San Diego Padres: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

San Diego Padres: Chat

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, 2009.

Moderator: Matt is on a Handbook call and will be in the chat room as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

    Brendan (Colorado): Can you give us some quick thoughts on Zawadzki? How close was he to the top 10 and what kind of ceiling does he have?

Matthew Eddy: Zawadzki was considered for the top 10, with his short track record the only thing really working against him. Getting to Double-A and playing well was a great sign, though. He's not an overly physical player, but he has two outstanding tools — three if you want to count flexibility — that will get him big league looks. Zawadzki has impressive pop from both sides of the plate and an absolute cannon of an arm. The power will play up the middle and the arm keeps him alive on the left side of the infield. He improved his consistency of defense in 2009, but maybe not to the point where he's a starting shortstop on championship team. It might not matter. He could offer significant value to the Padres by filling in at third, second and short, settling at one position occasionally to fill in for injured players.

    Rick (Wv): Vince Belnome tore it up in Eugene, did he come close to reaching the top 10?

Matthew Eddy: A 28th-round pick from West Virginia in June, Belnome hit .297 with power for Eugene. Members of the front office brought him up by name as a player to watch in 2010. No one seemed sold on him as a second baseman, but they loved his quiet hitting approach from the left side and his intensity. He's probably not a big power guy in the end, but a lefty-hitting third baseman who hits for average and uses all fields has a shot. Sleeper potential.

    Matt (Houston, TX): Where is Rymer Liriano ranked? I would ranked him higher than Aaron Poreda .

Matthew Eddy: Liriano shot into the top 15. He's got the raw power, the rifle arm, some speed and the effusive nature to be a star. But will he control the strike zone as he moves up? If he does, then watch out. He's got serious juice to all fields. In the end, Liriano very well may prove to be a better big leaguer than Poreda. But when this snapshot was taken, Poreda had put Double-A behind him (8.3 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 26 starts) and had the raw stuff to pitch in the bullpen. The loss of any semblance of control after the trade is discouraging, but if he throws more strikes, he will pitch as a late-inning reliever.

    Justin (San Diego): Can Matt Clark play any other positions, or is he future trade bait?

Matthew Eddy: Clark played some third base as an amateur, but the Padres seem inclined to develop him as a first baseman because he's not the fleetest afoot. But at this point in time, Clark's the top dog on the minor league depth chart. He proved as much when he zoomed to high Class A ahead of Allan Dykstra. But what is that worth in a system that has Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks ahead of him in the big leagues? We'll have to wait and see. His first full season was a success: He led all farmhands with 24 homers and 101 RBIs.

    Jake (Near SD): Where would Kyle Blanks rank, if he were eligible?

Matthew Eddy: Given how well Blanks hit in both Portland and San Diego, he'd have to be considered odds-on favorite for another No. 1 ranking.

    DLB (MD): You said that Forsythe will have average power for a 3B. What does that equate to in terms of annual HRs and SLG%?

Matthew Eddy: On the scouting scale, average power on the equates to 15-19 home runs per season. Of course, playing half his games in Petco will deflate those home run and slugging numbers. Forsythe has that kind of strength to hit 12-14 homers in Petco, but his line-drive stroke might equate to more doubles than homers even in a neutral park.

    Pierre (Montreal, Canada): Did the Padres get enough for Jake Peavy?

Matthew Eddy: From a talent perspective, it appears that the Padres did not receive equal value. That perception is reinforced by the lousy organizational debuts for both Poreda and Dexter Carter. And while Clayton Richard and Adam Russell are nice pieces for depth, they're hardly in the same universe as Peavy. I think for San Diego, it boiled down to salary relief now and for the next three seasons.

    Sean (Calgary Canada): What should the Padres do with Gonzalez? It seems a shame to give up a relatively inexpensive younger player but when you look at their system they seem to lack both quality and depth. Who would be a good match (Boston and?) and what could the Padres expect to get?

Matthew Eddy: Don't be surprised if the Padres hang on to Gonzalez. Not only is he a talented slugger, but he's a hometown kid who's obscenely affordable. The club will need to generate some revenue over the next few seasons, and keeping Gonzalez around will also provide a role model for young Padres hitters.

    Greg (Vista, CA): Can you give a pitcher and position player prospectsthat might be a sleeper?

