|Original Published Date: December 23, 2014|
Author’s Note: With the numerous trades that occurred in the Padres organization over the past week, we unfortunately did not have time to re-write our Top 10 list. It changed substantially as Joe Ross, Trea Turner, Max Fried, Mallex Smith, and Jace Peterson were all moved. While the Padres were able to keep their big three guns, the system took a massive hit. But isn’t that why you have prospects. Enjoy the write-up…
Over the past three years, the San Diego Padres have won 76 games in 2012, 76 games in 2013, and 77 games last season. While all teams want to end the season winning more games than they lost, the next best place to be is one of the five worst teams. Let’s face it; the system has been built to help those teams. Where you don’t want to be is stuck is in the middle. That’s where the Padres find themselves.
Petco Park is at the center of the conundrum. It suppresses power and ultimately runs and therefore, the Padres have to focus on pitching and defense. The good news is that they are. Matt Wisler and Joe Ross both have mid-rotation profiles that should play up in San Diego and as soon as next year. Max Fried has a chance to be better than both, but will miss the entire 2015 season as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery. Trea Turner, Mallex Smith and Jace Peterson could provide up-the-middle defensive upgrades that should help assist their young pitching staff in run prevention.
Offensively, they’ve made a number of bets with Hunter Renfroe, Rymer Liriano and Franchy Cordero. All three have a chance to provide solid production at the highest level with Liriano and Renfroe being very close to contributing in San Diego.
Is it enough to make a difference? I think it is, but time will tell.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: 1st Div
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 200||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
After a standout junior year at Mississippi State where he posted a 1.051 OPS, the Padres made Hunter Renfroe their number one pick in the 2013 first year player draft (pick 13). Renfroe’s carrying tool is plus-plus raw power that translated well in his 69 games in the Cali League where he slugged an impressive .565. However, the power didn’t stick after his promotion to the Texas league as he struggled with a slash line of .232/.307/.353.
Before we unpack his statistics to try and draw some conclusions, let’s review his impressive scouting report. As mentioned, Renfroe has plus-plus raw power that he generates from impressive bat speed and a highly leveraged swing. Usually when you see a leveraged swing, you immediately think that the swing is long. However, that’s not the case with Renfroe as his swing is short and direct to the ball. Instead, he’s able to add the leverage without adding tremendous swing and miss. His 77% contact rate upon his promotion to Double-A illustrates the point. While I don’t believe the swing will translate to an above-average hit tool, he could easily hit .250 to .270 at the highest level with a .320 on-base percentage.
Renfroe is also a very good outfielder with average foot speed and a cannon for an arm. He showed off the arm in the Futures game by gunning down Kennys Vargas trying to stretch a single into a double. While he stole 11 bases in 2014, I don’t see that level of production continuing; particularly as he fills out.
Let’s get back to his uneven statistical year. It’s easy to say that his California League performance was the result of the hitter friendly environments in which he played. However, Lake Elsinore plays neutral and I had a chance to see him in several games, and the power is real and impressive. Everything he hits is hard and I wasn’t surprised with the results. Upon his promotion, he performed well with a .299/.360/.481 slash line in July. However, once August hit, he clearly tired which resulted in a .215/.292/.271 slash line with zero home runs. I think he’ll be much better next year and I fully expect the power to return with an accompanying .260 to .270 batting average.
Fantasy Impact: In fantasy baseball, you don’t count on power output from players on the San Diego Padres. Petco Park suppresses right-hand power by a third, batting average by 15% and runs by nearly 20%. Quick math – if Renfroe has 30 home run power, you should pencil in 20. He’s clearly rosterable on a fantasy team, but you need to temper your expectations and count on a 20 home run, .a 260 batting average, a .320 player on base percentage with a handful of stolen bases. That’s a solid $18 player with upside.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
I know what you’re thinking…Matt Wisler is number one??? He had a 5.01 ERA in Triple-A…really, come on? I get it, but he’s a better pitcher than what he showed in 2014 and he’s exactly the type of pitcher that will benefit from Petco Park.
Wisler has a nice three pitch mix that starts with his 92-93 MPH fastball. It’s a good pitch but it doesn’t have the plane that you would expect from a pitcher who is 6-foot-3. In fact his ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio of 1.81 was better than what he did in 2013, but he still managed to give up 19 home runs in 116.2 innings. His best secondary pitch is an 83-85 MPH slider that can miss bats. He also throws a hard change-up that has taken a step up from last year.
