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, 2011.
Welcome back from a one-week hiatus on the NL West prospect chats. Let's get started on your Padres questions.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Was Yoan Alcantara on the top 10 prior to the scandal? Your opinions on this story?
RF Yoan Alcantara, who ranked No. 1 on
our Arizona League list, was a non-factor for this year's Padres Top 10.
The system's depth of Double-A, Triple-A and, in some cases, major
league talent made it a challenge for many short-season players to get
noticed—not just for the Top 10 but for the Top 30. Certainly,
Alcantara's prospect status takes a hit if he's 20 instead of 18, but
he's still got a solid talent base. Also, keep in mind that he was not a
slam-dunk, consensus No. 1 in the AZL, and the Padres also really like
CF Alberth Martinez from that club. He's a plus runner and defender who
has a nice line-drive stroke.
Grant (NYC): How many of the top 10 are worthy of making it onto BA's top 100, in your opinion?
This is a popular topic among chat
participants and baseball fans in the blogosphere. I would guess that
the Padres' top eight, Anthony Rizzo through Robbie Erlin, all will
receive serious Top 100 consideration.
@Jaypers413 (IL): How far out of the top 10 did
Simon Castro fall this year? What is the consensus opinion of his early
struggles and late rebound?
Double-A RHP Simon Castro bombed out of
Triple-A early this season and struggled to repeat his mechanics all
season, but on the strength of two potential plus pitches I turned him
in in the Top 15. The Padres always have lauded Castro's worth ethic and
awareness, so he's a very real bounceback candidate. And there's this:
he notched a 35-5 K-BB ratio in his final 7 starts and put in time
during instructional league to try to get right.
Carlos (Dallas, Tx): No Jaff Decker this year? Thoughts on his season?
Double-A LF Jaff Decker finished just
outside the Top 10. Many scouts like Decker's chances to become an
average big league corner outfielder with some development, but he's
coming off a ho-hum year in the Texas and Arizona Fall leagues—and like
all corner outfielders/1Bs, he's got to hit to make it. However, it
should be noted that Decker has gotten in much better shape since
turning pro. He's stayed healthier and even stole 15 bases this year.
Speed won't be a big part of his game going forward, but he plays a
solid left field and could be an average-and-doubles oriented starter in
Wendy (San Fran): Is Juan Oramas on your radar?
Double-A LHP Juan Oramas is in the group
of prospects who fell just outside the Top 10. The Padres added him to
the 40-man, so we know what they think about him, and the rest of the
baseball world may follow suit next season. None of Oramas' pitches
grade as true plus offerings, but he locates three quality pitches, has
solid velocity and a strong performance record in pro ball. In other
words, he has the ingredients to pitch in the big leagues for a long
time, if not necessarily at the top of a rotation.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Hi Matt & thanks for the
chat. How confident are the Padres, and you, that Rizzo is able to
change/adapt his swing to handle major league fastballs? He really
struggled when he came up for the Padres in 2011.
I'll mention two key points that may
improve your outlook of Rizzo. One, he was ridiculously young to even be
attempting to hold down first base for a big league club. Teams seldom
turn over such a production-heavy position to a 21-year-old, which
explains why San Diego mucked around with Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu for
half a season before striking gold with Jesus Guzman. (By the way,
that's what makes the seasons by fellow 21-year-old rookie 1Bs Eric
Hosmer and Freddie Freeman so astounding.) To put it in perspective,
Rizzo was roughly the age of a college junior, and how many of them
rocket straight to the big leagues? At age 21, the Mets' Ike Davis,
fresh off the Arizona State campus, was in the midst of a homer-less
campaign in the New York-Penn League, five levels below the majors. The
second point regarding Rizzo: he discovered his power stroke in Double-A
in 2010 when he began looking to pull the ball to right field, but
prior to that he had hit for higher averages. The Padres believe he can
learn to balance the two approaches.
Gunner (Detroit): Surprised Sampson didn't rank higher, especially considering his season. Could you elaborate for us?
RHP Keyvius Sampson has pitched
effectively for two seasons running, but he still needs to tighten his
breaking ball to profile as a starter. Pitchers can dominate Low-A
competition with a strong fastball and changeup, as Sampson did, but
most righties with fringe breaking balls wind up in the bullpen. His
injury history (shoulder and elbow injuries in 2010) and the Padres'
depth of pitching talent at Double-A also pushes him down a peg or two.
In other words, Sampson would rank more highly in many other systems.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Has Casey Kelly lived up to overall expectations thus far, in your opinion?
From a performance standpoint, no, Casey
Kelly has not met the expectations of a top prospect. But that's only
one consideration for these lists. Think of it this way: Kelly is a big,
durable righthander who throws strikes and has shown three plus pitches
at times. Also keep in mind that he's only been a full-time pitcher for
two seasons, all in Double-A at ages 20-21. Some scouts outside the
organization argued for Kelly ranking No. 1 again. In reality, all of
Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Rymer Liriano had a strong case to rank No. 1.
