January 2, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Austin Hedges
What Happened in 2012: Hedges’s bat was better than advertised, as the defensive wizard showed signs of life and promise at the plate.
Strengths: High-end defensive tools behind the plate; plus-plus arm; excellent receiving skills; advanced game-calling skills; total defensive package; shows bat speed at the plate; hard out; can drive his pitch; not an empty hitter; below-average speed, but not a clogger.
Weaknesses: Lacks plus offensive tools; tripped up by off-speed offerings; defense will always be the bread winner.
Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star level talent
Explanation of Risk: High risk; bat is behind glove; limited professional experience.
Fantasy Future: Will be a premium defensive player, with a chance to hit .270 with 10-15 HR.
The Year Ahead: Hedges has a chance to really explode as a prospect, with his well known defensive chops being joined by a competent bat. His offensive numbers could improve in the hitter-friendly environments of the California League, where his solid-average raw power could start to shine. As is often the case, the word “average” reads like a bad word, a pejorative label attached to a less-than-stellar tool. But if Hedges’s bat can develop into an average weapon, he’s an all-star at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2015
2. Rymer Liriano
What Happened in 2012: After a breakout year in the Midwest League in 2011 the toolsy Liriano continued the progression in the Cal League, before finishing the season with a 53-game clip at the Double-A level.
Strengths: Physical player; plus present strength; plus runner; plus raw power; easy plus arm in right field; hit tool projects as a 5; plus bat speed; all the tools to be a first-division talent.
Weaknesses: Despite the athleticism, doesn’t make it look easy; more raw tools than baseball-ready skills; power has yet to blossom; swing path isn’t always efficient; can open holes on inner third; early extension; bat might underperform.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; played at Double-A level, but offensive tools have wide gap between present/future; not the most instinctual player.
Fantasy Future: Has prototypical corner outfield weapons, with plus arm and plus power potential. Because of speed, can swipe some bases; should be extra-base hit threat.
The Year Ahead: Liriano will return to the Texas League, where the weaknesses in his swing were exposed in 2012, leading to weaker contact and swings and misses. If he can find his swing rhythm and stay consistent, the power is going to emerge, and it might be bigger than projected. The strength is there, the bat speed is there, but so far, the total offensive package hasn’t come together. If it does, Liriano is a monster. But even if it doesn’t arrive, he still has enough to play at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2013
3. Max Fried
What Happened in 2012: Fried was drafted seventh overall, but after a long amateur season, wasn’t 100 percent in his brief professional sample.
Strengths: Present polish and projection; excellent size; plus all-around athlete; clean delivery; arm works well; fastball will work in the 89-93 range and can touch a little higher; easy release; some run to the arm side; projects as plus offering; curveball has 7 potential; excellent command of the offering; long break that he can add/subtract; can drop pitch for strikes or out of the zone; changeup flashes plus potential; consistent mechanics and arm speed deception; good command profile.
Weaknesses: Needs to add strength; can lose tight rotation on CB and make it too long and loose; shows full arsenal, but needs to build up fastball and fastball command before falling in love with secondary stuff.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; brief complex league resume; good polish for age, but long way to go developmentally.
Fantasy Future: Should end up with plus fastball, plus curveball, at least solid-average changeup and good pitchability, giving him a chance to be a no. 2 starter on a championship level team.
The Year Ahead: Fried is ready for the jump to full-season ball, where his present stuff and feel for pitching could make this conservative ranking look foolish. Several sources pushed for him to be higher on the list, and one source outside the org had him as the Padres’ top prospect. The ceiling is crazy high, as are the expectations, but Fried has the arsenal and the makeup to rise to the challenge. He’s a legit high-end prospect. He might explode in 2013.
Major league ETA: 2016
4. Casey Kelly
What Happened in 2012: The season got off to a bad start, with elbow inflammation keeping him off the field, but the former first-round pick finally made it back to the mound, and eventually reached the major-league level, making six starts.
