San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

Moderator: Baseball America's Matt Eddy answered your questions about the San Diego Padres' Top 10 Prospects and the rest of their farm system.

Matt Eddy: Let’s chat Padres.

@Jaypers413 (IL): Matt, if you stacked this list of 10 up against last year's, which one gets your vote for the highest overall ceiling and why? Thanks for the chat.
Matt Eddy: The principals are similar on both lists—Austin Hedges, Matt Wisler, Max Fried, Casey Kelly, Rymer Liriano—but in this edition we’ve subbed out Jedd Gyorko for Hunter Renfroe up top and sprinkled in some power arms at the back (Burch Smith, Keyvius Sampson, Joe Ross). Young power arms are volatile, though, and Gyorko is a quality major league bat, so I think I would favor last year’s group.

Ben (Leland Grove): Between Eflin and Weickel, who came closer to making the cut? Thanks.
Matt Eddy: RHP Zach Eflin, a 2012 supplemental pick, won the Low-A Midwest League ERA title and did so with solid-average stuff and good feel for his craft. RHP Walker Weickel, Eflin’s Fort Wayne teammate and also a 2012 sandwich pick, has a higher ceiling but much less feel at this stage. That being the case, Eflin ranks higher on this year’s list. He just has fewer adjustments he has to make, though he will have to sharpen his slider to keep scouts interested. Fastball/changeup righties like Eflin tend to dominate low-level competition, but unless one has a 70 fastball like Michael Wacha, it’s not a common profile for a front-line big league starter.

Sammy (Baltimore, MD): Would you consider Hedges to be the top defensive catcher in the minors at present?
Matt Eddy: I think Hedges is the consensus top defensive catcher among those backstops who project to be average or better offensive players. I’m sure you could find many future backups with defensive tools as loud or louder than Hedges. That’s what makes him so intriguing, the fact that he’s such a skilled defender with a chance to hit for average and power.

mike (nyc): What is SD doing with Dickerson (because I can't figure it out)....lf? 1b?
Matt Eddy: Mike, I cut off your Dustin Peterson question because we’ll get to him in good time. As to RF/1B Alex Dickerson, whom the Padres acquired for the DFA duo of Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas, he seems to fit two criteria for the Padres. First, he’s a lefty hitter who can accumulate extra-base hits without a ton of loft in his swing. In other words, unlike someone like Anthony Rizzo, he can drive the gaps with authority and not rely home runs to be productive. This is virtually the only way for a LH hitter to slug .400 in Petco. And secondly, I think he’s future insurance for a time when players like Yonder Alonso or Kyle Blanks have priced themselves out of San Diego’s budget. I would bet that they view him as a first baseman and not a corner outfielder in the context of Petco Park.

Grant (NYC): What's the word on D.J.'s little brother Dustin? Did the Friars make a good selection in him?
Matt Eddy: The Padres rave about 2013 prep second-rounder Dustin Peterson, whom they signed for $1.4 million. They think he was one of the best high school bats available, with a chance to hit for average and perhaps 15-18 homers. His issue will be finding a position. Scouts aren’t sure his funky throwing motion will work on the left side of the infield. So Peterson could wind up at second base or on an outfield corner.

Carlos (Miami FL): Should we be keeping an eye on 3B Gabriel Quintana, Matt? What do scouts like about him?
Matt Eddy: Yes, we received a number positively glowing reports about Low-A 3B Gabriel Quintana. The Padres point out that his production dipped in the middle of the season after he broke his hand on an HBP, but sources inside and outside the org think Quintana’s bat has a chance to profile at third base. He has quick-twitch actions and a looseness to his swing that produces loud contact. Of course, he must improve his pitch selection and refine his defensive fundamentals, but he could be a breakout candidate for 2014.

Kelly (Saint Cloud, MN): How many of these guys are likely to make the top 100?
Matt Eddy: I draw the line between Casey Kelly and Rymer Liriano. Hedges, Wisler and Fried are likely top 50 prospects, while Renfroe and Kelly would be contenders for the final quarter of the list.

@Jaypers413 (IL): How confident are you that Jace Peterson can stick at short?
Matt Eddy: Jace Peterson’s intangibles will ensure he gets a long look at shortstop as he moves up, but at issue will be his ordinary range and average run times to first base. Teams generally feel most confident with a plus runner at shortstop, but of course there’s always going to be an exception to the rule.

Billy (Morristown NJ): How close was it between your top three when ranking them?
Matt Eddy: Heading into the research portion of this exercise, my personal top three had the same players, but in a different order. The more sources I reached out to, however, the more I realized that the industry evaluated them in the order we present here: 1. Hedges, 2. Wisler, 3. Fried. You can make a case that the ceilings for all three players are similar. They’re all 60 ceiling players with occasional all-star potential.

