San Diego Padres: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

San Diego Padres: Scouting Reports




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, 2008.

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San Diego Padres

Though the Padres came up one game short of qualifying for the playoffs on the heels of two consecutive division titles, the organization enjoyed perhaps its most productive season, all things considered, in the last three.

Under first-year manager Bud Black, San Diego won 89 games, its most since the 1998 pennant winners won 98, but ran out of steam in September, when Chris Young went 0-3, 6.27 while battling a sore back and Milton Bradley and Mike Cameron were lost to injury with a week left in the season. The Padres still controlled their playoff destiny with three games to play, but lost all three, the last one a one-game wild-card playoff at Colorado.

Jake Peavy remained the ace of the pitching staff, winning his first Cy Young Award as well as the National League pitching triple crown. And in another constant, general manager Kevin Towers' shrewd trading acumen made a big impact.

One year after scoring big with trades for Adrian Gonzalez, Young and Cameron, Towers acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff from the Indians in exchange for Josh Barfield, who ultimately lost his job to rookie Asdrubal Cabrera. Kouzmanoff hit 18 homers as a rookie. Towers also added bullpen depth by shipping Ben Johnson to the Mets as part of a trade for Heath Bell, who led all major league relievers in innings (94) and strikeouts (102).

In late June, Towers picked up Bradley for the low cost of Triple-A righthander Andrew Brown, and Bradley jump-started the offense while healthy. He also made in-season trades for Michael Barrett and Scott Hairston, which paid modest dividends and cost San Diego little in terms of established talent.

On the minor league side, Double-A San Antonio and high Class A Lake Elsinore made deep playoff runs with teams stocked with prospects from the 2005 and 2006 drafts, the Padres' first two under vice president of scouting and farm director Grady Fuson. Of the eight drafted players on this Top 10 list, only first baseman Kyle Blanks (No. 10) was selected before Fuson arrived. San Antonio, BA's Minor League Team of the Year, won the Texas League title, led by the system's two best prospects, third baseman Chase Headley and second baseman Matt Antonelli.

Taking advantage of baseball's modified compensation system where Type B free agents no longer cost signing clubs a draft pick, Towers wasn't shy about offering arbitration and reaped seven extra picks for the loss of five players. With eight of the top 87 picks in the 2007 draft, the Padres primarily selected established college talent, like lefthanders Nick Schmidt and Cory Luebke, outfielder Kellen Kulbacki and catcher Mitch Canham.

San Diego also scored by landing the top player from baseball's final class of draft-and-follows. After signing for $1.25 million, righthander Matt Latos ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League. When bullpen stalwart Scott Linebrink started to slip, Towers shrewdly traded him to the Brewers for lefty Steve Garrison and righty Will Inman, both of whom cracked this Top 10 list, and lefty Joe Thatcher, who had a 1.29 ERA in 22 big league games. The Padres also were active in Latin America, handing out six-figure bonuses to a pair of Dominicans, shortstop Jonathan Spraut ($750,000) and outfielder Rymer Liriano ($300,000).

1.  Chase Headley, 3b   Born: May 9, 1984B-T: B-RHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Drafted: Tennessee, 2005 (2nd round)Signed by: Billy Merkel
Chase HeadleyBackground: 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. After a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, he finished second in NCAA Division I in walks (63) as a junior in 2005, before signing with the Padres for $560,000 as the club's second-round pick. Headley continued to show outstanding pitch recognition in his first two pro seasons, allowing him to hit for average and draw walks. In 2006, he earned all-star honors at third base in the high Class A California League. For all his hitting ability, though, Headley slugged just an aggregate .431 in the hitter-friendly Northwest and Cal leagues. The Padres, however, believed Headley would learn to pull the ball with authority, and following the 2006 campaign the third baseman embarked on a rigorous weight-training program that added 15 pounds of muscle, which he worked hard to retain through the summer months. The returns were immediate—and inarguably positive. Headley turned in one of the finest seasons in the minors in 2007, taking home Double-A Texas League MVP honors while leading the league in average (.330), on-base percentage (.437) and slugging percentage (.580). He finished third with 38 doubles and 63 extra-base hits, while ranking fourth with 20 home runs, 78 RBIs and 143 hits. Headley even made his major league debut in mid-June when starting third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff missed time with injury. If that weren't enough, he led San Antonio to the league title with a .269/.406/.500 performance—including two homers, four RBIs and five runs scored—in the TL playoffs.

