Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2011

I hate prospect lists because they imply a level of certainty that doesn’t exist. That said, the process of creating such a list helps clarify where an organization’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Besides, other people love them and I am nothing if not a man of the people.

With that awkward introduction out of the way, let’s get down to business. As always, I try to balance upside and likelihood of success. Determining these, and the proper weight to give each, is more art than science. I pray to Jobu for guidance and hope for the best.

Where are the Padres right now? I’d put the farm system as a whole around C+/B- level. Depth is good, but there is a dearth of blue-chip prospects. At the top end, hitting and pitching talent are fairly even. In terms of depth, the hitting side is stronger.

Before we get to the actual list, here are five prospects that just missed the cut: RHP John Barbato, RHP Anthony Bass, RHP Zach Cates, LHP Juan Oramas, RHP Evan Scribner. I didn’t rank Barbato or Cates because they are 2010 draftees who haven’t pitched yet; one or both could be top 10 next year. The other three are just guys I like.

I mentioned the need to balance upside and likelihood of success. Here are my top five in each of those areas:


  1. Donavan Tate, CF
  2. Jaff Decker, LF
  3. Keyvius Sampson, RHP
  4. Adys Portillo, RHP
  5. Simon Castro, RHP/Casey Kelly, RHP

I’m not sure about the order of 2-4, but those are the right guys. I can’t tell the difference betwen Castro and Kelly.

Likely to Succeed

  1. Cory Luebke, LHP
  2. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. James Darnell, 3B
  5. Jaff Decker, LF

I also think that one of Castro or Kelly will make it, but I don’t know which one. It’s sort of like Jake Peavy vs Dennis Tankersley, only with less upside.

Anywho, to the list…

Top 20

  1. Jaff Decker, LF – Concerns about his body and defense are overstated; Decker’s best case lies somewhere between Sean Casey and John Olerud
  2. Simon Castro, RHP – Not the next Mat Latos but could slot into the 2012 rotation and develop into an eventual no. 2 or 3 starter
  3. Casey Kelly, RHP – Similar to Castro but possibly with higher upside; it’s hard to separate his true level of ability from the hype that accompanies Red Sox prospects
  4. James Darnell, 3B – Could push Chase Headley at some point; Darnell’s glove needs work, but his bat will play anywhere
  5. Cory Luebke, LHP – Eventual no. 3 or 4 starter who should contribute in 2011
  6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B – Not as much power as you’d like to see from the position, but sometimes that develops late
  7. Drew Cumberland, SS – Good top-of-the-order skills; needs to answer questions about defense and health
  8. Jedd Gyorko, 3B – Line-drive machine; a bit thick for an infielder
  9. Donavan Tate, CF – Best tools in the organization; hasn’t done anything with them yet
  10. Keyvius Sampson, RHP – Could be a stud; needs to stay healthy
  11. Adys Portillo, RHP – Erratic in North American debut, but projectable; could be top 5 next year
  12. Matt Lollis, RHP – Big, strong, effective
  13. Logan Forsythe, 2B – Battled injuries at Double-A; converted third baseman who could be the player San Diego hoped Matt Antonelli would become
  14. Jerry Sullivan, RHP – Results haven’t followed talent yet; I probably like him too much
  15. Edinson Rincon, 3B – Won’t stay at third base, but as with Darnell, his bat should play anywhere
  16. Jonathan Galvez, SS – Won’t stay at shortstop; broad base of offensive skills, young
  17. Jason Hagerty, C – Old for his league in 2010, but switch-hitting catchers with on-base and power skills are rare
  18. Reymond Fuentes, CF – Great speed and defense; bat is a concern
  19. Everett Williams, LF – Loaded with tools, but struggled to make contact in full-season debut; could sneak up on folks this year
  20. Blake Tekotte, CF – Broad skill set but plays a position that has become crowded; poor man’s Mark Kotsay

I’m very comfortable with Decker at the top. Castro vs Kelly is a coin flip; I went with the player who is more familiar to me. Prospects I might have too low are Tate, Sampson, Portillo, Rincon, and Williams. Any or all could be top 5 next year… or nothing.

