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.

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for stopping by. Let's chat Padres.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, Matt. How high are you on 3B Fernando Perez? Could he be a fast riser, and does he remind you of anyone in particular?

Matthew Eddy: Well, this chat is going to peak early. 3B Fernando Perez might be the most promising under-the-radar prospect in the system. I hesitate to call him a sleeper because he was a third-round pick in June and because he ranks in the Padres' top 20. Perez's offensive ceiling appears to be considerable due to his fluid lefty stroke, terrific balance and burgeoning power. Case in point: He hit .338/.399/.571 as an 18-year-old with wood bats in junior college last year. While he may play 2B early in his pro career, most evaluators expect him to play 3B if he reached the higher levels.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Zach Eflin's health back to 100%? Do you see a future mid-rotation arm in him?

Matthew Eddy: Supplemental first-round RHP Zach Eflin began (triceps tendinitis) and ended (mono) last season on the sidelines, so it's tough to give him a strong grade for health at this time. Unless his breaking ball improves dramatically, he could be heading down a similar path as 2009 fourth-rounder Keyvius Sampson, another prep righty with a strong fastball/changeup mix.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Was it a close call between Kelly, Fried and Gyorko for the top three spots, or was this decision easy for you?

Matthew Eddy: Yes, the top spot was a tight four-way race between RHP Casey Kelly, LHP Max Fried, 3B Jedd Gyorko and C Austin Hedges. They all have virtually the same BA Grade (which you can find in the Prospect Handbook), with Fried and Hedges having the highest ceilings and Kelly and Gyorko the highest floors. In the end, I sided with Kelly because he has major league experience, and we saw glimpses of how his stuff will play at the highest level. You have to be at least mildly concerned about the health of his elbow, but he checks out based on both scouting (tall & athletic with two plus pitches and a quality changeup) and performance (extreme groudnball tendencies, firm strikeout rate, good control) benchmarks.

    Grant (NYC): Donavan Tate - prospect or suspect at this point>?

Matthew Eddy: The grace period has ended for Tate, the third pick in the 2009 draft, and the Padres. He has shown a few glimmers of hope with good speed, solid range and a discerning batting eye, but he also hit .226 and slugged .278 at the Class A level last season as a 21-year-old, and that simply won't cut it. The organization doesn't seem to regard him as a part of the future anymore, and he may require a fresh start with a new org to reclaim value.

    Grant (NYC): After Alonso, do the Pads have any other viable options at 1B in their system right now that could help out, if needed?

Matthew Eddy: They have three players on the 40-man roster who profile best (defensively) at 1B — Kyle Blanks, Jesus Guzman and Edinson Rincon — but counting only minor leaguers, your best bet probably is 26-year-old Cody Decker, who is coming off seasons of 29 and 28 homers, the most recent of which occurred at Double-A and Triple-A. Further down the line, watch to see how Tommy Medica (High-A) and Lee Orr (Low-A) develop, but at this time they're not regarded as future MLB regulars. A lot can change in baseball, though.

    Bryant (Oceanside, CA): Casey Kelly at No. 1 was a bit of a surprise, but also encouraging. Is the bump in power on his curve a good development for his repertoire given the lack of consistency with his change-up? Specifically, is it a positive evolution for that pitch, or does it limit the variety in his repertoire and jeopardize him reaching his ceiling?

Matthew Eddy: Consistency of the changeup is typically the final hurdle to clear for most young, power-oriented righty starters. Given Kelly's youth and lack of Triple-A experience, he may have to continue developing confidence in the changeup at the MLB level. Staying healthy, cutting down on home runs and refining the changeup will be on his to-do list for 2013, regardless of his starting level.

    Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): Got my Handbook, thanks! What more can you tell us about Tayron Guerrero, the system's biggest sleeper? Still projectable?

Matthew Eddy: Glad you like the Handbook. RHP Tayron Guerrero hails from Colombia like former Padres fireballer Ernesto Frieri, and like him, Guerrero's future probably will be in the bullpen. He's very tall (6-foot-7), throw very hard (touching triple digits) and is very wild (5.0 BB/9 in short-season ball last year; 7.4 BB/9 career), but he generates that velo without a lot of effort and the Padres think his slider can be a plus offering with experience. He has an inside track on a rotation spot at Fort Wayne this season.

    Jonny (Santa Cruz): Any chance Erlin breaks camp with the big club? Seems like despite the injury he doesn't have a whole lot else to prove after dominating AA and the Fall League.

