San Diego Padres

Original Published Date: Dec. 29, 2012

The San Diego Padres minor league system is one of the deepest in all of baseball.  While they don’t have a Top 20 overall prospect, it’s flush with several first division starters with all-star ceilings.

From a positional player standpoint, the Padres have three solid four star players.  Rymer Liriano is a toolsy outfielder that I see eventually profiling as a first division corner outfielder.  While he’s currently stealing bases, I don’t see this continuing once he fully matures.  Jedd Gyorko can really hit and is nearly big league ready.  The problem is he profiles best at third base and that is currently occupied by Chase Headley.  Possibly the best positional prospect is Austin Hedges.  While only through Low-A, he is showing elite defensive ability with the chance to contribute with the bat.

The Padres also have pitching depth with 2012 first round draft pick Max Fried providing the highest upside.  Robbie Erlin and Casey Kelly are both advanced pitchers and should contribute in San Diego in 2013 with Kelly having an excellent chance to break camp.  2011 first round draft pick Joe Ross has great stuff but struggled in his first taste of full season ball.

While I only go 10 deep, the Padres three star prospects extend further.  It’s a stacked system and one of the best in all of baseball.

1. Rymer Liriano (OF)

2013 Age: 21 BP: D.R.
Ht:6-0  Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 A+-AA 465 65 8 61 32 .280 .338 74.4 8.8 .360

I’ve been a big fan of Rymer Liriano since he was signed out of the D.R. in 2007. Blessed with tons of tools, he’s finally starting to turn those tools into skills and develop into a very nice ballplayer.

When you first see Liriano, you can’t help but notice how big he is. From his broad shoulders to his large muscular lower half, he’s just a big dude.  How he stole 65 bases in 2011 is a bit of mystery as I clocked him at 4.17 seconds down to first base; or 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale.  However, his body when combined with a very fluid and quick swing gives hope of not only a plus hit-tool but plus future power.

The power has yet to show but the swing is starting to come together.  It’s a quick and compact swing that provides maximum coverage in the zone.  While his 2012 contact rate was only 74%, I expect this to improve as he matures as a hitter.  Additionally, the approach is good.  I saw several long at-bats in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) where Liriano fought off several pitches until he got one he could drive.  In fact, in 91 at-bats in the AFL, he batted .319 with four bombs.

I’m projecting Liriano as a first division starter capable of hitting 20-25 home runs with a .280 batting average as a middle of the order hitter.  You could even see double digit stolen bases early in his career.  These projections might seem a tad aggressive for a guy who hit eight home runs with a 74% contact rate, but the raw tools are just starting to translate.  I fully expect to see a major step-up in 2013 with a potential late round callup in the cards.

Fantasy Impact: I see Liriano as a classic right fielder with plus power and a plus arm.  Early in his career, he could profile as a 15/30 player hitting in the middle on the Padres lineup.  Over time, you should see the power and speed ratio flip-flop.  If I’m drafting in a Dynasty League, I’m looking at Liriano as a top 40 minor league player with similar upside of Mason Williams and Jake Marisnick.

2. Jedd Gyorko (3B)

2013 Age: 24 BP:West Virgina
Ht: 5-10  Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2012 AA-AAA 499 80 30 100 5 .311 .375 81.0 10.2 .328

Sometimes you see a guy walk onto the field and say…”Wow, that guy looks like a ballplayer”; and then there’s Jedd Gyorko…  He kind of reminds me of Ron Cey in appearance – short, stocky, and slightly bow-legged, but boy can he hit.

In 499 at-bats, Gyorko hit .311 while hitting 30 bombs.  The swing is simple and quiet with excellent bat speed that is allowing him to drive the ball to all fields.  While there’s not a lot of leverage in the swing, I can see him hitting 20 home runs in the majors.  While that is substantially lower than the 30 he hit in 2012, remember, 24 of them came in the hitter-friendly PCL.

While it appears that Gyorko has very little left to prove in the minors, the question is where will he play if promoted?  The Padres have some guy named Chase Headley manning third base for the foreseeable future, so third base appears out of the question unless there is an injury.    He did play 48 games at the keystone but the reports I received indicated that he was below average defensively.  However, the Padres might decide to sacrifice some defense in order to get Gyorko’s bat into the lineup.

Fantasy Impact: I’m drafting Gyorko late in all my 2013 fantasy leagues where I have a deep bench.  I think there is some risk that Gyorko will start the year in the minors to slow his clock down, but he could be a nice mid-season callup.  For Dynasty Leagues, Gyorko is teetering on being a top 50 talent going into 2013 but with a lot less risk then many of those players ranked higher.

3. Max Fried (LHP)

2013 Age: 19 BP:California
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 185 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 R 17.2 14 7 1 3.06 8.66 3.57 1.13

Lucas Giolito was supposed to be the stud pitcher for the Harvard Westlake Wolverines in 2012 but after he hurt his elbow, it was teammate Max Fried who took the spotlight and the $3 million dollar signing bonus.