Ben (Leland Grove): Your scouting report on Sampson seems to indicate he's done as a SP. Is this the case?
Matt Eddy: I would bet he settles into a relief role in the majors based on a number of factors, including below-average fastball command, an emphasis on his new fastball/slider repertoire and a depth of rotation options for the Padres beginning in 2014. Vying for rotation spots next year, San Diego will have tenured starters such as Cashner, Kennedy, Stults, Josh Johnson and Tyson Ross; later in the year they’ll have post-rehab candidates like Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland; and they’ll also have young arms trying to get a foot in the door, such as Robbie Erlin and Burch Smith. I bet prospects like Matt Wisler, Matt Andriese and Juan Oramas aren’t far away either.

Tim (SF): What is the latest with Donavan Tate?
Matt Eddy: Infamous 2009 first-rounder Donavan Tate is eligible for selection in the major league Rule 5 draft, though he can’t be taken in the minor league phase because he’s on the Triple-A reserve roster. The Padres will have two more seasons to evaluate his re-dedication to baseball because after that he qualifies for minor league free agency. The fact that San Diego shielded Tate from the minor league Rule 5, though, at least hints at the possibility that they haven’t given up completely.

AddyMac (Nashville, TN): Is Michael Kelly now considered close to an ORG guy? He continues to show above average velocity and a lot of spin on his breaking ball. His control, command, arm action, and repeating his delivery still seem to hold him back.
Matt Eddy: You hit the nail on the head with 2011 supplemental first-round RHP Michael Kelly. He has the raw stuff to succeed in relief if he can improve his control to say 40 or 45, but he’s not really close to that level after a walk rate of 7.5 BB/9 in 2013.

Josh (San Diego): Given the potential star power with Fried, Hedges, Wisler Ross and Renfroe and the depth with Wieland, Erlin, Sampson, Andriese, Campos, this a top 10 system?
Matt Eddy: I really like the Padres depth, and they would be in or near the top third for me among the 30 organizations. However, they don’t really have a player on whom you would feel comfortable throwing a 70 OFP, and the fact that their elite talents are young pitchers and a catcher makes their risk profile extremely high. Those are notoriously volatile demographics, but on the other hand, teams need quality batteries to win, and the Padres are better positioned in that regard than most orgs.

Ted (Texas): A lot of credit has been bestowed upon the Cardinals drafting and developing, and It has been well documented that the Padres have not done well with their first round picks. However, the Pads have a lot of picks that have reached the ML since you think their scouting staff gets enough credit in the industry?
Matt Eddy: I’ve noticed this, too, that despite whiffing big on several first-round picks in the 2000s, the Padres have signed a large percentage of the players to reach the majors in recent years. This is a topic I want to dig into, after the Prospect Handbook perhaps. I will say that in some ways it’s not surprising that the Padres would dominate the debuts, given their emphasis on college players for many years and the fact that their often-poor (at least when compared with the Cardinals) major league standing provides more opportunities for callups.

James (Poultney, VT): As an older player who has power and has hit for a high average, the club doesn't really seem to consider Tommy Medica a legitimate prospect at 1B or OF at this time. How does he fit into the Padres plans?
Matt Eddy: The Padres definitely like 1B Tommy Medica. He has survived on the 40-man roster to this point, while former well-regarded players like Jaff Decker and Jose DePaula have fallen by the wayside. Medica led the system with 20 homers in 2013 and a .330 average in 2012, so there’s some there there. The one question I have is where he fits into the framework of a roster that already has RH-hitting first-base types such as Kyle Blanks and Jesus Guzman. And now Alex Dickerson will be his Triple-A teammate. In other words, the Padres probably wouldn’t oppose the DH rule if it came to the NL!

Barney Stinson (Maclaren's): Thanks for the chat! Kelly, Wisler, and Fried are all pegged at #2 starter ceilings. What is keeping each from projecting as a true ace?
Matt Eddy: What I like about Matt Wisler and Max Fried is that you’re looking at a pair of pitchers with at least a 60 fastball and a 60 breaking ball. That’s a great foundation for success in the rotation, especially given the strides they’ve made in terms of developing a changeup and improving their command. As outlined in the Prospect Handbook, though, a true No. 1 profile requires plus-plus command, which is something that only a very small percentage of the pitching population possesses. It’s not like the Padres would not want to start Wisler or Fried—if they reach their ceiling—in Game One of a playoff series.

Barney Stinson (Maclaren's): How good would the Padres be if they still had Latos & Rizzo instead of Cashner, Alonso, Grandal and a bag of balls?
Matt Eddy: Evaluating Cashner, Alonso and Gradal is difficult because of the injury (and suspension) issues they’ve dealt with at various points in the past two years. You can estimate the difference between players with an advanced metric such as WAR, but you’d be evaluating Alonso and Grandal at what figures to be their lowest point, and Latos at what might be his highest.

