Portland Beavers 2010 Season Preview

Wade LeBlanc

Synopsis: The Portland squad, as it is most years, is really more of a taxi squad for the San Diego Padres than a prospect laden minor league team, but there is some talent. Lance Zawadzki could become the Padres second baseman in 2011 and pitcher Wade LeBlanc and outfielder Aaron Cunningham, both of whom barely missed qualifying for prospect status, should see time in San Diego during the season.

Three Strikes with Randy Smith, Director of Player Development and International Scouting:

Matt Antonelli has struggled the last two years in Portland, what makes the organization believe that he will succeed this year?

Randy Smith: I think the time that he spent with Tony Muser at the end of last year reworking his swing really helped him was reflected this spring. He regained his confidence and isn't afraid to pull the ball. The key is for him to not worry to much about going the other way just be aggressive.

From what you saw in the spring how has Luis Durango improved from last year?

Randy Smith: To me the thing that sticks out is how much better he keeps getting defensively. He has really improved his jumps and reads out there, especially in centerfield where he hasn't had that much experience. His base stealing has improved and he is learning how to deal and learn from failure better. He steals bases, he's going to get caught some. His game is about slap and run but he's starting to show more ability to drive the ball into the gaps.

Everything with Cesar Carrillo came back last year, except command of his two-seam fastball. How has his two-seamer looked this spring and do you think he can regain the form he had before he was hurt?

Randy Smith: He is showing signs of regaining his old form, the velocity is there but the big thing for him right now is fastball command. The changeup has become an out pitch for him which is great, but fastball command is what made him and fastball command is what will bring him back.

Projected Lineup:

1B Chad Huffman/Craig Cooper SP Wade LeBlanc
2B Matt Antonelli SP Will Inman
SS Lance Zawadzki SP Cesar Carrillo
3B Craig Stansberry SP Cesar Ramos*
C Dusty Ryan/Eric Munson SP Josh Geer
LF Chris Denorfia Closer Mark Worrell
CF Luis Durango Relief Ernesto Frieri
RF Aaron Cunningham Relief Luis Perdomo
DH Mike Baxter--

*Starting the season in San Diego to replace Joe Thatcher who is on the 15 day DL

MadFriars.com Top 20 Prospects in Portland (1): Lance Zawadzki #7. Luis Durango is a sleeper candidate, and if 1B/corner outfielder Craig Cooper gets some opportunities, he could surprise.

Catch a Rising Star: Lance Zawadski – After a collegiate career that saw him play on three different teams, Zawadzki is starting to find a home and is talent is beginning to come through. He has the best infield arm in the system with good range at short and better at second. At the plate, he's a switch-hitter with some pop. A good base runner two years ago in Fort Wayne, he stole 28 bases in 31 attempts.

Pitching: LeBlanc, with his newfound cutter, which saw some at the end of last year, should be very effective in the PCL. He's not going to be here long this time, so enjoy him while you can. If Carrillo has his two-seamer back, he could return to the form that made him so promising. Inman was once a top prospect and has shown flashes of that ability but struggled with his command and repeating his delivery in both Double-A and Triple-A last year; he, too, has added a cutter. It seems a long way from 2007 when both Josh Geer and Cesar Ramos were big reasons behind the San Antonio Missions winning the Texas League championship. Both have had their opportunities in San Diego and hope to make the adjustments that will allow them to become back of the rotation starters or long men out of the bullpen in the majors. A very experienced bullpen, nearly all of them with major league experience will help the Padres once the injury bug comes calling. Adam Russell, Ryan Webb and Luis Perodomo appear to be the first candidates in line for a call-up.

Position Players: For two months, Huffman absolutely dominated the PCL, the problem is for the other three months he didn't. If he can somehow turn what he is capable into a season long performance he is a very dangerous hitter. He has to clear through waivers after being dropped from the 40-man roster. Cunningham, a top prospect in two other organizations, drew raves in camp with his speed, hitting and ability to play multiple positions, and he could be the first called up when the big club needs an outfielder. If Durango can get a little stronger base at the plate, he could lead the PCL in triples as he did the NWL when he was in Eugene. Zawadzki showed some pop, even in San Antonio, and could put up some numbers in the Rose City. He can play either middle infield position and is the best position prospect on the club. The Padres are strong believers in Antonelli's talent, despite not having the numbers to back it up the past two years. He had a great camp and is healthy for the first time in a few years. Former Mount Carmel star Eric Munson should see time behind the plate, first and even a little bit at third base.

On the Spot: Matt Antonelli - A former first round draft pick, he is coming off of two sub-par seasons in Triple-A and has to prove that he can play this year or it could be his last with the organization.

Under the Radar: Luis Durango – After a late season call-up, many Padres fans are aware of how much raw speed he really has. If he can iron out some kinks in his batting stance, driving the ball into the gaps along with improving his base running; keep an eye on him. He has improved significantly every year in the organization both offensively and defensively.

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