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Top Ten Prospects: San Diego Padres
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Kevin Goldstein
December 14, 2005


Chat Wrap: Kevin Goldstein took your Padres questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.

While the Padres won the National League West and visited the postseason for the first time since 1998, it’s hard to call 2005 a banner year for the franchise. San Diego had to scrape to finish two games over .500, then was swept by St. Louis in the NL Division Series. The Padres won five fewer games than in 2004, had the lowest winning percentage of any non-strike-year playoff team in baseball history and would have finished closer to last place than first in the NL East or Central.

General manager Kevin Towers began to remake the team even before it wrapped up the division, shipping out malcontent Phil Nevin at the trade deadline. Towers made the first two major deals of the offseason, acquiring Vinny Castilla for Brian Lawrence and Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady in an effort to jump-start the offense. More changes appear inevitable as free agents Brian Giles and Ramon Hernandez were expected to sign elsewhere, and Trevor Hoffman was prepared to do the same.

A front-office overhaul preceded the roster makeover. Towers explored the GM opening in Arizona and emerged as a candidate in Boston, but remained in San Diego and enters his 11th season at the helm. Owner John Moores brought in some heavy hitters to assist Towers, however.

Former Major League Baseball vice president and Athletics GM Sandy Alderson was made team president, overseeing Towers and the entire baseball operation. Credited with molding Billy Beane into a star executive and promoting statistical analysis in Oakland, Alderson has begun implementing many of the same philosophies in San Diego. His power is only expected to grow.

Grady Fuson, who worked under Alderson as the scouting director in Oakland, joined the Padres staff as a special assistant to Towers in spring training and spent the majority of the year evaluating the system’s talent as well as evaluating top prospects for the draft. Following the season, his role was expanded to vice president of scouting and development. Fuson, who held the same roles with the Rangers, is in charge of revitalizing a flagging farm system. Longtime farm director Tye Waller was made the new Padres first-base coach. Bill Gayton remains scouting director, though Fuson’s fingerprints are expected to be all over the Padres’ 2006 draft.

Though the system isn’t strong, it did provide some returns in 2005 as a pair of astute minor league deals began to pay off. Righthander Clay Hensley, a relative unknown when he was acquired from the Giants for Matt Herges in 2003, emerged as one of San Diego’s top relievers in the second half and will compete for a rotation spot in the spring. Outfielder Ben Johnson, added via the Carlos Hernandez trade with the Cardinals in 2000, will get a chance to replace Giles.

Beyond that, the system is bordering on barren. The Padres’ four full-season affiliates combined to place just three players on Baseball America’s league Top 20 Prospects lists, none in the Top 10.


1. CESAR CARRILLO, rhp      Born: April 29, 1984 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 177
Drafted: Miami, 2005 (1st round)   Signed by: Joe Bochy

Background: Carrillo was a star both on the mound and as a shortstop at Chicago’s Mount Carmel High, which has a rich athletic track record. It has produced pro football stars Donovan McNabb and Simeon Rice, basketball’s Antoine Walker and baseball’s last 30-game winner, Denny McLain. Scouts knew about Carrillo when he was in high school, but he dropped to the Royals in the 33rd round in 2002 because he committed to Miami and had a bout of biceps tendinitis. After sitting out 2003 in a dispute between the school and the NCAA over his ACT score, Carrillo was the Hurricanes’ top pitcher for the next two years, beginning his career with a 24-game winning streak, the fourth-longest in NCAA Division I history. The 18th overall pick in the 2005 draft, he signed for $1.55 million and hopped on the fast track. He started his career at high Class A Lake Elsinore before going 4-0 in five starts for Double-A Mobile. When he returned to Lake Elsinore to pitch out of the bullpen in the California League playoffs, Carrillo was hit hard as the impact of pitching since January took its toll. Between college, the regular season and those playoffs, Carrillo pitched 192 innings in 2005.

Strengths: Some scouts believe Carrillo could get major leaguers out right now, as he combines the arsenal of a power pitcher with the command of a finesse specialist. His fastball is regularly clocked at 91-94 mph with late life and sinking action, and he can ratchet it up to 96 at times. Despite his slender build, he carries his velocity deep into games, hitting 96 on his 100th pitch in a college game last spring. His curveball has tight downward break, and Carrillo has the ability to drop it into the zone for a strike or bury it in the dirt as a chase pitch. His changeup has the makings of a plus pitch and he throws it with good arm action. He not only throws each of his offerings for strikes, but also works them down in the zone, generating lots of grounders. His arm is loose and quick, and his delivery is effortless. He displays a mature mound presence, pitches with confidence and isn’t easily flustered. He’s an excellent athlete who fields his position well.

