The Top Ten
- C Austin Hedges
- OF Hunter Renfroe
- RHP Matt Wisler
- OF Rymer Liriano
- OF Michael Gettys
- SS Jose Rondon
- SS Franchy Cordero
- RHP Zech Lemond
- 2B Taylor Lindsey
- RHP Tayron Guerrero
1. Austin Hedges
Height/Weight: 6’1” 190 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2011 draft, Junipero Serra Catholic HS (San Juan Capistrano, CA)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #18 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: .225/.268/.321 at Double-A San Antonio (113 games)
The Tools: 6+ arm; 7+ potential glove; 5 potential hit
What Happened in 2014: While his glove and arm remain impact weapons in every sense of the term, Hedges struggled to find any level of comfort or success at the plate against Texas League arms.
Strengths: Defensive chops and catch-and-throw game play to borderline elite levels at present; seamless from actions from reception through transfer and release; advanced footwork; throws come with regular precision; improved decision-making on field (e.g back picks); tracks well at the plate; swing works; strength and leverage to develop playable pop; high make-up; field general.
Weaknesses: Bat unlikely to play to impact levels; approach unraveled through summer; average bat speed magnifies negative impact of regressed approach; power ceiling limited; needs to produce more regular impactful contact to force advanced arms to work the margins; if hit/power play down, strike zone command and tracking lose value/utility.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division player/all-star
Realistic Role: 6; first-division regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; even with hit concerns the glove and arm will carry profile.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The future Padre backstop will be the highest ranked player in the Top 101 who does not factor into the Dynasty 101—and it won’t be particularly close. There’s really no point in shallow mixed leaguers of owning him at all, as his best-case scenario looks similar to what Wilin Rosario did in 2014 (.267 average and 13 homers), and he was not a top-10 fantasy catcher. In deep mixed and NL-only leagues, there’s still something here, but if you own him, sell him on name value.
The Year Ahead: On the heels of Hedges’s 2013 offensive struggles in the Texas League, which could be easily written off as a small sample size from an aggressively promoted 20-year-old, the continued trials and tribulations that defined his full year of Double-A exposure last summer did little to bolster confidence in the stick. The good news is that there is still a solid offensive producer tucked into the profile. Dating back to his days as an amateur, the JSerra prep product has displayed the solid strike zone command you would expect from an advanced backstop, as well as the balance and swing path to produce solid contact across the quadrants. Hedges got away from that sound mechanical foundation during his tumultuous 2014, with opposing arms challenging him more regularly in the zone as the resultant swing proved less and less capable of squaring up offerings with any degree of frequency. It’s unlikely Hedges will ever produce impact level power numbers, but there is plenty of strength in the body and leverage in the swing to keep pitchers honest provided he can work his way back to the approach and swing that served him so well as an amateur and through the start of his pro career. Supporters are banking on just that, with an additional note that San Antonio’s home park is particularly rough on right-handed power and may have been at least partly responsible for Hedges’s departure from a contact-friendly swing to a pull-happy cut. He’ll play the bulk of 2015 at the age of 22, leaving plenty of flexibility as to how the organization wants to handle his assignment, with an interesting option being a month of High-A ball to build momentum with the stick and subsequent promotion directly to El Paso. The glove and arm are major-league ready, and Hedges should make his debut in San Diego as soon as the organization is comfortable there is no additional developmental value in logging minor-league at-bats.
Major league ETA: 2016
2. Hunter Renfroe
Height/Weight: 6’1” 200 lb
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, Mississippi State University (Mississippi State, MS)
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org), Just Missed The Cut (Top 101)
2014 Stats: .232/.307/.353 at Double-A (60 games), .295/.370/.565 at High-A Lake Elsinore (69 games)
The Tools: 5 potential hit; 7 potential power; 6 arm; 5+ potential glove; 5+ run
What Happened in 2014: After punishing High-A arms through the first half of the season, Renfroe sputtered in 60 Texas League contests, ultimately reasserting himself as an alpha power bat via a strong Arizona Fall League showing in which he paced the league in slugging (.569) and tied for the league lead in home runs (6).