And there you have one man’s opinion. Take with buckets of salt, and enjoy.

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Speaking of prospects…

  • John Sickels Farm System Rankings (Minor League Ball). One of Sickels’ readers has devised a system, based on recently released 2011 grades, that puts the Padres at roughly middle of the pack. [h/t BBTF]
  • Previewing the 2011 Storm: Batting (Friar Forecast). Ben Davey breaks down the hitters. This promises to be a fun lineup. I’ve seen Gyorko and Jeudy Valdez… anxious to get a look at Hagerty, Rincon, Williams, and Galvez.
  • Twenty invited (Inside the Padres). Some top prospects (Kelly, Oramas, Hagerty, Darnell, Forsythe, Rizzo) have been invited to big-league camp.
  • Bartlett agrees to two-year deal with Padres ( I’ve been expecting this since the Padres acquired him. It’s 2 years, $9.5 million, with a $5.5 million club option for 2013 ($1.5 million buyout)… perhaps a tad expensive for a shortstop on the wrong side of 30, but there’s something to be said for stability on the middle infield, which the Padres haven’t enjoyed since Khalil Greene and Mark Loretta called San Diego home in 2004-2005.

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The blog has gotten a face lift for the new year, courtesy of Chris Bauer, who also designed the cover for the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual. Chris did a terrific job, and I hope you enjoy the new look.

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27 Responses »

  1. Love the new look.

    One prospect question for you. Has Jeremy Hefner completely fallen off the radar? What’s his future, if any?

  2. Thanks, glad you’re digging it… As for Hefner, my concerns are a) age and b) lack of dominance. He appears to be headed down the Josh Geer path. Stats don’t tell the whole story, but both pitchers spent their age 24 season at Double-A San Antonio and put up disturbingly similar numbers:

              IP  ERA  H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
    Geer   171.1 3.20 8.56 0.47 1.42 5.36
    Hefner 167.2 2.95 8.37 0.59 2.74 6.17

    Hefner’s strikeout rate has been better in the past, but a drop of more than 2 SO/9 on moving from High-A to Double-A does not inspire confidence.

  3. Like the breakdown into upside vs likelihood, but in the latter category, I have a hard time seeing that Gyorko, with 298 pro at-bats, has shown enough to be #2 on that list. He might go on to have the best major league career of anybody, but on the skeptical side he’s possibly underpowered at 3B and possibly unsuited for 2B, and he’s only played half a year against weak competition. Someone like Forsythe, even after a bad year, has shown similar or better hitting and defensive skills at higher levels.

    To expand on your point after the Upside list, these are the right names (at least 85% of them, anyway). Where they rank against each other, or whether you pick Sullivan over Bass, is no big deal.

    I expect the consensus expert ranking of our farm system to be somewhere between 16 and 23. Our Fangraphs rank (25) was too low, but many pro-Padre observers (not GY) put a lot of weight on “depth,” just like they did a year or two ago when that depth included names like Kulbacki, Carvajal, Carroll, Hunter, Antonelli, Macias, Huffman, Dykstra, Carrasco, Quiles, Lobaton, etc.

  4. Glad you are back to doing things like this. One of the problems with these lists is that they are, more often than not, created by people who actually believe in them. :-)

  5. re: new look … can never get enough Navy Blue and Sand :-)

    re: Top 20 list … I love ‘em … and love that you understand that and indulge me/us!

    I, too, like seeing the Upside list and LtS list … and based on what I’ve read (mostly KG @ BP, such as this today: ), Gyorko seems more of a “can’t miss bat” than Forsythe ever has been … and I’m rooting for both.

