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Kelly was one of the top two-way players in the 2008 draft coming out of high school, but his high asking price and scholarship to play quarterback at Tennessee made him available to the Red Sox with the 30th overall pick. They viewed him as the most polished high school arm in the draft and signed him for $3 million, a franchise record for a draftee. The son of former big league catcher Pat Kelly, Casey preferred playing every day to pitching, and Boston agreed to let him make his debut at shortstop. He didn't pitch professionally until 2009, then switched back to shortstop after appearing in the Futures Game. But after Kelly hit .219 in two pro seasons and .171 in the '09 Arizona Fall League, he agreed that his future was on the mound. The Red Sox assigned him to Double-A last year, where at 20 he was the youngest starting pitcher in the Eastern League. Boston shut him down as a precaution when he strained a lat muscle in early August. In December, the Red Sox traded Kelly to the Padres as the centerpiece of a four-player package for Adrian Gonzalez. Boston attributed Kelly's struggles in 2010 to him having to learn how to harness an increase in velocity and make his mechanics work as his frame started to mature. His fastball now ranges from 89-93 mph and peaks at 96. He showed the ability to consistently locate his fastball on both corners with sink in 2009 but didn't command it as well in 2010. With his fluid, athletic delivery, Kelly should regain that skill once he fully grows into his body. A cracked nail on the middle finger of his right hand also dogged him all season and affected his command. While his fastball isn't a true swing-and-miss offering, his above-average 83-84 mph changeup often is--though he became over-reliant on it last year. Batters tend to swing right over the top of the change because he delivers it with the same arm speed and slot as his fastball. His curveball is a power breaking ball at times, and more of an average pitch that he just gets over for strikes at others. Kelly has an advanced feel for pitching, though he needs to trust his stuff and challenge hitters more rather than trying to live on the corners. The Padres envision Kelly becoming a frontline starter with three possible plus pitches and above-average command. He should reach Triple-A Tucson at some point in 2011, perhaps even to start the season, and his big league ETA is 2012.
Rizzo was hitting .373 in low Class A in April 2008 when he was diagnosed with limited stage classical Hodgkin's lymphoma. After missing the rest of that season to get treatment, he has been cancer-free. He established himself as the best offensive prospect in the Red Sox system prior to his inclusion in Adrian Gonzalez trade. Rizzo generates plus power with strength and leverage. He drives the ball well to the opposite field and last season began pulling pitches for home runs. With his willingness to use the entire field and his patience, he should hit for a solid average and draw some walks, though he needs to refine his two-strike approach. He also must make adjustments against lefthanders after hitting .217/.290/.380 against them in 2010. Managers rated him the best defensive first baseman in the Eastern League, as he has smooth actions and does a good job of picking throws out of the dirt. He can get nonchalant in the field, however, which led to 15 errors last season. He's a below-average runner but moves well for his size. With Gonzalez out of the picture in San Diego, Rizzo projects as the organization's first baseman of the future. He'll spend much of 2011 in Triple-A and could push for a big league job the following season.
Castro led the low Class A Midwest League with 157 strikeouts in 2009, so the Padres felt comfortable jumping him to Double-A San Antonio last season. He was up to the challenge, topping the Texas League in WHIP (1.10) and opponent average (.223) while ranking second in ERA (2.92). He also started for the World Team at the Futures Game, allowing two runs in an inning of work. Big and durable, Castro has an ideal pitcher's build that has been likened to that of a young Jose Contreras. He sits at 91-93 mph and tops out near 95 with tailing action and occasional late sink. He relies on his 82-84 mph slider as a second pitch, and it features three-quarters break when he catches it right. He wears out the bottom of the zone with both pitches. Castro shows a feel for a sinking changeup that has average potential, though it still needs refinement. He has a long arm swing in the back of his delivery, but he repeats his mechanics well and throws strikes. Newly added to the 40-man roster, Castro is on track to begin 2011 in Triple-A and could be ready for a second-half promotion to San Diego. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter, but some scouts view his ultimate ceiling as a No. 2, which he could reach with improved command.