Weaknesses: Carrillo lacks the physicality of a classic power pitcher, and his skinny frame offers little in the way of projection. He can become too enamored with his fastball at times, causing him to lose touch on his secondary pitches, both of which can be above-average when he keeps them in the mix. While his changeup is deceptive, it could use a greater difference in velocity from his fastball to keep hitters more off balance.

The Future: The Padres targeted a polished college pitcher who could provide help quickly with their first-round pick, and Carrillo is poised to rocket through the system. He’ll begin 2006 in Double-A and could make his big league debut later in the year. He should be a fixture in San Diego’s rotation for years to come, possibly as a No. 2 starter.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lake Elsinore (Hi A) 1 2 7.01 7 7 0 0 26 30 3 9 29 .280
Mobile (AA) 4 0 3.23 5 5 0 0 31 23 2 7 35 .204


2. GEORGE KOTTARAS, c        Born: May 16, 1983 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190
Drafted: Connors State (Okla.) JC, D/F 2002 (20th round)   Signed by: Lane Decker

Background: After signing in May 2003 as a draft-and-follow for early fourth-round money ($375,000), Kottaras played a full season of pro ball for the first time in 2005. He played just 78 games in 2004 because he was a backup on the Greek Olympic team, going 3-for-12 in Athens.


Strengths:
Kottaras profiles as an offense-oriented catcher. He displays natural hitting instincts and commands the strike zone. He generates easy line-drive power with a quiet setup and fluid swing, projecting to hit 15-20 home runs annually. He’s athletic behind the plate and has plus arm strength.

  

Weaknesses:
Kottaras has a tendency to get pull-happy, and needs to focus simply on centering the ball and letting his strength work for him naturally. His arm plays only average because of a slow glove-hand exchange and a long release. He’s a bit small for a catcher, leaving some to wonder if he can handle the rigors of a full season.

  

The Future:
Kottaras’ bat separates him from the rest of San Diego’s catching prospects. He’ll begin 2006 back in Double-A and is on schedule to be the starter at the big league level by the end of 2007.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Lake Elsinore (Hi A) .303 .390 .469 337 54 102 29 0 9 50 50 60 2 1
Mobile (AA) .287 .397 .416 101 16 29 7 0 2 15 19 23 0 0


3. JOSH BARFIELD, 2b        Born: December 17, 1982 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 185
Signed: HS—Spring, Texas, 2001 (4th round)  Signed by: Jimmy Dreyer

Background: On the heels of a disappointing Double-A performance in 2004, when he was hampered by hamstring troubles, Barfield improved his conditioning. He got off to a slow start at Triple-A Portland in 2005, but recovered to hit .343-11-50 over the final three months. His father Jesse hit 241 career homers in the majors, and his brother Jeremy is a rising high school prospect.


Strengths:
Barfield has excellent bat speed and is at his best when he drives the ball to right-center. He has worked to improve his patience at the plate. He made strides defensively and is no longer expected to have to move to left field.

  

Weaknesses:
Barfield can be unorthodox both at the plate and in the field, yet it’s hard to argue with the results. Pitchers can beat him inside, and he pulls off pitches to compensate. He hits better in clutch situations because he concentrates on using the whole field, an approach he should take into every at-bat.

  

The Future:
With Mark Loretta dealt to Boston, the second base spot has opened up for Barfield. He's expected to earn the starting job and could easily outperform Loretta's .280-3-38 2005 campaign.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Portland (AAA) .310 .370 .450 516 74 160 25 1 15 72 52 108 20 5


4. BEN JOHNSON, of        Born: January 18, 1981 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 200
Drafted: HS—Germantown, Tenn., 1999 (4th round)  Signed by: Randy Benson (Cardinals)

Background: Johnson earned baseball and football scholarships to Mississippi State out of high school before opting to sign with the Cardinals, who sent him to San Diego in a 2000 trade for Carlos Hernandez. He spent parts of three seasons in Double-A but started to take off in mid-2004 and ended 2005 in San Diego, even making a playoff start.


