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A look at the development of the Padres' third baseman
Prospect Retrospective: Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley is having an excellent 2012 season, hitting .281/.370/.486 with 29 homers, a league-leading 108 RBI, a 139 OPS+, while ranking fifth in the National League with a 6.8 WAR. Per reader request, here is a look at Headley's past and how he developed as a prospect.
Chase Headley had a tremendous college season for the University of Tennessee in 2005, hitting .387/.530/.689 with 14 homers, 63 walks, and only 23 strikeouts in 238 at-bats for the Volunteers. Scouts respected his switch-hitting ability and his feel for the strike zone, but his tools were rated as mediocre, there were questions about his defense, and doubts that his power would fully translate to wood. He lasted until the second round as a result, still earning a nice $560,000 bonus. He performed decently for Eugene in the Northwest League after signing, hitting .268/.375/.441. I gave him a Grade B and projected quick advancement due to his hitting polish entering 2006.
Headley spent 2006 with Lake Elsinore in the High-A California League, hitting .291/.389/.434 with 12 homers, 74 walks, and 96 strikeouts in 484 at-bats. Scouting reports didn't change much: good plate discipline, good feel for the zone, good throwing arm, mediocre range, perhaps not enough power for third base. I remained an optimist and retained the Grade B rating.
Moved up to San Antonio in the Double-A Texas League for 2007, Headley took a step forward with his power, hitting .330/.437/.580 overall with 38 doubles, 20 homers, 74 walks, and 114 strikeouts in 433 at-bats. He got into eight games with the Padres, going 4-for-18. I felt the power increase was legitimate, and from observation I also believed his defense was better than scouts reported, particularly his range. I moved him up to Grade B+ entering 2008.
He split '08 between Triple-A Portland (.305/.383/.556) and the Padres (.269/.337/.420), where he played left field, losing his rookie eligibility with 331 at-bats. He settled in with so-so numbers in '09, '10, and injury-plagued '11, before his power explosion this year.
Headley credits the improved power to some minor mechanical tweaks to his swing. Sabermetrically speaking, he turned 28 in May, the prime period in a player's career for a power outburst. He's also developed into a fine defender at third base, certainly exceeding the early scouting reports.
For comparison purposes, here's a list of all the position players drafted ahead of Headley in 2005:
1-Justin Upton, Diamondbacks (high school shortstop)
2-Alex Gordon, Royals (college 3B)
3-Jeff Clement, Mariners (college C)
4-Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (college 3B)
5-Ryan Braun, Brewers (college 3B)
7-Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (college SS)
10-Cameron Maybin, Tigers (high school OF)
11-Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (high school OF)
12-Jay Bruce, Reds (high school OF)
13-Brandon Snyder, Orioles (high school C)
14-Trevor Crowe, Indians (college OF)
17-C.J. Henry, Yankees (high school SS)
19-John Mayberry, Rangers (college OF)
21-Cliff Pennington, Athletics (college SS)
23-Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (college OF)
28-Colby Rasmus, Cardinals (high school OF)
30-Tyler Greene, Cardinals (college SS)
33-John Drennan, Indians (high school OF)
36-Travis Buck, Athletics (college OF)
38-Eli Iorg, Astros (college OF)
39-Henry Sanchez, Twins (high school 1B)
45-Jed Lowrie, Red Sox (college SS)
50-Jeff Bianchi, Royals (high school SS)
51-Ivan DeJesus, Dodgers (high school SS)
52-Dan Carte, Rockies (college OF)
54-Paul Kelly, Twins (high school SS)
57-Jon Egan, Red Sox (high school C)
58-Ryan Mount, Angels (high school 2B)
59-Brad Corley, Pirates (college OF)
61-Nolan Reimold, Orioles (college OF)
62-Stephen Head, Indians (college 1B)
64-Kris Harvey, Marlins (college OF)
65-Mike Costanzo, Phillies (college 3B)
I'd say the Padres made an astute selection.