The Red Sox made Fuentes the sixth Puerto Rican ever drafted in the first round, and the first since the Blue Jays' Miguel Negron in 2000, when they selected him 28th overall in 2009. Signed for $1.134 million, he held his own in low Class A at age 19 last season. He came to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez trade in December. Fuentes ranks among the best athletes in the system. His plus-plus speed gives him impact potential in center field and on the bases, where he stole 42 bases in 47 attempts in 2010. Managers rated Fuentes as the best defensive outfielder in the South Atlantic League, though he relies more on raw speed now to cover for mistakes. He enhances his quickness by getting great jumps on balls, and he compensates for a below-average arm by charging balls and making accurate throws. Fuentes has a line-drive stroke, and his bat speed portends some future pop once he adds some much-needed strength. He's still learning the strike zone but made positive adjustments in the second half of 2010. Though Fuentes may need four or five seasons in the minors, his upside makes him worth the wait. He has similar tools to Jacoby Ellsbury, and he's a more advanced hitter at the same stage and should become a better defender. Fuentes will spend 2011 at high Class A Lake Elsinore
The Padres doled out a club-record $9.1 million in draft bonuses in 2009, and so far the player from that crop who has made the biggest impression is a relatively unknown 15throunder who signed for $100,000. Lollis started 2010 at short-season Eugene, allowed 10 earned runs in nine starts for low Class A Fort Wayne after a promotion and finished the year with a strong playoff start for Lake Elsinore. Lollis throws four pitches, with his high three-quarters arm slot affording him good plane on a 92-93 mph fastball that peaks at 95. San Diego typically asks pitchers to focus on one breaking ball, but it has allowed him to throw both a hard slider and a knuckle-curve that features 12-to-6 break. He still is building confidence in his changeup, a distant fourth pitch in his repertoire. Nicknamed "Big Country" because of his gigantic frame, Lollis nonetheless shows surprising athleticism and a nuanced feel for his craft, which allow him to fill the strike zone with ease. He has quick feet, belying his size, but he'll have to monitor his conditioning carefully so his body doesn't get out of control. Lollis has mid-rotation potential if his changeup develops. He'll begin the 2011 season back in high Class A.
Luebke broke out in 2009, a season that culminated with him starting Team USA's gold-medal game victory against Cuba at the World Cup. He got a late start in 2010 after straining his oblique in spring training, but he breezed through Double-A and Triple-A upon his return in late May, paving the way for a September callup to San Diego. Luebke throws three pitches for strikes, competes well and has the a low-maintenance delivery that stems from solid athleticism. He locates his fastball to both sides of the plate, sitting at 88-90 mph and touching 92 with tailing action. His best attribute may be the downhill plane he generates on his heater. Luebke's out pitch a slurvy slider that often shows three-quarters rotation and rates as a tick above-average. He has made progress with his fading changeup, but he throws it in the same low- 80s range as his breaking ball, so the Padres would like to see him soften the changeup further. Luebke has all the ingredients to pitch in the middle of a big league rotation, which San Diego entrusted him to do in the thick of the National League West race last September. He pitched well, positioning himself as a leading candidate for a rotation spot in 2011.
Decker won Rookie-level Arizona League MVP honors after signing for $892,000 as a sandwich pick in 2008, then encored by leading the Midwest League in OPS (.956) as a teenager in 2009. He logged just 79 games last year, sitting out until mid-May with a hamstring injury and then missing the last three weeks after an errant pitch broke his right hand. Decker has a compact, powerful stroke when he doesn't try to force the issue. He pressed in the first half of 2010, batting .195 with an uncharacteristic 8-41 BB-K ratio, but his bat came alive in the second half, when he hit .305/.439/.616 with 14 homers. His hand-eye coordination and strike-zone awareness give him a chance to hit for average, and he uses his hips and shoulders well to generate power to all fields. Decker's lack of athleticism is still an issue, but he got in better shape last year and improved his speed, though it's still below-average. He never will be more than playable on an outfield corner, but he throws well enough to handle right field. The new Padres regime concedes that Decker's bat will play bigger than it initially expected, a belief reinforced by his recent dedication to conditioning. He's on track for a promotion to Double-A and a potential big league starting gig at some point in 2012.
