San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Jim Callis
1. Sean Burroughs, 3b
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSLong Beach, 1998 (1st round). Signed by: Tim McWilliam.
Background: Burroughs entered 2001 with the reputation as the best pure hitter in the minor leagues. He led Long Beach to consecutive Little League World Series titles in 1992-93 and in 2000, his second pro season, he was named MVP of the Futures Game and won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team. The only thing missing from his résumé was adversity, but he got his first dose last April. Burroughs was batting .328 at Triple-A Portland despite a sore right knee, which proved to be a torn meniscus that required surgery. Sidelined for a month, Burroughs returned and hit like he always had. Managers rated him the best prospect in the Pacific Coast League.
Strengths: Burroughs is a career .327 hitter in the minors despite being young for his league each year. The Padres are excited about 2001 first-round pick Jake Gautreau, another gifted offensive playerand Gautreau is 10 months older than Burroughs, whos on the verge of the major leagues. He has a picture-
perfect swing, a quick bat and an uncanny sense of the strike zone, with more walks than whiffs as a pro. He isnt troubled by lefthanders, against whom he batted .349 last year. He works hard and makes adjustments easily when needed. His instincts are another asset, no surprise considering hes the son of former No. 1 overall pick and American League MVP Jeff Burroughs. Sean has soft hands and a strong, accurate arm at third base.
Weaknesses: Burroughs power potential has yet to manifest itself. He has just 17 homers in 340 pro games. He has started to look for specific pitches to drive, depending on the situation, and projects to hit 25-30 homers annually once he gets acclimated to the major leagues. His speed is his worst tool, though he runs the bases well and makes the plays at third base.
The Future: San Diego has an impressive array of talent at third base, and theres still some thought that Burroughs could play second. The Padres would rather just get his bat in the lineup, so all-star Phil Nevin will move to first base and Ryan Klesko will shift to the outfield in order to open third for Burroughs. He is a prime 2002 Rookie of the Year candidate and a batting champion waiting to happen.
2. Dennis Tankersley, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Meramec (Mo.) CC, D/F 1998 (38th round). Signed by: Steve McAllister (Red Sox).
Background: Tankersley was an unknown when the Padres stole him from the Red Sox in a June 2000 trade for fading veteran Ed Sprague. He immediately blossomed into one of the games top pitching prospects. Managers rated him the No. 1 prospect in the high Class A California League last year; he reached Triple-A before his arm tired in August.
Strengths: Tankersley can throw four pitches for strikes, and most of them are nasty. He can reach the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball, and his sinking two-seamer arrives in the low 90s. Hitters cant sit on his fastball because he has a mid-80s slider that was rated the best breaking ball in the Cal League.
Weaknesses: Tankersleys changeup lags behind his other three pitches, though its getting better as he starts to use it more often. He may need to add strength after fading in Triple-A.
The Future: Tankersley could get a long look for the big league rotation in spring training. Its more likely that hell get work at Portland before joining San Diego during the season.
3. Jacob Peavy, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSSemmes, Ala., 1999 (15th round). Signed by: Mark Wasinger.
Background: Peavy was running neck and neck with Gerik Baxter and Mike Bynum as the best prospect from San Diegos 1999 draft class, but last year Baxter was killed in an auto accident and Bynum regressed. The only minor league starter who topped Peavys 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings last year was Minor League Player of the Year Josh Beckett.
Strengths: One veteran Padres scout says Peavy is the closest thing to Greg Maddux he has seen, and Double-A Southern League managers seconded that comparison. Peavy puts the ball wherever he wants, whenever he wants. He uses a lively low-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup.
Weaknesses: Peavy sometimes falls into a finesse mode but has enough on his fastball to beat hitters with it. He began to understand this last year. Of his three pitches, his slider needs the most work.
The Future: Peavy has a chance to be the rare high school player who makes the major leagues before he has to be added to the 40-man roster. Hell probably open 2002 in Triple-A and could reach Qualcomm Stadium by the end of the year.
4. Xavier Nady, 1b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: California, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Don Lyle.
Background: Once projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 draft, Nady lasted until the second round because of a disappointing junior season and signability concerns. Despite just one at-bat of pro experience, he led the California League in homers, extra-base hits (65) and total bases (276) while winning MVP honors in his first full pro season.
Strengths: A classic run producer, Nady has an advanced concept of hitting and will produce for both power and average. He drives the ball to all fields and adjusted easily to pro ball. Moved around the infield in college, he was named the Cal Leagues best defensive first baseman in 2001.
Weaknesses: Nady tore ligaments in his elbow in the Arizona Fall League in 2000. The injury kept him from trying second base or the outfield last year, and he stayed in high Class A so he could DH when needed. He doesnt run well.
The Future: Nady required Tommy John surgery in the offseason and wont be able to throw before mid-2002, so hell spend most of the year as a DH at Double-A Mobile. His elbow is the only thing holding him back, and its preventing him from settling into a position.
5. Mark Phillips, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSHanover, Pa., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Rene Mons.
Background: Phillips willingness to agree to a club-record $2.2 million bonus before the 2000 draft played a role in the Padres picking him ninth overall, but his ability outstrips his signability. Sentenced to extended spring at the start of 2001 because he arrived out of shape in spring training, he ended the year in high Class A.
Strengths: Phillips arm is rare among lefties. He throws 92-94 mph with little effort, and the pitch seems to jump when it gets to the plate. Phillips also has a plus curveball he can throw for strikes or get hitters to chase out of the zone.
Weaknesses: Mechanics are the key for Phillips. His velocity was down in spring training because his delivery was off, and staying in sync will improve his command. His changeup lags behind his other pitches at this point.
