San Diego Padres: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

San Diego Padres: Chat

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, 2008.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Just how close was it between Antonelli and Headley for the top spot, and what was the deciding factor?

Moderator: Thanks for stopping by. Let's get started.

Matt Eddy: The first question in the queue and it's a great place to start.

Matt Eddy: Headley was a consensus pick as the No. 1 prospect. People really liked Antonelli, but it all comes down to the bat, and Headley is a better hitter for average and for power. Plus he switch-hits. While Headley lacks Antonelli's speed or athleticism, he has more experience and polish at third base than Antonelli does at second.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
How close was Hundley to cracking the list, and would you still rank him as their top catching prospect?

Matt Eddy: No. Supplemental first-round pick Mitch Canham moved to the top of the catching heap.

Matt Eddy: Hundley showed above-average power and arm strength in the Texas League. But he's looking more and more like backup catcher material in the big leagues because the hit tool is below-average and because his throws often lack accuracy.

 Q:  Mike from Peoria, AZ asks:
Yefri Carvajal. Did he crack the top 15? I know he is young, but he seems legit.

Matt Eddy: He does seem legit, and he did rank in the top 15. Carvajal delivered on some of his promise this year in the AZL, hitting .340 with plenty of doubles before a promotion to Eugene.

Matt Eddy: And with the bat speed he possesses, he could take another step forward in 2008, when he'll be 19.

 Q:  Phil from Overland Park, KS asks:
A few years ago the Pads system was ranked as one of the worst in the minors. How much have they improved since then and where would you rank them currently?

Matt Eddy: Just last year, we ranked the Padres No. 29 in baseball. A lot has changed in a year. We haven't begun stacking the teams up this year, but the Padres will definitely move up from last year's showing.

Matt Eddy: In addition to adding talent like Nick Schmdit, Cory Luebke, Mitch Canham, Kellen Kulbacki and Drew Cumberland in the draft, the Padres also nabbed the best of the last of the draft-and-follows in Matt Latos. And, of course, the Scott Linebrink trade worked out well for them, adding Will Inman, Steve Garrison and Joe Thatcher to the mix.

Matt Eddy: The organization also jumped feet-first into Latin America, signing Dominican shortstop Jonathan Spraut for $750,000, the seventh-highest bonus of the international signing period.

 Q:  Skelly from Madison asks:
Could you provide a little insight as to why Will Inman was rated where he was? I understand he struggled in Double-A, but he was one of the youngest pitchers in Double-A this year.

Matt Eddy: Inman locates his fastball exceedingly well. The pitch is true, though, and Inman just doesn't have the secondary stuff to get away with that at higher levels. He's also tired badly in the second half in each of the past two seasons, his fastball dipping into the mid-80s late in 2007.

Matt Eddy: The thinking goes that movement and velocity play best in the big leagues, and Inman projects more as a back-end starter because he rates as below-average in both regards.

 Q:  Erick from Manhattan Beach, CA asks:
Jeudy Valdez put up some pretty solid numbers. Can he move fairly quickly through the system?

Matt Eddy: Good call. Aside from Yefri Carvajal, shortstop Jeudy Valdez is probably the most interesting of San Diego's international prospects. He's got a short, quick stroke and good gap power, and the best part is he was just 18 in the AZL last year.

Matt Eddy: Pick up our Prospect Handbook to see the full scouting report and where he ranks.

 Q:  Dave H from Glenfield asks:
Is Antonelli the best 2B prospect in the minors? How good can he be- solid regular or occasional all-star?

Matt Eddy: Yes and yes. Not that he has much competition, but Antonelli is the best second-base prospect going. He offers an intriguing skill set: batting average, speed, some power, athleticism and a great batting eye. He should be average or a tick above at second base with more experience. Antonelli could make a few all-star teams, but he probably won't make voters forget about Chase Utley.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
Kyle Blanks- Walter Young part deu? I read the report and it is pretty much the same as written about Walter- keep weight in check, more than just a slugger, moves well for size, etc.