While Max Fried has a good fastball that sits 90-92 mph with nice sink (4.17 G/F in 17.2 innings), it’s his plus-plus curve that got him drafted number seven overall by the Padres.  The curve is a classic 12-6 pitch that has excellent velocity separation with his fastball; usually thrown in the mid 70’s.  It should be 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 kids 18-years-old, they are far from perfect, but his posture and balance are both promising.  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.

It’s easy to get excited about Max Fried but remember, he’ll turn 19 in January of 2013 and probably will not see San Diego until 2015 or 2016.  Also, he’s pitched a grand total of 17.2 innings in the AZL and while they were impressive innings, he’s got a long way to go.  I expect the Padres to start him in full season ball for the 2013 season and expect him to excel if not dominate.

Fantasy Impact: If you’re in a Dynasty League that you are sure will be around for a long time, then Max Fried needs to be on your team.  He has the arsenal and mechanics to move quickly but there is no telling how the Padres will handle him.  I have his ceiling at a strong number two starter but there is an outside chance he could become a one.

4. Austin Hedges (C)

2013 Age: 20 BP:California
Ht:6-1  Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 LowA 337 44 10 56 14 .279 .334 81.6 6.8 .313

The Padres selected Austin Hedges in the second round of the 2011 draft and paid him a whopping $3 million dollar signing bonus.  The reason was simple; he was viewed as one of the best high school catching prospects in years.  And you know what…he just might be that good.

So what makes him so great?  Firstly, he’s athletic and that really shows with exceptional footwork and actions behind the plate.  He also has a cannon for an arm with excellent pop times that he demonstrated by throwing out 32% of would-be base stealers.  If you’re not impressed with that percentage, go watch a Low-A game.  Most pitchers are terrible at keeping runners close to the bag.  Finally, he has the presence behind the plate that you see with great catchers – he’s in charge.  Candidly, the glove is nearly major league ready – but what about his ability to hit?

When Hedges was drafted, the scouting reports went into such great detail about his defensive ability, it was like they didn’t watch him hit.  Candidly, I wasn’t sure what to expect driving out to see him play, but I was pleasantly surprised.  He has a nice compact swing with pretty good bat speed and the ability to the sting the ball to all fields.  He doesn’t use his lower half very well as there is very little movement to provide leverage.  It’s a line drive swing, although he managed to slug 10 home runs in the pitcher friendly Midwest League.

As you can tell, I really like Hedges and believe he is a Top five overall catcher in the minor leagues.  There is still some questions about his bat; so I need to see what he can do against more advanced pitching.  While you can say that about many minor leaguers, I’ve got a few more questions about Hedges.

Fantasy Impact: Since defensive statistics are usually not part of the scoring system in a fantasy league, Hedges will probably be a better baseball player than a fantasy player. However, if we continue to see the growth that we saw in 2012, then he could develop into a first division fantasy catcher.

5. Robbie Erlin (LHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP:California
Ht: 5-11 Weight: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AA 52.1 53 17 6 2.41 12.38 2.92 1.28

I was hopeful that Robbie Erlin would have made his Major League debut in 2012, but elbow tendonitis caused him to miss three months of the season.  While you never like to hear elbow and injury uttered in the same sentence, Erlin seems to have avoided major injury as he pitched very well in the Arizona Fall League (AFL).

Some might label Erlin as a lefty command and control pitcher but his arsenal is better than that.  While his fastball generally sits 88-90 mph, I registered several fastballs in the AFL at 92 MPH.  He also throws a plus curve ball and a nasty slow changeup that he delivers with great arm action.  It’s a very nice arsenal.

His great control and plus command come from terrific pitching mechanics.  He has really good posture, keeping his head over the center of his body which causes him to follow through properly and have a nice balanced landing.  The best part is he consistently repeats the delivery.   The only negative is his physical size – at 5-foot-10, he has very little downward plane and therefore he must keep the ball down in the zone.  For the most part he does, but he could be somewhat homer prone at the highest level.  Fortunately, he’ll be pitching in the right ballpark and rarely walks anybody.

Fantasy Impact: If I’m in a deep NFBC-style draft and hold league, I’m definitely selecting Erlin in the later rounds of a 2013 draft.  I think there is a good chance he will see San Diego in 2013 with a chance to produce.  For Dynasty Leagues, he’s a later round pick for me with a ceiling of a number three starter who might play up based on his home park.

6. Casey Kelly (RHP)

2013 Age: 23 BP: Florida
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws:Right
ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AA-Maj 66.2 72 34 6 1.77 8.84 4.62 1.28

I could have easily put Casey Kelly ahead of Robbie Erlin as Kelly brings a lot of goodness to the table.

His arsenal is very good with a fastball that averaged 92.16 MPH in 29 innings in the big leagues.  However, the offering plays up based on the tremendous sink he gets on the ball.  Both his curve ball and changeup are above average pitches that generated 16% WHIFF rates according to PitchFx data.

