Selected 10th overall out of Indian River State College by the San Diego Padres during the recent MLB Amateur Draft that took place early in June, second baseman Cory Spangenberg is off to a hot start to his professional career. Spangenberg was seen as a “stretch” pick by many who believed the likes of Brandon Nimmo, Alex Meyer, George Springer, Matt Barnes and others available at the 10th slot were superior talents. After he became the first top-20 pick to sign with his club- accepting a very reasonable $1.86 million dollar bonus not a week after getting drafted– Spangenberg looks far more like a value at the 10th overall pick than a stretch.
Since driving in a game-winning run in his professional debut on June 17th, Spangenberg has torn apart his competition. Playing with the Eugene Emeralds of the Low Class A (short-season) Northwest League, Spangenberg has put up absolutely gaudy numbers– batting .436 with a 1.244 OPS, 12 RBI and 9 runs scored through his first 39 at bats (12 games). His plate discipline has been off the charts, and he’s struck out just five times while walking 16 times in the same span. He leads Northwest league batters in OPS (1.244), on-base percentage (.603) and walks (16), while ranking second in RBI (12), batting average (.436) and third in doubles (5) and total bases (25). Even more impressive is his ranking ahead of fellow Padres prospect Donavan Tate– generally considered the most talented high school bat in the ’09 draft– and lauded Mariners prospect Guillermo Pimentel.
After John Sickels, along with many other draft analysts, deemed the Padres picking Spangenberg 10th overall as the biggest stretch of the first round, the young second baseman has done a good job– thus far– of proving his doubters wrong. But is he talented enough to rake at higher levels? Is he the phenomenal athlete that his hot start suggests? Check and CHECK.
Spangenberg is by no means a tools-less character/organization guy a la David Eckstein. While he does have an all-out style, the kid has five-tool ability. The former Virginia Military Institute Keydet has plus-plus speed on the base paths with wheels that could rate firmly as a “70″ on the 20-80 scale if he develops as planned. His plate discipline already speaks for itself and he’s a polished hitter with an easy, fluid swing. He has the bat to hit .290+ with a high on-base percentage, low strikeout rates and the power to rack up doubles and triples in the expansive Petco Park. His left-handed stroke suits the big-leagues and he’s adept at barreling tough outside pitches and hitting to the opposite field. He profiles to be a batter similar to a young Kevin Seitzer with shades of BJ Surhoff.
Defensively, Spangeberg has a ways to go– but the tools are there. He has enough arm strength to play third base and the footwork and athleticism to turn tough double-plays at second. While his glove doesn’t receive the glowing reviews that the rest of his game does, he’s only made one error in fifty chances while playing second base for the Emeralds and he’s turned five double plays.
The Padres’ front office, led by Jed Hoyer, still shows some residual influence from famed stat-nerd and Moneyball star Paul DePodesta. Formerly the famed assistant to Athletics GM Billy Beane, DePodesta spent a couple of years as the Special Assistant for Baseball Operations in San Diego’s front office. Though he is now among the Mets brass, DePodesta’s draft approach– selecting under-valued on-base machines– has clearly rubbed off on Hoyer. While his plus-plus speed is the mark of a premium athlete, Spangenberg’s polished batting eye and sweet swing are testament to DePodesta’s strategy. Even though DePodesta has taken his fare share of knocks for his approach to player development– one things for sure– the Padres have gotten a great player in Cory Spangenberg.