Strengths: Plus athleticism; very good pitchability; fastball normally works in the 90-92 range, but can touch 95; shows good vertical action; good setup pitch; curveball is out pitch; tight rotation and quality depth; changeup can play as a 5; delivery is clean; good command profile.
Weaknesses: Lacks knockout stuff; fastball usually works a little below plus velocity; needs to hit his spots; changeup can get too firm; doesn’t always turn it over; will always walk tight line because of solid-average arsenal.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; some injury concerns, but already reached ML level; mature arsenal and athletic.
Fantasy Future: Might struggle to miss a lot of bats, but should keep the ball on the ground and his team in the game; if command is sharp, could project higher.
The Year Ahead: Kelly is ready for an extended look in the major-league rotation, and with a mature arsenal and an athletic delivery, should be able to stick around. He’s not going to blow many people away, but he’s smart and can use his solid-average arsenal to set-up hitters and force bad at bats. Kelly should eventually settle in as a no. 4 starter, but has the chance for more if the command is sharp and the changeup joins the curveball as a borderline plus pitch.
Major league ETA: 2012
5. Jedd Gyorko
What Happened in 2012: Gyorko was swinging a decent stick in Double-A, but exploded after a promotion to the friendly Pacific Coast League, where his game power announced that it was ready for a major league look in 2013.
Strengths: Excellent bat-to-ball ability; easy swing; short and without frills; drives the ball to all fields; crushes left-handers; squares velocity plus hit; at least 5 raw power; average arm; more athletic than given credit for.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t look the part; lacks plus defensive skills; pressure on bat, and bat might lack impact potential at the highest level; range at 2B is fringe at best; will need to maintain command of fitness/body.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; Gyorko has a mature bat and a solid approach; already played at Triple-A level; ready for majors.
The Year Ahead: Gyorko has a chance to make the opening-day roster as a second baseman, a less-than-ideal position given the defensive limitations. The bat is good, but it might be more batting average and doubles and less over-the-fence heroics. Gyroko is an odd prospect, one that some scouts struggle to put into a box. In all likelihood, Gyorko will be a better major leaguer than he was a prospect, as its easy to discount bad bodied players with fringe defensive profiles. But he can really hit a baseball, and that should continue at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2013
6. Robbie Erlin
What Happened in 2012: Assorted injuries limited Erlin to 60 innings on the year, but 11 impressive starts in Double-A, followed up by seven equally impressive appearances in the Arizona Fall League, the diminutive lefty is knocking on the door of the majors.
Strengths: Near elite pitchability; pinpoint control; very good overall command; works east/west/north/south; fastball velo can work anywhere from 88 to 93, showing good arm-side action; all secondary offerings can play at solid-average, with the CH/CB flashing plus; athletic; big competitor; high baseball IQ.
Weaknesses: Lacks height and can lose plane to the plate; lacks big offering or big velocity, so can’t live in the zone; flyball tendencies lead to issues with the long ball; has to work low in the zone and has to hit his spots to be effective; very small margin for error.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; mature arsenal and advanced pitchability; very cerebral approach.
Fantasy Future: Lacks elite upside or projection, but has a deep arsenal of solid-average stuff that he can execute. Despite size, should be able to log innings and keep his team in games.
The Year Ahead: What Erlin lacks in stuff he makes up for in feel and intelligence, as he pushes his arsenal beyond the paper grade. Erlin has impressive command, and can use his low-90s fastball to set up up his changeup and curveball as out pitches, or he can use his cut-slider to force weak contact. When he doesn’t finish his pitch, he can elevate and provide the hitter with a nice flat-plane view of the offering, making him susceptible to hard contact and long fly balls. If he can keep the ball down and keep hitters off-balance, Erlin will find sustainable success at the major-league level.
Major league ETA: 2013
7. Joe Ross
What Happened in 2012: It was a tale of two seasons for Ross. The initial assignment to a full-season league was too much too soon, as injury and inconsistency spoiled the party, but an impressive spot in the Northwest League helped save the season.
