San Diego Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Anderson Espinosa, RHP, Grade B+/A-: Age 18, signed by Red Sox out of Venezuela for $1,800,000 in 2014, traded to Padres for Drew Pomeranz last summer; posted 4.49 ERA with 100/35 K/BB in 108 innings in Low-A, 115 hits; while numbers weren’t spectacular, he was just 18 years old in full-season ball; 92-96 with peaks at 97, should push upper boundary more often as he fills out his frame; both curveball and change-up are excellent for his age and he usually throws strikes with low-effort mechanics; makeup and mound presence also positives; at this point we basically need to see if he stays healthy; look for the ERA to come down as long as his component ratios remain strong; top of the rotation potential; ETA 2019.
2) Manny Margot, OF, Grade B+: Age 22, signed by Red Sox in 2011, traded to Padres in Craig Kimbrel deal; hit .304/.351/.426 with six homers, 30 steals, 36 walks, 64 strikeouts in 517 at-bats in Triple-A, then hit .243/.243/.405 in 37 major league at-bats; 70 speed and 60 arm work well in outfield, already a superior defensive player with gold glove potential if he hits enough to play regularly; skilled contact hitter with good feel for strike zone despite mediocre walk rate; batting average and power to the gaps should hold steady and more home runs may come in time; fun player to watch, manages the game with controlled aggression if that makes sense; ETA 2017.
3) Hunter Renfroe, OF, Grade B+/B: Age 25, first round pick in 2013 out of Mississippi State; hit .306/.336/.557 with 30 homers, 22 walks, 115 strikeouts in 533 at-bats in Triple-A, then .371/.389/.800 in 35 major league at-bats; he’s not a .300 hitter in a full season and may have trouble breaching .250 due to persistent contact concerns, but 70-grade power is legit, 25-30 homers possible even if OBP holds back overall offensive value; classic right fielder with strong throwing arm and good-enough range; ETA 2017.
4) Cal Quantrill, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 21, first round pick out of Stanford in 2016 despite making comeback from Tommy John surgery; posted 5.11 ERA in 37 pro innings between rookie ball, Northwest League, and Midwest League with 46/8 K/BB, 39 hits; fully healthy Quantrill has 92-96 heat along with excellent change-up and erratic breaking ball; general control, mound presence, makeup are also positives; main goal now is to build up innings and refine the breaking stuff; some observers believe he will reach the majors extremely quickly. ETA late 2018.
5) Adrian Morejon, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 17, Cuban lefty signed for $11,000,000 plus another $11,000,000 in penalties, hasn’t pitched yet; evaluating and ranking a pitcher this young with no pro data is problematic, but if he had been in the 2017 draft he would be a candidate for first-overall; highly-polished for his age, smooth delivery, has low-90s fastball (with reports of 95-96 in instructional league) along with advanced change-up and solid curveball; projects as a number two starter at least; as with any pitcher this age we need to see how he manages a workload but the ceiling is excellent; ETA 2020.
6) Jacob Nix, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 21, third round pick in 2015 from IMG Academy; posted 3.93 ERA with 90/20 K/BB in 105 innings in Low-A, 115 hits; Midwest League observers liked easy 92-95 MPH heat along with excellent curveball; made progress with his change-up and showed better-than-expected control thanks to more consistent mechanics; should be durable with size (6-4, 220), strength, and efficient approach, future number three starter. ETA 2019.
7) Luis Urias, INF, Grade B/B-: Age 19, signed out of Mexico in 2013; hit .333/.404/.446 with 45 walks, 37 strikeouts in 475 at-bats between High-A and a brief three-game Triple-A sojourn; excellent strike zone judgment and quick bat should work at all levels, expect high batting averages and OBPs; lacks power and not likely to develop much, range is limited at shortstop but he looks good at second and third base; could be similar to Freddy Sanchez as a hitter, ETA 2019
8) Dinelson Lamet, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 24, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014; posted 3.00 ERA with 158/61 K/BB in 150 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A with just 126 hits allowed; impressive 90-96 MPH fastball with good movement, also has a plus slider, racks up strikeouts; change-up erratic, some observers rate it as major league average, others say it is quite weak; opinion on the change-up determines if you see him as a starter or reliever; given proven ability to eat innings I’d give him a chance to start and see if the change can progress to decency. ETA 2017.
