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December 13, 2011

Future Shock

San Diego Padres Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: Not star-studded but loaded with depth, as you could jumble numbers one-to-seven in any order and not get a big argument.

Four-Star Prospects
1. Rymer Liriano, OF
2. Robbie Erlin, LHP
3. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
4. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
5. Joe Wieland, RHP
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
7. Casey Kelly, RHP
8. Austin Hedges, C
9. Joe Ross, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
10. Keyvius Sampson, RHP
11. Donavan Tate, OF

Nine More:
12. Jaff Decker, OF: Outfielder with power, walks and the athleticism of a beer-league softball player.
13. Reymond Fuentes, OF: Outstanding defender in center with speed; big questions about bat and power.
14. James Darnell, OF: Great year at Double-A, but it was a level repeat and he's no longer an infielder.
15. Blake Tekotte, OF: Hard not to love for effort; good fourth-outfielder skills.
16. Edinson Rincon, OF: Scouts like the bat, but power is debatable and defense is ugly.
17. Jonathan Galvez, 2B: Gap power and speed, but bad approach and poor defense.
18. Matt Lollis, RHP: Right-handed has the size of a defensive end, but needs to harness his stuff.
19. Adys Portillo, RHP: Progress is disturbingly slow, but upside is still there.
20. Simon Castro, RHP: Has gone backwards from big prospect days, as fastball is only dependable pitch.

1. Rymer Liriano, OF
DOB
: 6/20/91
Height/Weight: 6'0/211
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2011 Stats: .319/.383/.499 at A (116 G), .127/.213/.182 at High A (15 G)
Tools Profile: Some power, some speed, a good arm, but most importantly, he can really hit

Year in Review: Toolsy outfielder struggled in the California League as a teenager but then earned Midwest League MVP honors following a demotion.
The Good: Liriano combines hitting ability with excellent secondary skills. He has a quick, smooth swing that is equally effective against both lefties and righties and the potential for above-average power with 20 home runs per year. He has a good understanding at the plate and is a plus runner who knows how to steal a base. His arm gives him another plus tool.
The Bad: Liriano's speed might be short-lived. He has a thick build, and players with his body type rarely maintain his kind of run times as they mature. He's a sloppy outfielder with poor reads and routes, and while his arm is strong, it is rarely accurate.
Ephemera: Liriano was at his best when leading off an inning for Fort Wayne, batting .394/.476/.718 in 82 plate appearances.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: A high draft pick who produces in multiple categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Liriano will get a second crack at the California League in 2012, where he will still be young for the level.
ETA: 2014

2. Robbie Erlin, LHP
DOB
: 10/8/89
Height/Weight: 6'0/175
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2009, Scotts Valley HS (CA)
2011 Stats: 2.12 ERA (54.2-25-5-62) at High A (11 G), 3.50 ERA (92.2-99-11-92) at AA (17 G)
Tools Profile: Stuff is solid, but the best control in the minors plays everything up

Year in Review: Kept throwing strikes and went to the Padres in the Mike Adams deal.
The Good: Erlin doesn't have great stuff, but he's more than just a finesse pitcher. He has average velocity with the ability to reach back for 92-93 mph. His curveball is average while his changeup is a true plus pitch. Every offering plays up due to Erlin's nearly transcendent ability to throw strikes, and he's a hard worker who pitches without fear.
The Bad: Scouts wonder if Erlin will have a true outpitch in the big leagues when he needs one. He might need to learn how to pitch outside the strike zone, as more advanced hitters don't need an approach against him, knowing that every pitch will be in the zone. While he throws strikes, he tends to work high and is an extreme flyball pitcher.
Ephemera: Erlin faced 100 left-handed batters in the Texas League and didn't walk a single one.
Perfect World Projection: Good number-three starter, but that arguably is also his floor.
Fantasy Impact: Should produce in WHIP and ERA, but strikeouts won't blow anyone away.
Path to the Big Leagues: Erlin will be part of one of the best Triple-A rotations in the game, racing with Kelly and Wieland to be the first to the big leagues.
ETA: Late 2012

3. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
DOB
: 9/23/88
Height/Weight: 5'10/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2010, West Virginia
2011 Stats:.365/.429/.638 at High A (81 G), .288/.358/.428 at AA (59 G)
Tools Profile: A bit of a bat-only type, but it's one hell of a bat

Year in Review: Second-round pick crushed the California League in his full-season debut and was making adjustments at Double-A come season's end.
The Good: Gyorko can flat out rake. He understands the strike zone well and is excessively quick to the ball with a simple, quiet swing that features at least average power with the potential to hit 15-20 home runs annually. He made significant improvements at the hot corner in 2011 and projects not only to remain there but to be an average defender.
The Bad: Gyorko is short and stocky and doesn't run especially well. His defensive fundamentals are sound, but his range is a bit short and his arm is no more than average.
Ephemera: Only two players drafted out of West Virginia have hit home runs in the big leagues, led by Darrell Whitmore's five.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average every day third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: As long as you are not expecting speed, you should be happy.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gyorko will likely return to Double-A to begin the 2012 season and could be competing for a job the following spring.
ETA: 2013

4. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
DOB
: 3/16/91
Height/Weight: 6'0/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011, Indian River State College
2011 Stats: .316/.419/.418 at Low A (25 G), .286/.345/.365 at A (47 G)
Tools Profile: Nearly perfect leadoff profile with speed, a solid approach, and hitting ability

Year in Review: The best junior college prospect in the draft by a wide margin, Spangenberg signed quickly as the tenth overall pick and had an explosive pro debut.
The Good: Spangenberg is an exciting player to watch. He should fit perfect at the top of a big league lineup, as he works the count well and has a lightning-fast bat that should lead to both a high average and a good on-base percentage. He's a 65-70 runner who should be good for 30-40 stolen bases annually.
The Bad: Spangenberg has up-the-middle athleticism but is still learning how to play second base, where every aspect of his defensive game needs to improve. It's unlikely that he'll development much over-the-fence power but should make up for it somewhat with plenty of doubles.
Ephemera: When batting with runners on and two outs for Eugene, Spangenberg went 9-for-15 with nine walks—good for a .750 on-base percentage.
Perfect World Projection: Everyday second baseman who creates havoc at the top of the order.
Fantasy Impact: Average and stolen bases, with bonus value for leagues that count runs.
Path to the Big Leagues: Spangenberg has the skills and polish to move quickly through the minors and could put up some big 2012 numbers in the California League.
ETA: Late 2013

5. Joe Wieland, RHP
DOB
: 1/21/90
Height/Weight: 6'4/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2008, Bishop Manogue HS (NV)
2011 Stats: 2.10 ERA (85.2-78-4-96) at High A (14 G), 1.80 ERA (70.0-58-17-54) at AA (12 G)
Tools Profile: A mirror-image of Erlin.

Year in Review: Prospect profile improved with his velocity, and he came along with Erlin in the Mike Adams trade.
The Good: Weiland gained velocity in 2011, sitting in the 89-92 mph range with consistent 94s throughout the season. His curveball and changeup are both average pitches, and he knows how to sequence. Like Erlin, he has outstanding control, which allows his stuff to play up and gets him deep into games without amassing a high pitch count.
The Bad: Wieland's secondary stuff doesn't have the same crispness as Erlin's, and while he's a more physical pitcher, he's still depending more on location than stuff.
Ephemera: Of the nine runs Wieland allowed in seven starts for Double-A Frisco, five came in a July 8 start at Springfield. In his other six outings, he had an 0.92 ERA.
Perfect World Projection: Solid number-three starter.
Fantasy Impact: Like Erlin, he won't miss a ton of bats, but his ERA and WHIP should produce value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Like Erlin, Wieland will begin the year at Triple-A Tucson and has the ability to reach the big leagues at some point in the season.
ETA: Late 2012.

6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
DOB
: 8/8/89
Height/Weight: 6'3/220
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 6th round, 2007, Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS (FL)
2011 Stats: .331/.404/.652 at AAA (93 G), .141/.281/.242 at MLB (49 G)
Tools Profile: First-baseman with big bat, but he has some concerning holes in his game.