Matthew Eddy: Given his lack of Triple-A experience and the fact that he's not yet on the 40-man roster, Erlin is a long shot to make the Padres' Opening Day rotation. Even if San Diego wants to get Casey Kelly more minor league time, they still have six other veteran rotation options — Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Eric Stults, Tyson Ross, Anthony Bass, Jason Marquis — before they need to dip into the prospect reserve. Cory Luebke and Andrew Cashner will be healthy at some point in the second half, too.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Hi Matt and thanks. I'm not impressed with the projected starting rotation for the Padres. What do you think the chances are of breaking into that rotation for Erlin, who seems back on track. Will they give him a serious chance or is it back to AAA for him?

Matthew Eddy: Erlin is a fascinating case, so he deserves two consecutive chat questions. As a flyball pitcher with a 45-50-grade fastball and not a lot of natural plane, he doesn't seem to have much margin for error. And even in our enlightened time, it's rare that a pitcher as short as Erlin (listed height: 5-foot-11) spends a lot of time in a big league rotation. According to a query of Baseball-Reference's Play Index, the only sub-six-foot lefthanders to make even 30 career starts since 1994 (the beginning of the three-division, wild card format) are Mike Hampton, Wandy Rodriguez (the two outliers), Jim Parque, Jesus Sanchez, Travis Wood, Gustavo Chacin, Rheal Cormier, Matt Chico and Carlos Hernandez.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Does Hedges possess the defensive skills to surpass other above-average catchers such as Travis d'Arnaud and A.J. Jimenez, in time?

Matthew Eddy: I believe the answer to be yes, and I think Hedges is the best catching prospect in the low minors. The defense/throwing arm really separates him from backstops like Gary Sanchez or Will Swanner.

    Mike (Fort Wayne): What are the chances the Fort Wayne rotation includes all #1 Picks? Max Fried? Joe Ross? Zach Eflin? Walker Weickel? Mike Kelly? Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: Fried and Ross are all but guaranteed to begin with Fort Wayne (if healthy), and the others you mention are definite possibilities. The Padres may even go with a piggyback system to create innings for Tayron Guerrero and Genison Reyes.

    G4 (Milwaukee): Where does James Darnell fit in the Pads plans, if at all? Did he make your Top 20?

Matthew Eddy: 3B/LF James Darnell received the benefit of the doubt, ranking in the top 20 based on his plus raw power and the fact that the Padres say other clubs ask about him in trades. MLB teams have shown that they will carve out room for a power-hitting righty bat who can deal damage versus lefty pitchers, as Darnell has done in the high minors, hitting .367/.451/.590 with 14 homers in 359 PAs versus southpaws. He's not nearly so effective against same-side pitchers, but there'll always be room for players like Jonny Gomes, Jeff Baker or Scott Hairston.

    Warren (Texas): How close to the Top 10 was Keyvius Sampson? What is his current profile? Thanks for the chat!

Matthew Eddy: Sampson has a big league fastball and a plus changeup, but he has not developed the consistent action or command of his curveball that the Padres had hoped to see. That probably limits him to a role as a back-end starter or quality reliever, but he does have big league potential.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Alonso isn't a prospect any more, but he's young and I don't see any competition for him at 1B in the system. Nine HR was pretty weak, even if he did play his home games in Petco. Sure seems like he has power potential for a lot more than that? Would you agree? Seems like the Padres need more power production from 1B if he can't pick it up. Your thoughts?

Matthew Eddy: I can make a glass-half-full argument for Alonso. He probably will not grow to be a 30-homer masher without drastically altering his hitting approach, but consider the following: 1) He hit 7 of 9 homers after July 1 last year, 2) he has shown that he can make contact and hit for average (.296 at Triple-A, .278 in MLB), and many scouts believe hitters must be able to hit first in order to hit for power later, and 3) he began to hit more flyballs in the second half of last year while also maintaining high rates of line drives and contact. Alonso essentially doubles his HR per flyball rate in the second half of 2012, going from 4 to 9 percent.

    JAS (MN): Where will the Padres play Gyorko in order to get his bat into the lineup?

Matthew Eddy: 3B Jedd Gyorko's ascension to San Diego is dependent on variables outside of his control. Chase Headley (3B) and Carlos Quentin (LF) hold down two positions that Gyorko seemingly would be best suited to play, and Logan Forsythe showed enough at 2B last year to warrant a longer look. Gyorko's best bet for MLB time is either an injury to or trade of Headley or a backslide by Forsythe. Otherwise, he may spend a few months in Tucson while the Padres get a lay of the land (they have to add him to the 40-man in November, no matter what, so expect to see him in the second half, at the latest). A doomsday scenario might include a shift of Forsythe to SS, allowing Gyorko to play 2B, but this would not be the ideal way to instill confidence in the pitching staff.

