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San Diego Padres:
1999 Top 10

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San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By David Rawnsley

1. Sean Burroughs, 3B
Age: 19  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 195
Drafted: HS--Long Beach, 1998 (1st round)  Signed by: Tim McWilliam

Top Prospects of the 90s

1990 Andy Benes, rhp
1991 Rafael Valdez, rhp
1992 Joey Hamilton, rhp
1993 Roy McDavid, of
1994 Joey Hamilton, rhp
1995 Dustin Hermanson, rhp
1996 Ben Davis, c
1997 Derrek Lee, 1b
1998 Matt Clement, rhp
1999 Matt Clement, rhp

Background: Burroughs has one of the most storied baseball backgrounds a teenager could have. His father Jeff was the first overall pick in the 1969 amateur draft and later won an American League MVP award. With his father as manager, Burroughs led his Long Beach Little League team to consecutive Little League World Series championships in 1992-93, including two 16-strikeout games in ’93. His pro debut was no less spectacular. Burroughs was hitting .242 on June 2 but hit .359 in June, .426 in July and .452 in August to finish second in the Midwest League batting race. For good measure, he hit .435 during the final week of the California League season after being promoted.

Strengths: Padres general manager Kevin Towers calls Burroughs "by far the most polished hitter coming out of high school I’ve ever seen." Burroughs stands very close to the plate and has such quick wrists and excellent hand-eye coordination that he can wait until the last second to commit himself, much like Padres great Tony Gwynn. His strength is hitting the ball up the middle or lining it over a middle infielder’s head into the gap. Unlike most young hitters, Burroughs already knows how to stay within himself on each swing and not try to do too much with a pitch. At third base, he has above-average arm strength, soft, quick hands and can become a solid defensive player.

Weaknesses: Burroughs hit six home runs in 1999, raising questions about his power. But such concerns are unrealistic, as it’s rare for teenage hitters to display power at the professional level. As Burroughs matures and learns to adjust his approach to different pitchers and game situations, his home run totals will increase. He’ll spend extra time in the spring working on his footwork, which the Padres feel was the cause of most of his 37 errors. A 4.4 runner to first base, he’ll never be a threat to steal.

The Future: The Padres compare Burroughs’ development curve to the Athletics’ Eric Chavez, who made his big league debut at the end of his second full season. Burroughs will be on track to do the same if he starts 2000 in Double-A as expected and stays around .400 for extended periods.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Fort Wayne (A)     .359  426  65 153  30   3   5   80  74  59  17
Rancho Cuca. (A)   .435   23   3  10   3   0   1    5   3   3   0

2. Wascar Serrano, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 178
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1995  Signed by: Ronquito Garcia/Juan Melo Sr.

Background: Serrano has been one of his league’s Top 10 Prospects each of the last three years as he has moved smoothly through the Padres system. He was No. 5 in the California League in 1999 and was the Padres’ representative in the Futures Game.

Strengths: Serrano is a four-pitch pitcher and has shown he can command all four at a young age. He has a deceptive, curling delivery and hides the ball effectively, making it appear to be coming straight out of his jersey. Serrano’s best pitch is a low-90s, two-seam fastball–a bat-breaking pitch when it’s in on righthanders. He can bump up to 95 with the four-seamer.

Weaknesses: Serrano’s slider and changeup are both promising but need more consistency. His arm action makes it look as if he’s pushing the ball, but he’s very durable and has never missed a pro start.

The Future: Serrano’s three-way combination of deception, raw stuff and four pitches make him an intriguing starting prospect. He’ll pitch the first half of 2000 at only 21.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Rancho Cuca. (A)  9  8  3.33  21  21   1   0  132 110  43 129
Mobile (AA)       2  3  5.53   7   7   0   0   42  48  17  29

3. Adam Eaton, RHP
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 190
Drafted: HS--Snohomish, Wash., 1996 (1st round)  Signed by: Bill Harper (Phillies)

Background: Eaton was set to be the Phillies’ No. 3 prospect until he was traded in the Andy Ashby deal. The 1996 first-rounder threw a no-hitter his first Double-A start but lost 1-0.

Strengths: Eaton has a power pitcher’s arm and approach. He’s aggressive with a sinking fastball around 90 mph, but he tends to pick up velocity during a game and can hit 94-95 during his last inning. He also has a hard overhand curve and an improving changeup.