Strengths: High-level athlete; big raw that plays in game; swing brings natural loft and carry; easy backspin; above-average run and aggressive implementation of tool; arm can be a weapon; covers ground and capable of the flashy finish; strong competitor; swagger.
Weaknesses: Aggressive approach can limit power utility; Double-A pitching further exposed holes in approach, particularly with respect to same-side secondaries; failure to shrink coverage holes could soften profile to one-dimensional power bat with limited kill zone.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division regular/all-star
Realistic Role: High 5; above-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; achieved Double-A; high floor through broad value base with impact power potential.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With some of Renfroe’s contact troubles, he’s more attractive in an OBP format, but that certainly doesn’t mean he should be undersold in standard 5×5. A potential .260 hitter who could hit 25-30 homers, even in Petco, Renfroe could sweeten the pot with 15-20 steal ability. The odds are low he’ll get to that point, but he has many paths to value.
The Year Ahead: Despite some choppy stretches with Double-A San Antonio, Renfroe ended 2014 on a high note, impressing evaluators throughout his AFL stint with loud BP showings and in-game at-bats demonstrative of a solid overall approach and power that plays. With the bat speed to turn on premium velocity, Renfroe revels in rising to fastball challenges, which can get him in to trouble when he locks into his search for heaters, something Double-A arms were able to exploit. To his credit, the former Mississippi State Bulldog was able to somewhat tame those urges in the fall, and the positive results were apparent. Whether he can continue to maintain a more focused and methodical plan of attack has yet to be seen, and will be the ultimate determinant as to whether he is able to maximize his opportunities for hard contact and fully tap into that double-plus raw. With an influx of major-league outfielders making their way to San Diego this winter, the organization has the latitude to afford Renfroe more developmental time in Double-A to start the 2015 campaign. He could debut as early the end of next season, and should in any event by ready to contribute in earnest by 2016.
Major league ETA: 2016
3. Matt Wisler
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 7th round, 2011 draft, Bryan HS (Bryan, OH)
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #47 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 5.01 ERA (116.2 IP, 131 H, 101 K, 36 BB) at Triple-A El Paso, 2.10 ERA (30 IP, 26 H, 35 K, 6 BB) at Double-A San Antonio
The Tools: 6 FB; 5+ SL; 6 potential CH
What Happened in 2014: Wisler played the entirety of his 2014 season as a 21-year-old in Triple-A, holding his own in an oft-challenging Pacific Coast League while continuing to refine his command and execution.
Strengths: Lively fastball with good life down in the zone; sits comfortably 91 to 93 mph with the heater, and can reach back for the mid-90s with regularity; low- to mid-80s slider comes with good tilt and bat-missing ability; at best, change flashes late fade and deception; good deception; physicality to hang innings.
Weaknesses: Control outdistances command; fastball flattens up in the zone and can lend itself to hard fly-ball contact; lacks consistency in secondary execution; can work to often to the fat of the plate; can drop slot with slider, keeping break on swing plane; can spin a curve, but offering lacks present bite to play past fringe.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; near major0league ready.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The ongoing gentrification of Petco Park makes mid-rotation types like Wisler slightly less attractive than they used to be, but there’s still plenty to like here. The strikeout numbers may top out at around 160-170 over the course of a full season, but strong ratios could accompany those whiffs, and he’s ready to contribute this year—especially with the injury-prone arms ahead of him.