Carlos (San Diego): Before he got dealt to the Rockies, was Nick Schmidt on your top 30?
LHP Nick Schmidt just missed the cut this
year after coming in at No. 30 a year ago. His biggest obstacle has
simply been staying on the field long enough to develop.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Dexter Carter - prospect or suspect at this point?
I'd say he's a Chicago White Sock, and leave it at that.
Roger (Greenville, SC): How much separates the
prospects near the top of the list? Another publication indicated their
top 7 Padres prospects were pretty interchangeable. Do you agree?
According to sources we contacted, the
top 3 on our list are fairly interchangeable. That's Rizzo, Liriano and
Kelly. I'm very encouraged by Jedd Gyorko and Cory Spangenberg thus far
and believe they're perfect fits for Petco Park, but I want to see a bit
more before running them to the top of the list.
SJ (Phoenix, AZ): instead of writing about all
the famous people involved with SD—Jed Hoyer, Josh Byrnes, etc. —feel
free to give some credit to the guys who actually drafted some of these
players on the list—Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison who after all is the
actual scouting director for the club...feel free to give the guys who
did the work some recognition
When we refer to Jed Hoyer or Josh Byrnes
it's more or less shorthand for a club's front office, that being the
GM and his scouting directors, farm director and trusted assistants,
etc. I think our track record of recognizing scouts is more impressive
than most. John Manuel and Jim Callis put a lot of time and effort into
our Draft Report Cards each fall to give voice to all 30 amateur
scouting directors. We print the names of all signing scouts for the 900
players in our Prospect Handbook. We published a signing scout/scouting
director chart for all MLB debuts on our site this year.
Ricky (Capistrano): Jonathan Galvez had a huge
and impactful season in hi-A at a young age. But I never hear anything
about him. Why not? Is he just organization depth?
The short answer: Scouts outside the
Padres organization never have been sold on Jonathan Galvez, a
20-year-old second baseman with erratic defensive actions, poor
baserunning instincts and a pull-oriented hitting approach that results
in frequent slumps. The Padres didn't bother adding Galvez to the 40-man
to shield him from the Rule 5 draft, where he went unselected, because
he's so far away from getting his game under control. Keep in mind that
only one year earlier, San Diego added Jeudy Valdez to its 40-man
following a season in which he batted .247/.302/.380 in Low-A, so
they're not adverse to projecting generously on middle infielders.
Vic31 (San Diego): I read somewhere recently
that compared Liriano to Mondesi. I know Mondesi went 30/30, albeit in
the steroid era, do you think Liriano has that kind of power/speed
combo? Or is there somebody else you'd compare him to?
We received Sammy Sosa comps on RF Rymer
Liriano two years ago in the Arizona League. Those were based mostly on
body type, but Liriano also has that type of gregarious personality.
Yes, he could be a dynamic power/speed threat in the big leagues because
his swing is strong and naturally geared for power, and he's also got
strong instincts on the bases. The only question is how high can you
project the average? Perhaps higher than we though if his strike-zone
awareness gains from 2011 are real.
Roger (Greenville, SC): When you say true 70 speed, what's a reasonable projection for SB/season? 40-50?
This is a great question. I haven't seen
an attempt made to link stolen base totals to pure running speed because
scouts traditionally grade speed on time to first base. So a righty
batter who gets down the line in 4.1 second would be a 70 runner on the
scouting scale; for a lefty batter, 4.0 would receive a 70 grade. I
think the reason for this is that baserunning instincts—getting large
leads, being able to anticipate offspeed pitches, etc.—often play a
larger role in stolen base totals than does raw speed. Look at players such as
Chase Utley or David Wright, both plus baserunners if only fringy runners.
Craig (Bethesda, MD): I think the Padres got a
steal in first-rounder Joe Ross. I think he ends up in the top 50 of
prospects following the upcoming season (barring injury). Do you think
he can/will do that?
We haven't yet seen much from Joe Ross,
the 25th overall pick in June, but I can tell you the Padres love his
pitchability and fastball potential, and they believe he'll be ready for
Low-A next season. You can't say the same for prep righties such as
Keyvius Sampson and Johnny Barbato from the 2009-10 drafts.
Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Who do you like better - Spangenberg or Wong? Who gets to
the majors first? And will Spangenberg ever develop more power as he gets older?
I'm all-in on 2B Cory Spangenberg after
researching him for this list. Not sure he gets to the bigs before Wong,
but I like Spangenberg's chances to out-hit him at his peak.
Dustin (Winnipeg): I've got a couple for you.
Last year Erlin was ranked 4th in the Rangers system and Weiland was
23rd, if I recall, did Weiland improve that much to get ahead of Erlin
this year? Erlins had a great year and I can't believe he fell behind
Weiland with him being lefthanded and all.
