January 19, 2016
San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects
The State of the System: Much like a broken vase that has been pieced back together, this Padres system may be rebuilt but it's not what it once was.
The Top Ten
1. Manuel Margot, OF
When the Padres traded for Craig Kimbrel they gave up one of the few impact prospects in the system (Matt Wisler), which is bad. When they traded Kimbrel to the Red Sox, they turned quite the profit, led by Margot, which is good!
Margot makes things look simple: His compact swing and ability to control the strike zone give him a chance for a plus hit tool. He shoots line drives to all fields, and his ability to generate leverage with such a short swing is impressive. Some scouts are torn over his power potential, but there’s enough natural strength and loft in his swing to project him up to fringe-average. Even if his raw power is on the lighter side, his plus-plus speed will help him take the extra base whenever available. If there’s a flaw here it’s that he can get a bit too aggressive and he doesn’t always work counts, but that’s an aspect that can be improved as he continues through the upper levels.
Margot is advanced with the bat, but he’s even more exciting with the glove, as he gets to everything he should and some things he shouldn’t. His arm, while not elite,is certainly good enough to stay in center. This is your rare “high floor/high ceiling” player, and he should be hitting near the top of the Padres lineup by 2017.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Even if Margot never gets to double-digits in home runs (which became more of a possibility in the Padres organization), he’s a potential OF3 just because of his speed, which can play up enough on the basepaths to get him near 40 steals. Margot is a really good fantasy prospect, but may be slightly overvalued in dynasty leagues right now because of his lack of impact other than runs/steals.
Major league ETA: 2017
2. Javier Guerra, SS
Numerous scouts spoke of how improved Guerra looked this summer, and one AGM said the shortstop was the big get in the Kimbrel trade. Guerra is never going to be an offensive stalwart, but his ability to generate extension, pairs with his strong lower half to give him a chance for above-average power, and it’s already showing in games. The length in his swing and average bat speed limit the functionality of his hit tool, but he shows enough selectivity and plane to project it to fringe-average.
When you’re as good with the glove as Guerra is, any offense is just icing on delicious cake. Exceptionally quick, Guerra is proof that athleticism doesn’t equal speed, as he’s only an average runner. His range benefits from that quickness, and his plus arm allows him to make the spectacular plays. This is an everyday shortstop with or without offensive upside—the fact that he can hit 15-plus homers with not-abhorrent on-base skills is just a bonus.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Between being involved in a high-profile trade this offseason, projecting as a strong defender, and having a statistically successful season, Guerra is a prime trade candidate this winter. That’s not to say he can’t be a good fantasy contributor—even .250 hitting shortstops with 20 homer potential don’t grow on trees—but the hype is certainly outpacing his dynasty league value right now.
Major league ETA: 2017
3. Hunter Renfroe, RF
Renfroe got off to a terrible start (.224/.278/.324 through May), but from July on he showed why so many believe he’ll hit in the middle of an order (.873 OPS). He keeps his hands in as well as any prospect in baseball, and his natural strength, extension and loft mean he can take the ball out to any part of the park. There’s a good deal of swing-and-miss here, but he recognizes pitches well and will go the other way. An average hit tool is possible.
While Renfroe doesn’t have a classic athletic body, he is a quality athlete, with speed that grades out as a tick above average. A plus throwing arm, good instincts, and his speed combine to make him a good right fielder. His position limits his upside relative to the names above, but this is a potential 30-homer hitter who should be a regular in the majors at some point in 2016.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The power is very real, but that’s really the only draw in his fantasy profile. If he can keep the contact rate high enough, Renfroe could turn into Jay Bruce minus Great American Ballpark and profile as a modest OF3 while clearing 25 homers. If not, he could turn into the bad version of Jay Bruce minus Great American Ballpark—and no one wants that.
Major league ETA: 2016
4. Colin Rea, RHP
Rea was a virtual unknown coming into the 2015 season, but that changed quickly after he dominated in Double-A, earned a Futures Game nod and ultimately made his way to San Diego. He’s not overpowering, but Rea commands the heck out of a 90-93 mph four-seam fastball, with solid plane. His best pitch is a cutter with slider-like bite that he will throw for strikes and use to break left-handed hitters’ bats. Rea doesn’t induce many whiffs with his curveball and change but his ability to locate those pitches yields consistently weak contact from hitters.
