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When the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez, their best player of the last decade, they received Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the Red Sox in December 2010. San Diego subsequently turned Rizzo into Andrew Cashner and Fuentes has faded, leaving Kelly as the most prominent direct link to Gonzalez. Kelly entered pro ball as the 30th pick in the 2008 draft, the recipient of a Boston draft-record $3 million bonus. At the time he viewed himself as a shortstop, and though the Red Sox preferred him on the mound, they acceded to his wishes so he'd give up a football scholarship to play quarterback at Tennessee. But after hitting .219 over two seasons he committed to pitching full-time in 2010, zooming to Double-A as a 20-year-old and getting traded that offseason. Kelly hit the ground running with Triple-A Tucson in 2012, tallying 14 strikeouts, no walks and just three runs allowed through his first two starts--but that's when his elbow started barking. He missed three months as he recovered from a strained ligament. Once healthy, Kelly resumed his march to the majors and debuted with San Diego on Aug. 27, tossing six scoreless innings against the Braves. The sinking action Kelly generates on his fastball enables it to play up as a plus offering, even at his typical velocity range of 90-92 mph. At its best, the pitch features plus armside run and veers away from the barrel of lefthanders. He'll bump his four-seam fastball up to 95 mph at times, but his sinker and ability to consistently locate down and to both corners remain his strongest attributes. In his six starts with San Diego, he generated grounders on nearly 56 percent of balls put into play against him--well above the major league average of 45 percent. Kelly throws his curveball with more power now than he did two years ago. He tops out near 80 mph and generating 12-to-6 break that induces awkward swings and misses, especially when he throws it as a chase pitch ahead in the count. He must develop consistency with his mid-80s changeup, but his clean, compact delivery and athleticism auger well for improvement. Scouts think the changeup could become above average because lefties swing right over the top of the best ones. Kelly shined on occasion during his first tour of duty in the big leagues, but he still finished with a 6.21 ERA. He found the strike zone frequently enough, though his command appeared rusty at times, a byproduct of making just 11 non-rehab starts in 2012. He could grow into a No. 2 starter and should be a safe bet to be at least a No. 3. He has pitched just 41 innings above Double-A, so San Diego may give him more time at Tucson to begin 2013.
Fried transferred to the Harvard-Westlake School for his 2012 senior season when his previous high school eliminated its athletic program. There he teamed briefly with righty Lucas Giolito before a strained elbow ligament sidelined Giolito in March. Regardless, Fried (seventh overall) and Giolito (16th, Nationals) became the seventh pair of prep teammates selected in the first round of the same draft. Fried gave up a UCLA commitment for $3 million. Fried's arm action, projectable frame and steady 90-94 mph fastball from the left side would have made him a first-round pick. The quality of his breaking ball coupled with his athleticism and work ethic made him the top high school pitcher in his draft class, a Clayton Kershaw with less power or a Tyler Skaggs with firmer stuff. The Padres have clocked Fried as high as 96 mph, but they're equally impressed with his ability to two-seam his fastball at 90-91 and command it to his arm side. His curveball sits in the mid-70s now with top-to-bottom spin and plus depth, and scouts expect plus-plus grades and steady high-70s readings down the line. Like most prep pitchers, he has the least feel for his changeup, though he already gets average separation from his fastball. Improving his changeup and stamina will be focal points for Fried as he embarks on his first full pro season, probably with low Class A Fort Wayne.
The top draft pick (second round) signed by the Padres in 2010, Gyorko has developed into one of the top performance prospects in the minors. He led the minors with 192 hits and ranked second with 114 RBIs in 2011. and for an encore, he blasted 30 homers (fourth in the minors) and drove in 100 runs while spending most of 2012 in Triple-A. Most everybody agrees that Gyorko will hit for average in the big leagues, perhaps .300 in his best seasons, with his short righty stroke and plate discipline. Barrel awareness and the ability to hit the ball where he wants makes him especially dangerous as a situational hitter. He has solid power and ought to be good for 40 doubles in Petco Park's spacious outfield. A below-average runner with poor lateral range, Gyorko has sufficient footwork, hands and arm strength to play a solid third base. He's more athletic than his stocky body suggests, and he played capably at second base in 47 games there last year. He may begin 2013 in Triple-A, but Gyorko will be up as soon as San Diego can give him regular at-bats.