Wisler continues to show above average control as he walked only 2.78 per nine in his 22 starts in Triple-A. The command continues to be inconsistent and that helped to contribute to his high home run rate as well as his inflated hit rate. I expect the command to continue to improve as he finds better balance on his landing which will subsequently help him to maintain his release point. All this will come with more repetition.
While Wisler had a difficult year in 2014, it was made much worse by the difficult environment of the PCL. Moving to Petco is going to make a huge difference for a young pitcher trying to find better command and learning to keep the ball down. His arsenal can miss big league bats today and with a promotion likely in 2015, he has the possibility of posting a sub 3.50 WHIP in San Diego next year.
Fantasy Impact: I’m going to be taking a late round flyer on Matt Wisler in my 2015 re-draft leagues. I think he’s ready and could even break camp with the team. He’s a must-own in a Dynasty League and a top 50 prospect in the game. His floor is a number three big league starter with a ceiling of a number two fantasy starter.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: 1st-Div
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
We’ve stressed for two years that you must be patient with Austin Hedges as his offensive game catches up to his plus defensive game. 2014 demonstrated that his offensive game still has a ways to go.
No matter how you look at it, Hedges struggled offensively last year. Despite maintaining a healthy 80% contact rate, he posted an ugly slash line of .225/.268/.321. Hedges was just not able to consistently drive the ball and both his slugging and BABIP suffered. You can argue that his .270 BABIP has room to grow, but BABIP is more than a just an offsetting “luck factor” as it also shows when a better is unable to hit the ball with authority. This was clearly a problem with Hedges during the 2014 season.
Maybe out of frustration, Hedges became more aggressive at the plate and moved from an acceptable 8.3 walk rate to an anemic 5.0 walk rate. It clearly compounded his offensive struggles as more experienced pitchers took advantage of his aggressiveness and the results were not good. The good news is that the swing is still good. It’s compact and short to the ball with enough bat speed to project at least average power. However, he’s got to stop rolling over on the ball and make harder contact.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, Hedges offensive problems did not affect his work behind the plate. He’s still the same commanding presence with a plus arm and excellent framing skills.
Hedges prospect status has taken a hit and it’s justifiable. However, the upside is still a first division catcher with the ability to hit 12 to 15 home runs with a .270 batting average. It’s going to take a while and you need to be patient.
Fantasy Impact: Today, Hedges is a better baseball asset than a fantasy asset. Therefore, he’ll continue to be over-valued in most Dynasty Leagues because of his high rankings on prospect lists. I don’t believe there is yet a buying opportunity as I think Hedges is at least three or four years away from being a legitimate fantasy asset. If you can stay in it for the long haul, I believe the payoff will be worth it. However, if you have limited bench space, fishing somewhere else might make sense.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Joe Ross passes the eye test for what pitchers are supposed to look like – tall and athletic with some physical projection remaining. The year started off slowly for the right-hander as he struggled with his command in the hitter-friendly confines of the California League.
I had a chance to scout Ross against the Lancaster JetHawks in early April. That night, the fastball sat 92-94 MPH and he was able to hold it for most of the evening. However, the fastball was straight and the JetHawks made good contact against him. The hard slider that I had heard so much about was not very good. Most of the pitches had little break and in some cases, were almost as straight as his fastball. Not all though, as he did reel off a few that showed promise. The change-up was also below average and he only threw five during the evening.
Spring forward to July and my second viewing was much better. The fastball sat 93-95 MPH and showed much more life as Ross was able to get a lot more arm side run. Ross was clearly more comfortable with his lower three-quarters delivery and while the opposing team, the Quakes this time, still make decent contact, the stuff was much more electric. The slider was also tighter and produced a lot more swings and misses and the change-up also held more promise.
Ross was promoted a few weeks after I saw him to the Texas League and the performance was outstanding. In 20.0 innings, he struck out 19 and walked only one. He did struggle with his command, which could explain the three home runs, otherwise, he looked very good.