Strengths:
Johnson has all the tools to be an everyday outfielder in the big leagues. He has shortened his swing and developed above-average power while improving his grasp of the strike zone. Once a plus-plus runner, he’s now just a tick above-average. He’s a good right fielder with a solid arm.

  

Weaknesses:
Johnson has a tendency to overswing, as he did in the postseason. He still has troubles with breaking balls, particularly against righthanders, and some scouts project him as a platoon player.

  

The Future:
The Padres have been patient and believe Johnson is ready to contribute in San Diego. He’ll have to beat out veteran Dave Roberts for a full-time starting job.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Portland (AAA) .312 .394 .558 414 79 129 27 0 25 83 51 88 6 1
San Diego .213 .310 .467 75 10 16 8 1 3 13 11 23 0 2


5. CHASE HEADLEY, 3b        Born: May 9, 1984 B-T: B-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 195
Drafted: Tennessee, 2005 (2nd round)  Signed by: Billy Merkel

Background: Headley led Pacific in hits and the Big West Conference in walks as a freshman in 2003 before transferring to Tennessee, where hamstring problems limited him as a sophomore. He finished second in NCAA Division I in walks (63) last spring before signing for $560,000.


Strengths:
Headley is adept from both sides of the plate, showing outstanding pitch recognition and average power. He’s a fundamentally sound third baseman with soft hands and an average, accurate arm. A high school valedictorian and academic all-American, he boasts excellent baseball instincts and makeup.

  

Weaknesses:
Headley’s power ceiling has long been a question, leaving some to wonder if he profiles as an everyday third baseman. He makes the routine plays, though his feet are a little slow and restrict his range. He’s a below-average runner but not a clogger.

  

The Future:
Sean Burroughs never worked out at third base, but the Padres believe they have found their long-term answer in Headley. He tore up instructional league and could move fast after starting his first full season in high Class A.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Eugene (SS) .268 .375 .441 220 29 59 14 3 6 33 34 48 1 1
Fort Wayne (Lo A) .200 .250 .200 15 2 3 0 0 0 1 1 4 0 0


6. CLAY HENSLEY, rhp        Born: August 31, 1979 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 190
Drafted: Lamar, 2002 (8th round)  Signed by: Tom Korenek (Giants)

Background: Hensley didn’t play baseball for nearly four years after graduating from high school in 1997, reappearing as a closer at Alvin (Texas) CC. The Padres acquired him from the Giants for Matt Herges at the 2003 non-waiver trade deadline, and everything clicked once Triple-A pitching coach Gary Lance dropped Hensley’s arm slot in 2005. He pitched in all three playoff games for San Diego.


Strengths:
Hensley’s best pitch is a hard, late-breaking slider. His fastball velocity sits at 90-91 mph, but its darting sink and run and his command make it effective. He consistently works down in the zone, understands how to set up hitters and has great makeup.

  

Weaknesses:
Hensley doesn’t get much downward plane on his pitches and lacks a true strikeout offering. His changeup and curve are merely decent. He needs a better changeup to keep lefthanders at bay.

  

The Future:
While he has already proven to be a pleasant surprise, Hensley has a new challenge to show he can hold up in the rotation at the big league level. If he can’t, he could fall back to being a solid contributor again in the San Diego bullpen.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Portland (AAA) 2 2 2.99 15 14 0 0 90 63 8 22 71 .197
San Diego 1 1 1.70 24 1 0 0 48 33 0 17 28 .195


7. JARED WELLS, rhp       Born: October 31, 1981 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200
Drafted: San Jacinto (Texas) JC, D/F 2002 (31st round)    Signed by: Jay Darnell

Background: Wells had struggled to find consistency in the minors but took a step forward by leading the California League in ERA in 2005. He turned in quality starts in his first four Double-A outings and later was Team USA’s top starter in the World Cup in September.


Strengths:
Wells has an ideal power pitcher’s frame, good arm action and solid stuff. His four-seam fastball runs from 91-93 mph, and his new two-seamer features plenty of sink. He mixes in a hard-breaking slider and commands all of his pitches well. A former high school quarterback, he’s a good athlete and a tough competitor.

  

Weaknesses:
While Wells has the stamina to be an innings-eater, his ability to remain a starter hinges on the development of his changeup, which is currently below-average. He doesn’t own a true out pitch, as he has little trust in his slider. He tries to get batters to chase it as opposed to throwing it for strikes.