Matt Eddy: I hadn't heard that one, but I can see it on some levels. The truth is, there's just no comparison for a player like Blanks, who stands 6-foot-6 and pushes 300 pounds. He's got the most raw power in the system, but wait to see how he handles Double-A pitching. Will more advanced pitchers be able to get the fastball in on his hands? Will tighter breaking balls then become that much more effective?

Matt Eddy: The Padres were definitely encouraged by the adjustments he made in 2007, but he's effectively blocked in San Diego, as neither he nor Adrian Gonzalez is moving off first base.

 Q:  Jeff from San Diego asks:
I know he went down with Tommy John Surgery, but how does Cesar Carrillo now project? When will he return and do the Pads still feel good about his future?

Matt Eddy: The Padres don't know what to expect from Carrillo. Most pitchers make a full recovery from Tommy John, so until they learn otherwise, he projects as the same mid-rotation starter or power reliever that he always has.

 Q:  Phil from Overland Park, KS asks:
I was surprised after a great 2007 that Chad Huffman was left off this list, can you elaborate?

Matt Eddy: It's best to answer these next two questions in tandem.

Matt Eddy: Added depth. That's the reason Huffman fell out of the top 10. He certainly did everything that was asked of him in 2007, making it to Double-A and helping San Antonio win the Texas League title. He's still the same player — solid righthanded corner-outfield bat — that he was last year. It's just that the players around him have improved.

Matt Eddy: Huffman's advanced feel for hitting and solid power could get him a big league look at some point in 2008 — especially with the Padres' outfield future in flux.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Has Venable's stock fallen a lot since last year (when he ranked # 5), and if so, what was the major contributing factor?

Matt Eddy: Like Huffman, Will Venable is the same player he was last year. He has a good feel for hitting for average and he plays a solid outfield corner. Does he have enough power to hold down a corner in the big leagues? Right now, it's doubtful. But because Venable bats lefty, makes contact and runs well, he might have a future as a reserve.

 Q:  Bruce from Snowy Minneapolis asks:
Hi Matt, Luis Durango has to be getting close to the Top 10? Also, hopefully Kellen Kulbacki will start hitting shots and there will be an outfield in SD in a couple years.

Matt Eddy: Not a lot of praise for Durango. He's a plus-plus runner and makes all sorts of contact, but he lacks any trace of power or any real aptitude for defense or baserunning.

Matt Eddy: Kulbacki can hit, though, and it'll be interesting to see how the Padres advanced outfield prospect shake out over the next few years. Will there be room for all of Huffman, Venable and Kulbacki?

 Q:  Fred from Atlanta asks:
Hey Matt- Where do the two CF's taken this year stack up in the Pads system. Danny Payne is a gritty gamer w advance leadoff skills and his Clemson counterpart Brad Chalk can really run and play a good CF. How do you see those guys progressing?

Matt Eddy: You nailed it. Payne and Chalk shoot to the top of the organizational depth chart in center field. Aside from them both batting lefthanded, they're opposites in many ways.

Matt Eddy: Payne is a solid defender with a long swing. He has just enough power to get himself in trouble, as one observer put it. The bat is sound, and he knows how to work a pitcher, but unless Payne proves to have Dustin Pedroia-like hand-eye coordination, he may have to shorten his swing.

Matt Eddy: Chalk, on the other hand, excels at the little man's game. He's a plus defender in center, a plus runner and has a knack for contact. If anything, he has to stay on the ball better and drive it. Right now, he tends to run out of the box before finishing his swing. Like Payne, he commands the strike zone.

 Q:  Jerry from Chicago asks:
What do you think about the trend of the Pads over the last few years? You think now that they have built up some depth in the system that they may be able to grab some more guys in the draft with higher ceilings that in turn have a greater risk?