Fantasy Impact: Ross’ ceiling is just behind that of Wisler’s. In fact, with his athleticism, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a more effective pitcher in the majors. The ceiling is a top 40 fantasy pitcher with seven to eight strikeouts per nine and a sub 3.50 ERA.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 230||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
After missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ulnar collateral tendon in his elbow that required Tommy John Surgery, Rymer Liriano had a nice bounce back season that ended in 109 at-bats in San Diego. In 433 at-bats before the call, Liriano posted an .836 OPS with 14 home runs.
The overall tools package gives Liriano a first division ceiling. While he’s an aggressive hitter, the hit-tool should provide enough contact for him to profile as an above-average hitter. Plus, his excellent bat speed and ability to make hard contact point to additional over-the-fence power down the road.
Liriano is currently a plus runner and while the 20 stolen bases in 2014 was a drop from the 32 he stole in 2102, it was to be expected. Essentially, as he physically matures, the extra bulk will naturally slow him down.
Fantasy Impact: There’s a lot of goodness with Liriano from a fantasy perspective. He has a 20 HR/20 SB future ceiling but the power might settle in at 10 to 15 in Petco. 2015 will continue to be a learning year for Liriano with an anticipated 400 at-bats at the major league level. He could really come into his own in 2016.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 175||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
Trea Turner hit the ground running in 2014, posting an .854 OPS in 279 at-bats across the Northwest and Midwest League. He showed the plus-plus foot speed and slick fielding that made him the 13th overall pick in the country.
Despite hitting 20 home runs in his three seasons at N.C. State and popping another four home runs in his professional debut, Turner has below average power as his swing is much more contact-oriented. In fact, at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, both his body and bat speed indicate that Turner should rely more on his wheels than his strength to contribute on the baseball diamond.
Defensively, Turner profiles as an above-average shortstop with excellent range and an adequate throwing arm. He’s probably behind Everth Cabrera defensively, but the total package has a higher ceiling than the current incumbent in San Diego.
The Padres could move Turner quickly through the system but might be better served to have him spend most of the season in Low-A working on his approach. I would avoid having him spend time in the California League so that he doesn’t get home-run happy. Contact, contact, contact should be his mantra.
Fantasy Impact: Turner’s ability to steal 40 plus stolen bases with a .340 on-base percentage could make him a very valuable fantasy asset. The package will simply be enhanced because he’ll likely hit at the top of the lineup with a chance to score 80 plus runs. Throw-in that his defensive acumen should stabilize his playing time and Turner could even sneak his way onto our Top 100 List.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2018|
Max Fried and Lucas Giolito have two things in common. They both pitched and graduated from the famed Harvard-Westlake HS in Studio City California in 2012 and now both have had Tommy John Surgery. Let’s hope that at this time next year, they add a third commonality – a successful return from Tommy John Surgery.
When healthy, Fried has all the tools to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. His arsenal starts with a sinking fastball that sits 91-92 MPH. Given how much movement he gets on the pitch, it’s a plus offering even though it only sits in the low 90’s. His money pitch is his curve ball. It’s a classic 12 to 6 pitch that has excellent velocity separation with his fastball; usually thrown in the mid 70’s. It’s good enough to get swings and misses from both right-handed and left-handed batters. His changeup is also a very good pitch with many people believing it will become a plus pitch the more he throws it.
Not only is his arsenal terrific, his pitching mechanics show a lot of promise. As with most young pitchers, they are far from perfect, but his posture and balance project above-average. The arm speed in general is good but you can definitely see it speed up on his fastball vs. his secondary pitches. While this works with his nasty curve, he’ll need to disguise his changeup more in order for it to truly become a plus offering.
While I implied in the opening paragraph that Fried will return in 2015, given he had surgery in August, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll see more than Instructional League activities. By only pitching 10.2 innings in 2014, he’s lost two full years of development. Granted, he’ll only be 22-years-old when he returns, his timeframe has unfortunately been pushed out.
Fantasy Impact: It’s a tough blow for Fried owners as his time table has been pushed back by two-years. You do have Petco to hold onto, but you’re likely waiting four to five years before you see any significant contribution in a fantasy league; and that assumes he comes back healthy. No matter the upside, you can only hold onto Fried in leagues that roster at least 250 minor league prospects.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht: 5-7 Weight: 190||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
It was an interesting year for Mallex Smith. He started the year repeating Fort Wayne but showed enough during the year for the Padres to send him to the Arizona Fall League. In all of his stops, he played very well, improving in all aspects of the game.
