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December 27, 2006

Future Shock

San Diego Padres Top Ten Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Excellent Prospects
None
Very Good Prospects
1. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b
2. Cesar Carillo, rhp
Good Prospects
3. Cedric Hunter, cf
4. Matt Antonelli, 3b
Average Prospects
5. Nick Hundley, c
6. Chase Headley, 3b
7. Paul McAnulty, 1b/3b/of
8. Will Venable, lf
9. Kyler Burke, rf
10. Chad Huffman, lf

1. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b
DOB: 7/25/81
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 6th round, 2003, University of Nevada
What he did in 2006: .389/.449/.660 at AA (276 PA); .353/.409/.647 (115 PA), .214/.279/.411 at MLB (61 PA)
The Good: Outstanding hitting prospect with well above-average pitch recognition, bat speed and power. A career .332/.395/.556 hitter in the minors, he's reduced his number of doubters every year by raking at every level. Soft hands at third base.
The Bad: Below-average athletically, and injury prone, which limits his range and base running abilities. Absolutely torches lefthanders, merely good against righthanders. Some scouts see him as a pure mistake hitter who will struggle at the big league level where mistakes are much harder to come by.
The Irrelevant: Kouzmanoff is a graduate of Evergreen High School in Colorado, the same school of South Park co-creator Trey Parker.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An above-average offensive third baseman who hits well enough to overcome defensive shortcomings.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - The Padres didn't trade their starting second baseman for somebody who isn't going to play every day. Kouzmanoff will get the majority of at-bats at the hot corner and provide a much-needed right-handed power source.

2. Cesar Carrillo, rhp
DOB: 4/29/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/177
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2005, University of Miami
What he did in 2006: 3.02 ERA at AA (50.2-45-15-43); 6.75 ERA at AAA (2.2-2-3-1)
The Good: Power pitchers with plus control and command, pitching primarily off a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 95-96 every time out. Hard curveball and late-fading change are both above-average offerings when he uses them enough.
The Bad: Scouts were always concerned about Carrillo's college workload and lithe build, and those concerns unfortunately came to fruition in 2006 as elbow and forearm pain have kept him off the mound since early June. Surgery was ruled out, and the Padres are hoping rest alone will have him at 100% for spring training.
The Irrelevant: How's this for aggressive contract negotiating? While the money was never a big issue, Carrillo mandated that a part of his first professional deal included a guarantee of an assignment no lower than High Class A Lake Elsinore.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A good No. 3 starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - Carrillo was undoubtedly on the fast track before the injury bug flared up. He'll likely begin the year at Triple-A Portland and could be in San Diego by mid-season if things go well health wise. That sizeable 'if' is what prevents him from ranking No. 1.

3. Cedric Hunter, cf
DOB: 2/10/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 3rd round, 2006, Georgia HS
What he did in 2006: .371/.467/.484 at Rookie Level (262 PA); .267/.313/.267 at Short Season (16 PA)
The Good: Pro debut was one of the very best among any draftees. Advanced approach was even better than advertised, as Hunter showed excellent pitch recognition, a quick bat, and the ability to hit all kinds of pitches to all fields.
The Bad: Not a ton of ceiling. Swing and body aren't designed for power, and he's probably not a center fielder when all is said and done. The leaves him an odd fit as a corner outfielder whose primary skill is getting on-base.
The Irrelevant: When leading off an inning, Hunter reached base more than half of the time, going 17-for-42 with 10 walks.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An ideal No. 2 hitter for a team that can find their power sources elsewhere.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High - Hunter had a fantastic unveiling to be sure, but it's the Arizona Rookie League, and he really was a third-round pick for a reason. There's a lot to be enthused about, but curb it a little.