Matthew Eddy: A sleeper, eh? Belnome would do for hitters, though there's also Dominican second baseman-in-the-making Jonathan Galvez, who whips the bat through the zone with strong wrists and already has a feel for the strike zone. Among pitchers, you might look at '07 first-rounder Nick Schmidt, who wore down in the Cal League but who dealt in spring training. And don't overlook Fort Wayne closer Brad Brach, an '08 42nd-rounder from Monmouth. While he doesn't have overpowering stuff, sitting in the low 90s with a nice splitter, he has "icewater running through his veins," as one official put it. And you can't argue with the early results: 11.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and 33 saves in 34 opportunities.

    Brian (San Diego): Was there any consideration for Portillo on your top 10?

Matthew Eddy: Sure. We haven't given up on him just because he had a rough year. His control wavered and the Padres streamlined his mechanics in-season, so you can throw away the 2009 results. The arm strength is real and the secondary pitches show up on occasion.

    Matt (SoCal): What do you think of Craig Italiano? Was he put on the 40 man because of rule V this year?

Matthew Eddy: Technically, yes. The Padres added him (and Chad Huffman and Steve Garrison) so that he would not be exposed to the Rule 5 process. But if Italiano pitches well in Double-A next spring, you could see him in San Diego in the second half. It's a wicked fastball/slider combo that he's paired recently with improved control.

    Steve (Lake Elsinore, CA): I've heard the criticism of Deckers bad body before but, I've also heard that his body doesn't match his athleticism. People in the Padres organization have said positive things about his athleticism and he's even played some CF since being drafted. Have you heard anything like that? Worst case scenario does his bat play at 1b?

Matthew Eddy: It pains me to criticize Decker because he's been absolute offensive force as a pro. But what we're trying to convey are the opinions of talent evaluators who have watched players develop for decades. At the end of the year, Decker seemed more receptive to an improved conditioning program. Keep in mind that he's young and that he's never struggled as a baseball player. How receptive would any player be?

    Brian (San Diego): Why doesn't Luis Durango ever get any love? He's hit at every level and has lightning speed. His defense has improved and it seems like he'll be able to handle CF. The only knock on him I've heard is his lack of power to keep the outfielders honest.

Matthew Eddy: I had this conversation with co-workers this morning. Durango has demonstrated an ability to slap the ball and run, while being able to foul off pitches until the pitcher misses for ball four. Big league defenses and pitchers might disarm Durango of those two weapons. And while he's fast, he's no better than average as a center fielder or basestealer. He could have a career as an extra guy in the NL, someone who can pinch-hit, pinch-run and sub in the outfield.

    Darren (Clevelad): Will Italiano continue to be used strictly as a reliever by the Padres?

Matthew Eddy: Yes. They dropped his arm slot from over the top to three-quarters and his control improved dramatically. But his repertoire has long suggest a relief role.

    Brian (San Diego): How much has the Padres farm system improved?

Matthew Eddy: Quite a bit. It was a strong player development year on all fronts: the draft, the performances of players from the '08 draft, a number of Latin American talents showed real improvement, the trades of Peavy and Hairston brought back several power arms.

    John (El Cajon): Should the Padres be worried about possibly losing Aaron Breit, Will Inman, or Drew Miller in the Rule 5 draft? Anybody else worth mentioning?

Matthew Eddy: Miller seems like a long shot, seeing as he pitched terribly in the Cal League in '08 and then missed his follow-up with a bum elbow. Breit and Inman are different cases, though. Inman is too homer-prone to pitch as a starter or high-leverage reliever. He just doesn't command his fastball well enough. But his curveball features good rotation, and his delivery is so deceptive that he could pitch in low-leverage relief role in 2010. Breit has the raw ingredients — size, a plus curveball and a low-90s fastball (though it's straight) — but maybe not the focus to pitch in the majors next year. He started for Lake Elsinore down the stretch, but his profile screams reliever. In that role, he posted a 56-15 K-BB in 41 innings, giving up only one home run.

    Brett (DC): Noticed Will Venable wasn't on the future lineup. Is there a chance that he becomes a regular on a decent MLB team? Or is he more of a 4th of or even a non-prospect?

Matthew Eddy: He's an overachiever who will have a big league career, in my opinion. He probably fits best as a fill-in guy on a quality team, because he does a lot of things well but nothing exceptionally so.