    Here’s my Top 10 that I posted at MadFriars on 9/1/10 … while the 2010 season was fresh in my mind … (and before the Adrian trade) …


    @TW … your list makes me think we could also have a “Most likely to return to prospect status” list … and I’d put Kulbacki at the top of that list … followed by Cedric. I still think Antonelli will have a year or 2 in MLB with some positive WARP (and I hope it’s a good sign that the Padres org didn’t have room for him, i.e., I hope that the player or players the Padres decided to keep in the org instead of him provide a year or 3 of positive WARP).

    And finally, here’s Peter Friberg’s Top 30 …

  6. Regarding Red Sox Prospect Hype:

    While hype tends to accompany these players, I have developed the sort of faith in Jed Hoyer that he would never be fooled by said hype. He seems to have the ability to sift through the B.S. and make good deals so my guess is that he made a good trade with AGon.

    Here’s to hoping! And Faith! And other intangible belief systems!

  7. Another view on Bartlett:

    Also, I like that I can check out recent comments, GY.

    Nice look. Thanks, man.

  8. Second the huzzah for the Recent Comments view. Saves me from searching backwards to check if a discussion is still going on.


    I can’t see behind BP’s subscription wall, but let’s not forget just how touted Forsythe was. Leaving aside the comments by Padre-centric people, he was lauded for his superior athleticism and plate discipline, and that was before he fired off a composite 869 OPS between High A and AA in his first full pro season. Everyone’s entitled to their own judgment, but if Gyorko is can’t-miss because of a nice college career in the Big East and 30-some games in the Northwest League (because his Ft. Wayne numbers are mediocre), then what do we call the better athlete who had a comparable career in a tougher college conference, who also put up good numbers on the Cape, and who performed better in the minors at a higher level. That is, when it comes to projecting likeliness of success. I think that in the end they’re both probably tweeners offensively at 3B, with Forsythe getting the edge because he’s shown he can play 2b.

    As for “most likely to return,” I’d put Darnell and Forsythe on there, two guys who fell out of favor somewhat after injury-marred 2010 seasons. Kulbacki could do it, but how can a guy who hasn’t been healthy enough to perform since 2008 be “likely” to do anything? If he bounces back, it’s a welcome surprise, but a surprise all the same. Hunter, blah. Him getting back to a C+ status doesn’t excite me. He’s still young, but he was never all that much of a prospect. He’s had a lot of chances to answer questions about his plate discipline, power, and CF defense. Thankfully the days of him ranking as our #1 prospect are over.

    Our Top 10s look a lot alike. I’d put Portillo on there instead of Sullivan, but Sullivan would still be in my top 20.

  9. Hey Geoff, a bit of an outlier question here for you, but did you consider Cabrera when thinking of the prospects? He’s still young. He basically went straight from A ball to the Padres for on-the-job training, although with more AB in the majors than AA or AAA. But with the Padres finally having a legit big-league SS Cabrera seems to finally have the chance to work on his skills and see if he truly is a legit prospect or not.

  10. Ya, I like being able to see that there are recent comments too … sorry for a comment with no real Padre content … but I’m putting in my vote to keep this feature for the long term …

  11. Keep on liking Jerry Sullivan, Geoff. The results will eventually reflect his talent level. After all, Albert Einstein didn’t speak his first words until he was four (he complained about the soup, I think).

    I’m sorry to see Everett Williams already converted to a corner outfielder. He was picked right after Tate, having similar tools, and I sort of saw him as a backup in CF if Tate didn’t pan out.

    Does your analysis of lack of depth and pitching weakness in the lower minors telegraph where Jed will be going with the June draft? I hear he’s got a couple extra picks…

  12. @TW: I understand your skepticism with regard to Gyorko. You may be right, but I think his bat will get him to the big leagues (it might be the system’s second best behind Decker). Forsythe is a more well-rounded player, but I’m not sure he’ll hit enough to justify more than a utility role. The parallels between him and Antonelli are kind of scary… As for depth, there is no substitute for good top-end talent. The Padres are getting there… which come to think of it, I find myself saying every year.

