Does 10 prospects per team only whet your appetite? How does 30 sound? If you want the more of in-depth information you're finding here on three times as many players, Baseball America's 2003 Prospect Handbook is for you.
A year ago, the deep and balanced Padres system ranked as the fourth-best in the game. San Diego fans got a good look at the talent as the club used 59 players in 2002, including 16 who made their big league debuts. The Padres top three prospects entering the season all made their way to Qualcomm Stadium, with mixed results
Sean Burroughs, the organizations top prospect for three years running, was an initial disappointment after dislodging Phil Nevin from third base. He batted a soft .271, hurt his shoulder and was sent back to Triple-A to play second base. Burroughs still has considerable promise as a hitter, but he didnt answer the growing questions about whether hell hit for much power.
Righthander Dennis Tankersley went 1-4, 8.06 with the Padres, and continued to regress when he was demoted. His performance, coupled with the teams wealth of young pitching, has some scouts wondering if Tankersley will be more than a middle reliever for San Diego. The news was better for righthander Jake Peavy. With the rotation ravaged by injuries, he was brought to the big leagues shortly after his 21st birthday. He went 6-7, 4.52, surpassing Tankersley as the clubs future ace.
Another pitcher who arrived at Qualcomm ahead of scheduleand a bigger surprisewas 20-year-old lefty Oliver Perez. After beginning the season in high Class A, Perez went 4-5, 3.50 to finish with the best ERA among San Diegos regular starters.
Ramon Vazquez, acquired from the Mariners the previous offseason, came alive offensively during the second half but looks more like a utilityman than a regular shortstop. Righthander Ben Howard and lefties Eric Cyr and Mike Bynum were knocked around in the majors and battled minor injuries during the year.
Growing pains are to be expected, considering the Padres promoted most of those players before they had wanted to. A side effect is that the system has been thinned out, though it still has blue-chippers such as outfielder Xavier Nady, shortstop Khalil Greene and lefthander Mark Phillips.
But the long-term plan remains in place: Get a nucleus of young talent in place, then take advantage of the revenue when Petco Park opens in 2004. By then, Nady should give the lineup the extra power bat it needs while Greene could fill the void at short. The Padres may have to endure a fifth straight losing season in which they finish no better than fourth in the National League West, but next year they should be ready to contend again.
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: California, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Don Lyle.
Background: Nady entered 2000 as the consensus top draft prospect, but he had a so-so .329-19-59 junior season at California, and signability was the overriding concern among major league clubs. He slid to the Padres, then signed a big league contract with a $1.1 million bonus. His deal mandated a September callup, but he hasnt been back to San Diego since, with injuries the main culprit. He had Tommy John surgery after the 2001 season. Last year, he couldnt play in the field until mid-June and strained a quadriceps muscle in the AFL. Nady has an impressive offensive résumé. He eclipsed Mark McGwires Pacific-10 Conference record with a .718 slugging percentage, and was the Class A California Leagues MVP and home run leader in 2001.
Strengths: The Padres envision Nady as an impact hitter who will produce for both power and average. He has the strength and stroke to hit 40 homers annually, and he has an advanced approach at the plate. After trying to do too much after his midseason promotion to Triple-A Portland, Nady adjusted and closed holes in his swing. He batted .316-4-19 in the final month, then hit .323 in the AFL before getting hurt. Nady drives the ball hard to all fields. Hes a determined competitor and has worked hard on his defense.
Weaknesses: Nadys injuries have hampered his defensive development. He was drafted as a third baseman, but Sean Burroughs has a claim there. The Padres talked about trying Nady at second base, but elbow problems ended that and limited him to first base in 2001. Left field is his position now, but he was only healthy enough to play 63 games (including the AFL) there in 2002. He can make the routine plays and has improved his jumps on fly balls. His arm isnt quite average now but should stretch out as he gets healthier. The only offensive concern with Nady is that he needs more plate discipline.
The Future: The Padres will give Nady a long look in spring training, though he probably needs more time in Triple-A before hes fully ready. San Diego got just 20 homers out of its left fielders last season, and Nady could exceed that total as a rookie.