No Padres 2011 draft pick received a higher bonus than Hedges, who signed for $3 million as a second-rounder. High school catchers are notoriously risky picks, but amateur scouts had few reservations about his defensive potential. Pro scouts joined the chorus of supporters based on his all-around showing as a teenager in low Class A in 2012. Hedges shows remarkable arm strength and accuracy for a young catcher. He gunned down 32 percent of Midwest League basestealers, showing consistent off-the-charts pop times of 1.85 seconds. He has soft hands and solid blocking technique, and he successfully worked to eliminate excess movement in his setup and in his throwing motion during the season. Hedges lines the ball to all fields and projects to hit for average with a compact swing and discerning eye. His power has come as advertised, and he could hit 15 or more homers annually based on his frequency of hard contact and loft in his swing. He has below-average speed but runs the bases aggressively. Given that the Padres have Yasmani Grandal and Nick Hundley in the big leagues, they can afford to be patient with Hedges. He still shouldn't require much more than two full seasons in the minors, and they wouldn't be surprised if he finished 2013 in Double-A.
Liriano took another step toward San Diego in his fifth season since signing for $300,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. He mastered high Class A--following an aborted assignment there in 2011--and reached Double-A for first time, where he hit .322/.408/.444 over his final 26 games. He shined in the Arizona Fall League, batting .319/.376/.505. Built like a running back, Liriano features a similar explosiveness to his game. He showcases all five tools at various points, highlighted by plus power, arm strength and range in right field. While he hasn't topped 12 homers in any one season, he can take the ball out to any part of the park. His contact rate ultimately will dictate whether his power plays as plus or merely average. Distant left-center power alleys in high Class A Lake Elsinore forced Liriano to use the middle of the field in 2012, which coupled with a more discerning eye made him a better hitter. He's not immune to chasing pitches out of the zone when he falls behind in the count, however. A solid runner, he swiped 32 bases in 2012 after registering 66 the year before, and those totals will continue to dwindle as he fill out. Liriano has 20-20 potential if he puts everything together. The Padres are counting on their upper-level corner prospects, such as Liriano and Jedd Gyorko, because the cost of acquiring established run producers is prohibitive.
Ohio's top high school prospect in the 2011 draft, Wisler lasted until the seventh round because of a strong commitment to Ohio State. The Padres persuaded him to sign for $500,000 bonus, believing he'd regain his stuff after he tailed off as a senior. He did just that in 2012, wowing Midwest League observers with premium velocity and a hammer curveball. Wisler pitches with a 91-93 mph fastball that tops out at 96 with heavy sink down in the zone, while showing a feel for when to deploy two strong secondary offerings. He found the zone more often as the year progressed with both a 75-79 mph curveball and a low-80s, fading changeup that he sells with solid arm speed. Wisler's athleticism and clean arm action help him command both pitches, and he completely owned Midwest League righties, notching 71 strikeouts against five walks in 242 plate appearances. He led the minors in home run rate (one in 114 innings), a testament to his skill at working down in the zone. Wisler's stuff could make him a mid-rotation starter or better, and the Padres are equally excited about his command and work ethic. He'll need both to survive the rigors of the California League in 2013.
The 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Spangenberg signed quickly for $1.863 million and ranked as the top position prospect in the short-season Northwest League before zooming to low Class A Fort Wayne, where he hit .381 that August. He broke camp with Lake Elsinore in 2012 and made the California League all-star team, but he suffered a concussion right after the break when struck in the head by a ball during practice. He hit his head on the ground diving for a ball in his first game back, wound up missing six weeks and batted just .224/.303/.267 in the second half. Spangenberg's double-plus speed, bunting skill and ability to use all fields make him difficult to defend. He gets down the first-base line in four seconds flat and can hit the ball hard in different parts of the zone, though he'll need to soften his stride to barrel offspeed pitches more frequently. His swing won't translate into many homers, but he could hit his share of doubles while adding 30-40 extra bases via steals. His raw speed and quick first step give him plus range around the keystone, though he still appears rigid when backhanding balls and charging grounders. Spangenberg hit .345 and recovered some of his timing in a brief Arizona Fall League stint, so the Padres have him penciled in for Double-A San Antonio this year. If Jedd Gyorko can't stick at second base, Spangenberg could man the position for San Diego by mid-2014.
