San Diego Padres: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

San Diego Padres

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, 2007.

 Q:  Ty from San Diego asks:
Do the Padres have the worst farm system in baseball?

Matt Eddy: Thanks for stopping by. Let's get started.

Matt Eddy: No. But in our 2007 Prospect Handbook we did rank them No. 29 because of a lack of impact talent. The organization does have a unique opportunity to revive its farm system, though, with eight picks in the first two rounds of this year's draft.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
With Kouz poised to take over 3B fulltime for SD, why did he rank below Antonelli, who is still a ways off? Did his age factor in? Does Antonelli still have the higher ceiling of the two?

Matt Eddy: You nailed it. We feel that Antonelli--because of his athleticism, batting eye and his defensive acumen--has the higher ceiling and is the better long-term bet.

Matt Eddy: That's no slight to Kouzmanoff, arguably the best hitter in the minors last year. Expect him to hit the ground running in the majors, and keep in mind we project him as the Padres starting third baseman in 2010. What gave us pause was Kouzmanoff's limited defensive value and his recent history of injury which have caused him to miss large chunks of each of the past two seasons.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
Assuming Burke regains his confidence this year, when's the earliest he could see RF in San Diego? Or will Carvajal beat him to it?

Matt Eddy: You have to feel optimistic about Kyler Burke's chances of reaching the majors ahead of Yefri Carvajal, considering Burke's more polished offensive approach. But, as evidenced by ranking him one spot ahead of Burke, we believe Carvajal has more potential with the bat. He has well above-average natural offensive ability and a real enthusiasm for playing the game.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
How close was it between Hunter and Carrillo for the top spot this year, and was Carrillo's injury the main reason for his falling to # 2? Also, how quickly does management want to call him up this year?

Matt Eddy: Carrillo's elbow injury was indeed the reason he did not repeat as Padres No. 1 prospect. When right, he probably has the highest ceiling in the organization, but with his immediate future in doubt, we turned to Hunter.

Matt Eddy: If Carrillo proves he's healthy -- and remember, he was not ready to go for the Arizona Fall League -- he could be the first callup in case of injury to Peavy, Young, Hensley, Maddux or Wells. With two above-average offerings, Carrillo could probably find success as a rookie toward the back end of the rotation, and build from there.

Matt Eddy: And using the rosiest projections for the Padres top four, one could make a compelling case for Hunter. If he sticks in center field, Hunter has a chance to be a 20-20 guy and an annual .300 hitter.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
Is a switch to 1B in the cards for Venable, perhaps, considering his arm isn't quite up to snuff? Or has he firmly planted his flag in the OF? Who has a higher ceiling in LF, him or Huffman?

Matt Eddy: The Padres feel Venable can get it done as a left fielder, but if he doesn't have the bat to start there, he's a less-than-ideal option for a reserve outfielder. If that turns out to be the case, learning first base would certainly enhance his big league chances.

Matt Eddy: As to which player has the higher upside with the bat, I'd lean slightly toward Venable, if only because of the lefty bat. Though Venable was old for the Midwest League, it was still a miserable place to hit. And Venable performed better as the season wore on -- capped by a Hawaii Winter Baseball batting title.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Mesa, AZ asks:
Kyle Blanks- he got lots of press for his size and quick start to his pro career, but not much lately. How much has his star faded?

Matt Eddy: Lots of Blanks questions. Blanks has a tough profile in that to be a successful righthanded-hitting first baseman at the big league level, a player has to hit for extreme power. And so far Blanks hasn't shown that. Conditioning has been an issue, but so have pitchers with above-average command, as Blanks' rhythm at the plate can be easily upset. A major leg infection cut into his development time in 2006, so a full-season's worth of at-bats at high Class A could go a long way toward rehabilitating his prospect status.

 Q:  sandman from wisconsin asks:
Where did you rate Tim Stauffer on your list? Do you see Stauffer pitching in the bigs this year?

Matt Eddy: With 87 big league innings, Stauffer did not qualify for our prospect list.

 Q:  Ben from Midwest asks:
Is the clock ticking away for Knott? Where does he fit in?

Matt Eddy: Jon Knott signed a minor league deal with the Orioles. He had ranked toward the back of the Top 30 before being designated for assignment by the Padres.

 Q:  John from Harrisonburg VA asks:
John Madden, besides having a rather famous name, put up pretty good numbers at Fort Wayne last year. What does his ceiling look like- does he have a shot at a big league career? Thanks!

Matt Eddy: Madden was one of the final cuts from the Top 30 and you can read his scouting report in the All 31st Team feature we ran on the site. Despite being a bit old for the Midwest League, Madden has a tough low three-quarters arm angle and was so ridiculously effective against righthanded batters (.150 with just one double in 113 at-bats) that he has a chance to make it as a short reliever.