Dustin, I abridged your question to deal
only with the first subject, but it's one worth asking, for sure.
Ranking LHP Robbie Erlin and RHP Joe Wieland probably was the most
difficult aspect of this Top 10. Initially, I had thought that Erlin
would come out ahead of Wieland because they appear to have similar
repertoires, but Erlin is the lefty and has a longer performance track
record. However, the Padres fell in love with Wieland late in the Texas
League season because he showed supreme fastball command (a 70 by some
accounts) and seemed to grow into more velocity in the playoffs (up to
95 mph on long rest). He's also more physical than Erlin. Another factor
that may effect the long-term outcome: Petco Park is more generous to
righty flyball pitchers than lefty ones, and Erlin will be facing 7 or 8
righties a night.
Brett (Enola, pa): Edinson Rincon ..... Will his bat carry him to the majors and overcome his problems on defense? Thanks
Many scouts believe the answer is yes,
with the caveat that he faces a shift to right field, first base or
possibly even DH. Not sure if Edinson Rincon ever develops into a true
impact hitter, but he's got some things going for him, including an idea
of the strike zone and a strong righty swing. We'd have a better idea
of his ability if he hadn't broken his hamate bone this season. At any
rate, the Padres added him to the 40-man despite the fact that he's two
years away, and that says a lot.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Hi Matt. I thought Gyorko
might have ranked higher. Do you see his ceiling as more that of an
average major league 3B? Does Darnell factor in consideration for 3B or
LF for the Padres and their future? I was thinking both Gyorko and
Darnell had pretty good bats? Thanks.
One could make a case for 3B Jedd Gyorko
ranking as high as No. 4. He can be a first-division regular at third
base, and he's clearly Chase Headley's successor once Headley prices
himself out of San Diego's budget. The Padres believe his righty
line-drive stroke is perfectly-tailored for Petco, and he and
Spangenberg are the new paradigm for the Padres type of hitter—control
the zone and rope line drives all over the field. As for James Darnell,
he's going to head to Triple-A to play left field and third base, but I
don't think the Padres view him as a long-term solution at third base
because he'd have to beat out Headley and Logan Forsythe and also
leapfrog Gyorko. Darnell could serve as a four-corners fill-in while the
Padres wait to see what they've got in Gyorko, Kyle Blanks, Jaff Decker
and Rymer Liriano.
Nils (Stamford, CT): Glad to see Drew
Cumberland staying with the Padres and not needing to lose development
time in the majors if he'd been taken in the rule 5 draft. What kind of
ceiling does he have? Did he make the top 30?
I agree that staying with San Diego
probably was the best thing for Drew Cumberland's development. An
artificially-accelerated timetable would do him no favors. The Padres
viewed Cumberland as a strong candidate to be second baseman of the
future following the 2010 season, but now that picture is muddled after a
year and a half away from the game and the introduction of Cory
Spangenberg into the system. If nothing else, Cumberland has the tools
to profile as a utility player, assuming he makes a full recovery,
because he runs enough to play center and fields well enough to play
either middle-infield post.
Sam (Denver, CO): Is Adys Portillo's prowess worthy of the top 30? 20?
Hard to ignore an arm like RHP Adys
Portillo, even when he's running up a 7.11 ERA with six walks per nine
in Low-A. He's filled out his lower half considerably since signing and
now sits mid-90s and touches 100 mph. While he's enigmatic (to be kind),
Portillo has an electric arm that could help him profile as a closer if
he refines the slider/cutter the Padres taught him this year.
John (Morgantown): What current or former Major
Leaguer does Jedd Gyorko remind you of and whats his upside? For me,
best case he's Youklis and worse case he's Ty Wigginton..... Are those
Interesting. I see where you're coming
from with those names. Split the difference and you've got a fine
ballplayer, someone who would play third base for at least 20 big league
Dan (Idaho Falls): How do you see Jace Petersen
panning out in 2-3 years - starting SS? 2B? Other? Do you think he
will be above-average offensively (SS or 2B)? Thanks!
People who saw supplemental first-rounder
Jace Peterson play in the Northwest League or in instrux believe his
intangibles set him apart. (I know, I know—cliches.) You might not
assign any 60 grades to Peterson's tools at present, but he does many
little things well. The biggest question he faces is the level of
defensive proficiency he develops.
Carlos (Dallas, Tx): About where did Fuentes place this time around?
High-A CF Reymond Fuentes slipped into
the second 10 this year. He shows a few necessary tools to hold down
center field at the highest level—namely speed and defense—but his
hitting approach and results need a lot of work.
Thanks for all the great questions. The
Padres have built enviable prospect depth in the past few years, through
the draft, through international signings and through trades. Maybe
we'll see some of those talented youngsters matriculate to San Diego
next year. Don't forget to check out the BA Prospect Handbook, which
contains scouting reports for the top 30 prospects.