The Padres' trades of Adrian Gonzalez and Mat Latos yielded prospects such as Casey Kelly and Yonder Alonso, but the July 2011 swap that sent reliever Mike Adams to the Rangers could provide the greatest quantity of innings. But that's only if Wieland and lefty Robbie Erlin can regain their form after suffering elbow injuries in 2012. Wieland made his big league debut on April 14 but made just five stats for San Diego before straining an elbow ligament. He unsuccessfully tried to rehab the injury before submitting to Tommy John surgery in late July. Wieland doesn't light up radar guns, but his stuff worked against big leaguers because he has plus command. He relies on precise location of a 90-91 mph fastball that peaks at 94 with late life. He uses his fastball to set up a big-breaking curveball that touches 80 mph and a low-80s changeup that sinks and fades. He threw more sliders in 2012 because they're easier to get over the plate than his curve, and it's a solid fourth offering. The Padres won't have Wieland back in game action until the second half of 2013. If he makes a full recovery, he's a strong No. 4 starter candidate who might pitch like a No. 3 in Petco Park.
Four years after signing out of Venezuela for $2 million in 2008, Portillo finally had sustained success. While repeating low Class A, he slashed his walk rate (4.4 per nine innings, compared to 6.0 in 2011) and increased his pitch efficiency without sacrificing velocity. The Padres promoted him to Double-A in late July and added him to the 40-man roster in November. Portillo has added more than 50 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame since signing--mostly filling out his lower half--and now sits at 94-96 mph while touching 99 with heavy life. The quality of his breaking ball improved dramatically after he applied tweaks to his delivery in 2011 instructional league. He now stresses balance over the rubber and a quicker tempo between pitches, resulting in a more consistent arm slot. Where once he threw a traditional curveball, he learned a slider grip that he has modified to a 77-79 mph slurve. His firm mid-80s changeup features plus life when he stays on top of it. A long arm action complicates the matter of control. Portillo made big strides in 2012, though he needs to be more stingy with free passes and improve his changeup to guarantee a future in the rotation. He has a fallback option as a late-game reliever if those things don't happen. He'll open 2013 in San Antonio's rotation.
Just like fellow Top 10 Prospects Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland, Erlin missed a significant chunk of 2012 with an elbow injury. In his case, he lost three months to elbow tendinitis. If healthy, all three pitchers would have spent the majority of the season in the San Diego rotation. He joined the organization in July 2011 along with Wieland in the trade that sent Mike Adams to the Rangers. Erlin is almost a smaller, lefthanded version of Wieland. Erlin similarly emphasizes feel over raw stuff. He sits at 88-90 mph, tops out at 92 and commands his fastball to both sides of the plate. That sets up a quality curveball and a fading changeup that averages more than 10 mph of separation from his heater. Erlin fully trusts his low-70s downer curve, throwing it in any count and buckling knees when batters aren't expecting it. Since reaching Double-A, he has begun mixing in a low-80s cutter/slider and a two-seamer to give righties something else to worry about. Just like Kelly and Wieland, he's almost around the zone too much, leaving him susceptible to homers. Erlin got back on track in the Arizona Fall League, recording a 2.28 ERA in seven starts and finishing second with 31 strikeouts in 24 innings. Like any Padres pitching prospect, he stands to benefit from pitching half his games in Petco Park, though he'd profile as a No. 4 starter ready to contribute in 2013 in any organization.
