Deckers form Padres' dynamic duo

Cody, Jaff team up for 45 homers, 148 RBIs in Cal League

Jaff Decker was drafted in the first round in 2008, a year before the Padres selected Cody Decker.

By Robert Emrich / Special to | December 3, 2010 5:00 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

Despite seeing the organization's overall winning percentage drop from .501 to .473, the Padres still sent two Minor League affiliates to the playoffs. Fort Wayne failed to defend its Midwest League championship, getting bounced in the first round in the Midwest League, while Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore fell in four games in the California League semifinals.

San Diego was one of the more active teams at the July 31 trade deadline, dealing away pitchers Corey Kluber, Wynn Pelzer and Nick Greenwood. But the Padres still boast plenty of prospects, led by Matt Clark, Jaff Decker and Cody Decker.

Catcher -- Jason Hagerty, Fort Wayne (122 games): The 23-year-old was a Midwest League All-Star, slugging 14 homers and driving in 74 runs. Hagerty hit .302 to rank second in the organization while throwing out 34 percent of potential basestealers, good for third in the Midwest League. The 2009 fifth-rounder raised his OPS more than 200 points after struggling in his debut season at short-season Eugene and Triple-A Portland.

First baseman -- Matt Clark, San Antonio (129 games): Clark set a career high with 28 homers, leading the organization in that category as well as RBIs (97). He also finished second in the Double-A Texas League in those categories while batting .269, earning All-Star honors for the first time since he was selected in the 12th round of the 2008 Draft. Clark excelled in the second half, posting a .921 OPS after the All-Star break.

"We still ... fell short of making it to the playoffs, but individually, as far as Matt is concerned, he made the adjustments and his progress showed," Missions manager Doug Dascenzo said of Clark's resurgence.

Second baseman -- Cole Figueroa, Lake Elsinore (124 games): Figueroa's ability to get on base played a big part in the Storm's offensive success. His .408 OBP was second in the California League and helped him finish second on the team with 88 runs scored. The 23-year-old University of Florida product also was the best defensive second baseman in the league, committing only three errors en route to a .993 fielding percentage.

Shortstop -- Drew Cumberland, Lake Elsinore (60 games), San Antonio (15 games): The former first-round pick had a promising season -- one that featured an appearance in the Futures Game -- cut short after suffering a lacerated knee in mid-July. Cumberland was a California League midseason All-Star and ended up hitting .365 with 35 RBIs. He was third in the circuit in batting before he was promoted to the Texas League, where he hit .278.

"The guy is a spark plug. He raises the whole team's level of play," said Dascenzo, who has worked in the Padres organization since 1999. "You have to have those kind of guys on your team. It's unfortunate he got hurt, but it came from playing the way he plays the game. He's a great offensive player, he can steal bases and score runs.

"His defense has gotten a lot better at shortstop and he continues to make progress in all areas of the game. I'm sure everyone is just as excited as I am about Drew Cumberland."

Third baseman -- Vincent Belnome, Lake Elsinore (135 games): Belnome, a 2009 28th-round pick, was solid in his first full season. One of two players in the Minor Leagues to draw more than 100 walks, he slugged 16 homers while driving in 84 runs. He also tied for eighth in the Cal League with 31 doubles.


Jaff Decker, Lake Elsinore (79 games): Despite having his season end on Aug. 18 after getting hit by a pitch and breaking a finger, Decker finished fifth in the organization with 17 homers. After a sluggish start, the former first-rounder batted .305 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in 50 second-half games.

"Jaff is a tremendous young talent, talented hitter, solid defender," said Dascenzo, who managed Decker in 2009 at Fort Wayne. "He has tremendous power and the ability to hit for a high average. I know that he's excited about where he's at and people in the organization are excited as well."

Luis Durango, Portland (106 games): Durango was fourth in the organization with a .300 batting average and tied for third in the Pacific Coast League with 35 stolen bases. The 24-year-old Panamanian, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2003, swiped five more bases after being promoted to San Diego, where he hit .250 in 28 games.

Mike Baxter, Portland (136 games): Baxter had the best season of his six-year career, collecting 18 homers, 10 triples, 30 doubles and 72 RBIs while batting .301 for the Beavers. The 2005 fourth-round pick ranked third in the organization and stole 22 bases in 32 tries. He also notched five assists while playing all three outfield positions.

Designated hitter -- Cody Decker, Lake Elsinore (130 games): Decker did not miss a beat, a year after he was named MVP of the Rookie-level Arizona League. He tied Clark for the organization lead with 28 homers and was second with 90 RBIs. The 2009 22nd-round pick ranked sixth in the Cal League with 35 doubles and batted .270.

"He's got good average, good power bat, pretty decent defender," Dascenzo said. "A lot of people love him, and he competes just as well as anyone we have."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Cory Luebke, San Antonio (10 games), Portland (nine games): Another former first-rounder, Luebke got a late start on his 2010 campaign after an injury in Spring Training. He made up for lost time, however, going 10-1 with a 2.68 ERA over 114 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. That ERA would have led Padres farmhands if Luebke had enough innings to qualify. The 25-year-old appeared in four games for the Padres in September and was 1-1 with a 0.98 WHIP.

"I had Cory in Fort Wayne a couple of years back and the only thing that is going to deter him from tremendous success is going to be health issues," said Dascenzo, a former Midwest League Manager of the Year. "His mechanics are so good, his stuff is so good and his competitive nature is off the chart. For a pitcher, when you have good mechanics and your stuff is above average and you have great competitive nature, the sky is the limit for this kid."

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Erik Davis, Lake Elsinore (19 games), San Antonio (seven games), Portland (1 game): Davis, a 2008 13th-round pick, continues to win games. A year after going 16-6, he led the organization with 14 victories and was second with 133 strikeouts while combining for a 3.52 ERA.

"He did a nice job for us," Dascenzo said. "We had Erik the last couple of years in Fort Wayne and he gets it done. He goes out and competes and he gets it done. It was a nice little addition to the team after all the trades were made, losing Kluber and Pelzer."

Relief pitcher -- Brad Brach, Lake Elsinore (62 games): Brach remained a dominating presence out of the bullpen, saving a California League-record 41 games. He struck out 74 over 65 2/3 innings and limited foes to a .207 average en route to earning league Pitcher of the Year honors. The New Jersey native's prospect status was solidified when the Padres sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he was 1-1 with one save and a 2.84 ERA in 11 games.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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