San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

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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, 2011.

    JAYPERS (IL): How far off the Top 10 did Jedd Gyorko fall, and did he impress you and scouts? What are his shortcomings?

Matthew Eddy: When first-rounder Karsten Whitson spurned the Padres to head to college, Gyorko became the highest Padres draft pick to sign (59th overall). Heading into the draft, a lot of teams liked the West Virginia product because he just has a knack to hit. But Gyorkko's not exactly a conventional prospect. Built along the lines of a catcher, he has just enough quickness to play third base at the pro level. He won't hit a ton of home runs or win any Gold Gloves, but some scouts threw 65 grades on his ability to hit—that could spell a .290 average. He just missed making the Top 10.

    Ben (Leland Grove): What's the rundown on Juan Oramas? Future SP or RP?

Matthew Eddy: I won't be able to give you an unbiased opinion of Oramas. I really like him because he's so unique. You just don't see many 19-year-olds carve up the Mexican League as Oramas did while on loan there in 2009. As if that weren't enough, he nearly threw a perfect game in his fourth Cal League last May. But if we're being objective, then Oramas' body type and power-oriented, two-pitch repertoire could land him in the bullpen. But on the other hand, he picks things up quickly and has late life and finish to his pitches, so you never know.

    Jasen (FLL): When does Leubke make it into the starting rotation and chances of him succeeding this year? Thanks

Matthew Eddy: Lefty Cory Luebke will be 26 on Opening Day and has nothing left to prove in the minors, so look for him to make the Padres out of spring training as long as he doesn't fall flat on his face. It doesn't seem reasonable to expect him to carry forward his ratios (9 whiffs and 3 walks per nine) from last September, but you can expect solid No. 4 starter contributions from him right off the bat—180 or so innings, average-to-a-tick-below ERA.

    Jasen (FLL): Have you heard about the health status of Blanks? Does he start the year in AAA?

Matthew Eddy: With Adrian Gonzalez out of the picture in San Diego, Kyle Blanks' Tommy John surgery could not have been more ill-timed. The Padres say he won't be ready to start the season, and that when he's ready to go he'll probably head to Triple-A for a spell. They'll make a determination at that point. In other words, if Blanks hits in the PCL and Brad Hawpe doesn't hit in Petco (both distinct possibilities), then Blanks will get a look in the second half . . . just in time to fend off Anthony Rizzo.

    Greg (Ohio): Matt Lollis body strikes me as a major concern going forward. Reminds me of Aaron Harang or CC Sabathia in terms of size. That body type can go soth fast - how is his conditioning & does Lollis stay very tall in his delivery?

Matthew Eddy: Yes, the biggest concern facing Matt Lollis is simply staying in good enough shape to make 30+ starts. Much like Sabathia, Lollis is a better athlete than he appears, but that's as far as I want to take that comparison. (Cy Young award winner vs. Low-A pitcher with one good half-season and all.) If Lollis loses the conditioning battle (or his changeup doesn't come on), then he could be a fine reliever . . . of Bobby Jenks-ian proportions.

    Carrie (NYC): Is Rincon in your top 20?

Matthew Eddy: Yes. We decided to give 3B Edinson Rincon the benefit of the doubt after a poor full-season debut for Fort Wayne. He fell just outside the top 15, though keep in mind that he's not universally liked by those outside the organization. Rincon tried too hard to force home runs in 2010, falling into bad habits at the plate, like over-rotating and upper-cutting. He squared up all types of pitches and knows the strike zone, so better days may be in store for him. Defensively, the same problems persist. He seems to be a first baseman in waiting because he lacks any sort of defensive instincts (though he throws well).

    Grant (Miami): How many spots did James Darnell fall this year? Thoughts on his season?

Matthew Eddy: Darnell would have made the Top 10 if not for the Gonzalez trade. He's a solid prospect with essentially average grades across the board. He has a thick, muscular lower half and has trouble with his footwork and consistency at third base. The majority of Darnell's 54 errors the past two years have come on throws, but since he has a strong arm, many in the organization are coming around to the idea of trying him in right field. San Antonio's Wolff Stadium just kills hitters, particularly righties. The Missions as a team hit just .226 at home and .263 on the road. Keep that in mind when evaluating Darnell's .265/.348/.408 Double-A batting line. Also bear in mind that he improved in the second half, after coming back in June from a hand injury—actually it was a cyst.

    Joe (Clintonville): Can Cedric Hunter unseat anyone by 2014 for a spot in the OF?? What are his ceiling numbers?? Also, who would you rather have, Rizzo or Decker, based on offense only??

