San Diego Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Hunter Renfroe, OF, Grade B+/Borderline B. Age 22, hit .295/.370/.565 in 69 games in California League, then .232/.307/.353 in 60 games in the Texas League, stole 11 bases combined. Excellent power but contact issues are obvious, though he’s made adjustments before. I think the upside justifies the grade but it is not risk-free.
2) Matt Wisler, RHP, Grade B+/Borderline B: Age 22, posted 4.42 ERA with 136/42 K/BB in 147 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 157 hits. PCL environment worked against him and reports see him as more of a number three starter than an ace-type, not that there is anything wrong with that.
3) Rymer Liriano, OF, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 23, hit .291/.362/.473 with 20 steals in 115 games between Double-A and Triple-A, but just .220/.289/.266 in 38 major league games. All the tools are here but his approach is still rather raw. 20/20 potential if he can show sufficient polish for it to manifest, which is still an open question.
4) Austin Hedges, C, Grade B-/Borderline B: Age 22, draws constant praise for excellent defensive skills. Completely overmatched by Double-A pitching however, with some reports (not all) indicating reduced bat speed, swing mechanical troubles, over-aggressive approach. Hit .225/.268/.321. Many scouts still believe in the bat but there are more doubters than before and young catchers sometimes fail to develop offensively.
5) Michael Gettys, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, second-round pick with All-Star tools, disappointing spring lowered stock but he hit .310/.353/.437 with 14 steals in rookie ball. Still some questions about his approach and 15/66 BB/K in 213 at-bats is problematic. Could be a star, could be Drew Stubbs, could wash out in Triple-A. Very high ceiling.
6) Jose Rondon, SS, Grade B-: Age 20, acquired from Angels in Huston Street trade, hit combined .315/.363/.404 in the California League. Good defensive rep, can hit for average, young, main question will be power development. If he can manage gap power he could be a very solid regular.
7) Zechariah Lemond, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, third round pick out of Rice University in 2014, posted 3.43 ERA with 36/5 K/BB in 42 innings in pro debut, mostly in the Northwest League. Heavy ground ball pitcher with above-average velocity and good command. Main worry is health, he’s already had elbow issues and you know the track record of Rice pitchers. Possible number three starter if arm doesn’t explode, could also be a fine reliever.
8) Casey Kelly, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, pitched 20 innings between High-A and Double-A, 2.21 ERA with 17/1 K/BB. Very slow recovery from Tommy John surgery. Stuff and pitchability appear to be intact, but he has missed almost three complete seasons with injury problems. Hard to rank/rate due to the medical concerns. Has natural ability of a number three starter but needs to show he can handle any sort of workload.
9) Franchy Cordero, SS, Grade C+: Age 20, overmatched in Low-A (.188/.237/.235 in 22 games) but improved after going down to Northwest League (.279/.329/.458) though he still showed a raw approach. Intriguing power/speed combination with nine homers and 16 steals, but bat needs polish. Glove is even worse: this is not a typo, he made 51 errors in 56 games at shortstop for a .801 fielding percentage.
10) Cory Spangenberg, INF-OF, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .317/.353/.455 with 16 steals mostly in Double-A with some rehab games at lower levels, hit .290/.313/.452 in 20 major league games. Nice line drive hitter with defensive versatility, could have a long career as a semi-regular/super-utility type.
11) Tayron Guerrero, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, hard-throwing relief prospect posted 1.45 ERA with 56/20 K/BB in 50 innings between High-A and Double-A. Long history of command troubles but made progress last year, upper-90s heat and made progress with breaking ball. Could close if he keeps improving, middle relief otherwise.
12) Alex Dickerson, OF-1B, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .321/.367/.496 in 34 games in Double-A in injury-shortened season. Lacks great tools but has a long track record of good hitting dating back to college. Probably not quite enough homer power for a modern first baseman but should find a role somewhere.
13) Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Grade C+: Age 23. Hit .238/.306/.372 in 118 games in Triple-A, traded from Angels in Street trade. Disappointing season, despite past solid performances scouts have always wondered about his swing and it caught up with him in the PCL.