Matt Eddy: I wouldn't count on it. Since VP of scouting and farm director Grady Fuson came aboard in 2005, the organization has shown a clear preference for drafting polished college talent with plus makeup and baseball aptitude.

Matt Eddy: While the strategy didn't yield immediate benefits, it's begun to pay off handsomely with the ascensions of Headley, Antonelli and LeBlanc — not to mention the prospect-laden team at San Antonio, our Minor League Team of the Year.

 Q:  Joe from SD asks:
Any sleepers in this system that we should keep an eye on?

Matt Eddy: Yes. Look out for Rayner Contreras, who should be with high Class A Lake Elsinore next season. He'll be a tad older at 22, but he has wiry strength and the ability to make hard contact with line-drive power to all fields. He runs well, too, though he may not be a classic defender at second base. Contreras missed time with an ankle injury in 2007, and coupled with the harsh conditions of the Midwest League, his numbers don't look impressive on the surface.

 Q:  Kevin from San Diego asks:
What was your honest assessment of Matt Bush as a pitcher before he went down with the elbow injury?

Matt Eddy: Great arm, but a long, long way from the majors. With mid- to high-90s heat and a pretty good slider, he's got a chance as a reliever. The interesting thing about Bush's conversion to the mound is that he showed pretty good mechanics, despite not having pitched seriously since 2004. It's a tribute to his natural athleticism.

 Q:  Lincoln from Austin, TX asks:
Do you think Headley pushes Kouz off the 3B spot in SD? Or do they trade one of them within the next year or so?

Matt Eddy: This is the Padres storyline to watch. Headley doesn't need much more — if any — minor league time. But, then, Kouzmanoff overcame a putrid first half to be a consistent producer for an 89-win team. Because Headley can hit righties and defend better than Kouzmanoff, I think he wins out.

Matt Eddy: Maybe the Padres let Kouzmanoff build trade value for a few months and then move him. Or maybe they move him to left field in spring training.

 Q:  Blake from Santee, CA asks:
I see BA is projecting Drew Cumberland as a centerfielder. Have you heard anything from the Pads that leads you to believe a position change is in the cards, or is this just because they have Greene? Also, where the heck is Yefri Carvajal???

Matt Eddy: Cumberland faces long odds of sticking at shortstop, and, yes, the Padres have at least thought about him as a second baseman or center fielder down the line. He's a great athlete, but had problems with his arm path in his first pro season. While Cumberland's arm is average, he runs well, bats lefty and has some power, so he'd fit well at any middle-of-the-diamond position.

Matt Eddy: Carvajal would've made the top 10 had they not brought in Latos, Garrison, Inman and Schmidt. I have a felling we ranked him more aggressively than anyone else will.

 Q:  Tony from Durham, NC asks:
Thanks for taking our questions. I was hoping you might give a little more insight into what places Drew Miller above other prospects such as Inman and Blanks whose performances standout. The writeup mentions a (slight) top-of-the-rotation possibility for Miller, based on two plus pitches. Are there comparable recent prospects to help sketch out Miller's profile?

Matt Eddy: Great question. Pitchers who have two potential plus pitches and who pitch off their fastballs are the best bets for future success. Miller does both those things. I'll only get myself in trouble by naming names.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
Does Kellen Kulbacki figure into the 11-15 range? I know that he has had doubters since his monster Junior year at JMU, especially concerning competition, but is there any since amongst scouts that he may be one of those players who simply hits anywhere he goes - perhaps not a superstar, but a John OlerudMike Greenwell (with a bit more pop) type of player?

Matt Eddy: Kulbacki does figure in the Nos. 11-15 range. People liked his bat just fine. With no defensive or baserunning value, though, he'll have to keep impressing with the bat in his hands. Olerud was slower than slow, but he has very good around the first base bag, so I'm not sure that's an entirely fair comp.

