According to a recent article published by ESPN, Keith Law rated the Padres’ Minor League system the “Best” in baseball entering the 2012 season. And honestly, I wouldn’t disagree with him. The Padres have “Young Guns” Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin, and Joe Wieland waiting in the wings to be the “Aces” of the staff in a couple years. Furthermore, San Diego also has some terrific bats in the form of Outfielder Rymer Liriano, Catcher Yasmani Grandal, Second Baseman Cory Spangenberg, and Third Baseman Jedd Gyorko. Right now however, there is one Padres’ prospect that is making his presence especially felt this Spring that I would like to discuss: OF Jaff Decker. So for today’s post I thought that I would not only talk about Decker’s performance two weeks into Spring Training, but also discuss Decker the player and what he could eventually bring to the table for the Padres in the future.
“Hot Shot” This Spring
While San Diego is sporting a less than stellar 3-6 record thus far into Cactus League play, Jaff Decker has made his presence felt at the plate for the Padres. In spite of only having 5 hits in his first 16 At Bats (which is still good for a .313 Average), Decker has been making those hits count. Four of his hits have been for extra bases, and two of them have been Home Runs (the other two are doubles). Decker is tied for the team lead in RBI’s with 4 and his two dingers lead the Padres at this point in Spring Training. While there are still numerous games to play this month, Decker should get more At-Bats to continue his steady performance for San Diego.
Decker’s Career Up To Now
While Decker may have been “lost in the shuffle” of all of the Padres’ new talented prospects as of late, Decker has been one of San Diego’s top prospects since being taken with the 42nd Pick Overall (1st Round) in the 2008 M.L.B. Draft. Furthermore, Decker has had himself some pretty effective seasons at the Minor League level over the last three years.
In 2009, Decker hit .299 with Fort Wayne and logged 16 HR’s, 25 2B’s 64 RBI’s, a .442 OBP, and Walked 85 times when he was only 19 years old. Decker followed up his stellar season in Fort Wayne by posting a .262 Batting Average in 290 At Bats to go along with 17 HR’s, 15 2B’s, 58 RBI’s, 47 Walks, and had a .374 OBP with Lake Elsinore in High-A ball in 201o. And last season when Decker was promoted to Double-A San Antonio, he produced a stat line of 19 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, 29 2B’s, 103 Walks, and a .373 OBP. While his average dipped to only .236 last season, Decker was a major reason why the Missions won the 2011 Texas League title.
Of Decker’s career stats, the ones which I am the most pleased by as a Padres fan are his Extra Base Hit totals, his Walk Totals, and his OBP totals. While Decker’s averages might not have been overly outstanding, the fact that he can not only hit and hit with power is terrific. Then when you couple that with his ability to get on base via the Walk.
In addition to Decker’s hitting prowess, he also is no liability defensively. Is he a Cameron Maybin, let alone a Blake Tekotte that can roam the Outfield? No, but Decker can play a steady Left Field, and has logged almost all of his playing time in the minors at the position. In fact, Decker even had 11 Outfield Assists from his Left Field spot with the Missions in 2011.
Decker’s Future with Padres
As of right now, it certainly appears that newcomer Carlos Quentin will be the Padres Left Fielder for the 2012 season. And currently, Decker appears to either be headed back to Double-A San Antonio or up to Triple-A Tucson in April. However, Decker could figure into the Padres plans sooner rather than later if he continues his production this Spring and at the Minor League level this summer.
How much the Padres will need Decker in the immediate future will hinge on two very important things: the play of Carlos Quentin and whether or not the Padres are contending this season.
As Justin alluded to about a week ago, Carlos Quentin is only signed through this season. That being said, if the Padres are either out of contention or Quentin is simply not performing up to par, the Padres could unload him and fill his spot with some combination of Kyle Blanks and/or Chris Denorfia. Or the Padres might call up Decker if he is performing well in Triple-A. Regardless if he is called up this year or not, Decker remains San Diego’s best and most big league ready Left Field prospect at this point.
I understand that Spring Training has only just begun, and there are still a large amount of games still to play. And yes, I understand that Decker’s sample size thus far is a bit small. Nevertheless, I felt that it would be interesting to discuss Decker’s recent success and how he could parlay it, along with his steady Minor League production, into some future success with the Padres. I’m just excited that Decker is one of many prospects that have begun to prove their worth this Spring for the Padres, and that hopefully all will pay big dividends for the team in the future. So congrats. Jaff, keep up the good work.