14) Jordan Paroubeck, OF, Grade C+: Age 20. .286/.346/.457 in 34 games in rookie ball, switch-hitter with power/speed upside, has contact issues and will need development time but very high ceiling.
15) Franmil Reyes, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .248/.301/.368 with 11 homers, 38 walks, 118 strikeouts in 508 at-bats in Low-A. High-ceiling bat but not there yet, needs polish in all phases, tighter strike zone.
16) Rafael De Paula, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, acquired from Yankees, good fastball well into the 90s and a good change-up too, erratic breaking ball and shaky command resulted in 4.92 ERA, 145/55 K/BB in 132 innings, 135 hits in High-A. Arm strength to be very good but more probably a reliever than a starter at higher levels.
17) Fernando Perez, 2B-3B, Grade C+: Age 21, hit .284/.322/.454 with 18 homers, 25 walks, 106 strikeouts in 469 at-bats in Low-A. Limited range harms his defensive value and may move him to first base or outfield. Good power in the bat, strike zone feeling is questionable.
18) Seth Streich, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, acquired from Oakland Athletics in Derek Norris deal posted 3.16 ERA with 116/22 K/BB in 114 innings in California League. Doesn’t have the pure stuff and velocity of De Paula or Guerrero, but much better command and pitchability give him fourth starter profile, assuming he adapts well in the high minors.
19) Elliot Morris, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, another component of trade with Angels, split season between three teams so he is easy to miss, posted composite 3.38 ERA with 117/52 K/BB in 133 innings. Low/mid-90s fastball, solid slider and change-up, another potential fourth starter or reliever.
20) Ryan Butler, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, seventh round pick out of Charlotte in 2014, posted 2.76 ERA with 36/9 K/BB in 29 innings in debut, 11 saves, mostly in Low-A. Mid-90s, reportedly hit 100 as well, breaking stuff needs work but the arm strength for quick relief success is evident.
OTHERS: Brandon Alger, LHP; Yeison Asencio, OF; Kyle Bartsch, LHP; Auston Bousfield, OF; Jose Castillo, LHP; Frank Garces, LHP; Justin Hancock, RHP; Travis Jankowski, OF; Kyle Lloyd, RHP; James Needy, RHP; Aaron Northcraft, RHP; Dane Phillips, C; Adys Portillo, RHP; Gabriel Quintana, 3B; Gerardo Reyes, RHP; Matt Shepherd, RHP; Jerry Sullivan, RHP
New GM A.J. Preller inherited a farm system that was in relatively decent shape. He quickly traded off many of his top prospects this winter for a quick major league roster boost, but there is still some talent here as well as some question-marks.
Hunter Renfroe, Rymer Liriano, Jordan Paroubeck, Franmil Reyes, and especially Michael Gettys are the basis of a sound outfield. All of them have questions to answer about their approaches and ability to make sufficient contact against advanced pitching. All of them could also become 20+ homer bats. Cory Spangenberg and Alex Dickerson don’t have the same type of upside but both should be useful role players. Jose Rondon and Taylor Lindsey, both acquired from the Angels, provide some infield depth. I don’t know what Franchy Cordero is; the tools are obvious but his defense is a real issue.
Austin Hedges draws very mixed opinions. Everyone loves his glove behind the plate, but the bat is problematic. Some Texas League observers felt that his problems were fixable and that he will eventually be a solid hitter. Other sources said he looked hopelessly lost, his bat speed down from the past and his swing fouled. The stats support the pessimistic view at this point, but he is young enough to rebound.
The Padres traded much of their minor league pitching depth. They are still headlined by the very solid Matt Wisler but can Casey Kelly stay healthy? There are several back-of-the-rotation potentialities and many bullpen options. Nobody looks like a genuine top-of-the-rotation anchor at this stage.
It will be interesting to see how the new front office handles the 2015 draft and international market. With Preller in charge, will the Padres act like a National League version of the Rangers with their drafting and development program?