 Q:  willie from murfreesboro,tn asks:
where do u think that kyler burke would have ended up if he was still a padre ? after seeing what he did w cubs and in hawaii seems like he would have been near the top ?

Matt Eddy: Burke would have been a strong contender for a top-10 spot. For those who don't remember, Burke, a supplemental first-round pick in 2006 from a Tennessee high school, was traded to the Cubs in the Michael Barrett deal in June.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Can you give a brief scouting report of Liriano and Spraut? Will both likely start in the AZL?

Matt Eddy: Shortstop Jonathan Spraut, who was listed as Galvez by MLB when he signed but prefers Spraut, is a high-energy, athletic middle infielder with strong wrists and forearms. He can run and has shown a good line-drive swing, with good pitch recognition and a hint of power potential.

Matt Eddy: Outfielder Rymer Liriano, whom the Padres inked for $300,000, is a strong, well-built athlete who shows the potential for all five tools. At present, his best attributes are his power and arm strength. Physically, he reminds the Padres of a young Sammy Sosa or Andruw Jones.

 Q:  Jeff Sullivan from Belchertown MA asks:
How good will Matt Latos be and how far away is he?

Matt Eddy: Latos may be further away than other pitching prospects of his age and repertoire. His mound presence came a long way once he turned pro, but his makeup was a key factor in his falling to the 11th round in 2006. Latos lacks maturity, but isn't regarded as malicious, so in many ways, how fast he moves is entirely dependent on him. We give him the benefit of the doubt because of incredible arm strength.

 Q:  Jeff Sullivan from Belchertown MA asks:
Was Cedric Hunter's drop a result of a better system, or is he not what we thought when he was the number one guy?

Matt Eddy: It's both. None of Latos, Garrison or Inman were in the organization in 2006, and Headley, Antonelli and LeBlanc took huge steps forward. Removing these players from consideration leaves just Drew Miller as a player who, perhaps, unexpectedly jumped ahead of Hunter.

Matt Eddy: The year 2006 was a tough time to come into the Padres organization cold, as I did. No player performed especially well and the incumbent No. 1, Carrillo, was likely headed for Tommy John surgery. This created a vacuum at the top, where Hunter, Carrillo, Antonelli and Kouzmanoff all seemed like viable No. 1 prospects.

Matt Eddy: Hunter is the same player he was last year. The hand-eye coordination is still there, as is the contact ability and command of the strike zone, but the Padres would like to see him even his swing and begin to drive the ball more consistently.

 Q:  A Gossmeyer from La Mesa asks:
I noticed Ced Hunter's stats compared favorably to Justin Upton's in the Midwest League at the same age. Any thoughts on a comparison?

Matt Eddy: The lesson here is that the Midwest League is a very tough place to hit — not that Hunter has tools similar to Justin Upton's. Don't be surprised if Hunter challenges for the Cal League batting title next year, though.

 Q:  Neil from Portland, OR asks:
I'm disappointed to see that Mitch Canham's rapping ability wasn't enough to push him into the Top 10. Seriously though, what kind of numbers could we expect out of him in the majors?

Matt Eddy: Canham's defensive game needs a lot of work, but because of plus makeup (and toughness — he came back to play after testicular surgery in July), he seems like the type of player who will put in the necessary work. His bat is good enough to get him to the big leagues even with average to slightly-below defense.

 Q:  Kenan from El Cajon, CA asks:
What is your take on Euclides Viloria? Although only 17, he had about 11k's per 9 innings in the Arizona League.

Matt Eddy: Lefthander Euclides Viloria is worth watching because of his above-average, low-90s fastball, average curveball and plus changeup. The 18-year-old Venezuelan could be a mid-rotation guy if he harnesses his command and adds plane to his fastball.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
Why did the Padres let Yordany Ramirez leave the organization?

Matt Eddy: Despite his athleticism, plus-plus defense and arm, Ramirez just doesn't hit enough to profile as anything more than a Triple-A player or last man on the big league roster.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
What do you know about Edinson Rincon (3B - AZL)?

