Wondering which young players could have an impact in the majors this year? Let MLB FanHouse guide the way in Better Know a Prospect. In this edition we look at three players from the San Diego Padres' minor league system.
The top sports headlines of the day
Wade LeBlanc, SP: The 24-year-old made four starts last year in the majors, and the results weren't pretty. In fact, he also put together a terrible 5.32 ERA in Triple-A. The saving grace was that the Pacific Coast League is notorious for being offense-happy, and he still managed to strike out more than one batter per inning. In the lower levels of the minors, LeBlanc had solid success. Throwing lefty in spacious Petco Park never hurt anyone, and the Padres desperately need rotation help. For better or worse, you're going to be seeing LeBlanc this season in San Diego.
Matt Antonelli, 2B: He also got a quick cup of coffee last year in San Diego. In 57 at-bats, Antonelli didn't really impress. In fact, he had a terrible year in Triple-A, following up a set-the-world-on-fire 2007 campaign that had him jumping off the charts in terms of prospect lists. If he can prove '08 was the fluke and not '07, it won't be tough to unseat David Eckstein or Edgar Gonzalez at second base. Remember, the Padres likely won't be playing for anything but the future as early as June. They'll want to see what they have in guys like Antonelli, LeBlanc, and this next guy rather than a retread like Eckstein.
Kyle Blanks, 1B: The above referenced "next guy," is a beast with stellar raw power potential. Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 270 pounds, Blanks is a menacing presence in the batter's box. His power is still developing, but he's hit 44 home runs in the past two seasons, while driving in over 100 runs in each campaign. His rate numbers are very impressive across the board, especially last season in Double-A, where he went .325/.404/.514.
The only problem with Blanks' situation is that the Padres don't want him to rot away on the bench at age 22, and All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez already mans Blanks' only natural position. Still, assuming what I said above about the Padres not being competitive rings true, it would make sense for the Padres to deal Gonzalez for multiple prospects at the trade deadline and allow Blanks to play into the position. Gonzalez isn't old, but he's four years older -- and much closer to a big arbitration payday -- than Blanks. If you are playing for the future, let the future play.