Tate signed for $6.25 million as the 2009 draft's No. 3 overall choice, setting a bonus standard for high school position players and Padres picks, but he has been beset by injuries and illnesses since. He had sports hernia surgery and a broken jaw in 2009, then contended with concussion-like symptoms (from a beaning) and a tweaked shoulder (after diving for a ball) in extended spring training last year. He didn't make a full-season club and played in just 25 games in the Arizona League as he battled a stomach virus. Tate's athleticism is obvious, but he hasn't played enough to properly showcase his talent. His plus raw power was his most evident tool in 2010. He runs very well and ranges gracefully to both gaps in center field. His arm grades as above-average. Tate did nothing to allay concerns about his feel for hitting in the AZL, where he struck out in nearly half of his at-bats with a swing that loops through the hitting zone. He tends to tilt his shoulders forward when he loads, which pushes his back elbow up and sets his stroke off kilter. Tate won MVP honors at the Padres' instructional league program, and San Diego hope he'll use that as a stepping stone to low Class A in 2011. His ceiling remains high, but he's not even the best center-field prospect in the system after Reymond Fuentes arrived in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.
Cumberland ranked fourth in the minors in batting (.365) when he was promoted to Double-A last June. Fifteen games into his time with San Antonio, he slid into a railing and sustained a deep laceration to his left knee, ending his year. He still has yet to play in more than 77 games in a season while dealing with oblique, finger and hand injuries. Cumberland has three future above-average tools in his ability to hit, run and defend, though he has virtually no power and his arm is inaccurate. His short, quick lefthanded stroke could make him a .290 hitter in the big leagues because he makes contact so easily. With improved plate discipline, he would profile as an effective leadoff hitter. To that end, San Diego challenged him to bunt more and steal more frequently last season, and he stole a career-high 21 bases. Cumberland features soft hands and plus range at shortstop, but he profiles better at second base because his throws tend to sail on him--the result of excessive sideways rotation--when he makes plays from the hole. All of Cumberland's injuries have resulted from all-out play, and the Padres certainly don't want to discourage that behavior. They regard him as a potential regular at the keystone, but for now he'll head back to Double-A as a shortstop.
Hagerty's 2009 pro debut barely registered, as he hit just .225/.335/.399 at Eugene. Part of the problem was that he had to get reacclimated to catching after playing primarily first base during his last two years at Miami in deference to Yasmani Grandal, the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft. Hagerty improved as much as any Padres farmhand last year, ranking second in the Midwest League in on-base percentage (.424) and third in throwing out basestealers (34 percent). Hagerty has above-average raw power from both sides of the plate, works counts effectively and shows enough athleticism to believe the strides he made last year are sustainable. He may not make enough contact to hit better than .260, and his belowaverage speed won't help him leg out any hits. Hagerty improved his defense during the course of last season and now projects as an average catcher at the major league level. He has solid arm strength and a smooth transfer to go with natural leadership skills. He could stand to soften his hands while receiving and blocking. Hagerty did everything possible in 2010 to position himself as San Diego's catcher of the future. He'll begin this season in high Class A, with a chance to move quickly to Double-A if he continues to hit.
Gyorko played shortstop for West Virginia, but the Padres harbored no illusion of keeping him there as a pro. He shifted to third base after signing for $614,700 as the draft's 59th pick and went on to rank as the shortseason Northwest League's No. 3 prospect. Gyorko is unquestionably a bat-first prospect, though he made a smooth transition from short to the hot corner and projects to stay there. He's built more like a catcher than a middle infielder, so he's not a great runner. He's quick enough--especially to his left--while his hands are soft enough and his arm is strong enough to play third base at an average level. Gyorko is geared to hit for average with a short stroke, good balance and an all-fields approach, and some scouts grade his hit tool as high as 65 on the 20-80 scale--or a .290 hitter. He generates plus bat speed despite wrapping his bat before unleashing his swing. That might cap his home run total at 12-15 annually, a tick below-average for a corner player. Scouts have compared Gyorko to Brett Wallace as a bad-bodied college hitter who projects to hit for a average with more gap power than pure home run juice--the type of hitter geared for Petco Park. First he'll have a chance to conquer the high Class A California League in 2011.