Matt Eddy: Another young Padre to watch, Rincon, 17, offers real hitting potential. He's a converted catcher with present power and good pitch recognition for a player his age.

 Q:  Steve from Dallas, TX asks:
How close did Josh Geer come to making this list? He was the Texas League Pitcher of the Year, hardly walks a batter, goes at least 7 in every start, and seems to be the most big league ready starter in the Padres system. I was surprised to see guys like Garrison in front of him.

Matt Eddy: Keep in mind we rank each organization 30 deep in our Prospect Handbook. Geer did not make the top 10, but he's on the top 30 list.

Matt Eddy: While only LeBlanc could challenge Geer as the organization's most big league ready arm, Geer still profiles as a back-end guy who, if he makes it, will succeed more on competitiveness and location than stuff. The good news for Geer, and his fans, is that he registered more 90 mph-plus radar-gun readings this year than he had since turning pro. His changeup is pretty good, but the breaking ball needs a lot of work.

 Q:  Jake from Philadelaphia, Pa asks:
Where is Mitch Canham and Corey Luebke? They both had great seasons this past summer?

Matt Eddy: I'm surprised Luebke hasn't gotten more attention during this chat. Yours is the only question about the Ohio State lefty that I've seen. The Padres took Luebke 40 picks after they took Nick Schmidt, but it's Luebke who shined in his debut. Most impressively, Luebke advanced all the way to the Cal League, where he went 1-1, 3.18 with 11 strikeouts in 11 playoff innings.

Matt Eddy: He throws his fastball 87-91 mph with movement and commands it to both sides of the plate. His hard slider is average and he commands a changeup against righthanders. He's definitely one to watch in 2008.

 Q:  The Ghost of Billy Beane from Hiding in your closet.. asks:
What's your take on David Freese? He would seem to be well blocked at 3b in the Padres org and would best be suited as trade bait. I notice he was rated the best defensive 3b in the Cal League. Future MLB regular or utility corner infielder? Thanks.

Matt Eddy: He does seem blocked. That was part of the reason the Padres tried Freese at catcher in instructional league. He's a good all-around player, but, you're right, he's in the wrong organization to try to make it as a third baseman.

 Q:  Ed Alcaraz from San Diego asks:
Does Colt Morton get any AB's with the big league club this year or does Michael Barrett block any adavancement in 2008?

Matt Eddy: He's on the 40-man, and that's half the battle. Assuming Barrett is retained, then, yes, Morton and Hundley will have to wait another year to play back up in the big leagues.

 Q:  Ben from San Diego asks:
Why is Nick Schmidt rated above Carrillo when Carrillo has had minor league success at AA and is regarded as having better stuff?

Matt Eddy: This is a legitimate criticism. Carrillo's stock has taken a hit, I believe, because it's been almost two years since he's been healthy, meaning that we subconsciously downgrade him for his late 2006 and early 2007 struggles — even though he wasn't close to being 100 percent.

Matt Eddy: The big thing for me when ranking them (Carrillo is No. 11, by the way, two spots behind Schmidt) is that Schmidt looks like a starter all the way, someone who can eat innings and keep his team in games. And while Carrillo's raw stuff is better, he might make his way to the bullpen at some point to keep him healthy and his stuff sharp.

 Q:  Jake from Hartford asks:
Given the purely hypothetical opportunity to trade Antonelli for Dustin Pedroia, do you take it? Pedroia has already succeeded in the big leagues but it seems that Antonelli has a bit more power. They appear to be the two best young 2B around.

Matt Eddy: It sounds crazy, but I'd eschew the AL Rookie of the Year to stick with Antonelli. His peak value may be lower than Pedroia's, but I expect Antonelli, with his power and speed, to age better and have a longer career as a productive player.

Moderator: Thanks for the great questions.