Strengths:  Like most everybody drafted on Grady Fuson's watch, Headley is an instinctual player with plus makeup who plays above his tools. Headley also has the distinction of being the first such player to reach the big leagues. A switch-hitter with a sweet swing and power to all fields from both sides of the plate, Headley was noticeably shorter and quicker to the ball in 2007, and observers made note of his improved physique. Already blessed with well above-average hand-eye coordination and confidence, Headley learned to cheat smart, picking his spots to hit for power without selling out. Though the Texas League is generally hitter-oriented, San Antonio's Wolff Municipal Stadium was among the league's most difficult power parks. The Missions hit nearly twice as many home runs on the road, 88 to 45, as they did at home, and Headley slugged nearly 100 points higher on the road, .624 to .528. Though he knows how to hit and sees pitches well, Headley markedly improved his two-strike approach in 2007, the result of a four-week series of simulations during spring training. An average defender at third base with a solid-average arm, Headley has made strides with both his reads off the bat and his throwing accuracy.

Weaknesses: Prior to the 2007 season, Headley had struggled to match his production as a lefthanded batter from the right side of the plate. Often when batting righthanded, his right elbow would be too high during his load, which precipitated a longer, loopier swing. Headley was able to overcome that flaw and actually was more productive when facing TL lefties. A below-average runner, Headley has a slow body and is not a factor on the bases.

The Future: Headley is just about major league ready, but he's blocked by Kouzmanoff, who is coming off a successful rookie campaign in which he hit .317/.366/.524 in the second half. A move to an outfield corner could be in order, but scouts wondered whether Headley—or Kouzmanoff—would have the quickness to be more than playable out there. First base would also seem to be out of the question, as Adrian Gonzalez is one of the club's best players. Headley has all the qualities required of a third baseman on a first-division team, so one way or another the Padres will find a way to get his bat in the lineup.
 
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
San Antonio (AA) .330 .437 .580 433 82 143 38 5 20 78 74 114 1
San Diego (NL)
.222 .333 .278 18 1 4 1 0 0 0 2 4 0
 
2.  Matt Antonelli, 2b   Born: April 8, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 203
 Drafted: Wake Forest, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Ash Lawson
Matt AntonelliBackground: The Padres selected Antonelli with the 17th overall pick in 2006 and signed him for $1.575 million after he showed steady improvement each season at Wake Forest and turned in two strong summers in the Cape Cod League. Prior to that, as a high school senior, Antonelli was the Massachusetts state player of the year in football and hockey—and the runner-up in baseball. Drafted as a third baseman, Antonelli slugged just .356 and did not homer in 205 at-bats during his first pro summer.

Strengths: Great makeup and competitiveness are the two most common attributes ascribed to Antonelli. He's an overachiever who grinds counts and understands how to hit, using all fields and letting his home runs come naturally instead of muscling up on the ball. Antonelli has average bat speed and his power is mostly to left and left-center field. The Padres introduced Antonelli to second base in 2006 instructional league and while he's not a flashy defender there, he has good first step reactions, solid-average range, the fortitude to hang in on double plays and more than enough arm. Antonelli has above-average speed and baserunning instincts.

Weaknesses: Though Antonelli is athletic and offers a wide base of skills, he's a max-effort player who looks like he's moving 100 miles-per-hour at all times, as one observer put it. Because he's still learning the position of second base, he tended to both sit back on the ball and come up early when fielding. He also fell into the habit of reaching with one hand when taking the feed from the shortstop on double-play attempts, instead of keeping his hands together to hasten the transfer. Though he runs well, Antonelli might not have the explosiveness to steal bases at the highest level.

The Future: With Marcus Giles out of the picture for 2008, Antonelli stands as the favorite to start at second base. Even if he begins in the minors, it shouldn't be long before Antonelli gets his shot at the big league job.
 
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lake Elsinore (Hi A) .314 .409 .499 347 89 109 14 4 14 54 53 58 18
San Antonio (AA) .294 .395 .476 187 34 55 11 1 7 24 30 36 10
 
3.  Matt Latos, rhp   Born: Dec. 9, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 210
 Drafted: Broward (Fla.) CC, D/F 2006 (11th round)Signed by: Joe Bochy
Matt LatosBackground: Compared with Nationals' 2006 first-rounder Colton Willems when both were Florida high school seniors, Latos fell to the 11th round that year because of questionable maturity and unrealistic bonus demands. He opted to pass on attending Oklahoma, where he had committed, and instead reinforced his value with a strong stint at Broward (Fla.) Community College before signing with the Padres for $1.25 million as a draft-and-follow—just hours before the signing deadline. He finished third in the short-season Northwest League with a 74 strikeouts in his debut.