Scott (Riverside): What are the chances the Padres lose Lollis in the rule V draft?
Matt Eddy: Moderate to high. Citing the Rhiner Cruz precedent, hulking relievers with double-plus fastballs make attractive Rule 5 targets, regardless of poor control or shaky secondary stuff.

Arthur (LaJolla): How close did Reymond Fuentes come to making the top 10? Do you see him as a major league starting CF or more of a fourth OF?
Matt Eddy: I erred in not ranking CF Reymond Fuentes in last year’s Top 30. He has tools that will play in MLB, and tools that orgs covet. He’s a lefty hitter with plus range in CF and plus speed. He won’t really need to be more of an average hitter or OBP man to carve out a role as a reserve OF. And wouldn’t you know it, Fuentes had a breakthrough season at Double-A this year, showing more consistent effort and results to earn a callup to San Diego. His .413 OBP ranked 19th in the minors, and if his offensive improvement is real, then I like him as a possible second-division starter or strong reserve.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Name a sleeper that will not be in the top 30 Padre prospects listed in the Handbook..
Matt Eddy: For a deep cut I’d go with 2012 fourth-rounder Walker Lockett, an RHP from a Jacksonville high school. He has just 21 pro innings in the AZL in two years, but he has smooth mechanics and a strong sinker/slider repertoire. His slider could be plus and he reportedly hit 96 mph in instrux. Lockett has been held back by a blister on his finger that would not heal and that affected his circulation, but he finally found a remedy in 2013.

Don (Storrs): Do you think the Padres are kicking themselves for not taking Springer over Spangenberg a few years back and do you think that played a role in their decision to take Renfroe this year?
Matt Eddy: I think signability was a motivating factor in the Padres’ selection of 2B Cory Spangenberg at No. 10 in 2011. As it turned out, they saved enough money at that slot to buy both Austin Hedges (second round) and Joe Ross (25th overall) away from UCLA commitments. So the more fair questions might be, Who would you rather have, Hedges or Springer?

Ken (Lakewood CA): Did Spangenburg improve his stock enough last year to be taken as a serious prospect for the future at 2B?
Matt Eddy: The Padres worked with 2B Cory Spangenberg to clean up his swing and his defensive technique, and they think they’ve made progress. They emphasized getting him more squared off at the plate, so his hips didn’t leak out of his swing. This enabled him to hit with more authority to his pull side. Double-A San Antonio manager Rich Dauer succeeded in improving Spangenberg’s fundamental play at the keystone—working on things like backhand play, the pivot and throwing accuracy. The good thing for Spangenberg’s future is that, even if he doesn’t start at 2B, he would be attractive as a reserve because of his LH bat, double-plus speed and potential ability to cover 2B, 3B and CF.

Jason C. (New York): Matt Wisler went from nice name to know a year ago to an impact prospect to watch. What was behind the breakout? Anything superficial (i.e., ballpark/league)? Did his stuff advance? Was it a new pitch? Or is he figuring out how to put it all together?
Matt Eddy: Matt Wisler’s fastball and breaking ball have been sharp ever since his Low-A days in 2012. I would say the biggest factor driving his success to date is his complete and utter dominance of righthanders. Dig this: In full-season ball, Wisler has limited opposing RH batters to a line of .207/.236/.296 with 32 percent strikeouts and a SO/BB ratio of near 13. That’s a .532 OPS with just 3 HR allowed in 521 plate appearances (less than one percent).

Todd (Tosa): What's the latest on Joe Weiland? How soon before he's contributing to the Padre's rotation? Thanks for the chat.
Matt Eddy: Due to setbacks during his Tommy John surgery rehab, RHP Joe Wieland took closer to 15 months to get back on the mound, which he did with two relief appearances in the Arizona Fall League. Expect him to be on a limited workload at Triple-A in the first half, with a chance to log some big league time in the second.

HongNInja (Gilbert, Az): I love that Austin Hedges is the #1 propsect for the Padres, the guy is a tremendous defensive talent, and haven't seen an arm like that since Ivan Rodriguez. However, what is the ceiling for his hit-tool? Now days it seems like teams are more prone to steer "hitting-catchers" away from catching due to rigors of the position, so is Hedges purely a defensive prospect with Gold Glove capability?
Matt Eddy: The Royals shifted Wil Myers to right field, and the Nationals never even experimented with Bryce Harper behind the plate, so perhaps Hedges’ more-modest offensive ceiling is a blessing in disguise in that the Padres face no temptation to move him off catcher. The one thing to watch is that with a year at Double-A and Triple-A in 2014 puts Hedges on target for San Diego at some point in 2015, his age-22 season. As you might imagine, not many catchers are ready for regular major league league work at that age. The only two examples I could find in the post-Ivan Rodriguez game were also precocious defenders: the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina and the Royals’ Salvador Perez. (Update: See the comments below for more on this topic.)