This is not the sexiest profile, but Rea should be a consistent, durable member of a starting five, and if the change or curve takes another step forward it’s feasible to see him closer to the top of a rotation.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Being a mid-rotation starter in Petco isn’t quite what it used to be, but it’s still a net positive. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate may not be. It doesn’t require exhaustive mental gymnastics to see Rea becoming more than a back-end starter in shallow mixed formats, but betting on that is a bad idea at this point. Right now, if he can do Ian Kennedy things (with about 20-25 fewer strikeouts), be happy with that.
Major league ETA: Already debuted
5. Ruddy Giron, SS
Giron was the jewel of the Padres’ 2013 international class, and while he struggled toward the end of the 2015 season (.220/.287/.276 from August on), there was still a lot to like. The swing has very little to it, but his strong wrists and ability to get through the zone quickly allow him to hit the ball with authority. When everything is working, he’ll shoot the ball to the opposite field too. He clears his hips well, and while asking for 50 power is too much, double-digit homers are possible as he fills out. He is aggressive on the bases, but he probably shouldn’t be, as he’s only an average runner and doesn’t get great jumps (15-for-29 on SB attempts in 2015).
Despite average speed, Giron does have a chance to stay at shortstop, but there’s a lot of work to be done. He rushes constantly—both getting to the ball and making throws—and while errors are far from the best judge of a defender, 29 in 90 games is too much self-inflicted damage. His sharp instincts and plus arm make him a potential asset, as it’s just a matter of putting everything together. If he can, he’s a potential top-of-the-order hitter who plays every day at a premium position. If he can’t, well, we’ve seen this type before; he’s just as likely to end up organizational fodder as he is a utility man.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s little upside with Giron, which makes him a better investment in deeper leagues where his eligibility comes with a brighter halo, but given the dearth of reasonable MI options in today’s game, he should probably be owned in leagues that roster 200 prospects in case the power does develop a bit and he can get into the 10-15 homer range.
Major league ETA: 2018
6. Jose Rondon, SS
Upon leaving the comforts of the Cal League, Rondon was atrocious (.190/.219/.230), but don’t let that 107-plate appearance sample fool you—there’s still offensive upside here. His barrel-to-ball skills are outstanding; there’s very little swing-and-miss, and his line-drive swing and strong wrists combine to produce consistent hard contact. Pitch recognition is an issue, and his aggressive approach means he’ll beat himself on breaking balls out of the zone. His lack of upper-body strength and loft make power impossible, but he does compensate slightly with solid-average speed and good jumps. He should swipe 15 to 20 bases a season.
Rondon doesn’t possess the same kind of defensive upside as Giron, but he might be more likely to stay at shortstop. He’s sure-handed, and while he doesn’t have elite range, it’s enough, with quality footwork and a quick release that allows his above-average arm to play up.
The Angels took things very slowly with Rondon—perhaps too slowly—so his struggles in Double-A are disappointing, but not surprising considering it’s only his second year of full-season baseball. The names above are more likely to become impact players, but Rondon still has a chance to be a regular, with quality utility infielder a realistic floor.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you didn’t like Giron, you’re really not going to like Rondon. He may get to just enough speed to make him rosterable in deeper leagues, but he's never going to be a player you actively enjoy owning.
Major league ETA: 2017
7. Austin Smith, RHP
A potential first-round pick coming into the year, Smith saw his stock drop ever so slightly with a so-so senior season and ended up a solid value add for this Padres system. He’s still filling out his frame, but his arm strength already allows him to touch 96 with his four-seamer. It could be a plus-plus pitch with downhill plane, if the projection bears out. His curveball flashes plus, but “flashes” is the operative word there, as his lack of a consistent arm path and release point means it will flatten in the zone or bounce short of the plate. His change has seen improvement, and there’s some late fade to the offering. His delivery is simple, and with some adjustments to the arm path he should throw enough strikes to start.
It’ll be several years before we see him in the big leagues, but Smith has as much upside as any hurler in the system. It’s just a lot more style than substance at this point, and you’ll have to be very, very patient before you’ll see it on a consistent basis.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Smith is a big fastball right now, and as with almost every hard-throwing Rookie ball pitcher, he may never be anything more. He’s too much to dream on right now to be taken in dynasty drafts (unless more than 60 players are taken), but keep an eye on him.