The Year Ahead: While Wisler’s stats from last season do not jump off the page, it was a very strong showing for a young arm regularly challenged with hitter-friendly parks and savvy bats. At its best, Wisler’s arsenal can flirt with a front-end projection, but the non-uniform implementation of his mechanics, and in particular his arm slot and release, can complicate execution and holds back the playable command. The spacious outfield plains of Petco should help mitigate the risk inherent to a profile with fly-ball tendencies. Perhaps more importantly, the Ohio native is athletic enough to leave open the possibility that he finds the consistency in execution to deploy his cache of major-league offerings with the requisite precision to lean on his fastball and changeup down in the zone to generate more groundballs. Wisler should enter the spring with an outside shot at breaking camp with the big club, though a return trip to El Paso seems most likely. Either way he’ll undoubtedly log major-league innings this year and should be a rotation mainstay by 2016.
Major league ETA: 2015
4. Rymer Liriano
Height/Weight: 6’0” 225 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2007, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org)
2014 Stats: .220/.289/.266 at major league level (38 games), .452/.521/.661 at Triple-A El Paso (16 games), .264/.335/.442 at Double-A San Antonio (99 games)
The Tools: 6 potential power; 6 run; 6 arm; 5+ potential glove
What Happened in 2014: The immensely talented outfielder slashed a combined .291/.362/.473 between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso before being overwhelmed by big-league arms over his first 121 plate appearances with the Pads.
Strengths: Strong and athletic; wields tools forcefully, leveraging plus power, speed, and arm strength; plus bat speed allows for some confidence in hit utility in spite of present swing-and-miss; potential elite corner talent, capable of impacting the game in all facets.
Weaknesses: Tools at present play below lofty paper presentation; not an instinctual player; natural bat-to-ball is adequate, but not supportive of consistent barreling, preventing maximization of raw; power might manifest more to gaps than over the fence at maturity; early extension can further sap playable pop and minimize inner-half coverage.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division regular
Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; Tommy John surgery in file; underdeveloped feel can force flashy tools to play down.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Over the course of two weeks, Liriano went from a good fantasy sleeper in 2015 to buried under a mountain of corner outfielders in the depth chart. When he does get back to the show, he can be a 20/20 outfielder with a batting average somewhere between “hey that’s not so bad” and “oh god really.”
The Year Ahead: Liriano surprised in 2014 by forcing his way to the majors for an extended debut, though the results of that debut were as one would expect given the aggressive promotion of an exciting but presently flawed profile. The former J2 signee oozes with impact potential, consistently enticing evaluators to loosen their evaluative inhibitions and submit to the ecstasy of a clean five-tool projection. The raw materials with which Liriano is working could certainly justify such a generous proclamation, and those backing Liriano as a future force at the highest level are quick to point to excellent make-up and work ethic in their insistence that the present developmental obstacles will eventually be overcome. Liriano’s refinement would benefit more from daily Triple-A reps than irregular major-league game action off the bench to start 2015, though he could provide good value in a limited role should the opportunity arise. He’ll return to San Diego at some point next year, likely better equipped to establish firm footing at the game's highest level.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2014
5. Michael Gettys
Height/Weight: 6’1” 203 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft, Gainesville HS (Gainesville, GA)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: .310/.353/.437 at complex level AZL
The Tools: 7 run; 7 arm; 5+ potential power; 6+ potential glove
What Happened in 2014: Despite consistent struggles at the plate through the showcase circuit and high school spring, Gettys landed a significant seven-figure bonus after being selected 51st overall by San Diego in the June draft and proceeded to put together a solid pro debut at the complexes.
Strengths: Top-tier athlete with natural strength and explosiveness; double-plus speed plays even higher out of the box and in the field thanks to rapid acceleration to top speed; will show plus raw in batting practice; covers large swaths of ground in center and is comfortable leaving his feet to finish; arm can play to impact; staggering upside.
Weaknesses: Hit tool comes with huge question marks; extended struggles with contact, including versus marginal high school competition; during extended slumps can expand zone, compounding negative swing-and-miss effects; penchant for showing off arm can lead to ill-advised throws and baserunner advancement.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division regular/all-star
Realistic Role: High 4; fourth outfielder with pinchrun utility
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; immense contact issues and complex level resume.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you’re a big-time risk taker, then Gettys is your man in the late second/early third round of dynasty drafts. The lack of a good hit tool grade is the crux of the problem here, as all the tools in the world won’t matter if he can’t make contact. But if he does, watch out.