    @LynchMob: Thanks for the list. I haven’t completely given up on Kulbacki, although two years of missed development hurts. Assuming injuries haven’t taken their toll on his bat, he still seems like someone who could bloom late and have a John Vander Wal type career. Hunter looks like a fringe fourth or fifth outfielder. He’s Tony Gwynn Jr. without the name.

    @timoteo: I did not consider Cabrera because he has exhausted rookie eligibility. That said, he should be watched closely this year.

    Also, I’m glad to hear that folks like the Recent Comments addition. That is a feature we had a few years ago, and I’ve been wanting to reimplement it for some time.

  13. Likening Hefner to Geer due to their similar AA performance’s (Geer’s minor league best mind you) doesn’t really hold much weight to me. First off, we know what Geer brings to the table, a rhp with an 86 mph fastball that was extremely homer prone versus advanced hitters – 56 hr’s in 396 AAA innings to go along with 29 more in 129 major league innings.

    Hefner doesn’t have the same experience to compare against at this time, but what we do know is he throws quite a bit harder (approx 5 mph) with “turbo-sink” — just a wild guess, but don’t think he’s going to see the same kind of results that Geer did do to that big difference. I’d much rather take my chances on a guy who slumps to 6.2 K/9 versus one that never sniffed that at any level in which he pitched a decent amount (10 starts).

    Hefner will be lucky to get the same kind of opportunity that Geer got due to the newfound depth, but his track record suggests that he’s likely much more capable of being a legit back-end guy where as that is clearly not the case with Geer. For what it’s worth, Simon Castro saw a similar drop in K’s at AA. You did say stats don’t tell the whole story, but think the comparison is a disservice to Jeremy.

    To sum it up, even though Geer has faced 1157 more minor league hitters then Hefner, he has struck 23 fewer. Two different breeds.

  14. @Larry: My guess (and hope) is the Padres will draft the best players available regardless of position. That said, it would be nice to come away with some good pitching and middle infield prospects.

    @Chase: You’re right that the comparison between Geer and Hefner isn’t perfect. My main point in invoking Geer’s name is that it will be difficult for Hefner to reach and/or succeed at the big-league level without remembering how to put the ball past hitters. The Padres have had other guys like that come through the system (e.g., Matt Buschmann) and it’s the same story.

    As for Castro, there are some key differences:

           2009          | 2010
           Age Lvl  SO/9 | Age Lvl SO/9
    Castro  21 A   10.07 |  22  AA 7.43
    Hefner  23 A+   8.48 |  24  AA 6.17

    Castro was two years younger than Hefner, skipped a level (Hefner did not), and saw roughly the same level of dropoff in SO/9 (27-28%) while maintaining a higher overall rate. That is the difference between a top prospect and a fringe guy.

    Hefner might be better than Geer, but a) that isn’t saying much and b) it’s hard to muster enthusiasm for a 24-year-old with a pedestrian (and declining) strikeout rate at Double-A. I hope Hefner proves me wrong; we could use the help.

  15. @GY:

    I see Forsythe and Gyorko as virtually identical offensively. Both have shown they can hit for average and control the strike zone, neither has demonstrated the power needed for an IF or OF corner. Gyorko is also comparable to the less-heralded Belnome, another Mountaineer of the stocky “might hit like a good 2b but probably can’t defend there” variety. Obviously this year will tell us a lot about all 3 players, but if their bats don’t improve and only one of them has a chance to play 2nd, he’s my guy.

    Darnell’s substantial power advantage makes him my #2 Padre farm bat, with Gyorko one of 4/5 guys in the next tier. Hopefully Gyorko (or any of that group) slugs over .500 with an ISO over .200 and separates himself.

    Here are some skeptical Gyorko reports, which are offered only for information and not in a disputatious manner:

    “He’s Tony Gwynn Jr. without the name.”