Year in Review: Put up some of the best numbers in the minors at Triple-A, but his big league audition showed there is still much work to be done.
The Good: Rizzo is a classic first-baseman with the ability to hit for both average and power. He works the count well, waits for pitches to drive, and can crush mistakes. He's worked hard on his defense and projects to be average there.
The Bad: Despite his numbers, there are some major weaknesses in Rizzo's game. His power nearly disappears against left-handers, and he has a hitch in his swing that often leaves him behind good velocity. Despite his natural strength, he has a tendency to get pull-happy and hunts for power, which led to some silly swings against breaking balls in the big leagues.
Ephemera: When batting from the seventh inning on for the Padres, Rizzo went 3-for-45 (.067) with 21 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Good everyday first baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Average and power, but playing in San Diego isn't going to help.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rizzo needs to earn a return to the big leagues with another strong start at Triple-A.
ETA: 2012

7. Casey Kelly, RHP
DOB
: 10/4/89
Height/Weight: 6'3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Sarasota HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 3.98 ERA (142.1-153-46-105) at AA (27 G)
Tools Profile: Ultra-athletic with deep arsenal.

Year in Review: Continued to be one of those pitchers that is good but leaves scouts wondering why he isn't better.
The Good: Kelly has two easy plus pitches, setting up hitters with a low-90s fastball that features plenty of sink, as well as a curveball with heavy, late break. He throws strikes and knows how to use both sides of the plate. One of the most athletic pitchers around who had first-round potential as a high-school shortstop, his delivery is smooth, and he fields his position extremely well.
The Bad: Kelly has never had the kind of strikeout rate his stuff might suggest, as he can overthrow his fastball at times, causing it to straighten out, while his changeup remains a work in progress. Once a pitcher with plenty of projection, he has not grown as much as projected, although he has more than enough stuff as-is to turn into a quality big leaguer.
Ephemera: 52 players have been drafted out of Sarasota High, including five first-round picks. Among pitchers, only Bobby Seay and Derek Lilliquist have won games in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three or -four starter.
Fantasy Impact: Solid across the board but rarely spectacular.
Path to the Big Leagues: Yet another part of the Triple-A rotation, and as legitimate a candidate as Erlin or Wieland to reach the big leagues at some point in the season.
ETA: 2012

8. Austin Hedges, C
DOB
: 8/18/92
Height/Weight: 6'1/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2011, Junipero Serra Catholic HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .313/.500/.500 at Rookie (5 G), /100/.250/.200 at Low A (4 G)
Tools Profile: Gold glove defense with some offense

Year in Review: Considered nearly unsignable, the Padres took Hedges in the second-round and steered him away from UCLA with a $3 million bonus.
The Good: One west coast scout called Hedges's arm the best he's seen from a high school catcher in a decade, putting a pure 80 on the tool. He not only has the ability to shut down the running game, but he's also an outstanding receiver who moves extremely well behind the plate. Offensively, he features bat speed and the potential for some power.
The Bad: Hedges's glove is far ahead of his bat, and that will likely always be the case, as without the glove work, he would not have been a seven-figure player. He projects to hit sixth or seventh in a major league lineup. He's a below-average runner but not a base-clogger.
Ephemera: Hedges had a leg up in defensive training, as his high school coach, Brett Kay, was a catcher who played three seasons in the Mets system, where he was better known for his glove than his bat.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average catcher but more because of his defensive value.
Fantasy Impact: Nowhere close to his real-world value.
Path to the Big Leagues: What Hedges does at the plate this spring will determine if he heads to a full-season league or stays back in extended spring to work on his swing.
ETA: 2015

9. Joe Ross, RHP
DOB
: 4/21/93
Height/Weight: 6'3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011, Bishop O'Dowd HS (CA)
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (1.0-2-0-0) at Rookie (1 G)
Tools Profile: Plenty of stuff and projection

