MLB's reduced its recommendations for specific bonuses for every pick in the draft's first five rounds by roughly 10 percent this year, which has led to slower signings for the more expensive players this summer—especially in the first round.
To put the difference from 2006 in perspective, I put together a chart detailing the bonuses and estimated slot for each of the first 184 picks over the last two years. Subscribers can check that out here.
Count Baseball America among those who identified the Padres as having one of the game's worst farm systems. In our preseason talent rankings, we ranked San Diego's system 29th, ahead of only Washington's. The Padres also ranked 29th entering 2006, 27th going into 2005 and 25th at the outset of 2004. Poor drafts in 2003 (including taking Tim Stauffer fourth overall) and 2004 (Matt Bush over Stephen Drew with the No. 1 overall pick) really crippled the system.
Because they've added a lot of talent this year, the Padres will sit closer to the middle of the pack than to the bottom when we update the rankings during the offseason. The Linebrink trade added three pitchers who made our Milwaukee Top 30 Prospects list in the 2007 Prospect Handbook: righthander Will Inman and lefties Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison. San Diego also signed draft-and-follow righty Matt Latos for $1.25 million before this year's draft, in which it had six picks before the second round and 11 choices in the first four rounds. Draftees such as first-rounder Nick Schmidt and supplemental first-rounders Kellen Kulbacki, Drew Cumberland, Mitch Canham, Cory Luebke and Danny Payne will help beef up our Padres Top 30 in the 2008 Handbook.
Also, San Diego has seen a number of prospects already on hand take a significant step forward this summer. That group includes second baseman Matt Antonelli, third baseman Chase Headley, catcher Nick Hundley and lefthander Wade LeBlanc, all of whom were part of the Padres' improved draft efforts in 2005 and 2006.
As for Inman in particular, he ranked 91st this spring on our Top 100 Prospects list—which didn't include a single Padre. He's a tough guy to evaluate because his superlative performance (he dominated high Class A and has reached Double-A this year at ago 20, and he currently leads the minors with 140 strikeouts in 118 innings) doesn't completely jibe with his more average stuff (89-92 mph fastball, ordinary secondary pitches) and the lack of projection remaining in his 6-foot, 200-pound frame.
Inman has accomplished more for his age than any pitcher in San Diego's system, and I'd give him the nod right now as the club's top pitching prospect. Latos has far more impressive stuff, however, as do Drew Miller and 2005 first-rounder Cesar Carrillo (before he needed Tommy John surgery). Schmidt and LeBlanc are polished lefthanders, and none of these guys is far behind Inman. He could rank as high as the third-best prospect in the system, behind Antonelli and Headley.
The Dodgers shut down Elbert on April 16, after his third start of the season, when he complained of shoulder soreness. The initial diagnosis was tendinitis, and Los Angeles tried to rehab him for two months. When that didn't work, the club decided he should have arthroscopic surgery to remove some scar tissue detected by an initial MRI.
The Dodgers regard the surgery as minor because there was no damage to Elbert's rotator cuff or labrum. He'll miss the rest of the regular season but should be able to pitch again in instructional league. Barring any further setbacks, he should be able to regain his status as one of the game's top lefty pitching prospects next year.