The Year Ahead: Gettys may have more upside than any position player in this year’s draft class, but with that upside comes significant risk tied to near-jarring struggles with contact throughout the 12 months leading up to the draft. While the pro production was solid over 52 complex-level games, the impressive slash line was accompanied by a strikeout every four plate appearances, and reports pointed to little in the way of tangible adjustments to indicate progress had been made in smoothing the barrel delivery and improving pitch selection. It’s seldom that a player with Gettys’ upside is available 50-plus picks into the draft, and it’s almost unheard of when the profile comes with the potential for a plus or better up-the-middle defense and impact speed on the bases. That in and of itself says all that needs be said with respect to confidence the amateur scouting circuit has in the hit tool playing to the minimal level necessary for the former Georgia commit to be an everyday major-league contributor. The Padres could ease Gettys into short-season ball with a trip through extended, eyeing a Midwest League assignment in 2016 once confident he is adequately prepared to tackle full season arms.
Major league ETA: 2019
6. Jose Rondon
Height/Weight: 6’1” 160 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Venezuela
Previous Ranking: #8 (Org – LAA)
2014 Stats: .315/.363/.404 at High-A Inland Empire/Lake Elsinore (109 games)
The Tools: 5+ potential hit; 5 glove; 5 arm; 5 run
What Happened in 2014: Rondon bypassed the dreary Midwest League and split his first full season between High A leaguemates Inland Empire and Lake Elsinore, impressing with both clubs.
Strengths: Solid contact bat with good feel for the barrel and sound approach; should grow into gap-to-gap threat as body matures; hands and arm play at the six spot; speed plays average to tick above; firm foundational value in profile thanks to glovework and overall baseball acumen; impressive refinement to game for age/level.
Weaknesses: Profile lacks impact across the board; if strength doesn’t fully manifest, hit tool could play to hollow average; footwork can get sloppy, negatively impact throws and ability to finish; limited range at present; profile could be pushed off of shortstop with any future decrease in speed.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average regular
Realistic Role: High 4; utility glove
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; glove and feel for contact provide stable floor; yet to reach upper minors.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Value is in the eye of the beholder, but a .275-hitting shortstop with 15-20 steals, while useful in deeper leagues, is not a worthy aspiration for most mixed leaguers. If you can sell high on his inflated Cal League stats, I would.
The Year Ahead: Rondon’s full-season debut was a terrific success, with a well balanced profile regularly playing to its full potential. The combination of advanced strike zone awareness, ability to track multiple pitch types, and contact ability all combine to help the hit tool project to average or better, and Rondon’s ability to consistently display those skills gives comfort that he possesses the skill set necessary to make adjustments as he continues to face increasingly more advanced arms and arsenals. The ultimate ceiling remains limited, as there is no single aspect of the game in which Rondon figures to provide impact-level production. Nevertheless, there is unquestionable value in a steady performer versatile enough to fill a utility role if needed, but also capable enough with the bat to produce in an everyday capacity. Rondon should start 2015 with Double-A San Antonio and will play the full year as a 21-year-old. Despite logging fewer than 500 full-season at-bats thus far, he could be ready to offer assistance at the major-league level within the next two years.
Major league ETA: 2016
7. Franchy Cordero
Height/Weight: 6’3” 175 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2014 Stats: .188/.237/.235 at Low-A Fort Wayne (22 games), .279/.329/.458 at short-season Eugene (61 games)
The Tools: 5+ potential power; 5 potential hit; 5 potential glove; 6 arm; 5+ present speed
What Happened in 2014: After stumbling in his first taste of full-season ball, Cordero was able to put together an encouraging short-season campaign that included regular displays of potent power interspersed with empty swings.
