Tony Gwynn Prospect Retro
Tony Gwynn was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 1981 draft, out of San Diego State University. Assigned to Walla Walla in the Northwest League, he hit .331/.415/.612 with 12 homers and 17 steals in 42 games, showing excellent plate discipline. Promoted to Double-A Amarillo in August, he hit .462 with a .725 SLG in 23 games. Coming out of college, he was a respected line drive hitter with good speed and plate discipline, but his pro debut was much stronger than even his backers anticipated. I think you'd have to rate him as a Grade B+ prospect considering his early performance.
Gwynn moved up to Triple-A to begin 1982, hitting .328/.365/.443 in 93 games with 14 steals for Hawaii in the PCL. He hit .289 .337.389 with eight steals in 54 games for the Padres. At this point, you oldsters will recall that Gwynn was seen as a leadoff guy due to his speed and contact hitting ability, but there were doubts about his power. It was also unclear if he'd be a .280 hitter or a .300 hitter.
He hit .309 in 89 games for the Padres in '83, then broke out with his first batting title in 1984, hitting .351. Seven additional batting titles and five Gold Gloves followed. 3,141 hits later, he's in the Hall of Fame.
Could this be foreseen in his minor league record? It was clear from an early point that he was a very skilled line drive hitter, and his early pro performance was outstanding. But did anyone actually project that Gwynn was a Hall of Fame talent while he was in the Pacific Coast League in 1982? Probably not.