Darnell didn't handle the jump to Double-A, at least at the outset. One season after ranking ninth in the minors with a .424 on-base percentage, he hit just .215 with little power in the first half of the season. He developed a cyst in his right hand, missed five weeks in May and June, and didn't recover his stroke until August, when he batted .349/.432/.547 with 13 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs. Darnell's simple swing and discerning batting eye should allow him to hit for average, while his strength and bat speed suggest at least average power. His work ethic is unquestioned, but San Antonio's pitcher-friendly ballpark muted his production. Reviews of his defense were less positive. Darnell led all TL third basemen with 24 errors, mostly of the throwing variety, and he struggled for the second straight season with footwork and accuracy. His arm is strong, but the majority of Darnell's miscues (31 of 54 in the past two years) have come on throws. He's an average runner who has shown little aptitude for stealing bases. While he might not stick at third base, Darnell has at least average tools across the board and could settle in right field. The Padres would like to see him unleash more aggression when he gets ahead in the count as he faces Triple-A pitchers in 2011.
Forsythe ranked second in the minors with 102 walks in 2009, and he might have approached that total again last year had he not missed five weeks early in the season. He still managed to lead the Texas League with 75 walks. Forsythe broke his right hand in late April after he punched a bat rack in frustration, but in San Antonio's suppressive Wolff Stadium, he had much to be frustrated about. He batted just .189/.300/.245 in 55 home games. The Padres shifted Forsythe from third base to the keystone to free up an organizational logjam, allowing James Darnell to play third in Double-A, Vince Belnome to play there in high Class A and Edinson Rincon to man the position in low Class A. Despite leading TL second basemen with 15 errors, Forsythe showed plenty of range and a strong arm. He played all over the infield as an amateur, and his line-drive stroke profiles best at second base. With a quick bat and discerning eye, he ought to hit for a modest average. The ball carries off Forsythe's bat, though he has just gap power that could translate into 12-15 home runs in the big leagues. He's a below-average runner, but San Diego encouraged him to run more frequently and he stole a career-high 17 bases. Forsythe will contend with Drew Cumberland to be the organization's second baseman of the future, and he'll have a head start on him when he begins 2011 in Triple-A.
Tekotte spent his first full season in low Class A, overcoming a slow start by shortening his bat path and showing better pitch selection. He played at two levels in 2010 and reached Double-A at the end of June. Despite profiling as a top-of-the-order hitter, he has surprising power and finished third in the organization with 18 home runs. He also stole 28 bases and incorporated the bunt in his repertoire, as the Padres stressed keeping the ball on the ground and using his above-average speed. Along with his running speed, Tekotte's best asset is his plus range in center field, where he reads the ball well off the bat and glides to the ball. His bat might be a bit short for regular play, but he can drive a fastball and take a walk. Tekotte hit .252 against lefthanders in 2010, but he slugged just .384 and generally looks uncomfortable when facing southpaws. Still, he's got the goods to stick around as a reserve outfielder: lefty bat, defensive chops, speed and some power. He may get a chance to tune up at Double-A early in 2011 before making his Triple-A debut.
For the third consecutive season, Hefner flew under the prospect radar as a durable starter with a firm strikeout rate and strong control. He ranked third in the Midwest League with 144 strikeouts in 2008, then fourth in the California League with 142 whiffs in '09 and fourth again last season with 115 in the Texas League. Hefner served as No. 2 starter to Simon Castro at San Antonio, while finishing first in the TL in innings (168), second in WHIP (1.23) and third in ERA (2.95). After pitching in the high 80s previously, Hefner sat more comfortably at 90-91 mph last season, throwing downhill with sinking and tailing action and topping out near 93. He works fast and moves the ball in and out, while his long limbs provide deception in his delivery. Hefner dusted off a curveball for the 2009 season, a move that paid off last season as it showed improved break and definition. He has a feel for an average changeup and controls the running game--10 of 16 basestealers (63 percent) were thrown out on his watch last season. Hefner has no true out pitch, but three average offerings and a feel for the strike zone make him ideally suited to fit in the back of a rotation. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he'll move to Triple-A in 2011.