4. Matt Antonelli, 3b/2b
DOB: 4/8/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2006, Wake Forest
What he did in 2006: .286/.426/.360 at Short Season (245 PA); .125/.222/.313 at Low A (18 PA)
The Good: Outstanding athlete with quick bat who also had arguably the best batting eye of any 2006 draftee, proving it with 48 walks in his first 205 at-bats. Plus runner with good defensive instincts who should develop into a good second baseman if the Padres choose to move him to the middle, where his offensive profile fits better.
The Bad: Very little strength or loft in swing - seems content at times with simply putting bat on ball and looping soft liners over the infielder's heads. Tools to play in the middle of the infield are there, but the skills to do so haven't shown up yet.
The Irrelevant: While at the prestigious St. John's Prep in Massachusetts, Antonelli won state player of the year honors in football and hockey, but not baseball.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A top of the order hitter who scores a lot of runs, but doesn't drive in many.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Antonelli will likely begin the year in the High A Califronia League, and chances are strong he'll be learning a new position in the process.

5. Nick Hundley, c
DOB: 8/8/83
Height/Weight: 6-1/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 2nd round, 2005, University of Arizona
What he did in 2006: .274/.355/.474 at Low A (248 PA); .278/.357/.403 at Hi A (200 PA)
The Good: Heavy duty catcher with patience and a little bit of pop. Big durable body stands up to the wear and tear of the job. Decent receiver with plus arm strength.
The Bad: Swing can get long, which leads to big strikeout totals, as does the tendency to overwork the count at times and put himself in disadvantageous positions. Plus arm hindered somewhere by slow release times. Slow runner.
The Irrelevant: Hundley's father, Tim, is the defensive coordinator at UTEP and an inductee of the NAIA Hall of Fame for his football exploits at Western Oregon State.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A starting big league catcher who hits towards the end of the lineup.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - Hundley will likely begin the year back in the California League, but should be with the club's new Double-A affiliate in San Antonio by the end of the season. With George Kottaras out of the way in Boston, he's really the only candidate for Padres catcher of the future.

6. Chase Headley, 3b
DOB: 5/9/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: S/R
Draft: 2nd round, 2005, University of Tennessee
What he did in 2006: .291/.389/.434 at High A (571 PA)
The Good: Polished, patient hitter who waits for his pitch and makes consistent hard contact with gap power. Solid defender with soft hands and decent arm but fantastic instincts. Makeup is off the charts and some in the organization already talk about him as a future coach or manager.
The Bad: Power is below average, and there is little to project on. Despite being a switch-hitter, struggles mightily against lefthanders.
The Irrelevant: In it for the long haul? Headley was an Academic All-American at Tennessee while majoring in Sports Management.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A starting third baseman whose game revolves around getting on base.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - Headley will start the year at Double-A, but he's gone from being the system's only decent third baseman to one temporarily blocked by Kouzmanoff.

7. Paul McAnulty, 1b/3b/of
DOB: 2/24/81
Height/Weight: 5-10/220
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 12th round, 2002, Long Beach State
What he did in 2006: .310/.388/.521 at AAA (552 PA); .231/.333/.538 at MLB (15 PA)
The Good: Professional hitter who works on his craft and has ability to hit for good average and decent power. A grinder who puts out the maximum effort.
The Bad: McAnulty's short, stocky build limits him to first base or a corner outfield slot. The Padres tried him at third base last year, and the results were anything but good, despite McAnulty working hard to improve. Lefthanded breaking balls tie him in knots.
The Irrelevant: Eighteen of McAnulty's 19 home runs at Triple-A Portland came against righties, despite 131 at-bats against southpaws.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A bench left-handed bat who gets 200-300 at-bats a season. A lefty Greg Colbrunn?
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - McAnulty will compete for the starting left field job in spring training, but should make the team no matter what happens. A third year of Triple-A would serve no purpose.

