Frieri, 24, a hard-throwing righty who's been on the Padres' radar for quite some time, has 13 strikeouts and five saves, while giving up just two hits.
The Beavers' lineup hasn't been as impressive, but outfielder Mike Baxter is hitting .360 in 50 at-bats. First baseman Craig Cooper has been the best regular thus far, hitting .338 with a team-high 14 RBI.
Who's Not: After a good spring, shortstop Lance Zawadzki was hitting just .162 with Portland. This didn't prevent him however, from being called up by the Padres earlier this week when Everth Cabrera went on the DL.
Catcher Dusty Ryan, acquired from the Tigers in the offseason, has gone 7 for his first 52 (.135). Starting pitcher Nathan Culp was hit hard in two starts, prompting a demotion to AA, where he has struggled in three more starts for a total ERA of over six.
NOTABLE: Outfield prospects Aaron Cunningham and Luis Durango have shown flashes of potential in the first month. They are hitting .278 and .276 respectively. Cunningham is second on the team with 12 RBI, while Durango leads the team in stolen bases with 10 (though he's been caught five times). Infielder Matt Antonelli has been on the DL.
AA - San Antonio Missions
Who's Hot: Once considered a top prospect, outfielder Cedric Hunter had a rough 2009, causing many to drop him from their prospects lists. Back in San Antonio for a second go-around, the 22-year-old hasn't disappointed. Playing every day he's batting .333 and leads the team with 14 RBI from the leadoff spot.
Meanwhile the consensus top prospect in the system, starting pitcher Simon Castro, has not missed a beat. In four starts, Castro, 22, is 2-0 with a 1.11 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 24 innings. Fellow pitching prospect Jeremy Hefner had been just as good in his first four starts, posting a 1.35 ERA before getting hit hard in his start tonight.
As with the rest of the organization, the bullpen has been a strong point for the Missions. Leading the way are Brandon Gomes (1.35 ERA, 14 K's) and Craig Italiano (11 scoreless innings).
Who's Not: Two of the team's most highly regarded prospects have struggled in the first month. Third baseman James Darnell has a .192 batting average and has struck out 20 times. Starting pitcher Wynn Pelzer is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA and has been the outlier in an otherwise strong pitching staff.
NOTABLE: After an explosive offensive season in 2008, Kellen Kulbacki struggled through an injury-riddled '09 season. His April has been somewhere in between the two. He's hitting .290, but has yet to hit his first home run.
The Padres decided to put lefty Aaron Poreda, the top prospect in the Jake Peavy trade, in AA after pitching in AAA all of last season. He is a power arm being used out of the bullpen, posting a 1.63 ERA so far.
High A - Lake Elsinore Storm
Who's Hot: Finally healthy and able to play every day, shortstop Drew Cumberland is showing what made him a high draft pick in 2007. He's hitting .357 and leading the team in steals with nine. Outfielder Dan Robertson continues to meet every challenge thrown at him since being a low-round draft pick out of Oregon State. He leads the team in batting average (.366) and on-base percentage (.424).
Starting pitcher Anthony Bass has started five games and has a 3.41 ERA, an impressive feat in the hitter-friendly Cal League. Jorge Reyes has also been impressive as a starter (2-1, 3.54 ERA), striking out 19 batters in 20 innings. Brad Brach has been dominant as the closer, notching eight saves with an ERA of 0.77.
Who's Not: Allan Dykstra, the first round pick in 2008, continues to disappoint in the minor leagues. The Padres hoped that a move to the hitters paradise of the Cal League would get the power-hitting first baseman going, but that just hasn't happened. He hit .200 in 75 at-bats in April without a home run. Outfielder Yefri Carvajal is also off to a slow start, hitting just .140 over the first month.
NOTABLE: Former first round pick Nick Schmidt continues to try and come back from arm surgery. It remains to be seen if the 24-year-old lefty starter is the same pitcher as before the surgery. He's started five games and logged more than 25 innings, posting a 4.97 ERA with 23 strikeouts. Highly-touted outfielder Jaff Decker is on the DL.
A - Fort Wayne Tin Caps
Who's Hot: First baseman Nate Freiman has started the season on a tear, hitting .366 and leading the team with 18 RBI. The 6-foot-7, 23-year-old out of Duke is playing in his first full season of pro ball.
At 21 years old, starting pitcher Michael Watt has been the team's ace. In five starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 23 strikeouts. Miles Mikolas has thrown 16 2/3 innings out of the bullpen with a 1.62 ERA.
The ace of the pen though has been lefty Juan Oramas, who turns 20 this month. Oramas won the Mexican League Rookie of the Year this winter and threw 15 innings with a 1.20 ERA and 25 strikeouts in April for the Tin Caps. He was recently promoted to Lake Elsinore.
Who's Not: Two of the team's most promising young international prospects have floundered in the first month. Third baseman Edinson Rincon and outfielder Rymer Liriano excelled in the short-season leagues last year, but each have batting averages around .200 with more than 80 at-bats. A tough transition is to be expected for the two 19-year-old Dominicans, adjusting to the cold weather of the Midwest and the culture shock of their first full year playing stateside.
NOTABLE: The Padres started outfielder Everett Williams, last year's second-round pick, in Fort Wayne, while first-rounder Donavan Tate remains in extended spring training. Williams, 19, hit .241 in his first 54 at-bats.
Shortstop Jonathan Galvez, a 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic who's seen as having great potential, has fared slightly better than Rincon and Liriano. He's hitting .259 with a .411 OBP. His 15 walks to 14 strikeouts is a rarity among players his age and shows his good plate discipline.