Making his full-season debut at Fort Wayne last season, Rincon started slowly before finding his stroke at midseason and batting .302/.359/.462 with six homers in June and July. Rincon's season represented a step back from his breakout campaign in 2009, when he ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Northwest League. Nearly all his value lies in his bat. Rincon squares up all types of pitches and shows enough bat speed for scouts to slap average grades on his potential to hit for average and power. He stays back well on offspeed stuff and earns high marks for his plate discipline. Rincon drives the ball well to right-center field, but when he went against his natural swing and tried to pull the ball for power, he fell into the habit of upper-cutting the ball. Despite plus arm strength, Rincon has a slow release and his defensive actions are rough at the hot corner. He's a bottom-ofthe- scale runner who gets caught in-between on hops frequently, and he led Midwest League third basemen with 36 errors in just 106 games. Rincon faces a probable shift to the corner outfield or first base down the line, so further offensive improvement is imperative. He'll head to high Class A in 2011.
The Padres signed the 16-year-old Oramas following the 2006 season, but he spent his first two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and another in the Mexican League prior to making his U.S. debut last year. San Diego loaned the stocky lefty to Mexico City in 2009 to challenge him with an assignment at high altitude and in a competitive environment where the average player was 29 years old. Oramas passed with flying colors, finishing second in the Mexican League ERA race (2.31), fourth in strikeouts (89) and first in opponent average (.219). San Diego deemed him ready for high Class A coming out of spring training, and sent him there when a rotation spot opened at the beginning of May. In his fourth start for Lake Elsinore, he came within two outs of pitching the third perfect game in the California League's 69-year history. Oramas throws three pitches for strikes and benefits from natural deception in his delivery and late life to his fastball. He sits at 89-91 mph and touches plus at 94, though he tends to throw uphill and would benefit from better extension and plane to his delivery. His average curveball features biting, downward action, while his changeup shows average potential. The Padres backed off Oramas' workload in the second half of the season because he threw a combined 157 innings in 2009 between the Mexican League, the Mexican Pacific League and Caribbean Series. San Diego allotted just 50 innings for him this winter. Oramas works hard, picks things up quickly and could continue to climb to the big leagues at a rapid pace. Expect him to start in Double-A.
The Padres view Liriano almost as a Dominican version of Donavan Tate. He's a boom-or-bust prospect with huge raw tools, the type of player who puts on a monstrous batting practice but doesn't yet carry that power into games. Liriano signed for $350,000 in 2007 and has wowed observers everywhere he has played. Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano watched Liriano play for just two weeks at the end of the season and already has begun lobbying the front office for a return engagement. He homered just three times in 441 at-bats between three levels in 2010 because his pitch recognition needs work. Pitchers with velocity or a breaking ball could get him to go outside his hitting zone. He probably never will hit for much of an average, but he offsets that limitation with the potential to one day hit 25-30 home runs. He's a quick-twitch athlete with strength who can drive the ball out to any part of the park. Liriano receives average to above-average grades for his speed and arm, leaving open the possibility of a future in center field, though he figures to fill out and settle in right. He stole 31 bases in 2010 and led the Northwest League with six triples, but he'll need to hone his baserunning instincts after being gunned down 13 times. Liriano works hard and has a prototype right fielder's tools. He'll return to low Class A to begin 2011, though an in-season promotion is possible.
The Padres have brought DePaula along slowly, but if 2010 was any indication, the lefty won't be anonymous for much longer. He missed all but two games in 2009 as he dealt with a stress fracture in his left elbow, but he hit the ground running when he joined Fort Wayne late last May. Scouts called him the best pitcher on the staff. Long and lean, DePaula throws downhill at 88-91 mph and tops out near 93 with riding life. His low-80s breaking ball features tight rotation and plus lateral break at times. Midwest League lefties hit just .196 (18-for- 92) against him, with two extra-base hits and 26 strikeouts. He mixes in a promising 80-mph changeup that shows average potential. For a young pitcher with strikeout stuff, DePaula throws plenty of strikes and stands to improve on his command as he continues to learn and refine his delivery. His fastball/breaking ball combo could make him deadly as a reliever, but with the chance for three average or better pitches he could fit at the back of a big league rotation. San Diego kept DePaula on a strict pitch limit last season, but he may have a longer leash when he moves to high Class A in 2011.