9) Eric Lauer, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 21, first round pick out of Kent State in 2016; posted 2.03 ERA in 31 innings between rookie ball, Northwest League, and Low-A, with 37/9 K/BB, 24 hits allowed; spectacular college performer (1.98, 103/26 in 86 innings in ’15, 0.69, 125/28 in 104 innings in ’16) and mowed down the Cape Cod League as well (2.04, 50 strikeouts in 40 innings in ’15); despite long record of dominance against both metal and wood he draws mixed evaluations; low-90s fastball, throws strikes with curve, slider, change-up; all pitches average on their own but the whole is consistently better than the sum of the parts; has easy mechanics and good control but hitters just can’t seem to pick up the ball against him; most experts view him as a potential four/five starter but my guess is that his game will continue to play up and he’ll continue to out-pitch many guys with better pure arms. ETA 2019.
10) Chris Paddack, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, drafted by Marlins in eighth round from high school in Texas, traded to Padres last summer for Fernando Rodney; blew out elbow and had Tommy John surgery after three starts in new organization; posted 0.85 ERA with 71/5 K/BB in 42 innings in Low-A, just 20 hits; stats were ridiculous, too bad he got hurt; low-90s fastball, mixed with exceptionally good change-up and average curve, obviously has no problems throwing strikes; number three starter projection pending surgery recovery. ETA 2020.
11) Josh Naylor, 1B, Grade B-: Age 19, first round pick by Marlins in 2015 from high school in Canada, traded to Padres in Andrew Cashner deal; hit combined .264/.302/.407 with 12 homers, 25 walks, 84 strikeouts in 481 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; huge raw power but did not perform up to his reputation last year with decent but not excellent production especially after the trade, granted he is very young; good contact rates a positive but he could use better strike zone management; strong enough to hit 30 homers a year; he’ll need to do that since he is limited to first base; ETA 2020.
12) Michael Gettys, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick in 2014; hit combined .305/.363/.442 with 23 doubles, 12 homers, 33 steals, 35 walks, 146 strikeouts in 505 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; excellent physical tools with 65 speed, 65 arm, and 55-60 raw power; raw remains the operative word here; he’s made some progress with the strike zone and hit for average last year but contact issues remain significant and pitch recognition will be severely tested in Double-A; could be a star if he can lock down the strike zone but more likely he’ll be a contributor who flashes dominance but doesn’t sustain it year-to-year. ETA 2019.
13) Logan Allen, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, fifth round pick in 2015 by Red Sox from IMG Academy; traded to Padres in Kimbrel deal; posted 3.47 ERA with 59/24 K/BB in 62 innings, mostly in Low-A but with a few innings of rookie ball rehab work after he missed time at mid-season with a sore elbow; full arsenal with low-90s fastball, solid curve, slider, change-up; Midwest League observers liked him better than the numbers and the numbers themselves weren’t bad; draws praise for command and polish; main worry is that elbow. ETA 2019.
14) Fernando Tatis Jr, SS, Grade C+/B-: Age 18, signed by White Sox out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $700,000, son of Fernando Tatis; traded to Padres in James Shields deal; hit .273/.311/.432 with four homers, 13 walks, 57 strikeouts, 15 steals in 220 at-bats between rookie ball and Northwest League, playing at age 17 all summer; one of my favorite lower-level young players, features cannon arm (70 grade) along with good power potential and better-than-expected speed and defense; will need to sharpen plate discipline; his dad had several good seasons and Jr. could be a similar hitter with a better glove; I tend towards skepticism regarding low-level projectable tools players but intuitively I like this one a lot. ETA 2020.
15) Mason Thompson, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 18, drafted in third round in 2016 from high school in Texas, could have gone in first round but was recovering from Tommy John surgery; posted 2.25 ERA with 12/5 K/BB in 12 rookie ball innings; low-90s heat with chance for more due to projectable 6-7 frame, shows workable change-up and curve, like most pitchers his height he needs some mechanical consistency; high upside but we need to see how he manages workload. ETA 2020.