    Cy (Western Mass): Hey, Matt. Thanks. Looks like lots of depth on this list, but maybe not such high peaks. How many of these PAdres prospects are top-100 caliber?

Matthew Eddy: I would nominate the Padres' top four as being Top 100 caliber — that's Kelly, Fried, Gyorko and Hedges — and I might consider RF Rymer Liriano for the back quarter of the list.

    Bryant (Oceanside, CA): I notice that your 2016 lineup mentions Jedd Gyorko in LF. You mention he's "played capably at second base," so do you believe he's athletic enough to do that, or are his defensive talents best suited for 3B or, possibly, 1B long-term?

Matthew Eddy: Gyorko could handle second base early in his career, but long term he's a third baseman. Listing him in LF was the only way to create space for he, Headley and Spangenberg.

    JAS (MN): Do the Padres have a potential 30 HR hitter somewhere in their system?

Matthew Eddy: Prognosis: Doubtful. But then again they've emphasized speed and/or line-drive hitting ability in recent drafts (and in trades for players like Alonso), so that's really not terribly surprising.

    Michael A. (Mesa): Matt, please tell me about OF prospect Brian Adams? Is he truly one of the best athletes in the org, and do you see him in the majors soon?

Matthew Eddy: An 8th-round pick last June, RF Brian Adams enticed scouts with incredible raw power and plus running speed, but because he has a mostly-football background (WR at Kentucky), he's extremely raw for a college prospect. As we've seen time and time again, pure athleticism does not always translate into baseball skill, though it can make it easier for particular tools to play. If you're looking for a strong athlete with more refined baseball skills, I'd recommend Low-A SS Jace Peterson.

    Warren (Texas): Did Rey Fuentes make the Top 30? What do scouts say about his current pro prospects? Thanks for the chat!

Matthew Eddy: CF Reymond Fuentes, one-third of the prospect haul for Adrian Gonzalez, fell out of the Top 30 this year. While true that he has two tools that absolutely will play in MLB (speed, defense), he hasn't hit with enough authority (or shown enough urgency) to avoid drifting into the middle of the pack in terms of San Diego CF prospects, ranking as roughly equivalent to Mallex Smith (last year's 5th-rounder) or Rico Noel.

    DF (Wilmington, NC): Thoughts on Joe Ross? Lots of buzz this time last year, and though he is coming off something of a lost year, is he regarded as a potential breakout arm? I was surprised that he didn't crack your Too 10. Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: I had penciled RHP Joe Ross, a first-rounder in 2011, into the top 10 before I began the heavy research phase of the process, but his bout with shoulder tendinitis and lack of a consistent second pitch dropped him into the second tier of organizational pitching prospects. Ross may throw harder (consistent 92-93 mph) than any of the righties drafted by San Diego out of high school in recent years, but he has a lot of room for improvement.

    Bryant (Oceanside, CA): What's the word on Cory Spangenberg's defense? He was a work in progress at 2B before he missed a significant period of time this season and reports have been scarce.

Matthew Eddy: By virtue of his plus speed, Spangenberg has a quick first step around the bag, but his infield actions lack ideal fluidity for the middle infield. Expect him to be playable at the keystone, with average defensive value that he can offset with a high batting average, fair number of doubles and maybe 20-30 stolen bases. Most lefty-hitting 2B of recent vintage have relied more on power or on-base skills to carve out playing time, though Adam Kennedy has three 20-steal seasons on his resume.

    Matt (Boston): Can you provide any info on Frank Garces? He was old for the level, but he had a nice reason in Lo-A. Seems to work fast. Any hype for him?

Matthew Eddy: Released by the Rangers early in the 2009 season, LHP Frank Garces signed with the Padres for the 2011 season and has flashed three average pitches while showing an ability to miss bats. He faded badly down the stretch last year, though with 89-91 mph velocity, a slight, 5-foot-11 build; a nice breaking ball and low arm slot, he could turn out to be lefty specialist material.

    Rafa (Los Angeles): Yeison Asencio, what's your opinion?

Matthew Eddy: The power must develop in order for RF Yeison Asencio's wild, swing-at-everything hitting approach to play. That's no safe bet, but his bat-to-ball skills were intriguing enough for the Padres' to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

    Peter (Escondido, CA): Donn Roach had a good 2012 season after joining Lake Elsinore from the Angels. Where does he profile?