Peterson starred as a cornerback on the McNeese State football team when he wasn't putting his plus athleticism to use on the diamond. He hit .335 as a junior and set a school record with 78 career stolen bases, indicating that his future was in baseball. Despite his two-sport background, Peterson's baseball skills are refined. No one tool elevates him above the field, though he has no glaring weakness either. A lefthanded hitter, Peterson makes steady line-drive contact (particularly versus righties) and has led his two minor league teams in walks, brandishing a career walk-to-whiff ratio of nearly 1-to-1. He won't hit many homers, but that's not his game. Though he's only a tick above-average runner by the stopwatch, Peterson's basestealing savvy and ability to get good jumps enabled him to swipe 51 bases (in 64 tries) to finish second in the Midwest League last year. His range and first-step quickness are average, but he positions himself well and rarely botches routine plays. He has fringy arm strength now, but the Padres believe he will improve his accuracy and carry by keeping his elbow up and by continuing his long-toss program. San Diego has used Rule 5 pick Everth Cabrera, utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. and veteran Jason Bartlett as regular shortstops since Khalil Greene left town after the 2008 season, but Peterson could one day add stability to the position.
Weickel grew nearly two inches to 6-foot-6 between his junior and senior years of high school, evoking body comparisons with a young Adam Wainwright with his tall, lean, broad-shouldered build. His velocity backed up in the spring leading up to the draft, throwing some teams off his scent, but the Padres were excited to land him with the 55th overall pick, signing him for $2 million. San Diego believes Weickel's downturn in stuff can be attributed to a lack of body control as he learned to pitch with additional height. They love his arm action, delivery and heavy sinking fastball that ranges from 90-93 mph and bumps 95. He can spin a breaking ball, but he'll need to add power to his low-70s curveball, and throw his changeup more often to improve his feel for the pitch. Scouts who like Weickel project his fastball, curve and changeup to be average or better, with his feel for pitching serving as separators that could make him a mid-rotation starter.
Sampson's early-career elbow and shoulder trouble seem like a thing of the past after he made at least 24 starts and averaged 120 innings over the past two seasons. He stifled low Class A Midwest League competition in 2011, finishing second in the league with a .192 opponent average and third with 143 strikeouts, and jumped to Double-A to open the 2012 season. He continued to miss bats in the Texas League, leading the loop with 122 strikeouts but also ranking fourth with 57 walks. Sampson throws a pair of present major league average pitches that could develop into consistent plusses down the line. He throws his fastball at 90-93 mph and tops out near 95 with late running action. His changeup arrives from the same arm slot and speed as the fastball, inducing opponents to swing over the top of it or beat it into the ground. His low-70s curveball continues to lack the consistent break or precise location that would make him a frontline starter. In fact, he struck out nearly twice as many lefthanders (29 percent) as righties (18 percent) last year, relying on his deceptive changeup. A lack of consistent fastball command also holds him back, and while he has a big league arm, Sampson may fit best at the back of the rotation or in the bullpen.
Both Ross and catcher Austin Hedges, a pair of 2011 high school draft picks with minimal pro experience, made the Fort Wayne roster out of spring training. Ross, who signed for $2.75 million as the 25th overall pick, came down with shoulder tendinitis in early May that the Padres treated with extreme caution, holding him out of action until July 25, when he debuted with short-season Eugene. His older brother Tyson spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues with the Athletics from 2010-12, then got traded to San Diego in November. The Padres have procured a rotation's worth of tall, projectable high school righties in the past two drafts--Ross, Matt Wisler, Walker Weickel, Zach Eflin and Mike Kelly--but Ross might have more arm strength than any of them. He pitches at 92-93 mph and bumps his heater up to 96 with riding life when he needs it, though he's still learning his delivery and tends to scatter the zone. Likewise, his slider features good tilt at times, and though his command wavers, he'll throw it in any count. Ross throws a decent changeup in bullpen sessions, but it has too much velocity in games, about 85 mph. The Padres appreciate Ross' easygoing nature because he doesn't get too high or too low, but they'd like to see him on the mound more often in 2013, when he'll take another crack at low Class A.