While I like his arsenal, I’m not enamored with his pitching mechanics.  While the posture and balance are both good, the delivery is not smooth and lacks deception.  On his delivery, he holds the ball in his right hand for an extended time; like he’s really reaching back and then slings the ball to home plate.  Batters get a very long look at the ball and that might cause problems as big league hitters learn his motion.  Also, the slinging of his pitches could put a lot of pressure on his shoulder and ultimately put him at a higher chance for injury.

Fantasy Impact: I see Casey Kelly as a late round flyer in a deep fantasy league for 2013 mostly because he’ll pitch half his games in Petco.  I could see league average ratios with seven K’s per nine.

7. Joe Ross (RHP)

Joe Ross was the second of two first round selections by the Padres in the 2011 draft.  The 6-foot-3 right hander has good stuff with a fastball that he can run up to the mid 90’s but sits in the 91-92 MPH range.  He also throws a hard curve that is a real swing and miss pitch for him.  However, his changeup is still a work-in-progress and was one of the big reasons he struggled in his initial 2012 Low-A assignment.  Through six starts, he gave up 33 hits in 27.1 innings to go along with an ugly 6.26 ERA.  The strikeouts were there and he wasn’t walking many, but he was just hittable.  Things were much better once Ross was moved back to the Northwest League.

8. Corey Spangenberg (2B)

The other first round selection in the 2011 (pick 10) for San Diego was Corey Spangenberg.  Whereas Austin Hedges might be a better baseball player than fantasy player, it might be the opposite with Spangenberg.  As a defender, he rates as average to below average with poor lateral movements while often letting the ball “play him”.  Offensively, he makes nice contact but doesn’t use his lower half very well so there is little power.  His main asset is plus-plus speed and with his ability to get on base, he could steal 30+ bases at the highest level.

9. Matt Wisler (RHP)

I got a lot of positive reports on Matt Wisler when doing my research for the Padres Top 10.  One person commented that “Wisler could be biggest riser in the system in 2013.”  Selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, Wisler had a great year in the Midwest League by striking out a batter an inning while walking 28 in 114 innings.  His fastball works in the low 90’s with a plus curve and decent changeup.  2013 should prove more challenging as he will begin the season in the hitter-friendly California League.

10. Matt Andriese (RHP)

Matt Andriese is yet another 2011 draftee to make the Top 10 list.  He has a nice arsenal of a low 90’s sinking fastball that generates a ton of ground balls (2.83 G/F in 146 innings in High-A), a Frisbee-like hard slider that’s just ok, and a nice changeup/splitter (pretty sure it was a splitter as it had a lot of cutting action).  The slider needs work as is evident with his .284 batting average-against with LHB.  His pitching mechanics are ok as he is able to repeat them well but he does sling the ball to home plate which puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder.  However, the landing and balance is very good.  I think he has a chance to make it to San Diego with a ceiling of a number four starter.

11 comments on “San Diego Padres

  1. […] baseball writer  named Rich Wilson for a site called prospect361.com did a write-up about the Padres top prospects. It is actually a […]

  2. I know Cody Decker is kind of old at this point, but is there any opening for him in San Diego in the near future?

    And how does Decker compare to Jerry Sands?

    • Well at least you didn’t say Jaff Decker. Cody will be 26 next year and struggled in AAA before moving back to AA where he hit for a lot of power. Not a physical specimen at 5-foot-11 and 240ish but has a highly leveraged swing that when he makes contact, goes a long way. Bat speed is really slow though and he struggles against breaking pitches. Right-handed 1B really need to hit and he doesn’t. Poor man’s Matt Adams??? Not really a prospect for me but could be an extra bat off the bench in the big leagues. Statistical profile is similar to Sands but I like Sands bat better. Mind you, I don’t see Jerry Sands as a regular big league outfielder, but I put him a notch above Decker.

      • Wait wait wait….. 240ish?!…. I’ve never weighed more than 225… I weigh 217…… Have you ever even seen me?….. Would you like a shirtless photo…. Good lord…. I have poor bat speed, now?….

        Cody Decker….

      • My apologies Cody if I got your weight wrong. I did get to see you during a series in Las Vegas where you DH’d. Love the raw power. Good luck in the coming season and all the best. RW.

      • Cody has crushed it at every level, I’m sure next year will be no different. In fact I will go so far as to say when it’s all said and done you will be the best Cody who ever played major league baseball.

    • Hey Cody, I have watched you since your first days as a Padre and like Daniel Robertson, you do not get the pub you deserve. I have a feeling you are going to figure out that AAA level in 2013 and put up huge numbers there. I live in SD but get out to see Tucson a few times a year and I absolutely hate that place for playing baseball. Anyway, keep your blinders on, ears pinned back, and your head up and do not listen to others.

  3. I thought your second analysis was better.

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