San Diego Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
THIS LIST WAS UPDATED JANUARY 14, 2013
1) Austin Hedges, C, Grade B+: Outstanding reviews for his defense in Low-A, and he showed a lot more power than expected. Catchers have unusual development curves sometimes so it will be interesting to see how this works out at higher levels, but he's emerged as one of the top backstop prospects in the game.
2) Jedd Gyorko, 3B-2B, Grade B+: Ready for the majors now, so a fantasy owner in many cases should rank him ahead of Hedges. His bat is legit, maybe not a 30-homer guy but double-digits certainly with a good batting average and OBP. Blocked at third base. Although scouting reports about his glove at second are unenthusiastic, his defensive statistics at second are actually very strong, albeit in a small sample. Make of that what you will.
3) Rymer Liriano, OF, Grade B+: Borderline B. Extremely impressive to see in person, the tools really stand out and sometimes he shows the skills to make them work. Given his age, I will continue to cut him some slack, but he does carry risk.
4) Casey Kelly, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. I have really struggled with this one. He was very impressive this year but the elbow thing worries me enough to make me hesitate about putting a + on there, plus I still see him as more of a 3/good 4 than a true anchor or ace.
5) Robbie Erlin, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. Like Kelly, he pitched great but had an elbow problem that makes me hesitate a bit. I expect both of these guys will be valuable mid-rotation starters and are ready for full trials now.
6) Max Fried, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. Higher ceiling than Kelly or Erlin, but not as far along the development path. I want to see more pro innings before going with the plus on the grade.
7) Matt Wisler, RHP, Grade B: 19 year old right-hander drafted in seventh round from Ohio high school in 2011 gained 8 MPH on fastball and dominated the Midwest League (2.53 ERA, 113/28 K/BB in 114 IP). Good curveball and changeup. A very very good prospect who deserves more attention.
8) Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Grade B-: Command problems resulted in 5.00 ERA in Texas League, but K/IP and H/IP marks remained strong, still shows plus fastball and changeup. Needs to keep working on breaking stuff.
9) Donn Roach, RHP, Grade B-: Has the best sinker in the minor leagues and knows how to use it, mixing it with solid splitter and curveball. Combined 11-2, 1.88 ERA in 105 innings with 78/22 K/BB, 3.53 GO/AO in his first year as a starter. Should develop into mid-rotation workhorse.
10) Joe Ross, RHP, Grade B-: Tyson Ross's brother, Joe throws very hard (mid-90s) and shows a promising curveball and changeup, had command issues in Low-A but was effective in short-season ball. Upside of a number two starter but still enough questions to be cautious with the grade.
11) Cory Spangenberg, 2B, Grade B-: Hit .271/.324/.352 with 27 steals in 98 games in High-A, spent a month on the DL after getting hit in the head. I don't think he hit as well as was advertised, but at age 21 he has lots of time on the clock.
12) Walker Weickel, RHP, Grade B-: 2012 supplemental first round pick draws comparisons to a young Adam Wainright due to size, projection, and stuff. Very high ceiling arm but we need to see him in action.
13) Zach Eflin, RHP, Grade B-: Another supplemental first round 2012 high school pick with a high ceiling and upper-rotation upside. Needs to show that health concerns from last spring are not a long-term issue.
14) Brad Boxberger, RHP, Grade C+: Very good stuff, needs to sharpen up his command to get a shot as a major league closer and won't repeat 2.60 ERA in the majors without a lower walk rate. Nothing left to prove in the minors though.
15) James Darnell, 3B-OF, Grade C+: Another one with little left to prove in the minors, should provide solid power production if they can find a spot in the outfield for him.
16) Jace Peterson, SS, Grade C+: Athletic shortstop showed intriguing leadoff skills in Low-A with 62 walks, .378 OBP, 51 steals. Might develop more power as he was considered rather raw for a college guy, having been more of a football player at McNeese State.
17) Burch Smith, RHP, Grade C+: Inning-eating fly ball pitcher from University of Oklahoma pounded strike zone in High-A, 3.85 ERA with 137/27 K/BB in 129 innings. Often overlooked in a prospect-rich system, but in other organizations he would be getting a lot of play as a possible number four starter. Breakthrough candidate in Double-A? This might look too low a year from now, but in this system he has a lot of competition for slots on this list.
18) John Barbato, RHP, Grade C+: 1.84 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 52 hits in 73 innings in Low-A on basis of blistering fastball and good curve. Needs better command (31 walks) but definite closer possibilities.
19) Matt Andriese, RHP, Grade C+: Inning-eater ground ball type from UC-Riverside pounded strike zone in High-A, 3.58 ERA with 131/38 K/BB, 1.75 GO/AO in 146 innings. Can develop into a number four starter or a good middle reliever.
20) Matt Stites, RHP, Grade C+: Short (5-11) but athletic closer with fastball that can touch upper 90s posted ridiculous numbers in Low-A (0.74 ERA, 60/3 K/BB in 49 innings, 25 hits) then followed up with strong Arizona Fall League performance.
OTHER GRADE C+ GUYS: Yeison Asencio, OF: Jonathan Galvez, 2B; Frank Garces, LHP; Travis Jankowski, OF; Tommy Medica, 1B-C; Kevin Quackenbush, RHP; Adys Portillo, RHP; Edinson Rincon, "3B"; Joe Wieland, RHP. All of these guys have a plausible case to rank in the 15-20 range.
OTHERS: Jeremy Baltz, OF; Wilfredo Boscan, RHP; Jaff Decker, OF; Reymond Fuentes, OF; Cody Hebner, RHP; Roman Madrid, RHP; James Needy, RHP; Dane Phillips, C; Donavan Tate, OF; Jeudy Valdez, SS; Everett Williams, OF.
Well, I'd say that's a helluva farm system.
We'll start with the weak point, which is the hitting, and it isn't that weak. Gyorko and Darnell are ready for major league jobs if the Padres can find the right position on the field for them. Both should be productive regulars, and I think Gyorko is still actually underrated by some people. Liriano has the most upside, but he's at least a year away from being ready and I don't know if his skills will fully maximize his tools. I'm not as high on Spangenberg as some people are, but he should make a useful role player at least. Asencio, Galvez, Rincon, Jankowski, Peterson...these guys could all find useful roles. Even Jaff Decker isn't a fully lost cause though he needs a change of scenery. Disappointing tools guys like Fuentes, Williams, and Tate need to get moving with their careers or they will be passed by quickly.
The most intriguing is Austin Hedges, owner of a terrific glove and a better than expected bat. It will be interesting to see how he carries forward to the California League.
The pitching looks special to me. Kelly and Erlin are ready for major league trials, should be at least mid-rotation starters, and they aren't even the best of the bunch in terms of pure upside. Fried, Weickel, and Eflin are all excellent high school products from the 2012 draft, if somewhat difficult to grade and rank due to lack of pro experience at this point. I've opted for cautious grades in accord with my general policy, but if they perform well all could be B+ (or better) a year from now. Ross, Sampson, Barbato...live arms all. And don't overlook Matt Wisler, who is a great example of one of my favorite demographics: cold-weather high school pitchers from the Midwest who surprise people who only focus on players from sunny states.
While there has been a high school pitching emphasis of late, the Padres have found strong arms in the college ranks too, with Andriese, Stites, Burch, and Quackenbush standing out, plus trade acquisition Donn Roach has the best sinker in the minors. He could prove to be quite a steal from the Angels.