The third prospect acquired by the Padres from the Reds--along with Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal--in the trade that sent Mat Latos to Cincinnati before the 2012 season, Boxberger served three tours of duty in San Diego in 2012, each one more successful than the last. During his September callup, he fanned 13 in 12 innings, while allowing five walks and a .150 opponent average. As a Reds farmhand, Boxberger learned the virtue of not overthrowing and maintaining a consistent arm slot, but the lesson seemed to take only after initial struggles at a new level of competition. San Diego hopes history repeats for Boxberger, who struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings but also walked 5.9 per nine as a major league rookie. He uses a 91-93 mph fastball that features sharp cutting action and tops out near 95, and he favors a changeup almost to the exclusion of an average slider. The change of pace generates the highest percentage of swings and misses, but the Padres would like to see Boxberger incorporate his slider more frequently and continue to pitch as aggressively as he did in September, when he went right after batters with his fastball. If he can keep the baserunners in check, he can be an important part of San Diego's bullpen because he has strikeout stuff.
Eflin did not pitch last April due to triceps tendinitis, and if not for the injury he might have been a first-round pick. Still, he went 33rd overall to the Padres as the second pick in the sandwich round and came to terms for $1.2 million, eschewing a Central Florida commitment. He made four appearances in the Rookie-level Arizona League, going through the lineup roughly once, but he didn't pitch after July 14 after contracting mononucleosis. A strapping 6-foot-4 righty, Eflin bumped 96 mph as an amateur and showed consistent solid velocity after signing. He throws strikes while pitching at 92, though San Diego loves his arm action and repeatable delivery, believing he could sit a tick higher once he adjusts to a pro routine. He had one of the best changeups in last year's prep ranks, sitting at 80-82 mph with late, biting action that causes the pitch to bottom out as it reaches the plate. He doesn't throw a breaking ball with the same consistency, and his slurvy curveball has average shape. Some scouts project the curve to be average to a tick above. An MRI on Eflin's elbow last spring revealed no damage, so he could represent a significant draft bargain if he regains the form he showed in late 2011 and early 2012. The Padres see a mid-rotation workhorse based on his big frame and potential for at least solid stuff across the board.
Born in Mexico, Perez moved to the United States in 2010 to live with his uncle and play for Otay Ranch High in Chula Vista, Calif. He had enough credits to graduate a year early, so he moved on to Central Arizona JC in 2012, batting a loud .338/.399/.571 with wood bats as the equivalent of a high school senior. The Padres were thrilled to land Perez with a third-round pick last June and sign him for $400,000, citing the advanced timing and balance of his lefthanded swing as reasons for their excitement. He drives the ball to all fields, slugging five extra-base hits in 14 games in the Arizona League, despite playing through a wrist injury that required surgery and knocked him out of instructional league. Perez could grow to be an above-average hitter with solid power output. His defensive home is a bigger question than his bat because his thick lower half and below-average speed probably mean he'll lack the agility to play second base. His arm is strong and his hands soft, so third base could be his long-term home. Some in the organization believe Perez has the best pure hitting stroke in the system, which ought to allow him to produce in low Class A in 2013.
While 2008 draft picks such as second baseman Logan Forsythe (sandwich round), righthander Anthony Bass (fifth) and relievers Nick Vincent (18th) and Brad Brach (42nd) carved out playing time in San Diego, Darnell (second) spent the final four months of 2012 on the big league disabled list. He parlayed a huge half-season in Double-A in 2011 into a September callup that year, then returned to San Diego last May, only to leave his seventh game after injuring his shoulder while diving for a ball in left field. Darnell has had two surgeries in two years on his left shoulder, an arthroscopic procedure to stabilize a strain in 2011 and then another surgery last August to repair a partial dislocation. Despite his lost year, other clubs continue to ask about him because he offers righthanded power and enough athleticism to handle third base or the corner outfield. His strong, sometimes erratic arm probably plays best in the outfield. With strong hands, ample loft in his swing and a good hitting approach, Darnell's above-average power plays in games, though righties with good breaking stuff can give him trouble. It's a different story versus southpaws, against whom he has batted .367/.451/.590 with 14 homers and just 36 strikeouts in 359 plate appearances in the high minors. While he'll be 26 this season, Darnell still has time to carve out a role for a club looking for righty power.
