San Diego Padres first baseman Tommy Medica has the heart of a catcher. After all, the Padres drafted him as a catcher in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Medica is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. After parts of five seasons in the Padres' Minor League organization, the right-handed hitter is now playing first base and outfield for San Diego.
Medica was an outstanding athlete at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, Calif. He won countless awards and accolades, before repeating his hitting assault on pitchers while catching for Santa Clara University. In fact, Medica's name remains on the Santa Clara charts as a top hitter, sporting a career batting average of .389.
Medica's career at Santa Clara was interrupted during his junior year when he dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum while sliding into second base. As a result, Medica was redshirted that season, and he returned the following year as a redshirt junior. When he came back to the lineup, Medica played the corner outfield positions. His shoulder surgery took a severe toll on his ability to throw and continue as a catcher.
Injuries have been an issue for Medica throughout his career. He turned 26 this past April. If there is anything that has held him back in the past or could hold him back in the future, it is Medica's lack of durability. He has to stave off the injury bug to fulfill his potential as a game-changing hitter with the ability to drive in runs. If Medica stays healthy, the big gaps at Petco Park are made for his type of hitting ability.
I got a good look at Medica in last year's Arizona Fall League. He played first base for the Peoria Javelinas and really scuffled at the plate. Medica needed to make up at-bats he missed the previous May when he was out with an oblique injury.
In the Fall League, Medica hit only .121. He didn't have any home runs or RBIs. In fact, Medica was refining his defense at first base, playing 20 games at the position. He made four errors and looked a bit rusty.
There is no doubt in my mind that Medica can hit. He has a .289 career Minor League batting average. Medica has hit at every level of play since hitting .176 in his rookie season at Class A Short Season Eugene in the Northwest League.
Medica's hitting tool is his most refined skill, and it is the reason he is a viable player on the Padres' roster.
Medica has a rather flat swing without getting much loft on the ball. He makes good contact at the plate, and is anything but a free-swinger. To the contrary, Medica's swing is compact and measured. He does tend to pull some pitches as a right-handed hitter, but Medica has the ability to use the entire field with good bat control. His bat speed is average, at best. It is his recognition of breaking balls and having the ability to wait back on offspeed pitches that helps Medica become a better-than-average hitter and challenge to opposing pitchers. If anything, I'd characterize his mechanics as being "appropriately" aggressive. Medica's swing is strong enough to sting the ball off the barrel of the bat. He's the type of hitter that just has a knack for delivering the clutch hit.
More selective and patient at the plate now than when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League, Medica is not afraid to take a walk.
Defensively, Medica is not a polished first baseman. His versatility however, allows the club to use him in the outfield and probably as an emergency catcher. But Medica's shoulder issues have left their mark on his ability to throw with gusto.
Medica does not have much speed and isn't a threat to steal bases.
Medica made his Major League debut with the Padres last September. He finished the season hitting a respectable and solid .290 in 79 plate appearances, over 19 games. Medica hit three homers for San Diego among his 20 hits. He's holding his own so far this season.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.