Tuesday, April 8, 2003
Updated: April 9, 12:01 PM ET
Padres outfielder Xavier Nady
By John Sickels
Special to ESPN.com
San Diego Padres
Position: OF Height: 6-2 Weight: 200 Born: 11/14/78 Bats: Right Throws: Right
A star at the University of California, Xavier Nady was a projected first-round pick in the 2000 draft, but dropped to the second round because of his bonus demands as well as concerns about a mediocre junior season. The Padres signed him to a major league contract, then sent him to the California League for 2001 where he ripped the ball and was named league MVP. He reached Triple-A in 2002, hitting well at times but also showing some inconsistency. Most people thought he'd return to Triple-A to begin '03. Instead he had a great spring training and has emerged as the Padres' regular right fielder to start the year.
Nady has excellent bat speed. His stroke is compact for a power hitter. It used to be rather long, leading to concerns about his ability to make contact, but he's shortened it up considerably and can hit to the opposite field. He still needs to tighten up his command of the strike zone a bit more and is occasionally vulnerable to pitches outside the zone. Still, he isn't a wild swinger and most scouts expect that he'll hit for both average and power at the major league level. Injury problems have forced Nady from his original position, third base. His range is decent at either outfield corner, but elbow problems have reduced his arm strength and he no longer gets great zip on his throws. Nady is a decent overall athlete and can also play first base. His running speed is average and he won't steal much, but he's not a base-clogger and has been known to swipe a bag on occasion. He is emotionally mature and scouts like his attitude.
Nady's Triple-A numbers in 2002 were mediocre when league context is factored in, but injuries were probably a part of that. He hit better down the stretch. He is certainly capable of hitting .270-.290 with 25-homer power in a full season right now. In the long run, both his batting average and power production should increase. He may never be a walk machine, but is seldom overmatched by the same pitch sequence twice.
Nagging injuries have been a problem, but his biggest injury was a torn elbow ligament in his throwing arm at the end of the '01 season. He had Tommy John surgery then played through it in '02, which was likely part of the reason his numbers in Triple-A weren't stunning. He is fully healthy now, although his arm isn't likely to be as strong as it was before the injury.
What to expect
Nady is off to a hot start, hitting two homers and two doubles in his first seven games with the Padres. He should maintain good power production, but his batting average and on-base percentage will likely fluctuate as long as his strike-zone judgment remains inconsistent. He'll definitely be in the running for Rookie of the Year, though, and is a key centerpiece of San Diego's rebuilding effort.
John Sickels is the author of the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook, and is now working on the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book. His biography of Bob Feller will be published next spring. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com, or you can visit his homepage at JohnSickels.com.