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February 21, 2008

Future Shock

Padres Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Five-Star Prospects
1. Chase Headley, 3B/OF
2. Matt Antonelli, 2B
Four-Star Prospects
3. Matt Latos, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Drew Miller, RHP
5. Cesar Carrillo, RHP
6. Drew Cumberland, SS
7. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
8. Will Inman, RHP
9. Kyle Blanks, 1B
Two-Star Prospects
10. Kellen Kulbacki, OF
11. Mitch Canham, C

Just Missing: Yefri Carvajal, OF; Steve Garrison, LHP; Cedric Hunter, OF

1. Chase Headley, 3B/OF
DOB: 5/9/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted: 2nd round, 2005, University of Tennessee
2007 Stats: .330/.437/.580 at Double-A (121 G); .222/.333/.278 at MLB (8 G)

Year In Review: The on-base maven added power to his game in a breakout campaign at Double-A.
The Good: Without sacrificing any of his hitting skills, Headley has bulked up by adding 20-25 pounds to his frame; he's now officially a slugger. He has good plate discipline, and his smooth, downright pretty swing allows him to hit for both average and power. His baseball intelligence and instincts add to his total package, and he has good defensive fundamentals.
The Bad: Headley is not much of an athlete. He's a below-average runner, and while he makes the plays he gets to, his range falls a bit short. With his new-found power, Headley became a bit pull-conscious at times.
Fun Fact: Headley was the valedictorian at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, and also an Academic All-American at Tennessee.
Perfect World Projection: A middle-of-the-order hitter, with a position to be determined.
Timetable: The Padres are moving Headley to left field this spring in order to get his bat into the lineup, and he'll be given the opportunity to earn a big-league job. The logic of that decision is that neither he nor incumbent third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is an especially good defender at the hot corner, but Headley is more apt to succeed in the outfield.

2. Matt Antonelli, 2B
DOB: 4/8/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/203
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, Wake Forest
2007 Stats: .314/.409/.499 at High-A (82 G); .294/.395/.476 at Double-A (49 G)

Year In Review: The organization's first-round pick from 2006 continued his on-base ways, as evidenced by 123 runs scored in 131 games, while also adding a surprising power aspect to his game with 21 home runs.
The Good: Antonelli began to drive the ball in 2007 thanks to a change in mechanics that had him no longer attacking pitches, but rather waiting on them to get deep in the zone and using his excellent bat speed to catch up to them. He also made a successful transition to second base, where his good speed works well for him. Like Headley, he's a heady player who plays hard.
The Bad: Antonelli still needs to work on his reactions at second base, as well as his footwork around the bag, but most agree he can become at least an average second baseman. He can be guilty at times of being a little too passive at the plate.
Fun Fact: While Antonelli never earned state Player of the Year honors in baseball at St. John's Prep in Massachusetts, he did win the honor in both football and hockey.
Perfect World Projection: An offense-oriented second baseman who can hit leadoff, smack 15-20 home runs a year, and steal 25-30 bases.
Timetable: Antonelli will also get some reps in the outfield this spring, but it's just to judge whether or not a future move there is possible, as the organization is weak in young outfielders. More likely, Antonelli will begin 2008 in Triple-A, and is still considered the second baseman of the future.

3. Matt Latos, RHP
DOB: 12/9/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 11th round, 2006, Coconut Creek HS (FL)
2007 Stats: 3.83 ERA at Short-season (56.1-58-22-74)

Year In Review: Disappointed with his 2006 draft position, the big Florida righty spent a year in junior college growing up both mentally and physically while showcasing enough stuff to earn first-round money ($1.25 million) as one of history's last draft-and-follows.
The Good: Latos gives the Padres the big, physical, high-upside arm that they've been lacking for years. He has excellent arm speed and good leg drive, unleashing 93-95 mph fastballs effortlessly while touching 97, with his height adding a downward plane to the pitch. His power breaking ball shows plenty of promise, and he has shown some feel for a change.
The Bad: Latos' secondary pitches lag behind his fastball, and all his offerings need more consistency in terms of break and command. Issues about his maturity hurt him greatly in the 2006 draft, but team officials believe that the last 12 months have been a humbling experience and that he now appreciates where he is.
Fun Fact: Latos finished his year at Broward Community College with 23 straight scoreless innings, including a no-hitter.
Perfect World Projection: Latos has true ace potential if it all comes together, but even in the worst-case scenario he should be a number three if he stays healthy.
Timetable: Latos will headline the rotation at Low-A Fort Wayne in his first taste of a full-season league.