A teammate of Bryce Harper's at JC of Southern Nevada in 2010, Roach was the second Coyote drafted that year, going in the supplemental third round to the Angels. Los Angeles helped Roach soften his landing and improve his direction to the plate, and he turned in a fine relief season at low Class A in 2011, fanning 68 in 70 innings and notching a 3.6 groundout/airout ratio. He continued to keep the ball on the ground while shifting to the rotation in 2012, both before and after the Angels traded him (along with Alexi Amarista) to the Padres for Ernesto Frieri in May. He generated 3.5 groundball outs for every one in the air in 2012 to rank first among minor league pitchers with at least 100 innings. Roach lacks premium stuff, but he buys into the sinkerballer mentality, pounding the zone with a steady diet of 89-92 mph two-seamers with sinking action, seeking to induce groundball contact in the first two or three pitches. He'll throw a tumbling splitter for swings and misses when he gets two strikes, while incorporating a slurve for a different look the second time through the order. He completes the package by fielding his position and holding baserunners (he allowed 13 steal attempts all year). San Diego shut down Roach in mid-July due to his jump in innings, but he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter or groundball-oriented reliever.
Andriese declined to sign with the Rangers as a 37th-round pick out of high school in 2008, but he came to terms with the Padres three years later, following an up-and-down career at UC Riverside, for $270,000 out of the third round. A physical righty with a chance for three solid pitches, he survived the jump from short-season ball in 2011 to high Class A in style, winning the California League ERA title (3.58) and ranking third in WHIP (1.22). His fastball sits at 91-92 mph, tops out at 95 and plays up thanks to sinking and tailing action that batters struggle to lift. Cal League righthanders managed to hit just .223/.259/.302 against him. Andriese throws slightly across his body, which along with a long arm action adds deception but also affects his command, particularly to his arm side. His control is fine, though, and he finds the zone with a hard downer curveball with plus potential as well as a tumbling splitter. He began throwing a mid-80s cutter in pro ball, but he uses it sparingly. If Andriese keeps lefties at bay, then he has mid-rotation potential. If not, he has the type of arm that will play in the bullpen. He's ready for Double-A.
Jankowski hit .414 and led NCAA Division I with 79 runs, 110 hits and 11 triples as a Stony Brook junior last spring, serving as the lynchpin for the club's improbable run to the College World Series. The Padres signed him for $975,000 as the 44th overall pick in the draft. He appeared worn down after essentially heading straight from campus to low Class A, then rallied to hit .333 (47-for-141) from July 27 on. Including the Midwest League playoffs, Jankowski collected a hit in his final 23 games, though his season ended prematurely when he broke a rib when hit by a pitch. Plus speed and range in center field are his carrying tools, and he makes steady line-drive contact with a handsy, lefthanded swing. Though he has a knack for barreling the ball, he's slightly built and projects to hit for little over-the-fence power. He stole 17 bases in 24 tries with Fort Wayne, and he'll need to improve both his proficiency and efficiency to get the most out of his speed. He doesn't throw well enough to profile in right field, but defense shouldn't be an issue. Expect Jankowski to tread the same path as 2011 first-rounder Cory Spangenberg and head to high Class A for his first full year out.
The Indians tried twice to sign Smith, drafting him out of Howard (Texas) JC in both 2009 (49th round) and 2010 (20th), but they didn't get him either time. The Padres had more luck, signing him for $250,000 as a 14th-round selection out of Oklahoma in 2011. Like Matt Andriese, Smith had no trouble jumping to high Class A his first year out, and the two teamed with Donn Roach to front a Lake Elsinore pitching staff that led the California League with a 4.31 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Smith throws the hardest of the three, giving him a higher ceiling, but he doesn't have a go-to second pitch like Andriese's curve or Roach's splitter. He tops out near 97 mph and generates fierce cutting action on his fastball, which usually ranges from 90-95. San Diego projects his changeup to be solid, assuming he develops more consistent arm speed, but he hasn't refined or settled on a consistent breaking ball yet. His curveball needs more power and his slider more tilt. Smith has no trouble throwing strikes--his 5.1 K-BB ratio topped the Cal League--but he'll need one of his secondary pitches to step forward to continue thriving as a starter at Double-A in 2013.