  

The Future:
Wells projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter and could end up in the bullpen. Still unrefined, he has his best days ahead of him. He’ll return to Double-A in 2006.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lake Elsinore (Hi A) 11 3 3.44 19 19 2 0 120 116 6 26 80 .257
Mobile (AA) 2 5 4.40 7 7 0 0 43 51 3 16 22 .307


8. PAUL McANULTY, 1b/of      Born: February 24, 1981 B-T: L-R Ht: 5-10 Wt: 220
Drafted: Long Beach State, 2002 (12th round)   Signed by: Jason McLeod

Background: Former Padres scout Jason McLeod (now Red Sox scouting director) and West Coast crosschecker Chris Gwynn fell in love with McAnulty’s bat at Long Beach State in 2002, when he hit .360-9-55. He won the Rookie-level Pioneer League batting title at .379 in his pro debut and hit his way to the big leagues in three years.


Strengths:
McAnulty has a quick bat, quiet swing mechanics and no problem hitting lefties. He shows good patience at the plate and crushes mistakes. He’s a gritty player who always gives full effort.

  

Weaknesses:
Though he’s a better athlete than his stocky frame suggests, McAnulty offers little more than his bat. He has below-average speed and arm strength. He lacks the power to profile as an everyday first baseman or corner outfielder, and he’s no better than an adequate defender at those spots.

  

The Future:
McAnulty has little chance at earning a full-time job in spring training, so he’s likely ticketed for a return to Triple-A. He could emerge as a valuable bat off San Diego’s bench.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Mobile (AA) .282 .364 .453 298 39 84 17 2 10 42 34 66 5 2
Portland (AAA) .344 .405 .563 151 27 52 15 0 6 27 16 29 0 0
San Diego .208 .321 .208 24 4 5 0 0 0 0 3 7 1 0


9. NICK HUNDLEY, c       Born: September 8, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 220
Drafted: Arizona, 2005 (2nd round)   Signed by: Dave Lottsfeldt

Background: Hundley was a fifth-round pick by the Marlins out of high school, and he did little to improve his draft stock until his junior year at Arizona, where he led the Wildcats in home runs (15) and walks (42). His father Tim is the defensive coordinator for Texas-El Paso’s football team.


Strengths:
Hundley is a strong, powerful hitter with natural loft in his swing, and he also has good pitch recognition. Behind the plate, he has above-average agility and arm strength. He consistently puts his throws on the bag and threw out 35 percent of basestealers in his pro debut.

  

Weaknesses:
Hundley is a dead-pull hitter with a power-only approach not conducive to hitting for a high average. Normally fundamentally sound, he often came out of his crouch too early during his pro debut and struggled to block balls.

  

The Future:
More advanced than 2004 third-round pick, catcher Billy Killian, Hundley will be tested in his first full season with an assignment to high Class A. If he polishes his receiving and blocking skills, he could reach San Diego in two-three years.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Eugune (SS) .250 .391 .453 148 30 37 7 1 7 22 33 35 1 0
Fort wayne (Lo A) .222 .310 .278 36 2 8 2 0 0 5 4 9 0 0


10. FREDDY GUZMAN, of       Born: January 20, 1981 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-10 Wt: 165
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2000   Signed by: Bill Clark/Modesto Ulloa

Background: Despite a disappointing big league debut in 2004, Guzman was poised to compete for San Diego’s center-field job last spring before blowing out his throwing elbow. Tommy John surgery kept him out of the regular season, and he didn’t return until the Dominican Winter League.


Strengths:
The elbow injury had no effect on Guzman’s best tool—game-changing speed. He impacts the game on the bases and in the field, and he led the minors with 90 steals in 2003. His center-field range borders on exceptional, as he gets good jumps and effortlessly reaches balls in both gaps. He’s a contact hitter with decent plate discipline.

  

Weaknesses:
Guzman’s arm already was below-average, and after the surgery it could become a true liability. He doesn’t always make good reads on balls, relying on his quickness to make up for mistakes. He pressed during his big league stint in 2004 and expanded his strike zone, undermining his ability to make use of his speed.

  

The Future:
The Padres traded for Mike Cameron, ending any longshot chance Guzman had of starting for them in 2006. He’ll open the year in Triple-A and will push for a reserve job in the second half.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Did Not Play—Injured


Photo Credits:
Headley, Hundley: Bill Mitchell
Guzman, Wells: Steve Moore
Carrillo: Robert Oliver

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