 Q:  keith from eugene, or asks:
How close was David Freese to being named in the top 10 prospects?

Matt Eddy: He ranked as the club's No. 15 prospect, and considering Freese is already 23, he didn't come especially close to cracking the Top 10. Like Huffman, he's an interesting righthanded college bat from the 2006 draft.

 Q:  Nora Tiff from Aldon, NH asks:
Give me one good reason why the Padres were ranked ahead of the Nationals in the Prospect Handbook.

Matt Eddy: Depth at the upper levels. Kouzmanoff is big league ready, and Carrillo could be shortly -- if healthy. First baseman Paul McAnulty could contribute off the bench in 2007. And should injuries strike, the Padres will have RHP Jared Wells at Triple-A and LHP Cesar Ramos, 3B Chase Headley and C Nick Hundley at Double-A San Antonio.

 Q:  Adam from NYC asks:
What is in store for Chase Headley? Will he have to change positions after the Kouzmanoff trade? How does Chase project at the major league level? Please tell me he isn't the second coming of Sean Burroughs.

Matt Eddy: The opposite may be true. Because he's a solid defensive third baseman, Headley might move Kouzmanoff off third when he's ready. Headley's got a plan at the plate, but does need to address questions about his power. The Padres think it's there, and that he just needs to learn to pull the ball more consistently. The switch-hitting Headley has more potential form the left side.

 Q:  Billy Bob from Tennessee asks:
What's the long-term projection for Burke? Did the Pads reach by taking him with the supplemental pick last yr or is he a legit prospect?

Matt Eddy: Burke could develop into an average to solid-average right fielder. If the bat comes along, he's got the arm and defensive tools to make it happen. Burke ranked as the second-best prospect in the state of Tennessee prior to the 2006 draft, but the general perception was that the state had a below-average daft crop last year.

 Q:  Walt from Templeton asks:
You project Antonelli as a future 2B. Who would be his best comparison there? Will he hit with power at the big league level?

Matt Eddy: At this time it's impossible to accurately project Antonelli's power potential until we see how he takes to Padres coaching. But if he can handle the defensive aspects of second base, a career along the lines of Mark Loretta is a possibility.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
When will the Padres force Matt Bush to try pitching?

Matt Eddy: The organization has no plans to do it this season, but if Bush can't get it going with the bat in the California League, then a position switch would probably be too tempting.

 Q:  Britney Spears from Idunno asks:
Was Cedric Hunter a concensus #1, or did he just get in by a hair?

Matt Eddy: Hunter was far from an easy choice for the No. 1 spot. A strong case can be made for each of the Padres' top four prospects. As outlined earlier, the rosiest projection for Hunter was just a smidge rosier than those for the other three.

Matt Eddy: To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes: "When you have eliminated the players with injury concerns and questions about power potential, whomever remains, however improbable, must be the No. 1 prospect."

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
Which is Hundley's better tool - his glove or his bat?

Matt Eddy: I'll go with bat, because even average offensive production from the catcher's spot is tough to find. And Hundley has the potential to be average or a little above.

 Q:  Ben from Midwest asks:
How close was Yordany Ramirez from the top 30? He took 2 of your "Best" categories - defensive OF & defensive arm. Are those his only tools at this point?

Matt Eddy: A fair question. Ramirez is an all-world center fielder, but well below-average offensive production will probably prohibit him from making the majors.

 Q:  Bob from San Diego asks:
With all the extra picks the Padres have this year, what direction do you seem them going in come June?

Matt Eddy: I would predict they'd dabble in both college and high school players, like they did last year when they took collegians like Antonelli and Huffman, but also polished high school players like Hunter and Burke in the first three rounds.

Matt Eddy: If the pitchers are there, it would be hard for the Padres to pass on them given they can afford to take more chances with so many picks.

 Q:  Walt from Templeton asks:
Regarding the Barfield trade... do you see it as a financial move, or do you think Kouzmanoff will make Padres fans forget Barfield?

Matt Eddy: After acquiring Mike Cameron, Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, Cla Meredith and Josh Bard without giving up much value, general manager Kevin Towers certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt regarding trades. I don't think we can judge the Barfield or Ben Johnson trades until the end of 2007, at the earliest.

 Q:  Derrik from Texas asks:
What kind of year can we expect from the Crushin Russian? 290-20-89? And how long before Headly challenges him?

Matt Eddy: If Kouzmanoff reaches those projections while playing at Petco, he'd probably be the rookie of the year. Still, it is feasible that he could hit and hit for power. His bat is ready.

Matt Eddy: Headley will probably spend much of 2007 in Double-A, so the earliest ETA would be September, but more likely 2008.

 Q:  thebig747 from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Why in the world did the Padres trade George Kottaras for David Wells? To me that seems like a very silly thing to do.