Strengths: Big-time arm strength; projectable; very loose, easy arm action; fastball can sit plus and push higher; electric offering; hard breaking ball will flash; two-plane slider with some depth; changeup will flash plus potential.
Weaknesses: Still a thrower; fastball command isn’t sharp; tendency to live up in the zone; arm can get slow on secondary offerings; slider will slurve/will cast changeup; hasn’t put it together yet.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; lacks polish and needs to transition from thrower to pitcher; secs need work.
Fantasy Future: Has electric bat-missing potential and a projectable size and strength, so could be inconsistent mid-rotation arm.
The Year Ahead: Ross struggled in his first encounter with full-season hitters, and could return to the level to work on establishing fastball command. The components are there for high-end success, but right now Ross is just an electric arm with potential. Once he builds the foundation of the fastball, he can refine the breaking ball and changeup and move up the prospect ranks. In a return to the Midwest League, Ross should continue to miss bats, and could take a step forward with his command.
Major league ETA: 2016
8. Matt Wisler
What Happened in 2012: In his full-season debut, the former seventh-round pick showed a combination of stuff and polish, missing a bat an inning while keeping runners off base.
Strengths: Prototypical size; projectable; clean delivery; repeats very well; excellent command profile; plus fastball; works 90-96; late action; deep arsenal; curveball and changeup already work average and project to be solid-average to plus; shows a baby slider that he can get under the hands of left-handers; competitor.
Weaknesses: Secondary arsenal lacks high-end projection; needs to add strength; work on sequencing; needs to continue to prove it.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; good present stuff and polish for age; already performed well at full-season level.
Fantasy Future: Should develop into a solid-average starter at the major-league level, with a deep arsenal and good command.
The Year Ahead: Wisler is on the prospect map, but another solid season at the full-season level (High-A) and his stock will soar. He has good now stuff, and if the secondary arsenal improves, he could have great stuff. The command profile is very good, but throwing strikes and throwing quality strikes will separate the top prospects from the pretenders. Wisler looks legit.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Adys Portillo
What Happened in 2012: After a disappointing 2011, the Venezuelan bonus baby finally broke through in return trip to the Midwest League, allowing only 54 hits in 91 2/3 innings of work.
Strengths: Massive arm strength; very fast action; big, physical frame; fastball is bread and butter; as a starter, can work 93-97; in bursts can sit 96-99; slider will flash potential.
Weaknesses: Below-average command; fastball shows plus-plus velocity, but doesn’t miss enough bats; doesn’t get great extension on the pitch; can lack movement; an above-average secondary offering has yet to step forward; still a thrower.
Overall Future Potential: 6; late-innings arm; set-up
Explanation of Risk: High risk; big fastball, but poor command and lack of plus secondary pitch.
Fantasy Future: Portillo will most likely end in the bullpen, where he has the type of fastball to find success in short-bursts.
The Year Ahead: Portillo will continue to be developed as starter, where he will work to refine his command and improve his secondary arsenal. The lack of an above-average secondary pitch makes his fastball both the opening act and the main attraction, and more advanced hitters can square velocity. In the end, Portillo will most likely end up in the bullpen, but he won’t find success in any role without improved command. The arm strength is special and the ceiling is high, but the 21-year-old has a long list of things to improve on if he wants to reach his potential.
Major league ETA: 2014
10. Cory Spangenberg
What Happened in 2012: What was supposed to be Spangenberg’s breakout season turned into a season of setbacks, as both injury and inconsistency tainted the year.
Strengths: High-end athlete; fast-twitch; easy plus run; shows clean actions and soft hands at second; coordinated around the bag; arm is solid; good field awareness; has bat speed and line-drive stroke; projects to hit for average; show some game pop.
Weaknesses: Tendency to lose his approach; becomes slap-and-run hitter instead of strong, athletic line-drive hitter; lacks middle-of-the-order power; struggles against pitchers with a plan; swing is complicated and not fast to find rhythm.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular/second division
Explanation of Risk: High risk; long road to the show; has yet to explode; needs offensive jump.
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to hit for average, steal bases, and rack up extra-base hits while playing a solid second base.
