San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

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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.

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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 left.

    Wendy (San Fran): Is Juan Oramas on your radar?

Matthew Eddy: 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.

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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.

Matthew Eddy: 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

Matthew Eddy: 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.

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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 fair comps?

Matthew Eddy: 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 teams.

    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!

Matthew Eddy: 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?

Matthew Eddy: 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.

Matthew Eddy: 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.