4. Drew Miller, RHP
DOB: 2/24/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 37th round, 2005, Seminole State College (OK)
2007 Stats: 4.69 ERA at Low-A (80.2-74-24-87)

Year In Review: A big-money draft-and-follow from 2006, Miller impressed Midwest League scouts in his full-season debut despite dealing with a number of minor nagging injuries.
The Good: On pure arm strength Miller trails only Latos in the organization, as he gets good extension from his long wiry body, delivering a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range while occasionally touching 96. His curveball is one of the best in the system, and his command is above-average with both pitches.
The Bad: Miller's changeup is little more than a show-me pitch right now, and needs to be improved considerably. He still needs to prove that he can stay healthy for a full season, but the only injury that is a long-term concern was some minor shoulder soreness. More than anything, he just needs innings, so he needs to stay healthy to get them.
Fun Fact: Miller was part of three state championships in baseball at Latta High in Ada, Oklahoma, where he finished with a career record of 49-4.
Perfect World Projection: A good third starter, and maybe a bit more than that.
Timetable: Miller will face a difficult 2008 assignment to the California League.

5. Cesar Carrillo, RHP
DOB: 4/29/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, University of Miami (FL)
2007 Stats: 8.62 ERA at Triple-A (15.2-22-14-8)

Year In Review: Last year's top pitching prospect in the system was clearly not himself in five games before missing the remainder of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Good: When healthy, Carrillo had the rare combination of plus stuff and command, routinely pounding the strike zone with a 91-94 mph fastball that touched 96 consistently. He also had an above-average curveball and solid-to-average change.
The Bad: Prior to the surgery, scouts were always concerned about Carrillo's stamina because of his exceptionally skinny frame. There have been questions in the past about his work ethic, but his rehab has gone as scheduled so far.
Fun Fact: In his pro career, Carrillo has gone just 2-for-26 as a hitter, but he has drawn seven walks.
Perfect World Projection: A solid No. 3 starter is still the hope, but there are some who think he'd be better suited to a late-innings relief role at this point.
Timetable: Carrillo is throwing without pain, but is not yet ready for game action. The plan is to get him back on the mound in late May or early June.

6. Drew Cumberland, SS
DOB: 7/13/89
Height/Weight: 5-10/175
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Pace HS (FL)
2007 Stats: .318/.389/.365 at Rookie-level (21 G); .333/.429/.389 at Short-season (4 G)

Year In Review: A highly athletic middle infielder, Cumberland had a strong pro debut.
The Good: Cumberland shows an advanced approach for his age and a good feel for contact, lacing line drives to all fields with a quick, level swing. He's a plus-plus runner who can steal bases, and plays with an infectious energy.
The Bad: Cumberland's arm and defensive instincts are currently a bit short for the left side of the infield, and he may have to move to second base sometime down the road. His swing mechanics are a bit involved, and he can therefore get out of sync occasionally. He plays out of control at times, leading to costly errors in the field and on the basepaths.
Fun Fact: Cumberland's older brother Shaun was a 10th round pick by the Rays in 2003. Now in the Reds organization, he's hit .266/.324/.393 in 487 minor league games.
Perfect World Projection: A table-setter at the top of the lineup.
Timetable: Cumberland will hit at the top of the Low-A Fort Wayne order in his full-season debut.

7. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
DOB: 8/7/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/202
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 2nd round, 2006, University of Alabama
2007 Stats: 2.64 ERA at High-A (92-72-17-90); 3.45 ERA at Double-A (57.1-48-19-55)

Year In Review: The polished left-hander had little problem succeeding in the tough environments of both the California and Texas Leagues during his full-season debut.
The Good: LeBlanc's success comes from the three C's--command, control, and changing speeds. He effortlessly locates his upper-80s fastball in all four quadrants of the strike zone, using it, along with an average curve, to set up his changeup, which is one of the best in the minor leagues. One scout called the offering "pure Bugs Bunny," and it features both outstanding arm-deception and movement.
The Bad: LeBlanc's below-average fastball limits his upside, and some scouts still see him as a trick pitcher who will struggle against more advanced competition because of his need to pitch backwards.
Fun Fact: As a senior at Barbe High School in Louisiana, LeBlanc won 16 games, half of his team's overall total of 32.
Perfect World Projection: A consistent, dependable back-of-the-rotation starter.
Timetable: While LeBlanc's ultimate value might be a bit limited, he's nearly a finished product, and could reach San Diego by the end of the year.

8. Will Inman, RHP
DOB: 2/6/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 3rd round, 2005, Tunstall HS (VA)
2007 Stats: 1.72 ERA at High-A (78.2-56-23-98); 5.45 ERA at Double-A/MIL (39.2-38-16-42); 4.17 at Double-A/SD (41-33-19-40)

Year In Review: A smallish right-hander, Inman continued his lower-level domination before encountering his first professional struggle after a promotion to Double-A. He was then traded to San Diego in the Scott Linebrink deal.
The Good: All of Inman's pitches grade up because of his outstanding command and control. His fastball is an average pitch at 89-91 mph, and his curveball and changeup are both decent, but he has confidence in all of them and mixes his arsenal effectively.
The Bad: Inman doesn't have a plus pitch, so like LeBlanc his upside is lower than that of most pitching prospects. He's had some shoulder issues in the past, and his small stature leads to some questions about his stamina.
Fun Fact: Batters facing Inman with the bases loaded in 2007 went 0-for-11 with no walks and five strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Like LeBlanc, Inman profiles best as a No. 4 or 5 starter.
Timetable: Inman has youth on his side, and would be best served by getting another shot at finding consistent success in Double-A before moving up.

