The Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual included a section called “Overlooked ex-Padres.” I’d wanted to call attention to four players–Ollie Brown, Mike Ivie, Ruppert Jones, and Bip Roberts–that maybe didn’t get their due in San Diego. The idea was noble, but the execution could have been better.
Since I’ve spent much of the offseason writing player comments for Baseball Prospectus 2015 (#ShamelessPlug), I’m in the mind-set of condensing a man’s contributions to his team into a short paragraph with snappy phrases. In that vein, I thought it might be fun to revisit those players from DS2008 and write capsules for each of their seasons with the Padres.
Last time, we examined Ollie Brown. Now we turn to Mike Ivie.
Taken first overall in the 1970 draft out of a Georgia high school, Ivie is a strapping kid with light-tower power and a shotgun arm. He made a mockery of the California League in his full-season debut, despite being one of the circuit’s youngest regulars, and reached the big leagues less than a month after his 19th birthday. Ivie’s defense needs refinement, as he currently allows an unseemly number of passed balls, but his offensive potential at a premium position suggests a star in the making.
The good news is that, despite being one of the Texas League’s youngest regulars, Ivie pounded baseballs at Double-A Alexandria, finishing second in homers to San Antonio’s Gorman Thomas. The bad news is that, after a series of bizarre events that saw Ivie leave spring training for his Georgia home, he is no longer a catcher. Unfortunately, Nate Colbert presents more of a roadblock at first base than Fred Kendall did behind the dish. Although Ivie’s bat will play regardless of position, one can’t help but wonder if the Padres should’ve taken another prep backstop, Darrell Porter, with that first pick back in ’70.
Mike Ivie played only 59 games at Triple-A last year, posting a .270/.303/.398 line that looked as sad as some Jack Lord wannabe sucking down mai tais at the Royal Hawaiian.
After a lost season at Hawaii the year before, Mike Ivie returned to Double-A and re-established his prospect status, finishing with a bitter 3-for-34 cup of coffee in San Diego.
Ivie’s first extended shot at big-league pitching wasn’t pretty. His batting practice displays are becoming the stuff of legends, but that chilly .117 ISO won’t instill fear in anyone, except possibly the manager who pencils his name into the lineup. He lost 200 OPS points at home and hit .173/.230/.272 from August 1 to season’s end. The Padres hope he is ready to take over at first (experiments at the hot corner have proven hazardous to everyone’s health) for the declining Willie McCovey, but questions remain. Fortunately, Ivie doesn’t turn 24 until August, so there’s still time for him to develop into the player they envisioned when drafting him out of high school.
This might not be what the Padres had in mind, but Ivie quietly had a nice little season. Although the power never materialized, he reached base at a reasonable clip and terrorized southpaws. If it seems like he’s been around forever, that’s only because he burst onto the scene at such a young age. Sometimes it just takes time for a kid to make adjustments at the highest level. Ivie showed improvement in his second full season. Now entering his physical prime, he appears poised to take another step forward on the path to productivity.
Ivie failed to take the anticipated step forward last year but teased at what could lie ahead. His 29 doubles hint at future home-run potential as he learns the pitchers and how to use his power. For the third straight season, he faded in September. Whether this is a conditioning issue or something else is uncertain, but it’s worth noting. Also worth noting is that with runners in scoring position over the last three years, Ivie has hit .312/.370/.448, outshining Reggie Smith, Richie Zisk, and Andre Thornton. That’s no trivial accomplishment. Assuming the Padres don’t trade Ivie for a banjo-hitting utility player, he should be a fixture in San Diego for some time to come.