Selena (New York): Where does Jankowski rank? Plus runner and defense, bat still needs work and lacks some pop but can't this kid become an everyday CF in the ML?
Matt Eddy: Differentiating between Reymond Fuentes and CF Travis Jankowski, a 2012 supplemental pick, proved difficult. The Padres seem to think the latter has a higher offensive ceiling, so he ranked higher based on more explosiveness, superior range and strong basestealing technique. Can Jankowski be a first-division regular? I’m not sure about that based on 20 power and durability questions stemming from his frame, but he has no-doubt reserve-OF tools and he will play in the majors.

bardin (San Diego): Do Donn Roach and Matt Andriese figure into the Padres plans at all... or just organizational depth/insurance?
Matt Eddy: I don’t think San Diego is counting on either righthander as a rotation anchor, but Andriese will definitely get a look at the back end based on his track record and firm stuff. You don’t see many major league starters like Roach—6-foot, sinker/splitter righty who pitches at 89-90 mph—so I think he probably fits best as a groundball-oriented, strike-throwing reliever who can get you a double play and limit power.

Dustin (Winnipeg): Kind of surprised that Ross is top 10 and Eflin isn't. Eflin had the best season of all of the Ft. Wayne starters and I really hope that Ross can become more than a potential closer.
Matt Eddy: With pitchers at the Low-A level, it’s often beneficial to emphasize the stuff over results because what plays in the Midwest League doesn’t always play in the National. So while Eflin has superior feel to pitch at this stage, his only plus pitch is a changeup, whereas Ross throws a double-plus fastball and plus slider. Not much separates them in terms of control, though it would bolster Ross’ case if he missed more bats (5.8 SO/9 last year at Low-A). A case in support of Eflin is defensible, but at this stage I would take the better arm.

Nick (San Diego): Franchy Cordero, please give us some info on him and his possibly potential? Also, what other international prospects should we be on the lookout for?
Matt Eddy: Lots of interest in Arizona League SS Franchy Cordero, who ranked No. 3 on our AZL list, and with good reason. He has explosive tools and enough feel for the game to get a long look at shortstop. His performance indicators in Rookie-ball also point in the right direction: he tied for the AZL lead with .511 SLG, he hit .333 and he went 11-for-11 on steals. Cordero could be a breakout star in 2014, though as a LH-hitting Dominican SS, he’s either an outlier or a pioneer. No left-only Dominican shortstop ever has played in the majors, and the list of second and third basemen is similarly short: Robinson Cano, Juan Francisco and Danny Richar. According to B-Ref, that’s it. (See comments for more on this topic.)

Kyle (Spirit Lake, IA): Why did the Padres add Donn Roach to the 40 man over the likes of someone like Matt Lollis or De Paula? How do they envision giving all these borderline rotational type starters a shot at the Bigs?
Matt Eddy: Speaking not on behalf of the Padres here . . . DePaula had a bout of shoulder tendinitis that knocked him out of action in mid-June, and he might or might not be ready to go in the Dominican League. (Still, a good waiver claim by the Giants, in my opinion.) Lollis, well, he probably won’t ever throw enough strikes to be an impact reliever. He’s interesting, but you’re probably looking at a ceiling of R-on-R matchup guy.

@Jaypers413 (IL): You were fairly high on Fernando Perez at this time last year, but he had a disappointing 2013. Thoughts on him at present?
Matt Eddy: Hold that thought. 3B Fernando Perez, the 2012 third-rounder, had thumb surgery during the season, then struggled to hold his head above water at short-season Eugene. He still has a sweet lefty swing, so don’t judge him too harshly until we see what he does at Low-A in 2014.

James (Poultney, VT): Who is someone outside of the top 10 you consider the best bet for a breakout season next year?
Matt Eddy: I would nominate some of the lower-level players such as SS Franchy Cordero, 3B Gabriel Quintana and Double-A RH reliever Leonel Campos, who struck out more batters than any reliever in the minors this season. He’s 26, but he’s got two plus pitches and the Padres expect him to be a factor in San Diego in 2014.

Ryan (Arizona): Reading about Fried reminds me of Tyler Skaggs. Have you heard any similar comparisons to him? Thanks!
Matt Eddy: Max Fried has more “now” stuff than Tyler Skaggs did when he first pitched in the Angels system in 2009. What separates Fried from the field is that despite having firm stuff already, he also has some room to fill out and add velocity, strength and durability. In other words, Fried is a cut above Skaggs (at the same stage) as a prospect.

Matt Eddy: Great questions. Thanks for tuning in for our Padres prospect coverage.