8. Will Venable, lf
DOB: 10/29/82
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 7th round, 2005, Princeton University
What he did in 2006: .314/.389/.477 at Low A (541 PA)
The Good: Fantastic athlete who focused primarily on basketball in college made a shockingly quick transition to baseball, showing a surprisingly advanced approach and very good contact skills. Plus runner who has potential for average power as well.
The Bad: Because of greater commitment to hoops at Princeton, Venable is still raw in some phases of the game. Combined with the fact that he's 24 years old, that is a cause for concern. Lacks the feel to play center field, and below-average arm limits him to left field.
The Irrelevant: Will's father is Max Venable, who has a 12-year big league career as an extra outfielder and served as Will's hitting coach at Fort Wayne.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An average corner outfielder with enough power and speed to be dangerous.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High - Venable's age means he needs to move quickly, and the Padres would like him to get to Double-A at some point in the season.

9. Kyler Burke, rf
DOB: 4/20/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 1st round, 2006, Tennessee High School
What he did in 2006: .209/.313/.294 (192 PA)
The Good: Bad pro debut tempered by enormous ceiling. Broad-shouldered slugger who is also a graceful athlete. Power is on display in batting practice, and plus arm is more that suitable for right field.
The Bad: Burke has precious little exposure to top flight talent, and had all but never seen the types of breaking balls he saw in the Arizona Rookie League. He has a good feel for the strike zone, but poor pitch recognition, often working himself into pitcher's counts quickly. He has the potential to be a good outfielder, but often misreads balls off the bat. The Irrelevant: Kyler's high school team in southeastern Tennessee was the Ooltewah Owls. Ooltewah translates as "Owl's Nest", so Burke played for the Owl's Nest Owls. In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A stud right fielder. Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High - Burke is a pure gamble on athletic talent converting into baseball skills. It's a gamble that makes sense for the Padres, who are desperate for any kind of high ceiling talent. Burke will likely begin 2007 in extended spring training before starting a second year in a short season league.

10. Chad Huffman, lf
DOB: 5/29/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 2nd round, 2006, Texas Christian University
What he did in 2006: .343/.439/.576 at Short Season (244 PA); .214/.313/.357 at Low A (16 PA)
The Good: Advanced hitting skills allowed for a dominating pro debut. Approach and bat speed are above average, and power projects to at least average. Huffman's work ethic and effort were praised by scouts before the draft, and those within the organization afterwards.
The Bad: Huffman's very much an is-what-he-is player. Primarily a first baseman in college, Huffman moved to left field as a pro and should become at least average there on effort alone. Limited to those two positions however, means the bat has to carry him, and some feel he's no more than the second coming of McAnulty.
The Irrelevant: Huffman played on the Elkins (Texas) High School team in 2003 that earned national No. 1 honors and also featured Dodgers first baseman James Loney and Pirates prospect Wardell Starling.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An average left fielder with good on-base and power skills.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - The Padres like to move some of their upper-level college talent through the system with a little speed, so Huffman will likely begin the year in the California League.

The Sleeper

A draft-and-follow from 2005, Aaron Breit struck out more than a batter per inning in his pro debut for Emerald in the Northwest League. A long, lanky 6-foot-3 righty with a highly projectable frame, Breit sits in the low 90s now, has room for a little more, and already has a plus breaking ball.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2007)

1. Jake Peavy, rhp
2. Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
3. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b
4. Cesar Carillo, rhp
5. Cla Meredith, rhp
6. Cedric Hunter, cf
7. Matt Antonelli, 3b
8. Nick Hundley, c
9. Chase Headley, 3b
10. Paul McAnulty, 1b/3b/of

Peavy's usually an ace. His raw counting numbers weren't far off from his wonderful 2005 season, it just seems that once a month or so, he just doesn't show up. Gonzalez is basically the kind of hitter the Padres hope Kouzmanoff can become: he ranks well ahead of him because he's younger, and he already is that kind of hitter. Meredith had a remarkable season in 2006, and while it's impossible to predict a sustainability of that performance level, he should be a solid bullpen arm for a decade or more.

There's really no other way to put it - the Padres have a very, very bad system. They need some of these '06 draftees to build on (or from) their pro debuts in order to have any kind of turnaround.

Next: The San Francisco Giants

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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