The Padres placed Decker on the 40-man roster in November, but it was potential more than performance that got him there. The talk of 2012 spring training camp, Decker hit .295 with eight extra-base hits in 23 games, but that momentum vanished when he returned to Double-A for a second straight year. He hit just .184/.365/.293 through May, then spent the final three months sidelined with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Short with a thick lower half, Decker is more athletic than he looks, and in the words of one club official, he looks "hitterish" thanks to a short lefty stroke and great eye at the plate. He sports a .371 on-base percentage at the Double-A level despite hitting just .224, taking a walk-first, hit-second approach that scouts agree needs to be evened out. San Diego would like to see him let the bat fly more often because he has solid power from left-center to right field and home run juice to his pull side. Decker plays all three outfield spots but fits best on the corners, with fringy speed and average range and arm strength. He has a shot at assuming a platoon role or perhaps serving as an offensive-minded reserve.
Asencio represented himself as a 16-year-old named Yoan Alcantara when San Diego signed him for $135,000 on July 2, 2009. In reality, he is Yeison Asencio and three years older than advertised, his identity having been vetted by a crooked contract investigator working for MLB. Playing as Alcantara, he pulled down the No. 1 ranking on the 2011 Arizona League prospect list. He didn't receive his visa to re-enter the United States until May 2012, but it didn't take him long to shake off the rust in low Class A. He hit .361 from July 13 onward to win the Midwest League batting title. Asencio swings at nearly every pitch he sees and barrels up most of those he can reach. A pronounced bat wag often foils his timing, but he has bat speed to spare and at least fringy power potential. Though he's a below-average runner and not the most agile defender, he makes the routine plays in right field and has a terrific arm thanks to a quick release and uncanny accuracy. He led MWL outfielders with 21 assists. Asencio's age change--he's now 23--cost the Padres an evaluation year, so they added him to the 40-man roster in November.
The most predictable feature of the Padres' Top 30 Prospects list is the presence on the back end of at least one quality relief prospect with a modest ceiling who is on the cusp of a regular gig in the major leagues. In recent years, that description has fit Brad Brach (2012), George Kontos (2011), Ryan Webb (2010) and Ernesto Frieri (2009), big leaguers all. This year, Mikolas is the best bet to join that group, and he served his apprenticeship in San Diego last season, working low-leverage relief innings. Despite throwing a firm 92-95 mph fastball that tops out at 98, he favors his above-average curveball because his heater lacks life and can be turned around when it catches too much of the plate. His curve, on the other hand, features firm mid-70s velocity and true 12-to-6 break. He throws it for both called and swinging strikes. According to Pitch f/x data, Mikolas threw his curveball 35 percent of the time in 2012, a frequency greater than any righthanded reliever with at least 30 innings, save for veteran Jose Veras. While Mikolas might top out as a middle reliever or maybe a set-up man, he has a high probability of reaching his ceiling.
Signed out of Mexico at age 16, Oramas made slow progress early in his career before vaulting into the big league picture with a strong 2011 season at Double-A, prompting San Diego to add the 21-year-old to its 40-man roster following the season. That status proved to be short-lived, however. He showed up at 2012 spring training worn down from a winter spent pitching in the Mexican Pacific League, where he had logged nine starts for Hermosillo. His balky elbow required Tommy John surgery in mid-June after he ran up a 6.37 ERA through eight Double-A starts. Though his stuff played down a half-grade in 2012, Oramas when healthy has three pitches that grade as average to a tick above. He sits 89-92 mph and bumps 94, working both sides of the plate and occasionally dropping down versus lefties. The Padres like his aggressive, fearless pitching style, which coupled with strong command, helps his curve and changeup play up. To make room on the 40-man for other players, San Diego nontendered Oramas in November, subsequently re-signing him to a minor league deal a month later. He racked up 157 innings (counting the playoffs) in the MPL from 2009-11, so his injury rehab at least gives him a respite from pitching year-round.