Weaknesses: Eaton’s improvement last year was simply part of maturing. He reported to camp in much better shape and started to pitch instead of relying on natural ability alone. The Phillies softened his front side, and he pitched down in the zone better.

The Future: In Eaton, Serrano and Matt Clement, the Padres have three young, intimidating starters who can bring plus stuff to every turn. Eaton’s strong close to ’99 may earn him a Triple-A spot.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Clearwater (A)    5  5  3.91  13  13   0   0   69  81  24  50
Reading (AA)      5  4  2.92  12  12   2   0   77  60  28  67
Scranton (AAA)    1  1  3.00   3   3   0   0   21  17   6  10

4. Mike Bynum, LHP
Age: 21  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-4  Wt: 200
Drafted: North Carolina, 1999 (Supplemental 1st round)  Signed by: Gary Kendall

Background: Bynum was the fifth of San Diego’s six first- and supplemental-round selections in 1999 but moved to the head of the class with a string of 27 consecutive scoreless innings to open his pro career.

Strengths: The first words two Pioneer League managers offered on Bynum’s skills compared his slider to Steve Carlton’s. It’s a sharp, late-breaking pitch that can get under righthanded hitters’ hands with ease. Bynum’s fastball is in the 89-93 mph range and just as effective when he can spot it.

Weaknesses: Bynum isn’t always comfortable with his mechanics, especially with his fastball, and he endures streaks when he has trouble spotting the pitch. His changeup is his third-best pitch and needs more work.

The Future: The organization has a shortage of lefthanders, and Bynum has quickly emerged as one of the stars of the system. He will definitely stay in a starter’s role for the long term.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Idaho Falls (R)   1  0  0.00   5   3   0   0   17   7   4  21
Rancho Cuca. (A)  3  1  3.29   7   7   0   0   38  35   8  44

5. Junior Herndon, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 190
Drafted: HS--Craig, Colo., 1997 (9th round)  Signed by: Darryl Milne

Background: Herndon pitched all of 1999 in Double-A as a 20-year-old. His two shutouts tied for the lead among all Double-A hurlers.

Strengths: Herndon pitches with a savvy and awareness that many pitchers don’t acquire until their mid-20s, if ever. He spots his 91 mph fastball low and around the corners and mixes in a sweeping curveball and changeup for strikes at any point in the count.

Weaknesses: Herndon’s pitches are not of strikeout quality by themselves, and he has to depend on his defense and command to work out of tough spots. One area he dramatically needs to improve is his ability to pitch to lefthanded hitters. Southpaw swingers hit .317 off Herndon in 1999 with 14 home runs in less than 200 atbats.

The Future: At an age when he would just be eligible for the draft as a college junior if he hadn’t signed, Herndon will be starting 2000 in Triple-A, a short step from San Diego. He’s traditionally been a slow starter, so expect an adjustment period.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Mobile (AA)      10  9  4.69  26  26   2   0 163  172  52  87

6. Vince Faison, OF
Age: 18  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 180
Drafted: HS--Lyons, Ga., 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Joe Bochy

Background: Faison was a top defensive back with a football scholarship to Georgia, but he indicated a strong preference for baseball and signed quickly after being the Padres’ first pick. He was named the top prospect in the Arizona League.

Strengths: Athletically, Faison is similar to top Cubs prospect Corey Patterson. Faison’s first-step quickness is outstanding, and he gets to first base in the 3.9 range consistently. His bat also has surprising pop, and he should develop extra-base power as he learns to hit.

Weaknesses: Football robbed Faison of the repetitions a full-time baseball player would have had, and he’s still raw in basic skills like pitch recognition and outfield routes. His arm is his least impressive tool but still grades out as average.

The Future: Faison has the potential to be the five-tool center fielder every team looks for but few find and develop. With the Padres’ organizational aggressiveness on the bases, he could lead a league in steals in the next year or two.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Peoria (R)         .309  178  40  55   6   6   4   28  18  45  30
Fort Wayne (A)     .208   48  10  10   2   0   0    1   6  18   7

7. Mike Darr, OF
Age: 23  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-3  Wt: 205
Drafted: HS--Corona, Calif., 1994 (2nd round)  Signed by: Rob Wilfong (Tigers)

Background: Darr is the son of former big league pitcher Mike Darr, who pitched in one game for the expansion Blue Jays in 1977.

Strengths: In pure physical tools, Darr resembles Larry Walker as much as anyone. He’s a physical specimen with broad, loose shoulders, above-average speed and one of the best arms in minor league baseball. The ball jumps off his bat on contact, especially to left-center field, and he’s capable of upper-deck blasts in batting practice.