Strengths: Though raw, Latos' stuff is firm and he shows the potential for three plus pitches. It all begins with an above-average 92-97 mph fastball that he delivers with excellent leverage and downhill plane, which affords him plus life down in the zone. Latos delivers his hard breaking ball, which more closely resembles a curveball, from a high three-quarters arm slot. He spikes his changeup with the knuckle of his forefinger and uses the offering as a chase pitch, but not a command one.

Weaknesses: Latos' mound presence improved dramatically during the course of the NWL season. Though he gets good rotation on his curveball, he tends to throw it too hard and also to lose his release point. The Padres left Latos' spike changeup alone this summer, but they're teaching him a straight change grip to help him generate more strikeouts against advanced batters. Latos offers natural deceptiveness because he has some effort to his delivery.

The Future: Latos has the stuff and competitiveness to pitch at the front of a big league rotation—all he lacks is feel. If he doesn't find it, his stuff will play just as well at the back of a bullpen.
 
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Eugene (SS) 1 4 3.83 16 13 0 0 56 58 1 22 74 .266
 
4.  Wade LeBlanc, lhp   Born: Aug. 7, 1984B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 202
 Drafted: Alabama, 2006 (2nd round)Signed by: Bob Filotei
Wade LeBlancBackground: LeBlanc earned BA's Freshman of the Year honors in 2004, going 8-4, 2.08 for Alabama, and while he missed much of his sophomore season, he led the Tide to super-regionals as a junior in 2006. He's a classic college lefty with command who pitches above his raw stuff. LeBlanc led all Padres farmhands with 145 strikeouts, while finishing second with 13 wins and third with a 2.95 ERA.

Strengths: LeBlanc's smooth, repeatable delivery allows him to throw three pitches for strikes, and the finish on those pitches improved in 2007. While he generally works backward, LeBlanc gained confidence in his fringe-average fastball, which ranges from 85-90 mph and sits 86-88, using it to better effect in setting up his curveball and, especially, his changeup. LeBlanc's change, a true 80 pitch at times, is delivered with plus arm speed, whether he's throwing it for a strike or burying it. As the season progressed, LeBlanc improved his feel for locating his solid-average curveball down in the zone.

Weaknesses: LeBlanc's fastball is a bit too true and he's working to develop a two-seamer he can throw to the outer half of the plate with life. Overall, Improved fastball command would make his offspeed offerings that much deadlier. LeBlanc sometimes rushes the delivery of his fastball and his body gets ahead of his arm, causing him to miss up and away to righthanded batters.

The Future: After tearing through high Class A and Double-A, LeBlanc is close to being major league ready. Like Antonelli, if he doesn't break camp with the team, it won't be long before he gets his shot. LeBlanc's durability and competitiveness mark him as a future mid-rotation starter.
 
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lake Elsinore (Hi A) 6 5 2.64 16 16 0 0 92 72 5 17 90 .212
San Antonio (AA) 7 3 3.45 12 11 0 0 57 48 8 19 55 .225
 
5.  Drew Miller, rhp   Born: Feb. 24, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 190
 Drafted: Seminole State (Okla.) JC, D/F 2005 (37th round)Signed by: Lane Decker
Drew MillerBackground: Miller posted dominant strikeout totals in junior college, but struggled to a 4.29 ERA in his sophomore year at Seminole State (Okla.) Junior College. The Padres gave him early fourth-round money ($300,000) to sign as a draft-and-follow in 2006. Miller was a model of inconsistency in the low Class A Midwest League: He threw seven no-hit innings and struck out 11 in a start against Quad Cities on April 24, but also put up a 5.28 ERA in the second half while missing time with both shoulder soreness and a strained oblique.

Strengths: Miller's athleticism, arm strength and three-pitch mix give him a ceiling to rival that of Matt Latos, but he's only beginning to scratch the surface of his abilities. He can dial his plus fastball up to 95 mph—he pitches at 90-94—and coupled with his plus curveball, Miller has two swing-and-miss pitches at his disposal. His smooth delivery allows him to repeat his mechanics and throw strikes, and his body still has room for projection.

Weaknesses: If the Padres didn't make Miller throw his changeup, he probably wouldn't use it—though he is capable of throwing a major league-average change at times. In fact, the pitch was often the culprit of the 12 home runs Miller surrendered in the pitcher-friendly MWL. Even with his potent fastball-curveball combo, Miller is still learning to put hitters away.

The Future: Improved health and added strength would benefit Miller in 2008 as he navigates the pitcher's rite of passage that is the high Class A California League. Continued improvement to and trust in his changeup could propel Miller to front-of-the-rotation status, but a No. 3 profile is more likely.
 