Strengths: Impressive raw pop that can already play above average in game; ability to let ball travel and drive oppo; can drop barrel and lift with ease to pull; lots of leverage, and room for added strength to push power past current projections; good balance; natural comfort in the box; arm could be molded into a left side or right field weapon; above-average run at present; good feel on bases should allow for run utility even if thickening body drags down foot speed.
Weaknesses: Lower half can get stiff and deliberate in the infield; battles footwork when closing and during set-up for throws; infield actions don’t come naturally, with frequent lapses in arm action and imprecise glovework; still working to find consistency in swing; can load low and open up holes in plate coverage.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average regular
Realistic Role: High 4; bench bat with power utility
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to graduate short-season.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The fantasy upside for Cordero is the selling point, as the probability of him being a roto asset is relatively low. If it all breaks right, he could be a five-category contributor, but not an impact performer in any of them (unless the power really shows up and maxes out, in which case he could hit 25).
The Year Ahead: The high-waisted infielder has already started to thicken in the lower half, lending credence to the thought that a shift off shortstop might soon be in the cards. While Cordero regularly displays above-average athleticism in the form of strength, explosiveness, and speed, the aggregate result of those physical gifts doesn’t always translate to clean baseball actions. Accordingly, Cordero can struggle with the little things, such as footwork and a firm defensive hand to finish in the field, and consistent load, launch, and barrel delivery at the plate. As one would expect, the result is a high degree of inconsistency in performance from viewing to viewing, though even the ugly outings are underscored by the allure of a power-based tool set that could slot well into the middle of a line-up and a corner defensive home. While the young Dominican currently faces a long developmental road, it’s impossible to ignore the ease with which he can impact the baseball at the plate, and the ultimate upside is that of a solid power bat who will hit for some average and provide enough corner defense to allow the offensive game to keep the overall production comfortably in the green. He will make another run at full-season ball in 2015, with an eye toward firmly establishing himself as prospect worthy of inclusion in the organization’s long-term plans.
Major league ETA: 2018
8. Zech Lemond
Height/Weight: 6’1” 170 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2014 draft, Rice University (Houston, TX)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 3.79 ERA (38 IP, 39 H, 34 K, 5 BB) at short-season Eugene
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 CB; 5 potential CH
What Happened in 2014: After effectively wielding a plus fastball and hard spike curve both in the rotation and out of the pen this spring for Rice, the 2014 third-round signee breezed through 36 short-season innings and a four-inning relief outing with Double-A San Antonio.
Strengths: Fastball works with arm-side life in the low 90s and regularly registers 94 to 96 mph in short stints; sharp low-80s curve plays both in and out of the zone, with late bite and impressive depth; shows feel for change piece, presenting a third potential average or better major-league weapon; steady demeanor on the bump; mindset to handle starter slog and high-leverage relief work alike; good physicality.
Weaknesses: Durability is a big question; can get predictable in implementation of fastball/curve combo; needs to improve in-zone command; long, sweeping arm action on the back side can complicate release and timing; can come around breaking ball when arm dips; can flash curve grip entering arm circle; changeup can come firm, flat, and hittable.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Realistic Role: 5; late-inning relief arm
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; elbow inflammation this spring; limited pro experience; yet to demonstrate durability at any level.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The likelihood is that Lemond ends up in the bullpen, which docks him from our standpoint as he doesn’t profile as an impact reliever. He’s an interesting name to stash in very deep leagues, or to roster if your dynasty draft goes 100 deep, but otherwise, he’s all wait and see.
The Year Ahead: With a wave of arm ailments sweeping through the organization over the past few season, the thought of a Rice pitching product with recent elbow issues joining the system might not be particularly comforting for Padres fans. Fortunately, Lemond brings with him two power offerings that are near major-league ready, providing a welcome safety net in the form of late-inning relief work should the former Owl prove ill-suited for a starter’s workload. For the time being, San Diego is expected to continue to develop the strapping righty in the rotation, with a gradual ramp-up in innings over the course of next summer laying the groundwork for a loosening of the reins in 2016. His changeup should receive the lion’s share of his developmental focus at the outset, with an overarching theme of improved precision and comfort utilizing his full complement of pitches across variable game situations.
