San Diego Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2012
UPDATED JANUARY 17, 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 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 in the book 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.
1) Yonder Alonso, 1B, Grade B+: Acquire in the big Mat Latos deal with the Cincinnati Reds. His style of hitting should fit better in San Diego than Anthony Rizzo's. I expect Alonso will hit for average, post a strong OBP, and provide at least moderate power.
2) Yasmani Grandal, C, Grade B+: Also acquired in the Latos deal. Needs more polish on defense, although he has the tools to thrive and I'm optimistic about his glove. Like Alonso, he should provide a solid OBP with moderate power.
3) Rymer Liriano, OF, Grade B+: You can make a case to rank him above Rizzo, although they are very different players. Five Tool/Seven Skill potential is obvious, and he made strides with the strike zone last year. Scouts love him and the numbers are catching up.
4) Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Grade B+ : I believe in the bat and he can handle third base. Should hit for average, post solid OBP, with at least moderate power.
5) Robbie Erlin, LHP, Grade B+: Extremely close between Erlin and Wieland, but I'll go with Erlin due to lefty premium and nine month age edge. I know he doesn't have a blistering fastball, but the guy has superb command of deceptive stuff, plus pornographic statistics. Should do well in this ballpark.
6) Joe Wieland, RHP, Grade B+: Hard to believe they got Wieland and Erlin for Mike Adams. Like Robbie, Joe's fastball plays past it's velocity due to terrific command and impressive secondary pitches.
7) Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Grade B+: Baseball America seems oddly reserved about him, but he looks great to me, other Midwest League sources are very positive, he throws hard, his stat profile is strong, and he's athletic.
8) Casey Kelly, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. Kelly will rank ahead of Erlin and Wieland on most lists, and I might be undergrading him a notch, but there are some things here that hold me back from a higher grade. He didn't dominate Double-A despite repeating the league, his secondary stuff isn't as refined as Erlin/Wieland, his fastball isn't consistently faster, and he is a full year older than Erlin and almost two years older than Sampson. He still looks like a fine mid-rotation starter but I don't see him as a potential ace. I'm thinking about this grade and this one is far from final.
9) Cory Spangenberg, 2B, Grade B: Borderline B+: On-base machine with some gap power and 70-speed. Needs to polish defense but pure hitting skills are sharp. He was a slight overdraft at 10th overall but not by a terrible amount.
10) James Darnell, OF-3B, Grade B-: I like the bat a lot, but age and positional questions preclude a higher grade. Should be a solid run producer.
11) Joe Ross, RHP, Grade B-: Could theoretically be the top pitching prospect in the system a year from now. More advanced than brother Tyson at the same age, and has a higher physical upside than the pitchers ahead of him, but let's get some data first.
12) Brad Boxberger, RHP, Grade B-: Another part of the Latos deal. Very live arm, took well to bullpen role last year. At worst he should be an effective middle reliever, and if his command holds up he has a chance to close.
13) Jaff Decker, OF, Grade B-: Seems to improve his physical conditioning every year, even stole 15 bases in '11, strong throwing arm. Patient to a fault, needs to find balance between aggression and passivity. Could put up huge numbers at Tucson.
14) Austin Hedges, C, Grade B-: Superior defensive catcher. Scouts have mixed opinions about his bat; some think he can hit for a decent average with touches of power, others don't think he'll hit enough to play regularly despite his glove. Not enough objective data yet to have a sabermetric opinion, although most catchers with a similar plus-glove/questionable-bat profile coming out of high school don't make it. If he hits, will rank much higher next year.
15) Anthony Bass, RHP, Grade B-: Doesn't have upside of the pitchers ahead of him, but ready to help now. Lack of major league strikeouts is concerning, but the park will help him.
16) Juan Oramas, LHP, Grade B-: Short, bad body, but exhibits strong command of solid southpaw stuff, succeeded in Double-A. Could develop into a very nice fourth starter, or possibly some tasty trade bait.
17) Donavan Tate, OF, Grade C+: Still has the Grade A tools, but constant injuries and personality factors weigh his grade down. He has some patience, but doubts about his swing persist and he needs at-bats to improve. Too soon to give up but he's got work to do.
18) Jonathan Galvez, 2B, Grade C+: Fast, has some power, needs to sharpen strike zone and polish up his defense, but has a broad range of tools and skills.
19) Jace Peterson, SS, Grade C+. McNeese State shortstop/cornerback showed terrific plate discipline in pro debut, along with speed. Has some pop in his bat and I think he can remain at the position.
20) Blake Tekotte, OF, Grade C+: Ideal skills for a fourth outfielder, does a little of everything.
21) Vince Belnome, 2B, Grade C+: Scouts don't like his tools much and he doesn't look like a second baseman at 5-11, 210, but so far professional pitchers haven't been able to control his bat. Hits for power and average with good plate discipline.
22) Reymond Fuentes, OF, Grade C+: Excellent athleticism, speed, defense, but lack of pop could prevent him from becoming a regular.
23) Mike Kelly, RHP, Grade C+: Intriguing high school arm from 2011 draft, somewhat raw but has upside. Could rank much higher next year if he can improve secondary stuff and command.
24) Edinson Rincon, "3B", Grade C+: I really like his bat but his glove is atrocious. Likely to end up at left field or first base.
25) Brad Brach, RHP, Grade C+: Scouts nitpick him but the results speak for themselves. Should be a fine middle reliever.
26) Matt Andriese, RHP, Grade C+: Ground ball-oriented strike-thrower from 2011 draft, grade could be much higher next year. Upside of mid-rotation starter.
27) Miles Mikolas RHP, Grade C+: Yet another live bullpen arm with strong statistical track record.
OTHERS: "Yoan Alcantara," OF; John Barbato, RHP; Drew Cumberland, 2B; Jason Hagerty, C; Duanel Jones, 3B; Matt Lollis, RHP; Alberth Martinez, OF; Mark Pope, RHP; Adys Portillo, RHP; Kevin Quackenbush, RHP; Jorge Reyes, RHP, Jeudy Valdez, SS; Everett Williams, OF.
This was already a very deep farm system, but adding Erlin and Wieland in the Adams trade was a masterstroke. Erlin, Wieland, Kelly, and Sampson is an exciting quartet, Joe Ross could be the best of all once he gets some innings in, Bass and Oramas are not slouches, and there are a large group of solid bullpen arms ready in the near future. That doesn't even include live-armed pitchers in the "others" list like Castro, Cates, Lollis and Portillo who have high ceilings albeit with question-marks. Hernandez and Reyes could also help sooner than expected.
There is also the core of a strong offense here, with Rizzo, Darnell, Gyorko, the enigmatic Decker, broad-skilled Tekotte, and overlooked Belnome ready or almost ready for extensive major league trials. Tools hound Liriano has a high ceiling and put some things together in '11. If Donavan Tate stays on the field long enough to learn baseball, he still has star-caliber tools. Galvez, Peterson, and Rincon would all get a lot more attention in other farm systems.
All told, this is a very rich system with exciting players at all levels.