PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cory Spangenberg couldn't get to Arizona quick enough for the beginning of the Padres' prospect minicamp last week, and not just because his arrival in Peoria officially signaled the start of baseball season.
More than anything, Spangenberg was looking to trade the dreary Pennsylvania winter for a little bit of sunshine in Arizona.
"I haven't been outside all winter living in Pennsylvania, so it's good to get out on the dirt and just to be playing baseball again," said Spangenberg, named MLB.com's top second-base prospect in all of the Minor Leagues.
"It's always that bad. But this [Arizona weather] is gorgeous."
Spangenberg, the 10th overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, knows the benefit of getting off to a fast start. He's here in camp before the arrival of many of the Padres' Minor Leaguers, working each day with 35 other top prospects in the team's third annual minicamp.
A year ago, Spangenberg was the first player from the first round of the Draft to sign a contract, as he agreed to a $1.86 million bonus four days after the Padres selected him out of Indian River State College in Florida.
"I always wanted to sign from the get-go and I think that it helped me a lot in getting a lot of repetition against quality pitchers," Spangenberg said.
From the looks of it, Spangenberg's transition to professional baseball wasn't much of an adjustment at all, as he produced a slash line of .384/.545/.535 in his first 25 games with short-season Eugene of the Northwest League. That earned him a promotion to Class A Fort Wayne.
Playing against older competition, Spangenberg -- who will turn 21 on March 16 -- got off to a slow start, hitting .154 in 17 games in July.
"It [the competition] was better than Eugene and at first I didn't handle it real well," he said. "Once I settled in, I started playing my game and did better."
Over the final two months of the season, Spangenberg hit .355. He finished his first professional season with 275 at-bats, hitting .316 with three home runs, 44 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.
"He had a tremendous start in Eugene and went to Fort Wayne and struggled. He had to regroup and then was fantastic in August and September," said Randy Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting.
"He got to experience a bit of failure and climbed back out of it. I think that will help him as he moves forward."
Spangenberg said the minicamp has proved beneficial for him -- offensively and defensively. His bat is his calling card at this point and something the Padres quickly fell in love with during their numerous trips to Florida last spring to watch him.
"His bat's advanced," said Jaron Madison, the Padres' director of scouting, last June "He had to have been one of the top two or three hitters in the whole Draft. And defensively, as long as he makes the transition back to second base like we think he will, he'll move quick."
Defense is one of the aspects of Spangenberg's game that he's working to improve this spring.
"My defense is coming along," Spangenberg said. "It's something that I need to improve on. Hopefully it will be a strength for me someday."
It's likely that Spangenberg will get a chance to begin the season with high Class A Lake Elsinore, where he will again be one of the youngest players in the California League.