Matthew Eddy: RHP Donn Roach had a fine year in the Cal League, both before and after San Diego acquired him from the Angels. Few pitchers keep the ball on the ground better than Roach, who says he likes to induce weak groundball contact within the first two or three pitches of each at-bat. He buys into the sinkerball mindset, eschewing gaudy strikeout totals and relying on his infield defense to record outs. That approach might play at the back of the rotation or in the bullpen, particularly in situations where a double-play grounder is required.

    JAS (MN): Is Quackenbush a candidate to become a late inning reliever asset, or is his performance to date a fluke?

Matthew Eddy: Like Brad Brach before him, RHP Kevin Quackenbush relies on a single-minded plan of attack, throwing a low-90s fastball with short, deceptive arm stroke to close out games at the minor league level. Brach threw a fastball about two-thirds of the time last year in MLB, but Quackenbush was even more fastball-reliant with Lake Elsinore last season. If he experiences the same velocity bump as Brach did when he reached Double-A, he might make scouts less queasy about projecting him as a big league reliever.

    Dan (Idaho Falls): Hi Matt. Question about Jaff Decker: what is the prognosis for him becoming a first-division starting corner OF? Much thanks!

Matthew Eddy: That prospect seems dim; however, OF Jaff Decker's feel for the zone, raw power and versatility could make him an attractive option as a part-time outfielder. He hasn't hit lefties well in the minors, nor has he hit for high averages in general, but put in the right situations he could be an asset.

    JC (VT): How far out of the top 10 was Jace Peterson? What are the scouts saying about his progress?

Matthew Eddy: SS Jace Peterson was the most difficult player for me to omit from the Top 10, but his lack of a carrying tool makes me a bit cautious about running him up the list until he proves himself at higher levels. He seems to be a high-percentage player — SB success rate, BB-to-SO ratio, few mental mistakes on defense — but some scouts see him more as a second baseman or utility player.

    Jake (Chicago, IL): Hi Matt, thanks for the chat! How tempting was it to rank Fried ahead of Kelly? Would you agree Fried's stuff should allow him to miss more bats than Kelly?

Matthew Eddy: You could find support for both pitchers. In fact, Jim Callis ranked Fried ahead of Kelly on his personal Top 50 list (which you can find in the Prospect Handbook). I think Fried will have a smoother transition to pro ball than did Kelly, given his longer track record of pitching and also the fact that minor league hitters will be less familiar with lefties with his type of stuff. Many amateur scouts viewed Fried as featuring the best stuff from a HS lefty since Clayton Kershaw in 2006, or at least since Tyler Skaggs in 2009.

    Steve (San Diego): Top picks of the, thats bad!

Matthew Eddy: What really kills San Diego is that three of those picks fell within the top four overall selections ... Tim Stauffer (No. 4 in 2003), Matt Bush (No. 1 in 2004) and Donavan Tate (No. 3 in 2009). Stauffer is the best of the bunch, and, done in by a litany of injuries, he has exactly one MLB season with more than 14 starts.

    Craig (Provo, UT): Matt, Did Walker Weickel come close to making the list and could you expand on his upside potential. Thank you

Matthew Eddy: Supp first-round RHP Walker Weickel was considered for the top 10, yes, and given his $2 million signing bonus and physical similarity with a young Adam Wainwright, he didn't fall too far outside the 10. Weickel's basic repertoire looks an awful lot like Casey Kelly's at a similar stage, and though he's a few inches taller, he lacks Kelly's freakish athleticism.

    Ernie (San Diego): Matt, How close was Matt Andriese to the top 10 and could you provide a brief scouting report on him. Thanks

Matthew Eddy: RHP Matt Andriese won the Cal League ERA title last season while throwing three solid pitches, a sinking fastball, curve and splitter. None of the pitches will be an equalizer for him, but he throws strikes with all three and has mid-rotation potential if he can consistently retire lefty hitters.

    Peter (Escondido, CA): Does John Barbato stay in the pen, or do the Padres transition him to be a starter?

Matthew Eddy: Relievers dominated the final six positions of the Padres' Top 30, where Miles Mikolas, Matt Stites, Kevin Quackenbush and Johnny Barbato all ranked. (Brad Boxberger cracked the top 20.) I'll fold Stites and Barbato into one chat response because both have worked as starters in the recent past, and both dominating out of the Fort Wayne bullpen in 2012. Given that he has two plus pitches and natural quick-twitch athleticism, Stites may one day get another spin in the rotation — but his 92-96 mph heat, sharp slider and fearless approach mark him as a potential big league reliever. Barbato also wields a quality fastball/breaking ball mix, but his stiff delivery and all-out mentality seem better suited to a late-innings relief role.

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for all the great Padres questions. We'll chat again next year.