The Year Ahead: Spangenberg will look to put 2012 in the rear view and take a developmental step forward. Double-A will be a big test, one that he might not be ready for yet, but one that will push his approach and offensive capabilities to the limit. He needs to find comfort in his plan of attack, believing that he is more than just a slap-and-tickle type of hitter. While it’s true that he can really run, his bat has more thunder than he shows in game action. When/if he can tap into that stroke, his stock will rise and the early first-round selection will start to make more sense.
Major league ETA: 2015
Prospects on the Rise:
2. RHP Walker Weickel: Another big boy Florida pitcher taken in the supplemental first round, Weickle is all about projection. At 6’6’’ and 195 lbs, the 19-year-old has tons of room to fill out, and already shows a sinking low-90s fastball and two secondary offerings with average or better potential. The Padres are stacking the lower levels of the minors with arms. Crazy.
3. RHP Matt Andriese: Andriese isn’t your typical “On the Rise” type, as he’s a 23-year-old college arm that just finished up a season in High-A. But the former third-round pick has a very good understanding of his craft, and can pound the lower zone with a heavy fastball. Not the sexiest profile, but Andriese is a good pitcher that has a legit major league future. If he keeps it up in Double-A, his name will be on the rise.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
2. RHP John Barbato: With a resume that stops at the Low-A level, Barbato might seem like an unlikely candidate to reach Double-A much less the majors. While that’s probably true, multiple sources predicted an Addison Reed like push through the minors in 2013, a pace set by a plus-plus fastball that he can pummel the zone with. Keep an eye on this guy.
3. RHP Brad Boxberger: This is basically cheating, as Boxberger already reached the major-league level in 2012, and was very solid. But he’s still a prospect, and should provide an even bigger impact in 2013, using his low-90s fastball and highly potent changeup to miss bats and keeps hitters off-balance.
Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/87 or later)
1. Yasmani Grandal, C
In addition to an impressive collection of prospects currently marching toward the Show, the Padres have already begun to realize the fruits of recent trades, with the likes of Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Casey Kelly, Brad Boxberger, and Joe Wieland all poised to be significant contributors in 2013. Grandal’s rookie campaign consisted of just 60 games, but it was a loud 60 in which he was able to produce a .297/.394/.469 triple-slash line while showing a strong handle on the strike zone and solid actions behind the plate. Grandal’s early success gives San Diego the luxury to allow Austin Hedges any amount of developmental time he might need to prepare himself for an impactful arrival with the big club. Alonso’s first full season in the majors was a success as well, and he will look to continue to build toward his “high-5” upside as a plus-hit first baseman.
Cameron Maybin was not able to replicate his 2011 production, but he remains a potential impact center fielder in all facets of the game. Alexi Amarista provides a well-rounded utility option with everyday potential at second base and enough versatility to fill in across the infield and outfield when needed. On the bump, Joe Wieland profiles as a potential innings eater with mid-rotation upside if everything clicks. Brad Boxberger could provide some stability in the late innings. Anthony Bass logged 97 innings for the Pads this past summer, including 15 starts, but he probably fits best as a swing man due to below-average command of average stuff.
Though they missed qualifying for this list by a matter of months, the youth movement is further evidenced by the presence of James Darnell, Logan Forsythe, Everth Cabrera, Kyle Blanks, Andrew Cashner, and Nick Vincent on the roster entering 2013. What once appeared to be a wide-open division has become increasingly competitive, and the Padres will need their impressively deep system and collection of young talent to perform at the major-league level if they are to become a team of interest in the coming seasons. This year will help determine which areas need to be addressed in order to build this team into a long-term competitor, and system depth and payroll flexibility should give management the ammo it needs to reinforce those areas with difference makers. —Nick Faleris
A Parting Thought: A top-five system in the game, the Padres are built on a combination of high-ceiling impact players and low-risk/high-floor types, with a layer of depth underneath that is so thick I spent the better part of a week filtering through the names to include in the “On the Rise” section. The list was long.