Top Ten Prospects: San Diego Padres
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Kevin Goldstein
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, 2005.
Background: Though he had obvious bloodlines as the son of former American League home run king Jesse Barfield, Barfield didn’t get a ton of play as a high school prospect. The Padres did a good job of scouting him, however, and signed him away from a Baylor scholarship by giving him $400,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2001. After leading the minors in hits (185), doubles (46), RBIs (128) and extra-base hits (68) while bothered by a sore wrist in 2003, he entered last season as San Diego's top prospect, just ahead of eventual Baseball America Rookie of the Year Khalil Greene. Barfield injured a hamstring in spring training and it never fully healed, hurting his offensive game. He batted just .248—68 points below his previous career average—but missed just two games, set a career high with 18 homers and led the Double-A Southern League with 90 RBIs. Even with his off year, he's still easily the top hitter in the system.
Strengths: Barfield has a quick swing and uses the whole field, with no discernible weakness when it comes to pitch location. His power continues to develop and he projects to hit 20-25 home runs annually in the big leagues. Barfield provides an argument to those who believe that there's no such thing as clutch hitting. He seems to take pressure situations as a personal challenge. Over the last three years, he has hit an average of 52 points higher with runners in scoring position, including a .331 mark in 2004. He's an average baserunner, making up for speed that's a tick below-average with excellent instincts. Once thought to be destined for left field, Barfield has put considerable effort into his second-base defense. He should be able to stay at second and provide average glovework with a plus arm. His makeup is another positive.
Weaknesses: Barfield became frustrated by his inability to find a groove in 2004 and pressed at times. That led to a long swing and a pull-happy approach. He’s guilty of guessing on pitches too often. He has a bit of a late trigger in his swing, so he can be neutralized with good fastballs when he's looking for something else. Barfield has problems with righthanders—he hit .196 against them last year—particularly with diving after breaking pitches that finish outside of the plate. Defensively, he still needs to work on his lateral movement and his double-play pivot. He has played all but seven games the last two years, but he rarely has been completely healthy during that time.
The Future: San Diego sees Barfield’s batting average as the only real bump in the road from his Double-A performance, and has no worries about him. With Mark Loretta coming off a career year and locked up through 2006, the Padres have no reason to rush Barfield. He's expected to be 100 percent physically in spring training and should spend most of the season at Triple-A Portland. He'll likely make his major league debut in September.
Background: Guzman’s prospect status took a hit after the 2002 season when his age was revised upward by 2 1/2 years during the crackdown on falsified visas. Unflustered, he led the minors with 90 steals in 2003 and had another solid season last year, surfacing as San Diego's starting center fielder for two weeks in August. The Padres called him up for his defense, but his bat wasn't ready.
Strengths: Guzman has game-changing speed, as evidenced by 253 stolen bases in 369 minor league games and an 83 percent success rate. Unlike many minor league burners, he has a solid understanding of the strike zone. Defensively, he accentuates his speed with good jumps, allowing him to effortlessly run down balls from gap to gap.
Weaknesses: Guzman has little power and tries to do too much at the plate instead of concentrating on reaching base. He can get out of control at times and expand his strike zone, a weakness that was exploited in the majors. He has a below-average arm.
The Future: The Padres believe Guzman needs another half-season in Triple-A, so they acquired Dave Roberts as a stopgap in center field. With a good showing at Portland, Guzman could push Roberts to a bench role by July.
Background: Signed for fourth-round money ($375,000) as a draft-and-follow, Kottaras built on a strong 2003 debut with an even better showing at low Class A Fort Wayne. He played just 78 games because he spent a month with the Greek Olympic team, for which he went 3-for-12 as a backup in Athens. A native Canadian, he played more fast-pitch softball than baseball as a youth.
Strengths: Kottaras has a natural swing with plenty of power, and he projects as a 20-homer hitter. His understanding of the strike zone is advanced for a player with such little experience. He’s a hard worker and takes well to instruction. He is mobile behind the plate and is good at blocking balls in the dirt.
Weaknesses: Despite a solid arm, Kottaras is easy to run on because he has a long release. He also needs refinement in the other nuances of catching. He can get overly patient at the plate, waiting too long for the perfect pitch to hit. Like most catchers, he’s a slow runner, but he's not a baseclogger.
The Future: Kottaras boosted his stock more than any player in the system last year. The Padres see him as similar to Jason Kendall but with more power and less speed. His progress will continue at high Class A Lake Elsinore in 2005.
Background: The Padres got away with larceny when they acquired Chick from the Marlins for veteran Ismael Valdez in July. After starting the year in the bullpen, Chick found a groove after moving into the rotation at low Class A Greensboro and built upon that success after switching organizations.
Strengths: Chick’s size, aggressiveness, velocity and ability to throw strikes remind some scouts of a young Curt Schilling. He consistently gets ahead in the count with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 94-95. He has a hard slider and an advanced changeup for his age.
Weaknesses: Chick can depend on his fastball too much, and his changeup will improve more quickly if he uses it more often. He overthrows his slider, causing it to lose its horizontal break. He also works too high in the strike zone at times.
The Future: Chick continued to impress in the offseason, as San Diego named him the MVP of its instructional league program. He'll likely begin the year in high Class A and could reach Double-A Mobile by midseason.
Background: Originally offered $2.6 million as the fourth overall pick in 2003, Stauffer settled for $750,000 after an MRI revealed weakness in his shoulder that hadn't been detected before the draft. He didn't require surgery but wasn't able to make his pro debut until 2004. He tied for the system lead with 11 victories while progressing from high Class A to Triple-A.