    Robert Goldberg (Lyndhurst, NJ): Where is Forsythe most likely to end up, defensively? His bat would be outstanding at second or catcher, but not so much at third or in the outfield (unless his power spikes).

Matthew Eddy: This is a fair assessment, the only drawback being that he's probably the most effective third base defender in the system.

    Bob (New Orleans): Will Brandon Gomes ever make it to the show? What are your thoughts on him.

Matthew Eddy: Gomes really put him self on the map in '09. After leading the minors in appearances, he continued on in the AFL, pitching 11 times and striking out 16 (against 3 walks) in 15 innings. So who is he, you ask? San Diego selected the 5-foot-10 righthander from Tulane in the '07 draft's 17th round, but he didn't blossom until he reached Double-A this year. The Padres credit improved direction to the plate with his success, and he's got solid stuff to boot. Gomes' velocity improved to the 93-94 mph range and his slider and splitter (his changeup against lefties) also took steps forward.

    Big Dave (AR): What are you hearing about Yefri Carvajal these days? The Padres seemed to be really high on him when they signed him, but he hasn't quite taken off yet. Is he close to putting it together or are the Pads starting to get down on him?

Matthew Eddy: Once upon a time, Carvajal was the system's top international prospect. Thankfully those days are past, as Carvajal's swing remains loopy and his confidence is diminished after two poor years in A-ball. His raw power is huge and he can run a bit, so he's not a player San Diego will walk away from . . . yet.

    JAYPERS (IL): Where did Dexter Carter land on your list? Does his rocky beginning with the Padres' system any cause for concern?

Matthew Eddy: It is a concern because he showed no diminution of stuff. Carter was so effective for the White Sox, though, so we squeezed him onto the list.

    Allan (Wisconsin): Matt, what prospects am I going to see in Fort Wayne this year...Last year was loaded with Darnell, Castro, Dykstra, Decker and Tekotte. Maybe Tate at some point?

Matthew Eddy: Your best bets are going to be Edinson Rincon and RHP Jorge Reyes, a 17th-rounder from Oregon State who signed for $200,000. Don't be surprised if one or more of the high school triumvirate of Tate, Everett Williams or Keyvius Sampson begins there. The club always has the fallback of sending them to the Northwest League in June if they fall flat.

    Rich (Boston): How close was SS/2B Lance Zawadzki to cracking the Top 10? Do you think he has a chance to be a mid-season call-up or at least September call-up?

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for checking in, Boston. For those who don't know, Zawadzki attended high school in Oxford, Mass. As to your question, I don't want to remove all the suspense of flipping through the Prospect Handbook for the first time. So I'll say that he ranks in the 11-15 range.

    Nick (San Diego): What pitcher in the system has the highest ceiling?

Matthew Eddy: I'll go with Simon Castro on that, followed by Pelzer, Sampson and Portillo.

    Lloyd (Carlsbad): What kind of future do you see for Blake Tekotte? Thanks Lloyd

Matthew Eddy: A best case scenario: Solid starting center fielder who contributes across multiple categories. Tekotte can sting the ball, but his quickest path to the big leagues might be as a table-setter, someone who hits for average, draws walks and steals bases. The down side: A speed-oriented, lefty-hitting reserve outfielder.

    Ian (Eugene, OR): Did Nate Freiman make your top 30?? Does he project to be a bigleague power threat?

Matthew Eddy: Freiman, an eighth-rounder from Duke this year, received some support but ultimately ranked outside the 30. A 6-foot-7, righty-hitting first baseman, he draws some comparisons with Kyle Blanks, and when you see what he hit in Eugene you understand why. Freiman can crush a baseball and he's not susceptible in like many tall batters. He's got a great work ethic and unreal strength, but he'll need to work through some stiffness in his swing.

    George (Encinitas, CA): I know Kulbacki was injured most of the year, but have scouts given up on him?

Matthew Eddy: Some scouts never were sold on Kulbacki. At 5-foot-10, he doesn't look the part of run-producing corner outfielder, and he lacks the bat speed usually associated with plus power. But on the flip side, he shows an ability to barrel the ball with his low-maintenance swing. Kulbacki never was healthy in 2009, so don't judge him too harshly on his performance.

    Nick (San Diego): If you had to take a Minor League Pitcher and make him the closer tomorrow, who do you take?

Matthew Eddy: Wynn Pelzer for his mid-90s velo, tenacity and his crazy breaking ball.