Simon Castro of the San Diego Padres throws a pitch during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game on July 11 2010 (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
San Diego Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2011
All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.
Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
San Diego Padres Top 20 for 2011
1) Casey Kelly, RHP, Grade B+: Double-A numbers aren't great, but he was rushed to the level, and he should look a lot better in San Antonio this year. Future number two or three starter if all goes well.
2) Simon Castro, RHP, Grade B+: I think he'll need a year of Triple-A to finish refining his breaking ball and control, but I remain impressed with him overall.
3) Jaff Decker, OF, Grade B+: I absolutely love this bat.
4) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Grade B: I don't think he'll be a superstar, but he should be very solid. Needs another year in the minors.
5) Donavan Tate, OF, Grade B-: Very tough to rank. Grade A tools, Grade C skills, with injury and health issues. Could be an A- next year, or he could fizzle in A-ball.
6) Corey Luebke, LHP, Grade B-: A strike-throwing starter, should be a number four guy for a long while.
7) James Darnell, 3B, Grade B-: I still like him despite erratic, injury-plagued season. I'm more concerned about defense than his hitting right now, I think the bat will be fine.
8) Reymond Fuentes, OF, Grade B-: Great tools, speed, glove, hitting skills still raw. Watching him and Tate in the same outfield would be a treat, on defense at least.
9) Drew Cumberland, INF, Grade B-: Grade could go a notch higher if he could just stay away from the doctors.
10) Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Grade B-: Solid bat from the 2010 draft.
11) Johnny Barbato, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Consolation prize for not signing Karsten Whitson. Easy velocity, cost $1.4 million, hasn't pitched yet but I like him.
12) Matt Lollis, RHP, Grade C+: Big, throws hard, throws strikes, breakthrough candidate for 2011.
13) Adys Portillo, RHP, Grade C+: Raw, needs significant command refinements, but a high ceiling arm.
14) Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Grade C+: I'd give him a B- and put him in the top ten if not for questions about his health.
15) Juan Oramas, LHP, Grade C+: Mexican lefty is short and stout, but has decent stuff and excellent performance record in tough environments.
16) Edinson Rincon, OF-3B, Grade C+: High ceiling tools, could explode in Cal League.
17) Jason Hagerty, C, Grade C+: Switch-hitting catcher with power, patience, adequate glove, but was a bit old for the Midwest League.
18) Logan Forsythe, 2B, Grade C+: Can't hit in San Antonio, but has been solid on the road in the Texas League for a year and a half.
19) Blake Tekotte, OF, Grade C+: Outfielder with multiple skills would prove useful on the bench.
20) Zach Cates, RHP, Grade C+: One of my favorite junior college pitchers from the '10 draft.
21) Jonathan Galvez, SS, Grade C+: Won't stick at shortstop and strikes out a lot, but has some power, speed, and is just 20.
22) Jose De Paula, LHP, Grade C+: Sleeper lefty has finished injury recovery.
23) Everett Williams, OF, Grade C+: Would rank higher on tools alone, but bat was very disappointing last year.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Anthony Bass, RHP; Vincent Belnome, 3B; Brad Brach, RHP; Matt Clark, 1B; Erik Davis, RHP; Cody Decker, 1B; Jeremy Hefner, RHP; Cedric Hunter, OF; George Kontos, RHP; Kellen Kulbacki, OF; Rymer Liriano, OF; Rob Musgrave, LHP; Rico Noel, OF; Andrew Parrino, INF; Dan Robertson, OF; Evan Scribner, RHP; Josh Spence, LHP.
The trade with the Red Sox adds three premium prospects to a system that was already rich in B-/C+ types.
On the pitching side, Luebke is ready to help in the majors now, Castro should be ready to help in the majors with in a year, but Kelly will need a bit more time. The rest of the impact arms are some distance away, though there are several guys who could help in the bullpen (Scribner, Brach, Kontos, Hefner) as soon as this year. I like Barbato a lot, and watch out for Oramas, who could help sooner than expected.
On offense, there is a lot of raw material but a lot of them have questions. Tate and Fuentes have enormous upside and great tools, but will they hit as well as expected? This is especially true for Tate, who could be a superstar or a huge bust. Decker and Rizzo should both be solid at worst, and excellent at best.
Overall, this is a strong farm system that deserves more attention than it receives.