Prior to the 2009 draft, the Padres hadn't signed a high school righthander out of the top 10 rounds since eighth-round pick David Pauley in 2001. They signed two that year: Sampson (fourth round) and James Needy (sixth). They selected Sampson only after he and his agent softened bonus demands on the second day of the draft, and they signed him for $600,000. He showcased one of the most electric arms in the Northwest League in 2010 pro debut. Like teammate Adys Portillo, Sampson paired mid-90s heat with inconsistent secondary stuff. His arm action is long in back but quick out front and the ball jumps out of his hand at 90-93 mph, touching 95 with life. He throws strikes but scatters the zone and lacks command, a common affliction for teenage hurlers. Sampson's breaking ball come and goes, featuring depth and bite one time and then arriving soft and slurvy the next when he gets around the pitch. He trusts his average changeup, and most scouts preferred it to his breaking ball. Sampson is athletic and has shown he can spin the ball, so he's a potential three-pitch starter down the road. That assumes good health, which was seldom the case in 2010. He pitched with a tear in the labrum of his right shoulder, which caused him to alter his delivery and develop elbow soreness. According to the Padres, he left instructional league with a clean bill of health, ready to compete for a rotation spot in low Class A this season.
Cates went undrafted out of Conway (Ark.) High and again after his freshman year at Northeast Texas CC, where he started out as a two-way player. He gave up catching as a sophomore and moved full-time to the mound, where he generated significant buzz leading up to the 2010 draft by showing two strong pitches and by striking out 92 batters in 69 innings. The Padres selected him 91st overall and came to terms just before the signing deadline for $765,000, more than double the slot recommendation. Cates pitches at 92-94 mph and touched 96 in instructional league. His arm action is clean, but his delivery is rudimentary and needs smoothing out. He's narrow-waisted with room to fill out and potentially add velocity. Cates shows feel for a fading Vulcan changeup that he sells with good arm speed. His curveball has farther to go but could become average in the future if thrown with more power. Even if the breaking ball doesn't develop, Cates could profile as a set-up reliever with just average command of a quality fastball and changeup. He'll be 21 this season, so he could be destined for low Class A if he pitches well in spring training.
Bass struck out 19 batters in a game for Trenton (Mich.) High to break J.J. Putz's school record. The Padres installed Bass as closer for short-season Eugene to keep his innings in check after signing him in 2008, but the organization has developed him as a starter in two seasons since. He led the high Class A California League in four categories last year: ERA (3.13), WHIP (1.09), opponent average (.248) and walks per nine innings (1.4). Despite the terrific year, he ultimately might fit best as a reliever because his velocity peaks at 95-96 mph in shorter stints and because his secondary stuff gets mixed reviews. He's also slightly built and has earned a reputation as a tenacious competitor who attacks batters and doesn't leave a lot in reserve. Bass delivers pitches from a high three-quarters slot, and his 90-92 mph fastball is fairly straight. He has gone away from a curveball in favor of a low- to mid-80s slider/cutter and a sinking changeup that flashes above-average potential. He works up in the zone frequently, but opposing batters at the Class A level didn't seem to see the ball well. Bass has a plus fastball, throws strikes, competes well and has improved his secondary stuff, attributes that could spell a future in late-inning relief or as a back-end starter. He'll open 2011 in the Double-A rotation.
