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, 2009.

Moderator: Thanks for joining us for our Padres Top 10 Prospects chat, the final chat of this prospect season. While the Padres have built significant organization depth in the past four years, a lack of high-ceiling talent and a few key injuries have San Diego mired at No. 29 in our org talent rankings.

 Q:  Craig from Calgary, Alberta asks:
Jaff Decker had a strong debut in the AZL. Where does he start this year, and what do you project out of him in a full season?

Matt Eddy: Like Kyler Burke ('06, 1st round supp.), Cedric Hunter ('06, third round) and Drew Cumberland ('07, 1st round supp.), the Padres' three most recent premium high school picks, Decker will begin his first full season in low Class A. The only difference is that Fort Wayne's nickname no longer is Wizards. So Decker figures to be the Tin Caps' first big-time prospect.

Matt Eddy: Decker should post a strong on-base percentage with doubles power, but the Midwest League probably will mute his home run output.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Which of these three scenarios concerning Kyle Blanks seems the most likely to come to fruition at this point - 1) learning LF, 2) staying at 1B and being a backup to Adrian Gonzalez, or 3) trading Gonzalez and give Blanks his spot?

Matt Eddy: Because the Padres have one more year before they must add Blanks to the 40-man, they could conceivably park him at Triple-A all season to gauge his readiness to replace Gonzalez. If he appears ready — and the Padres get off to a slow start — then the transition could happen in the second half. If not, they seem prepared to go with Gonzalez for the duration of '09.

Matt Eddy: Scenario 2 is out. It makes little sense to have Blanks sit on the bench in San Diego when he could be gaining experience in Triple-A.

Matt Eddy: And right now, the Padres do not consider Blanks to be a long-term answer on an outfield corner. And can you blame them? Such a scenario would mean Blanks and Chase Headley, two natural corner infielders, would man Petco Park's large corners.

 Q:  Paul from VA asks:
Please look into your crystal ball for us, and tell your adoring subscribing public if you see Antonelli rebounding this year.

Matt Eddy: A rebound for Antonelli is a near-certainty, if only because it would be practically impossible for him to achieve worse results. Especially as Petco Park looms ahead, he'd be best served by focusing on hitting liners into the gaps and getting on base. Some thought his trouble in '08 stemmed from decreased fluidity, but what was clear was that he struggled to establish rhythm with his swing — though his approach remained sound.

 Q:  Craig from Calgary, Alberta asks:
Does Anthony Bass continue to close or will he be brought up as a starter?

Matt Eddy: A fifth-rounder from Wayne State (Mich.) last June, Bass went 7-for-8 in save chances for Eugene last summer — and the Padres like his demeanor and resiliency. However, the San Diego plans to shift him to a starting role this season. A 6-foot-2 righty, Bass gets good downhill plane on his low-90s fastball and mixes in a hard slider.

 Q:  Elly from Baltimore asks:
Surprising not to see Will Inman - is he no longer eligible?

Matt Eddy: Inman still is eligible and he ranks within the top 20. While his results have been inarguable, he relies on deception more than stuff to retire minor league batters. Couple that with a disconcerting slip in control (a career-worst 4.72 walks per nine in Double-A last year) and you have a pitcher who may be stretched as anything more than a back-end starter at higher levels. And even though his heater is straight, Inman's fastball-changeup combo could serve him in a relief role.

Matt Eddy: Inman lowered his arm angle slightly in '08, adding velocity to his fastball, which peaks at 93 mph on a good day, but negatively affecting his control and the depth on his curveball.

Matt Eddy: To find out where Inman ranks, you can pick up our Prospect Handbook, which is shipping now. And if you order from BA, you'll receive a supplemental booklet with No. 31 prospects for all 30 teams.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Are you at all concerned with Latos' demeanor at this time, and whether or not it will prevent him from reaching his ceiling?

Matt Eddy: Yes, and it's the chief reason that he didn't top this list. On raw talent alone, he's the Padres' top prospect, but can he be motivated to reach his ceiling?

 Q:  Wilson from Nashville, TN asks:
Will Mike Baxter make it to the big leagues? Also, what are Matt Buschmann's chances to be there sometime this year?

Matt Eddy: Perhaps Baxter, who had a huge AFL season, will make an appearance in the big leagues, but his exclusion from San Diego's 40-man roster this winter can't be taken as a good sign of his standing. He went undrafted in the Rule 5 and he'll head back to high minors as a 24-year-old in '09.

Matt Eddy: Buschmann stands last in line of the Padres' upper-level pitching prospects, behind Josh Geer, Wade LeBlanc, Will Inman, Cesar Ramos and (the healthy version of) Steve Garrison, so a big league look seems like a long shot for '09. He'll also have to contend with Chad Reineke and Cesar Carrillo, especially now that he's on the 40-man.

 Q:  Brett from Boston, MA asks:
This doesn't seem like an overly impressive list - What does Jeremy Hefner have to do to crack it? He keeps getting people out with good secondary numbers - does his stuff just not translate?