    And without the speed and the superior defensive instincts. Both have some value as utility players, depending on the skills and health of your starting outfielders. But unlike Gwynn, Hunter seems to lack that one standout skill (in TGJr’s case, defense) that can make him a worthwhile starter.

  16. Great new look!

    Good list. I like that you’re high on Decker, because some others elsewhere slot him down farther than I feel he should be. Until he proves otherwise, there’s nothing to make me believe he’s not going to keep performing at a high level.

    I’m surprised that Evan Scribner didn’t get an invite to spring training. I wonder if, after keeping him at San Antonio for a second year, they don’t feel he’d be an effective major league bullpen guy.

    The guys I see breaking out in 2011 are Lollis and Sampson (if he can stay healthy). Portillo has to start throwing strikes before I salivate too much on tools alone.

    I’m rooting for Tekotte. He may not turn into Carlos Beltran or anything, but it seems he should have a useful career in a Darren Bragg mold.

    And I would be remiss in forgetting to mention, Dan Robertson! On base machine!

  17. @dts317

    Agree on Scribner. They invited Munter, Lara, and Colt Hynes. They invited Brach, who also doesn’t have premium velocity. Leaving Scribner off is puzzling, but there could be lots of good explanations.

    My best-case comps for Decker and Tekotte are Brian Giles and Steve Finley, with Decker more likely to approach his peak.

    Has anyone heard how the Dan Robertson-2B experiment went? If only he were a CF…

  18. I appreciate the list, but what about Aaron Poreda? 6-6 lefty with control issues, but nonetheless with potential.

    What’s the word on him? I, for one, believe he should be groomed to start and I don’t understand why he is being molded into a reliever.

    6-6 lefty!

  19. No love for Rodney Daal?

    (You heard it here first :-) )

    * * *

    I think I have good news for Scribner fans …

    Indeed, he was not invited to Spring Training …

    … but I think it’s because only “non-roster” guys get invited … and Scribner is on the roster …

    * * *
    re: Dan Robertson … I asked about him over at MadFriars … they say “He was at 2B at instructs and that’s where they’re going to try him (presumably in San Antonio) this year from what I’ve heard” … interesting … I’ll let you know if/when I hear more …

  20. Dennis Tankersley.

    I think I lost some of my innocence as a prospect follower when Tankersley didn’t pan out. Sigh.

  21. @TW: To clarify, when I said Gyorko’s bat might be second only to Decker’s in the system, I meant specifically the ability to hit for average (as opposed to power and plate discipline). Darnell has more pop, and overall he or Rizzo is probably the organization’s second best offensive player. Thanks also for the Gyorko links; they confirm my feelings on him. I see his upside as roughly Kevin Seitzer.

    @Jason: Poreda is a project at this point. I hope Darren Balsley can teach him how to pitch, but ever since coming over in the Peavy deal, Poreda has been doing a wicked Robbie Beckett impression. I have serious concerns.

    @LynchMob: No Daal yet, but nice call. Duanel Jones is another to watch… Thanks for the info on Scribner and Robertson.

    @Wonko: I feel your pain.

  22. Having seen him a couple of times now, I think Rymer Liriano should be on that upside list, and so should Jonathan Galvez. The ball flies off their bats, and they aren’t awful in approach. I haven’t seen much game action, but I imagine what is holding them back is very Pedro Cerrano-like (straight ball I hit very much).

  23. One more comment from John Coniff at MadFriars about Dan Robertson @ 2B …

    “That may have been one of the reasons the Padres were willing to move Figueroa in the off-season to Tampa. He did play some infield in high school and is athletic enough to make the change.”

  24. I’m still pulling for Robertson… but yeah, if only he were a CF. Maybe 2B will get him “there.”

  25. It seems that Sullivan had a great first half of the year in 2010 and was named the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. The organization then all but limited his innings for most of the remainder of the season. Additionally, according to the Watson Files, for whatever reason, every time he pitched, the defense was horrible. Will he have an opportunity to pitch in San Antonio this year?