Matthew Eddy: The club's third-round pick out of an Georgia high school in 2006, at a time when the Padres did not draft many prep products, Hunter has spent five seasons in the minors now without proving himself to be a starting-caliber big leaguer. San Diego added him to the 40-man roster last November because it thinks he can fill a reserve outfielder role in the future. While Hunter hasn't shown the patience required to be the hitter his reflexes and hand-eye coordination suggest he can be, he has improved his defensive play in center field. He doesn't really steal bases or hit for power, so a few well-timed hitting streaks at the outset of his career will do wonders for his career chances. As to Rizzo vs. Decker, I think I'd take Decker, if considering offense only. His higher contact rate gives him a better chance to hit for average.

    Matt (Detroit): Do you think Josh Spence ever throws a pitch in the majors? He was outstanding in his debut and in his junior year at ASU, but will he be able to get hitters out at higher levels?

Matthew Eddy: I'll say yes, but in a limited role. Ninth-round lefty Josh Spence sits at about 84-86 mph as a starter, and sometimes dips lower than that, but in shorter stints the Padres say he's up to 87 mph. That coupled with a wide repertoire and strong feel for the strike zone ought to get Spence to Triple-A. From there, he's only an injury away from seeing big league time. Often, the callup goes to the hot hand. Timing is everything, right?

    Jon (Peoria): How do you feel Everett Williams was in his first full season? How do his tools compare with Fuentes'?

Matthew Eddy: For a player billed (and payed) as an elite hitting prospect out of the draft, Everett Williams' full-season debut was nothing short of disastrous. He batted .244/.333/.372 with five homers for Fort Wayne, often appearing to be generally uninterested in center field. But hey, Williams will be 20 for all of the 2011 season, and scouts pointed to particular flaws in his offensive game. He tended to pull off the ball and cede the middle and outer portions of the plate. Somewhat paradoxically, a more patient, all-fields approach could translate into more home runs for Williams, or so the thinking goes.

    Nick (San Antonio): What have the reports been like on John Barbato out of instructs? Does he have mid rotation potential...maybe more?

Matthew Eddy: Sixth-rounder Johnny Barbato benefited more than anyone when Karsten Whitson walked away from the negotiating table as the signing deadline neared. As it shook out, Barbato, like Whitson a Florida commit, landed a $1.4 million bonus, the highest of any Padres 2010 draft pick. The money had been earmarked for Whitson, of course, but Barbato could be more than consolation prize. He repeats his delivery and fires easy 91-92 mph heat at age 18, lending hope that he's got more in the tank. He might develop an average curveball and changeup in time, and if he does he could be No. 3 starter material. But that's a long way off. He'll probably split this season between extended spring training and a short-season club, probably Eugene.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is it time yet for us to officially write off Antonelli?

Matthew Eddy: The Nationals apparently have not. They signed him to a minor league deal in December, about two weeks after the Padres non-tendered him.

    Shawn Nelson (Chippewa Falls,Wi.): Hi Matt. Have you givin up on Nick Schmidt yet? What happened to him? Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: To paraphrase Michael Corleone: Just when I thought I was out . . . he pulls me back in. The Padres top pick in the 2007 draft (23rd overall), Schmidt had Tommy John surgery almost immediately after turning pro. He missed all of 2008, has not yet reached Double-A (he's 25), has not recovered his pre-surgery velocity and has not yet topped 100 innings in a pro season. However, one Padres official still expressed surprise that some team did not take a chance on Schmidt in the Rule 5 draft. He's a physical lefty who throws strikes and hides the ball well from opponents. In short stints he sits in the low 90s, and his curveball and changeup give him average weapons to play with in the low-70s and low-80s, respectively. He sounds like a middle reliever or emergency starter to me.

    jim (pensacola, fl): I saw drew cumberland was a part of the futures game last year. Is he projected to be a part of the Padres middle infield in the next year or so?

Matthew Eddy: The Padres have Orlando Hudson under contract for two years at the keystone, with Cumberland and Logan Forsythe being the best internal candidates to replace him in 2013. As mentioned in Cumberland's player capsule, he has the potential for three above-average tools, including speed and defense, which makes him an attractive option for the middle infield. The timing could work, too. Let's say Cumberland spends this season in Double-A/Triple-A and then serves a big league apprenticeship in 2012 as a reserve, kind of the role Reid Brignac filled this year for Tampa Bay. By 2013 he'll be ready to take over for Hudson. The organization also talks about trying Cumberland in center field, so perhaps they envision him filling a super-utility role.

    Mike (Minnesota): I see there's no Cameron Maybin in the 2014 projected lineup. Are Decker, Fuentes, and Venable all really that much better than him? Seems like a waste of a trade if he's just a stopgap for a season or two, doesn't it?