Matt Eddy: In Hefner's case, it's not a lack of stuff. He had an excellent year in the Midwest League, ranking third with 144 strikeouts. But on the downside, he was in low Class A at an age, 22, where the best pitching prospects are banging on the door of the big leagues.

Matt Eddy: Still, the '07 fifth-rounder from Oral Roberts is one to watch this season, particularly to see how his curveball progresses. He ditched the pitch in college but picked it up again during instructional league, and it has Padres officials excited. Hefner's 87-91 mph fastball already features incredible sink and will continue to be his go-to pitch, so he may have what it takes to tame the Cal League.

 Q:  Jimmy from CT asks:
Hey did Evan Scribner happen to make the top 30? Any words about him? Thanks love the chats.

Matt Eddy: And we enjoy hosting the chats. As to Evan "Bartleby the" Scribner, the righthander acquired from Arizona for Tony Clark last July, he pitched exceedingly well for Lake Elsinore and profiles as a set-up reliever if everything clicks. He pitches in the low 90s and his curveball has absolutely devoured low-level hitters. Check out that strikeout-to-walk: 41-to-5 in 33 innings.

 Q:  Blake from Arlington, TX asks:
Jonathan Galvez has drawn some public praise from Padres officials but didn't make the top 30 of BA's 29th rated farm system. Are his skills extremely raw? Tools fringier than has been suggested?

Matt Eddy: Galvez received $750,000 from the Padres during the 2007 international signing period, anticipating San Diego's largesse on the same market in '08. A shortstop for now, Galvez lacks the classic arm strength and throwing mechanics (it's a low-elbow slinging motion) for the left side of the infield, meaning a move to second base likely is in his future.

Matt Eddy: But for a 17-year-old, he has an advanced feel for the strike zone (.449 OBP in the Dominican Summer League) and the wiry strength that some believe will translate into power down the road. Galvez doesn't run well, though, and his aptitude has been called into question. Regardless, he'll come to the U.S. in '09.

 Q:  Melvin from Clemson asks:
Stephen Faris had a real strong 2008 in AA. Do you think he has a chance to pitch in the big leagues in 2009? He seems to fit the Padres mold of strike throwing guy who keeps it in the ballpark and gets ground balls.

Matt Eddy: Good call. Faris deserved mention in the Buschmann answer above, as an upper-minors pitcher who hits the mitt and could see big league time if things break right. An '06 12th-rounder from Clemson, Faris pitches at 90 mph and learned a new grip on his curveball last season, enabling him to locate the pitch in the zone. And though he showed an average changeup in the bullpen, he struggled to locate the pitch in games.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
What is the scouting report on Michael Watt? Did he come close to making the top 10?

Matt Eddy: And furthermore, what could be romantic to Mike Watt? He's only a skeleton. Uh, well, forced Minutemen reference aside, Watt is a promising young (19) lefty with the potential for three plus pitches. Acquired from the Dodgers in July in the Greg Maddux trade, he pitches at 90 mph with a developing curveball, a pitch that the Padres have helped him tighten. His changeup comes and goes, but overall his command is solid for a young lefthander.

Matt Eddy: Watt did not come close to making the top 10. In fact, he didn't make the top 30, both because of San Diego's improved depth and because of a general wariness regarding the Dodgers' lack of faith in him. They took him in the second round of the '07 draft, after all.

 Q:  Ken Rule from Lakewood CA asks:
I'm curious. Antonelli looked to be their sure-fire next major league 2B. But 2008 must have put a scare into at least some of the front office? Do you see him becoming a successful major leaguer at this position? Or is he just the best they have for now at 2B? Thanks.

Matt Eddy: Lurking behind Antonelli is Eric Sogard, who some see as a Todd Walker clone and who tore up the California League in '08. Because the Padres have so much invested in Antonelli (and because Edgar Gonzalez is his chief opposition at the moment), he'll be given every chance to win the second base job outright.

Matt Eddy: Members of the front office were reluctant to give up completely on Antonelli, but any time a (healthy) top prospect struggles so badly at a level he's seemingly ready for, it raises red flags.

 Q:  John from Tulsa, OK asks:
Josh Geer had an impressive ML debut. Will he be in the Padres starting 5? Where did he rank in the Top 30?

Matt Eddy: Geer ranked just outside the top 10, and, yes, the Padres were very impressed with his presence and strike-throwing ways in the big leagues. If he's healthy (he came down with a strained elbow in late September), he'll be a strong candidate to make the rotation out of spring training.

 Q:  Greg from Los Angeles asks:
Kellen Kulbacki comes in 4th on your list but doesn't project to make the starting roster, too much depth? Will he likely be traded?

Matt Eddy: Please don't take too much stock in our projected 2012 lineups. It's a fun exercise designed to give a thumbnail sketch of an organization's strengths and weaknesses. In this case, unless the Padres get real good, real fast, you have to figure that sooner or later Gonzalez will be traded and Blanks (or Allan Dykstra) will slide in at first base, leaving a corner open for Kulbacki or James Darnell.