Year in Review: Some scouts saw him as the highest ceiling high school arm in the draft, but signability concerns dropped him to the end of the first round, where he signed for $2.75 million.
The Good: Ross offers plenty to dream on. He's a plus athlete with silky-smooth mechanics, and he already sits in the 92-94 mph range while touching 96, which should become more frequent as his skinny frame fills out. He has some feel for spinning a breaking ball, and his changeup is more advanced than most high school products.
The Bad: Ross still needs to learn how to pitch. He was overly dependent on the heat as a prep star and needs to improve his secondary pitches and become more confident with them. More than anything, he just needs innings and professional development.
Ephemera: The only pitchers drafted with the 25th overall pick to amass a winning big league record are Aaron Poreda (2007) and Kyle Waldrop (2004), who are both 1-0. The all-time wins leader is Dan Spillner (75-89).
Perfect World Projection: While he's far from it, Ross's ceiling ranks with any pitcher in the system.
Fantasy Impact: How patient are you?
Path to the Big Leagues: Ross is ready for a full-season assignment and will head-up the rotation at Low-A Fort Wayne.
ETA: 2015

10. Keyvius Sampson, RHP
DOB
: 1/6/91
Height/Weight: 6'0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2009, Forest HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 2.90 ERA (118.0-81-49-143) at A (24 G)
Tools Profile: Fastball/change-up specialist

Year in Review: Finally making his full-season debut after having the early part of his career slowed by shoulder problems, Sampson was among the Midwest League's most dominant pitchers.
The Good: Sampson has a plus fastball, sitting at 91-95 mph with some natural wiggle away from right-handed hitters. His changeup is a true plus pitch with plenty of deception and movement, and he often left lower-level hitters flailing wildly. Like many Padres arms, he's very athletic for the position.
The Bad: Sampson's small stature, effort-filled delivery, and injury history leave many scouts questioning his ability to remain a starter long term. His curveball only flashes as average given his tendency to get around on the pitch and flatten it. He has the occasional clunker of a start when he loses command of his arsenal.
Ephemera: Sampson allowed one or zero runs in 17 of his 24 starts for Fort Wayne with 23 of the 42 runs he allowed coming in the four starts in which he gave up five or more.
Perfect World Projection: Solid starter but could be the rare pitcher with more value in relief.
Fantasy Impact: Unknown, with role to be determined.
Path to the Big Leagues: Sampson will face a stiff challenge in the California League in 2012.
ETA: 2014.

11. Donavan Tate, OF
DOB
: 9/27/90
Height/Weight: 6'3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Cartersville HS (GA)
2011 Stats: .283/.406/.409 at Low A (33 G), .316/.435/.421 at A (6 G)
Tools Profile: Loaded with them, but can he play baseball?

Year in Review: Third overall pick in the 2009 draft seemed to finally be making progress before more injuries and a suspension for synthetic marijuana.
The Good: Despite the non-stop health issues, Tate still has tools, with above-average raw power, plus speed, plenty of range in center, and an outstanding arm. When playing, he showed a much better approach at the plate, a much better swing, and had scouts excited again for his future.
The Bad: Tate is plenty toolsy, but he's lost so much development time that his chances of reaching his potential have reduced dramatically. He still has significant contact issues and rarely fully squares up balls. Just like two years ago, he needs plenty of reps and needs to stay healthy to get them.
Ephemera: The last position player selected with the third overall pick to end his baseball career without reaching the big leagues is former NFL quarterback Jay Schroeder, selected by the Blue Jays in 1979.
Perfect World Projection: A monster, but that chance is slight at this point.
Fantasy Impact: Potentially massive; potentially non-existent.
Path to the Big Leagues: Tate is now 21 and has less than 300 plate appearances as a professional. 2012 has to be a healthy and productive season, likely in the California League, for him to remain a prospect.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: Infielder Drew Cumberland was an easy Top 11 prospect before being forced to retire due to a rare medical condition that affected his balance. He's now been cleared to play and could get back to that level.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Matt Latos
2. Cameron Maybin

3. Rymer Liriano, OF
4. Robbie Erlin, LHP
5. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
6. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
7. Kyle Blanks, OF
8. Joe Wieland, RHP
9. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
10. Casey Kelly, RHP

Latos had some understandable regression in 2011, but not to any point of concern, and he's still a dominant pitcher who is three to five years away from peaking. Maybin showed some signs of living up to his potential in a park that destroys him offensively, and more growth should be anticipated and expected. Blanks might be too low here, as I'm excited about what he can do as an everyday left fielder who is not being jerked around.

Summary: This is one of the better systems you'll find without an elite-level talent. With no monster team in the National League West, the Padres should be seen as a long-term threat.

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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