Strengths: Stauffer's best pitch is a plus changeup. He also throws an 89-92 mph fastball, a cutter and a developing curveball. His pitches work better than their grades because he can throw all of them for strikes at any point in the count. Managers and coaches at every level praised his grit and determination.
Weaknesses: Stauffer lacks a true major league out pitch, and he was hittable last year. He's close to his ceiling, leaving little room for projecting him beyond a No. 3 or 4 starter, not the typical expectation for a No. 4 overall choice. His curve can flatten out at times.
The Future: The signings of Woody Williams and Darrell May lessen Stauffer's chances of making the big league club. He'll probably spend the year in Triple-A and won't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2006 season.
Background: A local two-way star who went No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft when San Diego looked to save money, Bush had a rough introduction to pro ball. After signing for $3.15 million, he was suspended before playing a game for his part in a fight outside of an Arizona nightclub. After taking the field in July, he never found a rhythm at the plate or in the field as he dealt with a hamstring injury.
Strengths: Taking Bush with the first pick was a reach, but Bush was a consensus top 10 talent. The best defensive player in the draft, he has a cannon for an arm and plus range to both sides. Some scouts have concerns about his offensive ability, but the Padres believe he'll hit. They say he understands the strike zone and has surprising strength for his size. He's an average runner out of the box, and above-average once he gets going.
Weaknesses: Bush's performance at the plate in his debut didn't quiet his critics. He needs to focus on making contact and not worry about trying to be a power hitter. He can get out of control at times trying to make flashy plays, the main reason he committed 17 errors in 28 games.
The Future: San Diego hopes Bush can see 2005 as a fresh start after he showed marked improvement both on and off the field during instructional league. He’ll begin his first full season in low Class A.
Background: Germano was expected to spend the majority of 2004 in Double-A, but he continued his history of overachieving and rapid development. He forced his way to Triple-A after just five starts and made his major league debut on May 22, earning the win with five solid innings against the Phillies.
Strengths: Germano is a strike-thrower with an advanced feel for pitching. His fastball features good movement, and he can ratchet it up into the low 90s at times. His out pitch is his curveball, an overhand bender that he can break into or out of the zone. His changeup is average now and could become a plus pitch.
Weaknesses: His fastball velocity is a tick below-average at 87-89 mph. For the first time in his career, Germano didn't trust his stuff when he got to San Diego. He tried to nibble at the corners with his pitches, leaving him behind in the count and hittable.
The Future: Germano is currently a step ahead of Stauffer because of his experience, and he'll be first in line if an opening develops in San Diego's rotation. He should join Stauffer in the Triple-A rotation to start the season.
Background: Off-the-field problems led to Thompson changing high schools and living with a foster family as a senior, but he performed well enough to become the only Colorado prep player taken on the first day of the 2002 draft. His full-season debut in 2004 was a huge success, as he allowed two or fewer earned runs in 21 of 27 starts.
Strengths: Thompson has a plus-plus curveball, a true knee-buckler that's the best in the system. He’s aggressive on the mound and thrives on competition, tossing seven shutout innings against Lansing in Mark Prior’s highly publicized first rehab start last May. He has an excellent pickoff move.
Weaknesses: His fastball has below-average velocity at 86-89 mph, but it has just enough juice and movement for Thompson to set up his curve. He's still prone to bouts of wildness, and when he misses he's vulnerable because he misses up in the zone. He’s a slow starter, often not finding his groove until the third or fourth inning.
The Future: Logically, Thompson’s next assignment would be to high Class A. However, because of his success and his flyball tendencies (which wouldn't be a good fit in the California League), he may be pushed to Double-A.
Background: Baker looked like a local kid made good when the Red Sox made him a supplemental first-round pick in 1999, and he rated as their top pitching prospect following his first full season. Inconsistency afterward led to his inclusion in a trade for Alan Embree in 2002. Baker's struggles continued until he became a closer in mid-2003, and his abrupt turnaround included being named the Southern League's pitcher of the year in 2004.
Strengths: Often described as a trick pitcher, Baker has one of the best changeups in the minors. It draws comparisons to Trevor Hoffman's, and he sets it up by commanding an 88-91 mph fastball. His fearless nature allows him to thrive in pressure situations.
Weaknesses: Baker has yet to develop a breaking ball of any substance, which is why he didn't develop as a starter. His fastball is average at best, and he'll have little margin for error in the majors, even as a set-up man.
The Future: Baker will compete for a role in a crowded Padres bullpen this spring. He'll probably have to spend extended time in Triple-A before getting his first big league shot.
Background: McAnulty led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in batting (.379) in his 2002 pro debut, but followed that up with a mediocre showing in low Class A as his weight ballooned to 260 pounds. He showed up to camp last spring in the best shape of his career and responded with a breakout season. He went 8-for-17 with a homer as Mobile shared the championship in the Southern League playoffs.
Strengths: McAnulty's hitting ability is obvious. He has quick hands, developing power and an excellent feel for the strike zone. He projects to hit for average with 20-25 homers a year. He has great instincts at the plate and makes savvy adjustments from at-bat to at-bat.
Weaknesses: Other than the bat, McAnulty offers little else in terms of tools. Both his range and arm are lacking in left field, so he'll probably have to play first base in the majors. He's slow, though he runs the bases intelligently.
The Future: His build and offensive package have drawn comparisons to Matt Stairs, who has created a lengthy career for himself as a grinder who can swing the bat. McAnulty will begin 2005 at Double-A.