Matthew Eddy: A lot of Maybin's value to a club is his ability to hold down center field, so I think the corners are out. But I bet you'd get a pretty even split if you polled big league execs as to whom they'd want in center in 2014, Maybin or Reymond Feuntes.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Hi Matt. Venable as the projected RF? Ouch! Is the SD minor league OF that bad or am I under-estimating Venable?

Matthew Eddy: As with Maybin vs. Fuentes, you could make a compelling case for James Darnell as right fielder of the future. But we haven't yet seen him play the position. Venable, on the other hand, is coming off a pair of solid years in the big leagues with a 106 OPS+ over 226 games (while also filling in in center field occasionally). It's not exactly your first-division regular profile, but he'll do until the Padres find someone who fits that description.

    Jack Weiland (Boston): Thoughts on Keyvius Sampson? How close was he to making the Top 10?

Matthew Eddy: If you read our Northwest League prospect rankings, then you have a pretty good idea of Sampson's stuff. He ranked No. 12 on that list and cracked the Padres' Top 20. But based purely on raw stuff, one could certainly rank him higher. Sampson sits at 90-93 mph with life and already shows advanced feel for a changeup. A consistent curveball (it's a 50-50 proposition now) would elevate him to three-pitch starter candidate. The Padres say that he left instructional league healthy after an injury-plagued campaign with Eugene, one that included pitching through a tear in the labrum of his right shoulder and, later on, elbow soreness.

    Burke Granger (Columbus, OH): I can't wait for my prospect handbook. Did Mike Baxter make the top 30?

Matthew Eddy: I don't want to remove all suspense for you, but Mike Baxter fell short of the Top 30. Again. Every year I ask about him, but nobody ever goes to bat for the 26-year-old first baseman/corner outfielder who seemingly has willed himself to the big leagues with big seasons for San Antonio and Portland in the past two years. He's a classic tweener type player—not quite enough power for the corners, not quite enough glove to play anywhere else.

    Everyone (Everywhere): When does the Prospect handbook ship? I can't wait any longer. Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: We received the 2011 Prospect Handbook at BA world headquarters today and already have begun shipping them. Hang in there.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Hagerty hitting .302 in the pitcher friendly MWL is pretty impressive. Why is the consensus that he won't be more than a .260 hitter? If he can hit higher than that, and continue to show good power and the good defense he has, can his ceiling be more than an average regular? Does he have potential star ability ?

Matthew Eddy: No. 10 in the system and Padres catcher of the future isn't enough for you, eh? Don't read too much into Jason Hagerty's shiny .300 average in Low-A. He probably faced equal or better pitching quality when he played Atlantic Coast Conference competition in college. And for whatever reason, the Midwest and South Atlantic leagues have played as comparable offensive contexts for two years running. But Hagerty has a discerning batting eye, plenty of power and the defensive chops to profile as a big league regular catcher.

    Eric (HI): Is Aaron Poreda still considered a top lp prospect by the Padres? He's on the 40 man roster, but have heard very little hype on him since coming over in the Peavy trade.

Matthew Eddy: The Padres don't know what happened to Poreda's velocity. And his walk rates as a member of the organization look like a typo: 101 free passes in 87 minor league innings. He also walked five of the 12 big league batters he faced during a cup of coffee with the Padres in 2009.

    Peter (San Diego): Please rank Hundley, Martinez, and Hagerty.

Matthew Eddy: For the long term, it's Hagerty, Hundley, then Luis Martinez.

    Mike (Fort Wayne, IN): What Padres got bumped out of the top 10 by the Red Sox players coming over in the trade? Would there anyone that was traded for Bartlett that would have been on the list?

Matthew Eddy: Jedd Gyorko, James Darenll and Logan Forsythe all lost their spots in the Top 10. As to the four players traded to the Rays for Jason Bartlett—relievers Bradon Gomes, Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos and High-A second baseman Cole Figueroa—the answer is, no, none made the original version of San Diego's Top 30, though Russell had too much big league time to qualify. For the latest scouting reports on all four, please see my Trade Central review from December at:

    Keith (NYC): Was that Simon Castro I saw at the futures game throwing 95 to 96 mph with poor control? Any signs that control improved?

Matthew Eddy: As others in the chat have mentioned, Simon Castro had a pretty brutal showing in the Futures Game. He got the nod as starter, which shows how well regarded he was and continues to be in the game. Castro appeared to be over-throwing in Anaheim, because when he's at his best (and most effective) he's more 91-94 with plus life. Just as San Antonio's ballpark depresses the Missions' offensive output, it also props up the club's pitchers. But even with that caveat, control has not been a problem for Castro in the past two seasons. He's maintained a strong walk rate as he's shot from Low-A to Double-A.

    Rick (Hamilton): Hi Matt, thanks for the chat. Just trying to get a gauge on the entire ranking systems, and I was wondering how the top pitching prospects like Casey Kelly, Shelby Miller and Tyler Matzek would compare to the elite of the college crop like Garrit Cole, Sonny Gray and Matthew Purke. Thanks Matt.

