July 27, 2011, Fresno, CA
Tuscon Padres vs. Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
3B, Bat R, Throw R
3B James Darnell began the 2011 season with AA San Antonio and was ranked by Baseball America as the 12th best prospect in the Padres’ organization. The second-round pick out of South Carolina (2008) hit well at four stops from 2008-2010.
A 2010 promotion to San Antonio started slow but ended very well after recovery from a cyst in his right hand. 2011 has seen continued success with a line of .333/.434/.604 and a promotion to AAA Tuscon after 76 games.
The right-handed slugger batted in the number-5 hole tonight and went 1-5 with a two-run homer to remain hot after joining the club three days earlier. At the end of the night, Darnell had 14 AAA at-bats and was hitting .357 with an OPS of 1.214.
The homerun was a 1-1 pitch that Darnell drove over the centerfield fence 402 feet away. He was set down on two long fly balls to centerfield while also striking out twice, both times looking.
The hard-working Darnell has been criticized for his footwork and throwing accuracy at third. In 2010 he had the most throwing errors for Texas League third basemen. On this night Darnell fielded two chances cleanly, a first-inning popup and a third-inning groundball that went smoothly, 5-3.
At this point, Darnell is off to a flying start in AAA and appears to be fully recovered from the hand injury of 2010. Not much to see in the field in the way of game action, but each inning the strength of the throwing arm was apparent in warm ups and the accuracy didn’t appear to be a problem. The one throw in the heat of the game was perfect.
With the power at the plate and the work ethic to get better at the hot corner, combined with a down year in San Diego, James Darnell is a good candidate for a late-season callup.
UPDATE: James Darnell cooled off at the plate in Tuscon, finishing at .261/.344/.425 for the lowest OPS of his pro career, .769. He did, however get the call up to San Diego and played in 18 games before dislocating his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He’s expected to be ready by Spring Training and ready to continue his climb to the majors.