The Future: Phillips could begin this year in Double-A at age 20, or the Padres could play it safe and give him a few more starts in the Cal League. Either way, its going to be hard to keep him in the minors for long once he learns to repeat his delivery.
6. Ben Howard, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSJackson, Tenn., 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: Mark Wasinger.
Background: Despite a lightning arm, Howard went 16-30, 5.90 in his first four seasons, leading his league in walks each year. After Padres minor league pitching coach Darren Balsley worked with him after the 2000 season, Howard arrived in spring training with a lower arm slot and was an entirely different pitcher.
Strengths: Howards fastball is the best in the system. Consistently arriving in the mid-90s and peaking at 99 mph, it always had been unhittable but now he throws it for strikes. His hard slider gives him a second plus pitch, and he has made strides with his changeup.
Weaknesses: Howard cut his walk rate by nearly two-thirds in 2001, though it climbed to 4.5 per nine innings once he reached Double-A. If he can maintain his control, he shouldnt have any problems. His changeup still needs refinement.
The Future: Balsley worked with Howard at high Class A Lake Elsinore last year, and theyll be reunited in Double-A to start 2002. Tankersley, Peavy and Howard overmatched the Cal League last year and could be together in the San Diego rotation by the end of 2003.
7. Eric Cyr, lhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Seminole (Okla.) JC, D/F 1998 (30th round). Signed by: Van Smith.
Background: A Canadian who signed as a draft-and-follow in 1999, Cyr worked a total of just 76 innings in his first two pro seasons. He missed much of 2000 after having bone chips removed from his elbow and began 2001 in the Lake Elsinore bullpen. Cyrs breakthrough year was interrupted in April when the FBI arrested him on charges that he had sex with a 15-year-old girl during his return flight from playing in Australia the previous winter.
Strengths: Cyrs combination of a 91-92 mph fastball and knuckle-curve allowed him to limit California League hitters to a .184 average and one homer in 369 at-bats. His fastball tops out at 94 and explodes at the plate with heavy life. His command is yet another positive.
Weaknesses: Cyr is still developing his slider and changeup. When his offspeed pitches are working, hes untouchable. The Padres say his legal problems will be resolved before spring training, and he isnt expected to serve any jail time.
The Future: Showing his regular season performance was no fluke, Cyr starred in the Arizona Fall League. Hell start 2002 in Double-A and has the stuff to advance quickly.
8. Jake Gautreau, 2b/3b
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Tulane, 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Mark Wasinger.
Background: A two-time Conference USA player of the year, "Jake the Rake" led NCAA Division I with 96 RBIs and carried Tulane to its first College World Series appearance in 2001. Gautreau showed he was proficient with wood bats while with Team USA the previous summer, so his initial success at the plate was no surprise.
Strengths: Like Burroughs and Nady, Gautreau should hit for power and average; no system has three pure hitters as good as San Diegos. Moved to second base in instructional league because of the organizational glut at third, Gautreau was a revelation. He showed agility, hands and arm strength, and he even was fine on the double-play pivot.
Weaknesses: Gautreau doesnt have great first-step quickness, though he gets to balls and make plays. Several teams doubted whether he could play third base in the majors, but the Padres say hell be able to handle second. He struck out a bit too much in his debut.
The Future: The Padres knew they were getting a premium bat in Gautreau, and now theyre envisioning a lefthanded Jeff Kent. Hes ticketed for Lake Elsinore and could reach Double-A this year.
9. Ramon Vazquez, ss
Age: 25. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Indian Hills (Iowa) CC, 1995 (27th round). Signed by: Cotton Nye (Mariners).
Background: After realizing DAngelo Jimenez was better suited for second base, the Padres swung a six-player trade with the Mariners in December, getting Vazquez and righthander Brett Tomko and losing catcher Ben Davis. Vazquez was a Pacific Coast League all-star, and managers named him the leagues most exciting player.
Strengths: Vazquez does a little of everything at shortstop. He hits for a solid average, occasionally stings the ball into the gaps and draws plenty of walks. Defensively, he offers range and soft hands, and he made just 12 errors last year.
Weaknesses: Vazquez doesnt have the speed or the arm strength normally associated with shortstops, though he has a quick first step that allows him to make plays. It took him seven years and a repeat trip to Double-A to move through the minors, so he may not have much room for improvement.
The Future: Vazquez is the frontrunner to start at shortstop for San Diego this year. Donaldo Mendez, a 2000 major league Rule 5 draft pick, could compete for the job in the future. He has more defensive upside than Vazquez but provides less offense.
10. Oliver Perez, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 160. Signed: Mexico, 1999. Signed by: Felix Francisco.
Background: Before signing an agreement with the Mexico City Red Devils, the Padres were affiliated with the Mexican Leagues Yucatan Lions, to whom they loaned Perez for most of 2000. He made his U.S. full-season debut last year and was the only regular member of low Class A Fort Waynes rotation to post a winning record.
Strengths: Perez already has average velocity on his fastball and can run it up to 94 mph, but his best pitch is his slider. He moves his pitches in and out, changes speeds and shows no fear. He was the toughest pitcher to run on in the Midwest League, as only five of 15 basestealers succeeded against him.
Weaknesses: Perez sometimes relies on his fastball too much. When hes willing to throw his slider in any count, hes tough. His changeup and command can use improvement. He has made progress adding weight to his skinny frame, but he still can get stronger.
The Future: Hes just 20, so Perez probably will return to high Class A despite pitching well in nine starts for Lake Elsinore last year. It will be difficult to hold him back if he continues his rapid development.
Rest of the Best:
11. Ben Johnson, of
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