 Q:  Lorenzo from Cincinnati, OH asks:
How close was Logan Forsythe?

Matt Eddy: Despite being drafted 23 spots ahead of James Darnell last June, Forsythe, a supplemental first-rounder, ranked one place behind him on our Top 30. Why? While Forsythe, among the two third basemen, has a more advanced feel for hitting and a steadier glove, he lacks the explosive power and speed potential of Darnell.

Matt Eddy: And then you factor in their debuts — Forsythe continued to be snakebitten by injuries, requiring surgery for a sprained thumb ligament almost right out of the gate. He dealt with foot and hamstring injuries during his final two years at Arkansas. Darnell, meanwhile, tore through the Northwest League in a 16-game audition.

 Q:  Jim from Atlanta asks:
Danny Payne and Brad Chalk were two CF taken pretty high in the 2007 draft. What's the ceiling for these two guys and has Tekotte jumped ahead of them already?

Matt Eddy: All three center fielders hail from ACC schools, bat lefthanded and cover significant ground in center field, but Tekotte offers the most well-rounded package of tools. He's adept at getting on base and generally pressuring defenses, and when he does muscle up on the ball, he has more raw power than Payne or Chalk.

Matt Eddy: As for Payne (1st round supp.) and Chalk (2nd), the '07 picks, they struggled to establish themselves in low Class A. The former batted hamstring trouble in both legs and never got going, batting .172/.342/.227 in 128 at-bats. For the most part, Chalk stayed on the field, missing time only with a minor ankle injury, but he hit a soft .275/.354/.340 and still seemed resistant to driving through the ball.

 Q:  Mario from San Diego asks:
Matt- Explain to me how the Padres have slipped from #12 a year ago to #29 when they had 3 players named Topps MVP of their respective leagues in Blanks, Decker and Robertson, have 4 guys in the top 10 in ERA at AA, have a CF lead the whole minors in hits in Hunter at Hi A. You rank Hallberg w/ Arizona in their top 5 and Sogard #15 in the Pads system and Sogard has out hit Hallberg in Hi A by a huge margin yet Arizona is above SD in the rankings. What gives?

Matt Eddy: The loss of Chase Headley on our talent rankings hurt the Padres' standing significantly, because without him they don't have that one prospect with the combination of tools and performance that you like to see in a No. 1 guy. Nothing against Kyle Blanks, but he's about as unconventional a No. 1 as you're going to find.

Matt Eddy: In comparing San Diego with the D'backs, Cubs and Tigers — the three teams that ranked just ahead of them — we felt that the quality of each org's top prospect(s) was enough to separate them. For example: Jarrod Parker/Gerardo Parra (D'backs) > Josh Vitters/Jeff Samardzija (Cubs) > Rick Porcello (Tigers) > Blanks.

 Q:  Joey from Gainesville asks:
What do you think about Cole Figueroa? Did he make your Top 30?

Matt Eddy: Figueroa, a sixth-rounder last June, cracked the back-end of the Top 30. A lefty hitter with a solid, repeatable swing, he knows the strike zone and projects as at least average in terms of hitting for average and power. Though he played shortstop in college, his speed is well below-average and would appear to fit best at second base.

 Q:  Dan from SD asks:
Are there any power arms that are near-ready in the bullpen that can step up if Heath Bell tanks or gets hurt? Thanks

Matt Eddy: The relievers to watch are Mark Worrell (funky side-armer with tough fastball/slider on RH batters), Mike Ekstrom (low-90s sinker, up to 93 4-seam, plus slider, fearless), Wilton Lopez (touches mid-90s with incredible sink, plus change, but slider comes and goes and lefties walloped him in '08), Greg Burke (up to 94 mph with tailing life, solid slider), DeMark (plus 93-94 fastball, competitor, deceptive, slider is solid-average).

 Q:  Scott from Phoenix asks:
We have heard alot about Carvajal and Castro but neither made the top 10. What is your take on those two

Matt Eddy: Yefri Carvajal, a right fielder, has huge raw power and a strong throwing arm, but when he falls into ruts, he tends to chase wildly after breaking balls and take an exaggerated load in his swing, resulting in a bat wrap that doesn't allow him to catch up to good fastballs. The Padres still believe in his upside.

Matt Eddy: Righthander Simon Castro was in consideration for the top 10, as he's made giant strides with his control in the three seasons he's been in the organization. With a long, loose delivery and a 92-95 mph fastball that scrapes the high 90s on occasion, Castro has the making of, at worst, a power reliever. If his slider and changeup come along, then he could profile as a mid-rotation starter or better.

Moderator: Thanks for all the questions. That concludes our Top 10 Prospects output for 2009, but be sure to check back next year for another round. Oh, and stop by the BA store and order your 2009 Prospect Handbook, which contains scouting reports on 900 minor leaguers (plus Mariners' unsigned first-rounder Joshua Fields).