Major league ETA: 2019
8. Jacob Nix, RHP
The Padres were fortunate to pick up Nix as late as they did this June, as one source told me this was one of the best value picks of the draft. Nix gets downhill with his four-seamer, and as with Smith there’s more to come from a pitch that already sits in the low 90s. Neither his change nor his curveball has a lick of consistency, but both pitches will occasionally flash above-average, with the latter slightly ahead of the former because of his arm speed.
There’s a lot of work to be done mechanically, as Nix struggles to repeat his delivery and his command is worlds away from being even competent at this point. Still, his athleticism and projection make him one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the system, and outside of Smith none can match his potential upside.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Given both the current stuff and projection, I’d rather take Nix than Smith in dynasty drafts, as there’s more potential to miss bats with his secondaries. However, it still doesn’t get him owned in most leagues—and only makes him an endgame selection in supplementals this offseason.
Major league ETA: 2019
9. Dinelson Lamet, RHP
To be blunt, this is an aggressive ranking of Lamet, but the area scouts I spoke with convinced me he’s one of the true “sleepers” of the system. He’ll throw a two- and four-seam fastball—the latter will get up to 97— and, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, there’s plenty of projection left. He’ll also throw a solid slider with late tilt, and as the season progressed he showed he could locate it within the zone. The change is still a developmental pitch at this point, and the command leaves a lot to be desired. Still, in a system that isn’t deep in starting pitching prospects, Lamet deserves to be mentioned, and if he can miss bats next year, he’ll be a riser in 2015.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you want a name that probably isn’t owned in your league that rosters 500 prospects, Lamet might be it, but he’s got a ways to go in proving he’s anything more than a reliever.
Major league ETA: 2017
10. Tayron Guerrero, RHP
If Guerrero had any semblance of command, he’d be the best relief-pitching prospect in baseball, as his plus-plus four-seam fastball gets up to 98, and his easy delivery and ability to get downhill make it one of the system’s toughest pitches to hit. He’ll also show a nasty slider that can make hitters sitting heater look foolish, as its late bite breaks into the ankles of left-handers.
While Guerrero has started to throw more strikes, he struggles to throw quality strikes, and there are still fits of poor control that could obstruct his path to the ninth inning. Still, when you have a 70 and a 60 pitch, you’ll get the chance to pitch in high-leverage situations. His chance to do so in San Diego will likely come this year.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Ring the alarm, a reliever has just been sighted.
Major league ETA: 2016
Michael Gettys, OF — Gettys was taken in the second round of last year’s draft and was seen by many as one of the most intriguing outfield prospects of the class. There are three plus tools at his disposal: a plus-plus arm in center field, plus-plus speed, and 60 power from his natural strength. Those tools are lovely, but they mean a lot less when your hit tool is developmental grade. The talent is immense, but the application of that talent leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s why he’s not in the top 10.
Logan Allen, LHP — Allen came from Boston in the Kimbrel deal, and while this isn’t saying a ton, he immediately became the best left-handed pitching prospect in the system. He’ll work 91-94 with his four-seam fastball, and he’ll show an above-average curveball and changeup from a delivery that’s easy on the eyes and easy to repeat. There’s not huge upside here—and throwing strikes has been an issue since he was in high school—but if there’s such thing as a fast-track prep with mid-rotation potential, here ya go.
Rymer Liriano, OF – Yep, Rymer Liriano still qualifies as a prospect, and he’s still pretty darn interesting. The ridiculous upside he showed a few years ago isn’t as apparent, but there are still three above-average tools in his speed, glove, and arm. The approach has also improved each season, as the walks have started to catch up to the strikeouts, though the latter is still a very present issue. Is he going to be a middle-of-the-order hitter who plays an elite right field, like many thought he could be? Probably not, but there’s still a chance this is a regular, or at least a bench bat who can crush lefties and help you with the glove and on the bases.
Austin Allen, C – Allen was considered the best Division II prospect coming out of Florida Tech (the same school that produced Tim Wakefield), and while his professional debut wasn’t awe-inspiring, it’s easy to see why the Padres took him in the fourth round. There’s plus power potential in his left-handed bat thanks to his strength and extension, and while there isn’t great bat speed, his approach at the plate and ability to get on base make his fringe hit tool play up. He’s a below-average defender with only average arm strength, so he’s far from a lock to stick behind the plate. Still, with a chance for a 45 hit tool and 55-60 power, Allen could be the perfect roster complement to Austin Hedges.