The Cubs overlooked Stites' short stature when they took the Jefferson (Mo.) CC ace in the 33rd round of the 2010 draft, but the two sides couldn't agree to terms after he fanned a batter per inning in the Cape Cod League. He headed to Missouri, where he served as the Tigers' No. 1 starter, and went to the Padres in the 17th round in 2011. Stites signed quickly and shifted to the bullpen, a role for which he seems well suited given his quick-twitch athleticism, two plus pitches and feel for the strike zone. He opened 2012 as the closer for Fort Wayne, a role that mitigates concerns about his stamina (he made two trips to the disabled list) and a lack of plane on his fastball. He incorporates his lower half into his delivery, throwing 92-96 mph heat without a lot of effort. His slider shows sharp tilting action and plus potential, and he owns a fringe changeup and curveball from his starter days. Stites' fearless approach leads scouts to confidently project him as a big league reliever, and some like him as a late-rotation starter given his control. He struck out 60 and walked three as closer for the TinCaps. San Diego sent him to the Arizona Fall League, a rare step for a second-year player in low Class A, which suggests that he could move quickly to Double-A in 2013.
Coming out of high school in Tallahassee, Fla., Smith turned down the Brewers as a 13th-round selection in 2011. He improved his stock considerably after spending a year in junior college, going to the Padres in the fifth round of the 2012 draft and signing for an above-slot $375,000. Smith's entire game revolves around 80 speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. He flies down the first-base line, placing extreme pressure on defenders on the left side of the infield, stretches singles into doubles and makes use of his wheels to outrun his mistakes in center field. Despite his athleticism and speed, he remains a raw defender and below-average thrower. He stole 31 bases in 37 attempts in junior college and went 17-for-21 as a pro, but he has only scratched the surface of his potential for base thievery. A short, slender lefty hitter, Smith understands the importance of bunting and putting the ball in play, though he has quick hands and feel to hit, suggesting he won't get the bat knocked out of his hands. San Diego believes his competitiveness and worth ethic will enable him to improve his defensive play, making him a potential regular center fielder and leadoff man if everything breaks right.
Quackenbush's control improved dramatically as a South Florida senior, once he teamed up with former big league pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. He hasn't stopped throwing strikes after turning pro for $5,000 as an eighth-round pick in 2011, and he spent his first full season as closer for Lake Elsinore. Quackenbush befuddles batters with a single-minded plan of attack--throwing fastballs nine out of every 10 pitches--but the strategy has worked up through high Class A because opponents just don't pick up the ball out of his hand. The angle he creates, coupled with a short arm action, make him difficult to square up even when batters do make contact with his 89-91 mph heat. He'll throw a fringy slider on occasion, and a changeup even less frequently, but to this point he simply hasn't needed them. Quackenbush navigated the perilous conditions of the Arizona Fall League in 2012, not allowing a hit over his first nine innings and finishing with six saves and a 2.45 ERA. Double-A will be a big test in 2013, after which the Padres will have a better idea whether he's big league material or a one-pitch oddity.
Barbato signed for $1.4 million at the 2010 deadline, the beneficiary of surplus money that materialized when the Padres failed to sign first-rounder Karsten Whitson. That outlay more than doubled the amount received by any other San Diego draft pick that year. After starting games for Eugene in 2011, Barbato moved into a set-up role for closer Matt Stites last season on a prospect-laden Fort Wayne club that advanced to the Midwest League finals. He unleashes 91-94 mph heat and bumps 96 with a quick arm, mixing in a sharp, 12-to-6 knuckle-curve. MWL righties had almost no chance, batting .139/.233/.188 in 165 plate appearances. Barbato has some feel for a changeup he used as a starter, but it's below average and not often front-and-center when he pitches out of the bullpen. Some in the organization believe he could return to a starting role, but his mentality and mechanics--he struggles to say online to the plate with an unathletic delivery--seem better suited to a relief role. Regardless of Barbato's role, the Padres would like to see him attack batters with his fastball and not rely so much on his curve. Barring huge strides in his development, he is probably in the bullpen to stay.
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