Matt Eddy: Even if the trade seems inequitable, it does indicate how they evaluated Kottaras' defensive ability and the likelihood of his sticking behind the plate. Perhpas they saw him as more Robert Fick than Brian Schneider.

 Q:  steve from mission viejo asks:
What are the chances of the Padres signing Matt Latos.

Matt Eddy: Not very good if Latos continues to seek first-round money.

 Q:  Saliva Sam from Dry Gultch asks:
Is there anything interesting in the next ten Padres, or should we wait for those draft picks you referred to earlier?

Matt Eddy: I thought you'd never ask. The Padres do, in fact, have intriguing prospects in the Nos. 11-20 range. Righthanders Aaron Breit and Drew Miller, a pair of draft-and-follows from 2005, have good fastballs and experienced degrees of success in their 2006 debuts.

Matt Eddy: Breit, who finished eighth in the Northwest League with a 3.08 ERA, showed a quality breaking ball, good feel for the strike zone and command of a 91-94 mph fastball. Miller has more raw arm strength, but appears to be further away as he works to refine his breaking ball and changeup.

 Q:  Mike Swecker from VEgas asks:
07' projections for Barfield and Kouzmanoff? Would you have done the trade if you were GM of the Padres?

Matt Eddy: I would not have made the trade -- because Barfield has a very good chance to be the best player in the deal -- but as I wrote earlier, the San Diego front office deserves the benefit of the doubt on major league player acquisitions.

 Q:  Mike Swecker from VEgas asks:
With a limited budget, an unproven manager, the worst farm system in the division other than the Giants, how do the Pads' plan on competing the next 5 years?

Matt Eddy: This is another reason why it's imperative the Padres have a good 2007 draft: Three-fifths of the NL West is poised to get real good, real fast.

 Q:  Matt Antonelli from Minor league camp asks:
Impossible to predict my power? You guys are constantly predicting power for a range of prospects, from 15 year olds in the DR to 23 year olds in the PCL. The stats say no power, but what do the scouts say?

Matt Eddy: The scouts say his bat speed is just average, but the Padres worked with him in instructional league on improving the load in his swing to increase power output. Learning to turn on pitches earlier in the count, instead of waiting for the perfect pitch, could also be a solution.

 Q:  TLC from Dalton, GA asks:
When will you guys release your top 100 prospect list online? Also, Who is the player in the Padres organization who has the best chance of moving rapidly through the organization?

Matt Eddy: The Top 100 Prospects issue is going to press at the end of this week. Look for it on the site next week. Thanks for reading.

Matt Eddy: Huffman is probably as good a bet as any to rise quickly. Even though he's near his ceiling, he's still an impressive offensive player.

Moderator: We're winding down. Get your questions in.

 Q:  Wade LeBlanc from Lake Elsinore? asks:
In the words of Earl Hickey, "C'mon!" I actually struck guys out! How did I not rate above Ramos? He's already on the well-traveled path from "mid-rotation starter" to "back of the rotation starter" to "middle reliever" to "possible future loogy" to "Roger Deago" or "Mike Bynum."

Matt Eddy: And we close with a pair of questions on Padres lefthanders.

Matt Eddy: We went with Ramos over Wade LeBlanc because of the command and movement on the Ramos' fastball, a trait that should help remain a starter -- even if it is at the back end of a rotation. LeBlanc has a plus changeup and a good curveball, but shaky command and movement on his fastball.

 Q:  John from Coronado asks:
I'm not sure why you ranked Cesar Ramos abvove Sean Thompson. Yes, Thompson did have a losing record this year, he did strike out 134 batters in 154 innings against only 48 walks while allowing 148 hits. He touched 90 consistently with his fastball and has a plus curve and change. Ramos did have a winning record on a much better team in Lake Elsinore, but allowed 161 hits in 141 innings and had a very poor BBK ratio of 4470. Like Thompson he pitches backwards, but with much less success. There isn't much of an age issue, considering the different levels they were at [Thompson doesn't turn 25 until October of 2007,Ramos turns 23 in June] To me Ramos seems like much less a prospect than Thompson. Thoughts?

Matt Eddy: Saving the long question for last . . . As is the case with Ramos vs. LeBlanc above, we felt better about Ramos' potential to remain a starter, fully acknowledging it will likely be as a No. 4 or 5 guy.

Matt Eddy: The contexts in which these two pitchers pitched really aren't comparable. Sean Thompson had a solid Double-A season, sure, but benefited from pitching in the Southern League, one of the best pitchers' environments in the minors. His ranking at No. 23 was based on his fringy fastball and command and on projecting him in a relief role, where his curveball could be a weapon against lefthanded batters.

Matt Eddy: On the other hand, Ramos posted the second-best ERA in the California League, where batters hit about 30 points higher simply by putting the ball in play. With continued improvement in the command of his changeup and slider, Ramos could develop the repertoire to hold down a big league rotation spot.

Moderator: Thanks for all the great questions.