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Wayne (Lo A) 4 6 4.69 16 16 0 0 81 74 12 24 87 .244
 
6.  Steve Garrison, lhp   Born: Sept. 12, 1986B-T: B-LHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Ewing, N.J., 2005 (10th round)Signed by: Tony Blengino (Brewers)
Steve GarrisonBackground: As might be expected from a player who went to the elite Hun School of Princeton in New Jersey, Garrison is a smart, poised, sharp pitcher with an effervescent personality. He slipped to the 10th round in 2005 due to signability questions, because of his commitment to North Carolina, but agreed to terms with the Brewers for $160,000. The Padres acquired him in July, along with Will Inman and Joe Thatcher, in exchange for veteran righthanded reliever Scott Linebrink.

Strengths: One Padres official described Garrison as an artist on the mound, a pitcher who pitches well above his stuff, which is just average. He touches 90 mph occasionally, but pitches at 86-88 to both sides of the plate, consistently keeping out of the middle of the plate. His curveball and changeup are above-average offerings most of the time. The epitome of a pitchability prospect, Garrison mixes pitches adeptly and knows how to attack hitters. A good athlete, Garrison repeats his delivery and controls the running game almost as well as he does the strike zone.

Weaknesses: As a command and control guy, Garrison walks a fine line. Anything he leaves up and over the plate is susceptible to being hit a long way, though he has surrendered just 18 homers in 270 minor league innings. Garrison lacks the type of power stuff to get out of his own jams with a strikeout.

The Future: Garrison tamed the high Class A California League after the trade, suggesting he's quite ready for Double-A and the Texas League in 2008. He's behind fellow lefty LeBlanc on the organizational depth chart, so he might have to wait until 2009 for his chance to fulfill his potential as a durable mid-rotation starter.
 
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Brevard County (Hi A) 8 4 3.44 20 20 1 0 105 105 6 28 74 .253
Lake Elsinore (Hi A) 2 3 2.79 7 7 0 0 42 32 2 6 28 .205
 
7.  Will Inman, rhp   Born: Feb. 6, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Dry Fork, Va., 2005 (3rd round)Signed by: Grant Brittain (Brewers)
Will InmanBackground: After leading Tunstall High to back-to-back Virginia state titles and setting the state record for strikeouts, Inman spurned an Auburn commitment to sign with the Brewers for $500,000. He posted the second-best ERA in the minors in 2006 (1.71) and followed that up with a runner-up finish for minor league strikeouts lead this season with 180. He joined the Padres, along with Steve Garrison and Joe Thatcher, in a midseason trade that sent veteran righthanded reliever Scott Linebrink to Milwaukee.

Strengths: While not overpowering, Inman controls his average fastball for strikes to any part of the zone. At his best, he pitches at 88-93 mph with a solid-average curveball and average changeup—though the quality of his secondary stuff varies wildly from start to start. Inman added shape to his curveball this season, as it had previously resembled a slurve, and worked to incorporate more changeups to his sequences. He's a fierce competitor who works ahead in the count and understands how to set up hitters.

Weaknesses: Inman tired badly down the stretch and his velocity dipped into the 85-88 mph range. He had previously missed time at the end of the 2006 season with shoulder fatigue. Though he locates it well, Inman's fastball is straight, and when he rushes his delivery, he loses velocity on the pitch.

The Future: Inman's success hinges on command. He breezed through the high Class A Florida State League before stumbling a bit in the Double-A Texas League, where he gave up 12 runs in his final 16 2/3 innings. He did register a 10-, a nine- and an eight-strikeout game while with San Antonio, though, and given his excellent command projects as a back-end starter.
 
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Brevard County (Hi A) 4 3 1.72 13 13 0 0 79 56 4 23 98 .198
Huntsville (AA) 1 5 5.45 8 8 0 0 40 38 7 16 42 .259
San Antonio (AA) 3 3
4.17
7
7
0 0 41
33
6
19 40 .224
 
8.  Cedric Hunter, of   Born: March 10, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Decatur, Ga., 2006 (3rd round)Signed by: Pete DeYoung
Cedric HunterBackground: Hunter earned first-team All-America honors in 2006 during his senior season at Martin Luther King Jr. High in Lithonia, Ga., after which the Padres made him a third-round pick and signed him for $415,000. Hunter delivered right out of the gate, reaching base in his first 49 pro games and winning the Rookie-level Arizona League's MVP honors. He did not replicate that performance in the pitching-dominated low Class A Midwest League in 2007, where the average batter managed to hit just .255/.324/.372.