The improvements were primarily seen in his approach at the plate. He’s become a much more patient hitter, which in turn is putting him into better hitting counts. In 564 plate appearances across Low and High-A, he posted a .403 on-base percentage and a 12% walk rate. Getting on base is critical to his success as his carrying tool is double-plus speed which has allowed him to steal 88 bases over the past two seasons.
While Smith has 30 grade power, he has enough physicality to stand in against pitchers trying to bust him inside. I saw this first-hand in the Arizona Fall League as he fought off 95 MPH fastballs in on his hands from Mark Appel. I doubt he’ll ever turn on elite velocity, but there is enough strength and bat speed to allow him to get on base. With Mallex Smith, that’s what it will be about.
Fantasy Impact: Mallex Smith is a must-own player in a fantasy league. I think his approach is strong enough that he could post a .340 on-base percentage and steal 40 stolen bases in the major leagues. It will likely come with two to three excuse-me home runs each year, but as a two-category player (stolen bases and runs), he could be a very nice fantasy asset.
|2015 Age: 25||Ceiling: Utility
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 210||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Jace Peterson has been quietly working his way through the system after being drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft. In fact, he appeared in 27 games in the major leagues in 2014 and not many people outside of the Peterson family noticed. That’s a shame, as Peterson has a nice all-around game.
First and foremost, he can really hit. While he only batted .113 in the his limited time in the big leagues, in 1,465 at-bats in the minors, he’s batted .287 with a .381 on-base percentage while posting an impressive 233K/217BB strikeout-to-walk ratio. That profile will surely play in the big leagues. He also has above-average speed and a knack for stealing bases. While his stolen bases trailed off to 16 in 2014, he has stolen as many as 51 in 2012. Finally, he’s a solid defender with the ability to play both short and second base.
Peterson will be a big leaguer for many years to come. The question is will he be a utility player or a full-time contributor? While he could have several years where he gets 450 plus at-bats, ultimately I believe he’ll slide into a utility role, but a potentially very valuable one.
Fantasy Impact: Peterson could be a nice fill-in player when injuries besieged your fantasy team. While he’ll be far from a fantasy stud, he could score plenty of runs with 20 stolen bases and a very good batting average and on-base percentage.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: 1st Div
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 175||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2017-18|
I’m like most people, I get fixated on something and just won’t let go. Enter my infatuation with Franchy Cordero.
I’ve seen Cordero play a lot and absolutely love the swing. He has bat speed with strong hands that enable him to get his bat through the zone quickly and with authority. The hand-eye coordination is impressive with the ability to change his swing pattern based on location and velocity. Yet, it was a down year for the 20-year-old Dominican.
Cordero started the year in full season Low-A and was awful. In 22 games, he struck out 36 times and committed 18 errors at shortstop. On May 1st, the Padres had seen enough and put him on a plane back to the desert of Arizona where he hit a home run in a Complex League game that afternoon. While he was clearly over matched in Fort Wayne, the brutal spring weather did not help. Remember, Cordero was a 19-year-old Latin player that was likely seeing snow for the first time in his life. Furthermore, he was living with a host home and likely home sick and miserable. Did this all contribute to his struggles? Possibly, but I’m still betting the over that Cordero rights the ship and becomes a significant prospect.
After spending time in Arizona, Cordero played well in the Northwest League, posting a .788 OPS with nine home runs and 14 stolen bases. He was still very aggressive and struck out more than I would have predicted with a 75K/14BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 240 at-bats. However, the swing still works and with elite bat speed, I believe there is 20 home run power lurking in the bat.
Fantasy Impact: As you can see, I haven’t given up on Cordero. I will admit that there is extreme risk and I could be wrong. However, I think there is still think the upside is a 20 HR/20 SB player capable of a .270 batting average. It won’t be at shortstop, but the offensive package will work fine at third or the outfield.
2015 Emerging Prospect:
Michael Gettys has all the tools to be a superstar. Elite bat speed, plus foot speed, plus raw power, and a cannon for an arm. The one plus tool that he doesn’t yet have is the ability to hit. The approach is uber-aggressive and the swing can get very long and that was demonstrated in his 66K/15BB in 213 at-bats in the AZL. If he can grow into just an average hitter, his ceiling is an all-star. Will that happen? The Padres spent a second round pick on the kid, so clearly they are willing to take the gamble.