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Few teams entered 2015 with expectations as high as the Padres following a whirlwind winter.
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Javier Guerra, ss|
|2. Manuel Margot, of|
|3. Hunter Renfroe, of|
|4. Ruddy Giron, ss|
|5. Jose Rondon, ss|
|6. Travis Jankowski, of|
|7. Colin Rea, rhp|
|8. Logan Allen, lhp|
|9. Austin Smith, rhp|
|10. Michael Gettys, of|
New general manager A.J. Preller, hired in August 2014, used the final two months of that season to assess the San Diego big league roster and farm system. Then he tore it down in the span of two weeks in December.
Gone were major leaguers Yasmani Grandal, Carlos Quentin, Seth Smith, Cameron Maybin, Chris Denorfia, Jesse Hahn and top prospects such as Trea Turner, Joe Ross and Max Fried. The new faces brought to Petco Park included Matt Kemp, James Shields (a free agent signing who cost the Padres their 2015 first-round pick), Justin and Melvin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Craig Kimbrel.
The addition of high-salaried players and the trade with the rival Dodgers for Kemp indicated the Padres were going for it in 2015. But the team, loaded with stars, was impossibly flawed, with the infield defense suffering, the outfield missing a true center fielder and a lineup that leaned hard to the right.
A quick start had the Padres in first place from April 19-21, but that proved to be the high point of the season. When the team limped to a 32-33 start, Preller fired manager Bud Black after seven seasons and installed Triple-A El Paso manager Pat Murphy, a longtime college head coach but a rookie in the majors. The Padres lost 16 of their first 23 under Murphy and never got back to .500. They decided not to bring back Murphy following the season, and he joined the Brewers as bench coach for Craig Counsell.
The season wasn't a complete loss. Despite the housecleaning undertaken by Preller, several notable Padres rookies made their debuts.
Catcher Austin Hedges was called up in May, and though he took just 143 plate appearances, he earned praise for game-calling and handling of pitchers. Travis Jankowski forced his way to the majors with a sterling offensive season and could fill the center-field hole in 2016. Righthander Colin Rea showed well in six big league starts and will get a long look in spring training.
The myriad trades following the 2014 season stripped the Padres of talent close to the majors, but they restored some of that lost talent when they traded Kimbrel to the Red Sox in November. In fact, shortstop Javier Guerra and center fielder Manuel Margot, the trade centerpieces, occupy the top two spots on this ranking.
But Preller's reputation as a premium talent evaluator—earned in his decade with the Rangers—will be tested. He continues to reshape the front office and player development, with former Dodgers scouting director Logan White moving back to evaluating amateurs, both domestically and internationally, after a year overseeing pro scouting.
After trading away a dozen prospects last year, White, international director Chris Kemp and scouting director Mark Conner have work to do as they rebuild the Padres system in their image.