Strengths: Hunter's hand-eye coordination is his best asset, and he showed very good contract skills and the ability to line the ball into the gaps. He commands the strike zone like a much older hitter and he projects to hit .280 to .300 at the big league level because he makes contact and is geared to use all fields. Hunter's tick above-average speed translates into average range in center field, where his arm is average. His all-around game continues to draw comparisons with that of Jacque Jones.

Weaknesses: Some MWL observers thought Hunter lacked energy and that perhaps he had fallen victim to reading his own press clippings. His swing tended to get loopy and he struggled to stay back, severely limiting his power to the pull field. Because he lacks first-step quickness, Hunter didn't get out of the box or steal bases well. It also did him no favors in center field.

The Future: The Padres believe Hunter can fix the quirks in his swing and learn to turn on pitches he can drive. If he does so, Hunter profiles as an instinctual hitter and a plus defender in one of Petco Park's spacious outfield corners.
 
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Fort Wayne (Lo A) .282 .344 .373 496 53 140 20 2 7 58 47 78 8
Portland (AAA) .500 .600 1.250 4 1 2 0 0 1 3 1 1 0
 
9.  Nick Schmidt, lhp   Born: Oct. 10, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 220
 Drafted: Arkansas, 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Lane Decker
Nick SchmidtBackground: A polished, durable lefthander who was a No. 1 starter in the rugged Southeastern Conference since he was a freshman, Schmidt lasted until the 23rd pick, where the Padres took him and signed him for $1.26 million. He logged 117 innings during his sophomore season—after which he won the championship game at the World University Games in Cuba—and 124 more as a junior. Schmidt bypassed the short-season leagues after signing, but tossed just seven innings for low Class A Fort Wayne before being shut down with elbow soreness.

Strengths: While he doesn't have a swing-and-miss pitch, Schmidt is adept at using his 6-foot-5 frame to drive his pitches down in the zone. He can touch 91 mph, but more often pitches at 86-89, and backs it up with an above-average curveball and solid-average changeup. What he lacks in stuff, the competitive Schmidt makes up for with control and the ability to change speeds. He also has an advanced feel for reading opposing batters' swings.

Weaknesses: The condition of Schmidt's elbow did not improve with rest as the club had hoped and he had Tommy John surgery in October. Schmidt has some effort to his delivery and he shows the open face of his glove to the batter before he delivers his pitches. He stays online to the plate well, however, and his delivery quirks do add deceptiveness.

The Future: Schmidt joins Tim Stauffer, Matt Bush and Cesar Carrillo as recent Padres first-round picks who've gone down with injury. While Schmidt will miss the 2008 season, he shouldn't require much minor league time before he's a candidate for the big league rotation, where he profiles as a No. 3 starter.
 
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Wayne (Lo A) 0 1 6.43 3 1 0 0 7 8 0 6 6 .286
 
10.  Kyle Blanks, 1b   Born: Sept. 11, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 281
 Drafted: Yavapai (Ariz.) JC, D/F 2004, (42nd round)Signed by: Jake Wilson
Kyle BlanksBackground: Blanks led the wood-bat Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in batting (.440), doubles (25) and RBIs (47) in 2004, after which the Padres signed him for $260,000 before he could enter the 2005 draft. A major leg infection limited him to 86 games with low Class A Fort Wayne in 2006, when the 6-foot-6 Blanks had trouble keeping his playing weight under 300 pounds.

Strengths: Blanks rebounded nicely in 2007, staying in better playing shape and ranking fourth in the high Class A California League in both extra-base hits (59) and RBIs (100). He has the most raw power in the system and he slugged 24 home runs for Lake Elsinore, where the ball does not carry to left or left-center field. In doing so he became the first righthanded batter to top 20 since Xavier Nady hit 26 for the Storm in 2001. He improved his pitch selection and weight shift in 2007—adding a stride instead of just turning and rotating—which gave him a sense of timing at the plate, not to mention more in-game power.

Weaknesses: Blanks' power is almost entirely pull and he would do well to use the other side of the diamond more often. He's agile for his size and has good hands at first base, but his footwork and reactions need cleaning up. He has an above-average arm. Despite his success, Blanks still was susceptible to hard stuff up and in, and to sliders off the plate when in cheat mode.

The Future: Blanks is a different animal, as one Padres official put it, and with his body type and right-right profile he'll always have to prove himself against the competition. He moves to Double-A in 2008.
 
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lake Elsinore (Hi A) .301 .380 .540 465 94 140 31 4 24 100 44 98 11

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Photo Credits:
Andrew Woolley (Headley)
Steve Moore (Antonelli, Hunter, Blanks)
Bill Mitchell (Latos, LeBlanc, Miller, Inman)
Cliff Welch (Garrison)
Paul Gierhart (Schmidt)