Portillo touched 93 mph as a 16-year-old amateur, sparking a bidding war that the Padres ultimately won with a $2 million bonus. The early returns have been mixed, as Portillo has spent two years in short-season ball, going 3-15, 4.94 with 5.3 walks per nine innings and limited feel for his secondary pitches. On the plus side, he has gained velocity since signing and now pitches anywhere from 90-96 mph, primarily in the lower register with late life. Portillo's fastball could be a well above-average pitch, and he used it to good effect in the Northwest League in 2010, finishing fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.0) and fifth in opponent average (.241). Development of his secondary stuff is slowed by a stiff arm action and wrist wrap, which also results in poor command. Portillo threw a soft, loopy curveball during the season, so San Diego introduced him to a slider during instructional league. His changeup is ahead of his breaking ball, but it's also below-average. Portillo's maturity took a step forward in 2010, as he sped up his tempo and learned to dwell less often on bad pitches. He's athletic and fields his potion well. With a reliable second pitch, Portillo could grow into a shutdown reliever, but the potential for more exists if he can master three pitches and align that with better command. He's ready to tackle full-season ball in 2011.
The Padres were elated when Williams fell to them in the second round of the 2009 draft, but the early returns on his bat were less than expected. A poor season in the Midwest League is not exactly a death knell for a 19- year-old with Williams' strength and athleticism, and an optimist could point to his potential for five average tools with a chance to hit a bit better than that. He has strong bat speed from the left side, but he showed a late trigger in 2010 and seemed to hit everything to the opposite field. He swung and missed a lot, too, as he tended to pull off the ball and cede the middle and outer portion of the plate. When he's going well, Williams' natural swing path produces more doubles power, with the potential for 10-12 home runs. He's an average runner, but he plays an uninspired center field and has no better than average range. His arm plays better than initially thought, and he could land in right field if his defense slips any further. Williams can shake his tweener profile with improved defensive play (to stick in center) or better power output (for a corner). He'll have to tone down his aggressive, pull-happy approach and focus on using the middle of the field and let the power come naturally. Williams could be destined for a do-over in low Class A.
Barbato went just 2-4 as a senior at Miami's Varela High, but his 1.79 ERA indicated his pitching skill more than his record, which was more a function of playing for an uncompetitive 6-A team. He declined to transfer to a private school because his father served as Varela's head coach. Like fellow Sunshine State prep righthander Karsten Whitson, the Padres' first-round pick at ninth overall, Barbato had committed to Florida. Whitson declined to sign and honored his commitment with the Gators, but Barbato signed at the deadline for $1.4 million, a bonus amount that nearly doubled that of any other San Diego 2010 pick. He pumps 89-92 mph fastballs and touches 95, and scouts love his loose arm and sound, repeatable delivery. San Diego slaps a present average grade on his low-70s downer curveball and sees his changeup as a future average pitch. With size, projection and a potentially well-rounded repertoire, Barbato profiles as a big league starter. He signed at age 17, so look for him begin the 2011 season in extended spring training before an assignment to short-season ball.
Sullivan had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior, but he rebounded to lead Oral Roberts to three consecutive Summit League championships, earning all-conference honors each year. The Padres signed him quickly for $430,200 as a third-round pick and placed him on the same track as college righthanders Jeremy Hefner (2007 draft) and Anthony Bass (2008), who all spent most or all of their first full seasons in the Midwest League. Sullivan combined impressive arm strength with a feel for the strike zone--he ranked fifth in the MWL with 2.2 walks per nine innings. He pitches at 91-93 mph and tops out at 94-95 in shorter stints, with occasional cutting action and life. He comes from a high three-quarters arm slot and cuts off his delivery, which affects his command. Sullivan throws a future average slider at 82-84 mph, but he needs more separation on his changeup, which falls in the same velocity range as his breaking ball. A plus athlete, Sullivan takes charge of the running game--8 of 15 basestealers (53 percent) to test him were thrown out in 2010. He has the size and potentially the three-pitch mix to profile as a back-of-the-rotation starter, but if the changeup does not improve, look for him to make his way to the bullpen. He fits the organization's profile for a reliever at Petco Park, and he'll head to high Class A in 2011.