9. Kyle Blanks, 1B
DOB: 9/11/86
Height/Weight: 6-6/281
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 42nd round, 2004, Moriarty HS (NM)
2007 Stats: .301/.380/.540 at High-A (119 G)

Year In Review: The Gigantor first baseman stayed healthy all year, which led to a breakout season in the California League.
The Good: Blanks provides an absolutely massive presence at the plate, combining good plate discipline with surprisingly adept batting skills and overwhelming raw power. He's a surprising athlete for his size and a nimble first baseman, and shocked scouts by showing almost average running speed once he gets his big body going.
The Bad: Conditioning will always be an issue with Blanks. He was well over 300 pounds in 2006, and the Padres are now happy to see him in the 280-290 range, having given up the dream of getting him down to 260 and moving him to the outfield as the next Dave Parker.
Fun Fact: In his one year of junior college play, Blanks finished third in his conference with 23 stolen bases.
Perfect World Projection: Scouts have strongly varying opinions on Blanks, with some seeing him as a solid big-league first baseman, and others seeing him as no more than a good Four-A hitter in the mold of Calvin Pickering or Walter Young.
Timetable: Blanks will move up to Double-A in 2008, with a major league ETA of 2010.

10. Kellen Kulbacki, OF
DOB: 11/21/85
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, James Madison
2007 Stats: .301/.382/.491 at Short-season (61 G)

Year In Review: He put up Playstation numbers in his college career, and kept on hitting in his pro debut.
The Good: One scout classified Kulbacki as simply being "born to hit." He has outstanding pitch recognition, excellent barrel control, and good power. He shows no weakness against righties, lefties, or with any pitch type, and he works diligently to improve.
The Bad: All of Kulbacki's value is wrapped up in his bat; he's a bit on the smallish side and not much of an athlete. While he played mostly right field after signing, his arm is fringy for that corner, and he's a below-average runner who needs to make significant improvement on his reads and routes.
Fun Fact: With a .464/.568/.943 batting line as a sophomore, Kulbacki set new Colonial Athletic Association single-season records in all three triple-slash rate categories.
Perfect World Projection: Those most optimistic about Kulbacki see more than a little bit of Brian Giles in him.
Timetable: Kulbacki's college experience and advanced bat should allow him to handle High-A pitching in his full-season debut.

11. Mitch Canham, C
DOB: 9/25/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Oregon State
2007 Stats: .293/.379/.397 at Short-season (28 G); .000/.000/.000 at High-A (2 G)

Year In Review: The backstop for back-to-back national champs played his way into the supplemental first-round, and then had nice pro debut before tiring late.
The Good: Canham has above-average offensive potential for a catcher. He has a quick, quiet swing, gap power, and a good feel for the strike zone. He's a very good athlete for a catcher (with average speed, even), and his makeup is off the charts.
The Bad: Canham is still somewhat new to catching, and while he has the potential to be good defensively, he's currently well below average. He needs to dramatically improve his receiving skills, and his solid-to-average arm is brought down by a long release.
Fun Fact: Canham was the fourth catcher to be selected 57th overall in the last ten years, joining Brandon Inge (Tigers, '98), Curtis Thigpen (Blue Jays, '04), and Jon Egan (Red Sox, '05).
Perfect World Projection: An offense-first catcher who teams don't have to bury in the bottom of the lineup.
Timetable: Like Kulbacki, Canham is offensively ready for High-A, where more attention will be given to his play behind the plate than when he's standing at it.

The Sleeper: While he'll miss most of the year coming back from elbow surgery, former No. 1 overall pick Matt Bush made a brief but outstanding conversion to the mound last summer, striking out 16 in 7 2/3 innings and flashing upper-90s heat before the elbow went pop.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies Under 25 (As Of Opening Day 2008)

1. Chase Headley, 3B/OF
2. Matt Antonelli, 2B
3. Matt Latos, RHP
4. Drew Miller, RHP
5. Cesar Carrillo, RHP
6. Drew Cumberland, SS
7. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
8. Cla Meredith, RHP
9. Will Inman, RHP
10. Kyle Blanks, 1B

Meredith is a good situational right-hander, but that's not especially rare or valuable. The Padres are still recovering from some highly disappointing drafts early in the decade, but they've begun to rebuild a poor system with back-to-back impressive drafts that have given the organization some long-term hope.

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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