Matthew Eddy: On the pro side, I think a ranking of Miller, Matzek, Kelly is fair. As to the amateur comparison question, that might be a good one for Jim Callis over at Ask BA.

    Not JAYPERS (Not IL): Who is JAYPERS, and why does he always get the first question answered along with many others. He must be someone pretty special.

Matthew Eddy: I suspect he's a mole trying to bring BA down from the inside. But I can't prove it.

    Rich (Australia): Hi, Can you give me an idea on where you Corey Adamson's future?

Matthew Eddy: I have no idea what time it is there in Australia, but thanks for checking in. As some of you know, the Padres signed the 16-year-old Adamson to a six-figure deal on the 2008 international market. Like a lot of Aussies signed at such a young age, his game is raw. However, the lefty batter hit an encouraging .283/.359/.362 in the Arizona League last year to earn a bump to Eguene for the season's finale. An athletic 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Adamson figures to fill out and add power to his game. The Padres see him as a potential power-hitting corner outfielder.

    Ernie (SD): Matt, Who would you rather have, Rizzo or Belt?

Matthew Eddy: Belt because he has a much better feel to hit and stronger defensive chops. Rizzo has more power, however.

    Graham (Milton, ON): Obviously Donavan' Tate's stock has fallen significantly due to injuries and poor performance, but it seems to me that they're pretty freak occurrences. Is it too soon to write off Tate? If not, where do you see his ceiling? Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: In a perfect world, Tate develops four above-average to plus tools, with the lone holdout being his ability to hit for average. And obviously that's a huge drawback. His ceiling remains: plus defensive center fielder with plenty of power/speed potential. I think you're right in not writing Tate off as injury-plagued because he's not being hobbled by chronic setbacks. Each malady has been unique.

    Mike (SD): Please give me a ballpark (pun intended) on where the Padres farm system ranks in baseball, and how many guys might make the top 100?

Matthew Eddy: The Padres ranked 29th in our talent rankings in three of the five seasons from 2006-10, but the Adrian Gonzalez trade with the Red Sox has apparently made us giddy. San Diego now ranks toward the back of the top third of systems. OK, in the spirit of Handbook season I'll just tell you they ranked ninth in the book's talent rankings.

    John (San Diego): Cumberland's future? Utility player, solid regular, solid regular/occasional All Star, or All star?

Matthew Eddy: No higher than solid regular on that scale. This is true for the vast majority of prospects, not just Cumberland.

    Mickey (San Diego): How many Padres prospects are being considered for the top 100?

Matthew Eddy: For me, the three of Kelly, Rizzo and Castro are Top 100-worthy.

    John (New York): Hi Matt, what is a reasonable estimation of Anthony Rizzo's upside? Does he have any potential to make fans get over losing A Gon?

Matthew Eddy: Low average because of strikeouts, sturdy walk rate and on-base percentage, chance for 25 homers or so. Comparisons to Gonzalez are unfair to both parties.

    Mickey (San Diego): Why no love for Decker? His bat looks like one of the best in the minors. I've heard his defense isn't as bad as some make it out to be in the corner outfield too. Does his bat not play at 1B?

Matthew Eddy: First base isn't really an option for Jaff Decker unless he really, really hits and really, really can't field an outfield corner. Teams generally don't put 5-foot-10 players at first base because they don't present a big enough target for errant throws. The shortest regular first baseman last year was 5-foot-11 Prince Fielder, who can hit a little. No other first sacker stood less than 6 feet tall, and just 8 of 33 to log at least 81 games there stood less than 6-foot-2.

    Tony (Lakeland, FL): Who has the best chance in the top 30 of someday becoming a closer?

Matthew Eddy: To me, the answer is either 2010 third-rounder Zach Cates (up to 95 mph with an intriguing Vulcan changeup) or 2008 Venezuelan bonus baby Adys Portillo (up to 96 but no reliable secondary stuff yet and poor overall command). The Padres taught Portillo to throw a slider during instructional league and it could supplant his loopy curveball.

    Steve (Chicago): Do you see Jose De Paula as future big league starter or reliever???

Matthew Eddy: This is a fitting closing question. Lefty Jose DePaula is the one under-the-radar Padres arm you're going to want to keep an eye on. He'll be 21 this season, which he figures to begin with High-A Lake Elsinore, and he appears to be fully recovered from the stress fracture in his elbow that wiped out most of 2009. DePaula's fastball sits in the low 90s with riding life, and his slider is death on lefty batters. If he improves his changeup to just average, then he throws enough strikes to profile, at worst, as a No. 4 type big league starter.

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for all the great questions.