The Padres considered selecting Kontos from the Yankees in the 2009 Rule 5 draft, but opted not to take a flier on the Tommy John surgery alumnus. He had the procedure in July 2009 and did not return to action until mid-June 2010, whereupon New York shifted him to the bullpen. Kontos shook off the rust in making 24 regular-season appearances and then 10 more in the Arizona Fall League, where he got rocked for 21 runs on 21 hits in 13 innings. San Diego trusted its scouting reports and made Kontos the 11th pick in the 2010 Rule 5 draft. They must keep him on the active roster all season or else place him on waivers and offer him back to the Yankees. Given the club's recent track record with Rule 5 picks, the prognosis seems positive. In recent years, the Padres have carried Everth Cabrera and Luis Perdomo (2009), Carlos Guevara (2008) and Kevin Cameron (2007), though they ultimately had to make a trade to retain Guevara. Kontos sits at 88-90 mph with life, and while he has been up to 93 at times, he had not recovered his peak, pre-surgery velocity. His tick above-average slider makes life difficult for righthanders, who went 21-for-93 (.226) against him in the 2010 regular season. Kontos lacks feel for a changeup, and his delivery doesn't allow him to throw consistent strikes, so he's a reliever for the long haul. San Diego views him as a good fit for Petco Park with his average fastball and quality slider.
Valdez hasn't advanced past low Class A in five pro seasons, but the Padres believe he turned a corner in 2010. They added him to the 40-man roster in November, something they did not do for Nick Schmidt, Kellen Kulbacki and Mitch Canham, three of the top 57 picks in the 2007 draft. Valdez has tantalized with loud raw tools at every stop, but he hit just .238/.297/.360 in two seasons in the Midwest League at ages 20 and 21. He missed a large chunk of the 2009 season with a broken wrist, but showed few ill effects last season in establishing career highs with 10 home runs, 34 doubles and 34 stolen bases. Valdez has lightning in his wrists and whips the bat through the zone with good extension, lending hope that he can top out near 15 home runs at his peak. He drives the ball well to right-center field, so his power could be average overall. He can hit premium velocity, but his pitch recognition skills are rudimentary and he gets out in front even against ordinary offspeed stuff. Learning to lay off the breaking ball would do wonders for his average, but as it is he's a below-average hitter. Valdez's ability to run, field and throw all as above-average. He's quick and nimble around the bag, with soft hands and more than enough arm for shortstop, where San Diego intends to play him in 2011 as he heads to high Class A.
Schmidt required Tommy John surgery just seven innings into his pro career, adding to a string of snake-bit Padres first-round picks that includes Matt Bush, Tim Stauffer, Cesar Carrillo, Matt Antonelli, Allan Dykstra, Donavan Tate and unsigned 2010 pick Karsten Whitson. Schmidt signed for $1.26 million in 2007 and then missed the entire 2008 campaign. He has yet to compile 100 innings in either of his next two seasons, hasn't yet reached Double-A and doesn't throw quite as hard as he did at Arkansas. As a pro starter he ranges from 85-88 mph, sitting more comfortably at 90-93 in short stints. He throws across his body, which hides the ball from opposing batters and makes his riding fastball play up to average. Schmidt has two average secondary offerings in a late-breaking, low-70s curveball and a deceptive changeup in the low 80s. His pitches all have separation, which coupled with steadier velocity could make him vicious as a reliever. Schmidt is so physical and throws so many strikes, though, that San Diego will continue to develop him as a potential back-of-the-rotation starter. He'll get his first taste of Double-A in 2011.
A nondescript starter for Monmouth for four years, Brach signed for $1,000 as a 42nd-round pick in 2008. Installed as closer for the Padres' Arizona League club in his debut, Brach embarked on an incredible three-year run during which he's saved 78-of-83 opportunities, while pitching to a 1.90 ERA and a ridiculous 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Brach set a California League record with 41 saves in 2010, while also placing second among relievers in opponent average (.207) and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (10.1). He's done it all using almost exclusively a 92-94 mph fastball with tailing action. Fearless, Brach works quickly and attacks the bottom half of the strike zone. His velocity has climbed steadily each season, up from the high 80s in 2009 to a peak of 96 mph last season. Brach has no real go-to secondary pitch. He shows a good splitter in bullpen sessions, but his slider is generic. At 24, Brach was considerably older than the average Cal League player last season, and he didn't exactly overpower batters in the Arizona Fall League, striking out just four over 13 innings. He'll be tested in Double-A in 2011.
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