Enyel De Los Santos, RHP – De Los Santos was the prize in the deal that sent Joaquin Benoit to Seattle, and getting a pitcher with upside from a system that doesn’t have pitchers with upside was impressive. It doesn’t get much rawer, but he’ll show a plus four-seam fastball that touches 96, and there’s likely more to come. He’ll also show an above-average change and solid-average breaking ball, though the consistency of those pitches comes and goes from start to start. There are serious durability issues, but at least one scout I spoke with thought this was the second-best pitcher in the Seattle system, and there’s mid-rotation/high-leverage-reliever upside in this right arm.
Since his Rookie-of-the-Year campaign in 2013, Wil Myers has appeared in only 147 games, hitting .235/.311/.364 and contributing a measly 0.6 WARP. He is limited to a corner outfield spot (unless you are the Padres). 2015 actually marked a bit of a bounceback year, but he has yet to play 100 games in a season, and it does feel like we are now a long ways away from the Rays “winning” the James Shields deal. All that said, Myers is still only 25, and has been an above-average hitter for his career (.274 TAv). Okay, it is not the sexiest profile in a corner outfield spot, but a healthy Myers is still a solid-average regular right now, if not the first division starter he looked like as a prospect.
You could make an argument for Hedges to be nowhere near this high on the 25U list after his performance last season, but I don't know that you can blame him for the Padres rushing him to the majors to back up Derek Norris. Offensively his 2015 was a disaster at the major league level (.168/.215/.248, .191 TAv), but it wasn't exactly fair to expect all that much more given his track record with the bat. The defense didn't miss a beat of course, and our updated catcher defensive metrics show him to be an elite defender behind the plate. They don't stray all that far from the scouting reports either, and if Hedges develops into even a .250, 10 homer bat in the majors, he will be a valuable everyday backstop.
The search for “The next Ben Zobrist” has reached Crying Jordan levels of overexposure on social media and elsewhere, but Spangenberg has very quietly thrown his name into the hat for that title. Playing second, third, and all three outfield positions for the Padres last year while being a-bit-above-average with the bat, he's a useful major league piece if lacking in the upside of Hedges and Myers.
Beyond that the Padres are very thin in terms of young, cost-controlled players, a function of their 2014 offseason machinations. Robbie Erlin's lefty command-and-control profile seemed like a perfect fit for PetCo when he came over to the Padres in the Mike Adams deal, but the stuff just hasn't been good enough to keep major-league hitters from squaring him. He looks like a sixth starter/swingman type going forward.
The Padres are a team caught between two bus stops. The NL West is a bit of a mire with the Dodgers not doing much to improve and the Diamondbacks and Giants having been aggressive this offseason in response. The Padres have not fully backpedaled into rebuilding after their pratfall 2015 season, but they are hardly positioned to make a run at a playoff spot either. The system overall is improving, but that is almost all a function of the Kimbrel deal, and none of the players they got in that trade are likely to be factors in 2016. - Jeff Paternostro
Executive Vice President.General Manager: A.J. Preller
In my time doing this, I’ve never seen a front-office as active as the Padres have been these past two seasons. Preller is no doubt a talented mind who you have to admire for taking chances, but as a prospect guy, there’s no doubt in my mind that he put this system in a pretty bad place by making some borderline reckless moves. Think about how much better this system would look with guys like Trea Turner, Max Fried, Mallex Smith, Joe Ross and Matt Wisler (who are no longer technically prospects but help prove my point) and more. Those guys were given up for one year of a closer, outfielder and Wil Myers. Hard pass. Whether Preller learned his lesson the hard way or ownership learned it for him, the GM undid some of that damage with a solid haul in the Kimbrel trade. They're still behind even with those prospects on board, but it's a start.
Fortunately for Preller, he is talented, and he’s got some really talented people working with him. Logan White is a legend, and even in a draft where San Diego didn’t have a pick until the second round, they still had one of my favorite classes of anyone in the National League. Geaney also got great reviews for his work in Oakland, and Don Welke (VP of scouting operations) has some of the best scouting eyes out there. There’s a lot of work to be done, but this is definitely a staff that can achieve the goal.