Weaknesses: The key to Darr’s success–or lack of it–is his approach at the plate. He hits with locked hips and limited lower body movement, which prevents him from pulling the ball with any authority. All his bat speed and torque are generated solely in his upper body.

The Future: The Padres have revamped their minor league hitting program under new farm director Ted Simmons and will hold out Darr as project No. 1. If Darr starts hitting home runs in spring training, he could turn heads quickly.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Las Vegas (AAA)    .298  383  57 114  34   0  10   62  50 103  10

8. Wiki Gonzalez, C
Age: 25  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 175
Signed: Venezuela, 1992  Signed by: Carlos Loretto (Pirates)

Background: Gonzalez shot into the Padres’ plans much the same way his good friend Carlos Hernandez did when he became the team’s regular catcher in 1998. The Padres acquired Gonzalez from the Pirates in the minor league phase of the ’96 Rule 5 draft.

Strengths: Gonzalez’ defense shocked even the Padres. He won Padres pitchers’ trust with his game calling and a catcher’s ERA nearly a full run less than both Ben Davis and Phil Nevin. Gonzalez threw out eight of 11 runners, including NL leader Tony Womack on a 1.75 pop time.

Weaknesses: Gonzalez has above-average raw power, but he’s better behind the plate than at it. He lacks patience, especially against lefties who stay outside and change speeds (one walk in 83 big league at-bats).

The Future: With Hernandez returning from injury, Davis impressive in spots and Nevin now at third base, the Padres have four catchers. Gonzalez should start 2000 in Triple-A.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Mobile (AA)        .338  225  38  76  16   2  10   49  29  28   0
Las Vegas (AAA)    .272   92  13  25   6   0   6   12   5  10   0
San Diego          .253   83   7  21   2   1   3   12   1   8   0

9. Gerik Baxter, RHP
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 185
Drafted: HS--Edmonds, Wash., 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Rich Bordi

Background: Baxter was overshadowed early by three other high school first-round picks from Washington, but he quickly closed the gap after signing. His early dominance and promotion earned him top-prospect status in both the Arizona (No. 3) and Pioneer (No. 4) leagues.

Strengths: Baxter showed three potential above-average major league pitches right from his first professional game. His fastball is around 92 mph but has reached 96, and he’s got a hard curve with a sharp downward break. The Padres were surprised by the deception of his changeup, a pitch he rarely threw in high school.

Weaknesses: Baxter still needs to find a consistent release point on his curve. He tends to get under it and throw it with a casting motion.

The Future: The Padres compare Baxter to the recently acquired Eaton, another Northwest product. Despite his quick jump to the Northwest League, Baxter is more likely a step-by-step prospect as he learns command and a consistent delivery.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Peoria (R)        3  0  1.50   8   7   0   0   36  27  15  45
Idaho Falls (R)   2  0  4.81   5   5   0   0   24  21  17  29

10. Brandon Kolb, RHP
Age: 26  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 190
Drafted: Texas Tech, 1995 (4th round)  Signed by: Jim Dwyer

Background: Kolb was a fringe starting prospect with a good slider and fair fastball before major elbow surgery in 1997. Fully recovered and in the bullpen last year, his stuff took a quantum leap forward.

Strengths: Kolb has two plus pitches perfectly suited for closing: a 95-96 mph fastball and a sharp power slider. Pre-surgery, Kolb went to his slider as his out pitch, but he’s since learned to use his fastball aggressively and confidently. His fastball is especially effective low in the zone–Kolb only allowed three home runs in 1999.

Weaknesses: Pitchers who are 26 and have tracks on their right elbow have a shorter window of opportunity than normal prospects. Kolb has to learn the subtleties of his new role while trying to make a major league roster.

The Future: The Padres traded Dan Miceli and waived Carlos Reyes, the two righthanded relievers who led them in appearances in 1999, so the bullpen is wide open for Kolb to claim a spot as a set-up man for Trevor Hoffman.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Mobile (AA)       0  2  0.79   7   0   0   2   11   8   4  14
Las Vegas (AAA)   2  1  3.94  42   0   0   4   62  72  29  63

Rest of the Best:

11. Jacob Peavy, rhp
12. Kevin Nicholson, ss
13. Gary Matthews Jr., of
14. Kevin Walker, lhp
15. Jason Middlebrook, rhp

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