San Diego Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2014
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 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. The book has been delayed by my head injury, but it will come out eventually. Thank you for your patience and we still need pre-orders!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated 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.
1) Austin Hedges, C, Grade B+: Excellent defender by all accounts. Reports remain positive on his bat, although there is a disconnect between the reports and his actual performance last year, perhaps due to a hand injury. Glove will get him to the majors, offensive production will determine if he’s a star or merely a decent regular.
2) Matt Wisler, RHP, Grade B+: Rated as a sleeper prospect entering 2013, he broke out with an excellent season in Double-A and looks like a textbook case of a cold-weather high school pitcher gaining both stuff and polish in pro ball, solid command of four pitches should make him a number three if not a two.
3) Max Fried, LHP, Grade B+: Ultra-projectable lefty already throws in the 90s with good mechanics and promising curveball/changeup secondaries. Command needs some tightening but overall pitching aptitude looks good. Future number two starter if the universe unfolds as planned.
4) Rymer Liriano, Grade B-: Tough grade since he missed the entire ’13 season with Tommy John surgery. 20/20 potential, batting average and OBP projection remain in question based in past track record.
5) Hunter Renfroe, OF, Grade B-: Enormous power potential, could become a 30-homer hitter. Looked like he made good progress with the strike zone last spring in college, but Midwest League pitchers found more holes in his swing and aggressive approach. I believe in the power but want to see how his other hitting skills hold up.
6) Jace Peterson, SS, Grade B-: Good athlete who does something in every category: steals bases, shows gap power, controls the strike zone, has made progress calming down his defense. A little old to just be reaching Double-A as a top prospect, turns 24 next month, though college football background was a factor. I like him, should be good fantasy producer.
7) Burch Smith, RHP, Grade B-: Sleeper pick that panned out with strong upper-minors performance, flashed his ability in the majors late. At worst should be fine reliever with fastball/changeup combo but I wouldn’t give up on him as a mid-rotation starter if he can get the curveball working more consistently.
8) Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Grade B-: Like Smith, he’s got plenty of fastball but his secondary pitches sometimes lack consistency and I think the chance that he winds up in the bullpen is higher. I could see him becoming a very good closer eventually.
9) Jesse Hahn, RHP, Grade B-: Acquired from Rays. I love his stuff (mid-90s heater, good breaking stuff, good changeup) and he’s always been effective when healthy. Still unproven if Tommy John survivor can hold up under a starter’s workload, but on a per-inning basis he was excellent last year (2.15 ERA, 63/18 K/BB innings in High-A, 55 hits).
10) Franchy Cordero, SS, Grade B-: Hit .333/.381/.511 in rookie ball, dominated Arizona League, also went 11-for-11 in steals, reports indicate he has a chance to stay at shortstop. Sounds like a good prospect to me, surprised he’ s not ranking higher on other lists. I want to see him above rookie ball but he could be ranked much higher next year.
11) Casey Kelly, RHP, Grade B-: Waiting to see how he comes back from Tommy John. Could be a number three or four starter but his hype often outpaced his performance even before he got hurt.
12) Tommy Medica, 1B-OF, Grade B-: I know he’s old for a prospect at age 25 and not toolsy, but he just hits and hits and hits. You can make a case to rank him several spots higher. . .or several spots lower if you are focused on pure tools and youth rather than present hitting ability. If he avoids further injury problems I think he will continue to hit.
13) Alex Dickerson, OF-1B, Grade B-: Acquired from Pirates for Jaff Decker. Less defensive ability and a more aggressive approach than Decker, but I suspect he has more usable power.
14) Dustin Peterson, 3B, Grade B-: Second round pick hit .293/.337/.344 with nine walks, 33 strikeouts in 157 at-bats in rookie ball. Approach was likely less refined than advertised, but scouts project he will hit for power and average once he settles in.
15) Zach Eflin, RHP, Grade B-: Part of all-prospect rotation down at Low-A Fort Wayne last year, posted 2.73 ERA with 86/31 K/BB in 119 innings. Upside not quite as high as Fried’s, but still very respectable with a shot at being a mid-rotation arm.
16) Joe Ross, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Lively arm but results did not match hype in Low-A, oddly hittable with mediocre K/IP and H/IP ratios for a pitcher whose fastball and slider reportedly move so well. Would rank higher in a system with less depth, physical upside is still attractive and he’s only 20.
17) Reymond Fuentes, OF, Grade C+: I had given up on his bat but he proved me wrong last year, improved contact ability and thrived in Double-A/Triple-A. I wouldn’t expect him to hit .330 again but I think he can be a good fourth outfielder with defensive skills, speed, and occasional offensive contributions.
18) Donn Roach, RHP, Grade C+: Ground ball expert has earned spot in Padres bullpen. Held his own in Double-A after a rough start but was sharp in second half. Normally I don’t care for pitchers with such low strikeout rates but I have liked Roach since he was in college and if he maintains his command I think he’ll be successful.
19) Leonel Campos, RHP, Grade C+: Older prospect at age 26 but with just one full season under his belt since he was pursuing a soccer career in Venezuela before turning to baseball. Throws hard, all pitches have excellent movement, fanned 106 with only 33 hits in 67 innings last year, finished strong in Double-A, 1.61 combined ERA. Very, very interesting relief arm.
20) Franmil Reyes, OF, Grade C+: Tools to rank higher, particularly in power potential department, but I want to see him succeed above Arizona Rookie League. He hit .315/.387/.467 there in 45 games but just .205/.222/.295 with poor strike zone judgment in brief Northwest League action. Big 6-5, 240 pound potential slugger, age 18.
OTHER Grade C+: Jeremy Baltz, OF; Travis Jankowski, OF; Juan Oramas, LHP; Jordan Paroubeck, OF; Cory Spangenberg, 2B.
OTHERS: Corey Adamson, OF; Yeison Ascencio, OF; Adrian De Horta, RHP; Pete Kelich, RHP; Kevin Quackenbush, RHP; Gabriel Quintana, 3B; Erik Schoenrock, LHP: Jose Urena, OF; Josh VanMeter, INF; Walker Weickel, RHP; Joe Wieland, RHP.
There were at least 10 other players I could have mentioned in this deep farm system.
While the Padres don’t have a top-of-the-scale Cubs-like group to lead the system, they have a very wide array of B/B- type prospects, some of them with the potential to rank higher with another year under the belts. Pitching is particularly strong: Wisler, Fried, Smith, Sampson, Ross, a healthy Kelly, most of the Fort Wayne starting rotation, there are a lot of arms here who could become above-average big league starters, with Wisler and Fried having the most potential I think. Any starters that don’t fit could become relievers but there are also arms already assigned to bullpen roles who can help, too. I’d have to believe that any organization would be happy with the amount of pitching the Padres have collected.
Hitting is more problematic. Hedges will be a big league starter due to his defense but whether he’s an All-Star or not will depend on his hitting, which in my mind is still somewhat questionable. Power bats like Renfroe, Liriano, and the young kids down in rookie ball/A-ball have high upsides but doubts that need to be answered, too. On the other hand, Tommy Medica may lack high-profile tools but I think his bat is for real and he’ll wind up being a lot more useful than many players who are faster in the 60 and look better in uniform.