16) Jorge Ona, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 20, Cuban, signed for $7,000,000 last summer; compact and strong frame at 6-0, 200; right-handed hitter, renowned for combination of bat speed, power, and strike zone judgment; good throwing arm but speed and defense may decline with age, will be limited to corner outfield long-term; at this point we need to see him play but he must be tracked closely and could leap way ahead with a quick start. ETA late 2019.
17) Carlos Asuaje, INF, Grade C+: Age 25, 11th round pick by Boston in 2013 from Nova Southeastern University in Florida; traded to Padres in Kimbrel farm restock; hit .311/.378/.473 with nine homers, 49 walks, 82 strikeouts in 535 at-bats in Triple-A, went 5-for-24 in the majors; average physical tools but a quick bat with an occasional spark of power; glove steady but range limits him to second base, can also sub in the outfield; should have a long career as a utility type with a decent bat; doesn’t have Tatis or Ona’s upside but will help much sooner, so if you’re a fantasy owner adjust list accordingly. ETA 2017.
18) Miguel Diaz, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, signed by the Milwaukee Brewers out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, picked by Twins in 2016 Rule 5 draft then traded to Padres; development was initially slowed by control problems and an elbow injury but earned notice in 2016 by posting a 3.71 ERA with a 91/29 K/BB in 95 innings in Low-A Midwest League; fastball up to 94-95 MPH and a slider which flashes plus; has a decent chance to stick in bullpen and could be surprisingly effective if command holds up; ETA 2017.
19) Phil Maton, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, 20th round pick in 2015 from Louisiana Tech; rose quickly and reached Triple-A in first full pro season; posted 1.74 ERA with 78/11 K/BB in 52 innings at three levels, just 32 hits; overpowering with 92-95 MPH fastball and hard slider, was an effective starting pitcher in college and has a workable change-up; good stuff, good control, could be a strong bullpen asset who can be stretched out a bit more than typical. ETA 2017.
20) Jose Rondon, SS, Grade C+: Age 22, signed by Angels out of Venezuela in 2011, traded to Padres in Huston Street deal; hit .283/.309/.386 with 16 walks, 78 strikeouts, 13 steals in 456 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; went 3-for-25 in the majors; excellent defensive shortstop and fun to watch, glove and speed will keep him in the majors but lack of power and mediocre feel for zone will keep him from playing regularly in the short run; he makes contact well and it is slightly conceivable that he could hit better long-term if he adds strength; ETA 2017.
OTHER GRADE C+: Austin Allen, C; Luis Almanzar, SS; Pedro Avila, RHP; Gabriel Arias, SS; Lake Bachar, RHP; Chris Baker, SS; Franchy Cordero, OF; Allen Cordoba, INF; Enyel De Los Santos, RHP; Javier Guerra, SS; Brett Kennedy, RHP; Reggie Lawson, RHP; Walker Lockett, RHP; Joey Lucchesi, LHP; Hudson Potts, 3B; Jeisson Rosario, OF; Luis Torrens, C; Jose Torres, LHP; Nick Torres, OF
GRADE C: Jordy Barley, SS; David Bednar, RHP; Yimmi Brasoban, RHP; Jose Castillo, LHP; Starlin Cordero, RHP; Jean Cosme, RHP; Ruddy Giron, SS; Henry Henry, RHP; Michael Kelly, RHP; Andres Munoz, RHP; Mayky Perez, RHP; Buddy Reed, OF; Franmil Reyes, OF; Hansel Rodriguez, RHP; Eguy Rosario, 3B; Jose Ruiz, RHP; Jesse Scholtens, RHP; Austin Smith, RHP; Brad Wieck, LHP; Mark Zimmerman, RHP
Obviously a VERY deep system, a depth not completely reflected in the present grades since so many of these guys are long-term upside plays or players with no experience.
Picking which Grade C+ guys to write about was tough, so I went with a mixture of projectables and short-term guys. If you went by pure upside with less regard to risk, Almanzar, Arias, and Rosario (at a minimum) could all be in the top 20. This system should look even better in nine months once we see how some of the tools hounds and pitchers with injury questions perform in real games.
I will be around in the comments.