Major league ETA: 2017
9. Taylor Lindsey
Height/Weight: 6’0” 195 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Desert Mountain HS (Scottsdale, AZ)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org – LAA)
2014 Stats: .238/.306/.372 at Triple-A Salt Lake/El Paso (116 games)
The Tools: 6 potential hit; 5 glove
What Happened in 2014: Lindsey put up less-than-inspiring numbers across two Triple-A affiliates, but nevertheless continues to display top-shelf bat-to-ball ability.
Strengths: Excels at finding the ball with the barrel; quick hands allow unorthodox swing mechanics to play; when clicking can utilize the full field to great effect; will flash fringe-average power to pull side; quick hands are good fit for the keystone, producing speedy release that helps fringy arm to play up, particularly turning two.
Weaknesses: Elongated leg lift through stride complicates timing; gifted hands often work more to mitigate issues from swing irregularities than to consistently advance hit tool; inconsistent load and launch; intricate swing mechanics can come unglued, leading to pronounced bouts of soft contact; below-average run.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Realistic Role: High 4; below-average major leaguer
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; modest upside with minimal refinement remaining.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: This is about as boring of a fantasy profile as you can get, but one that will likely hold value in deeper formats. Lindsey has the benefit of San Diego’s questionable infield, as far as short-term value is concerned, but in the long run, he could peak by hitting .280 with 10 homers and a handful of steals—essentially making him another Scooter Gennett in fantasy.
The Year Ahead: While the back of the baseball card tells the story of a prospect whose stock is trending the wrong way, the scouting book on Lindsey hasn’t much changed over the past 12 months. Last year’s top prospect in the Angels system remains a good bet to make lots of contact while providing adequate second base defense, and while that collection of words isn’t likely to get your heart racing, there is potentially solid value to be found in a cost-controlled asset with some upside in the hit tool. In years prior, the former supplemental-first rounder had relied almost exclusively on his preternatural contact ability to serve the ball to all fields in spite of a swing that features a hitchy load, inconsistent stride, and volatile timing. His first foray in Triple-A ball this summer saw a decrease in production, in part due to bad luck and in part due to multiple periods of discomfort in the box. Throughout it all, Lindsey continued to do the one thing he as always done, regardless of experience or competition—make contact. He’ll take another stab at the Pacific Coast League in 2015 and, provided he can more frequently find his rhythm at the plate, should get a chance to test his skills as a batsman against major-league arms at some point next year.
Major league ETA: 2015
10. Tayron Guerrero
Height/Weight: 6’7” 189 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2009, Colombia
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 2.63 ERA (13.2 IP, 10 H, 14 K, 8 BB) at High-A Lake Elsinore, 1.00 ERA (36 IP, 22 H, 42 H, 12 BB) at Low-A Fort Wayne
The Tools: 7 FB; 5+ potential SL
What Happened in 2014: Things started to come together for the rangy righty, as Guerrero yielded little in the way of impactful contact, challenging hitters with a double-plus heater and rapidly improving slide piece over 50 innings split between High and Low-A.
Strengths: Fastball and slider can overwhelm; mid-to-upper-90s heater comes downhill; slider works consistently in the mid-80s and can miss bats with regularity; should continue to add strength as body matures; very quick arm; solid extension adds to hitters’ discomfort; at best can use low-effort mechanics to produce high octane stuff.
Weaknesses: Lacks consistent balance, leading to variable release and swings in control and secondary execution; has tendency to increase effort in mechanics throughout the course of his appearance, including an exaggerated finish and fall-off at the extremes; can struggle to keep a handle on long limbs; command and control could both max out at sub-par; changeup plays firm and below average; lack of adequate off-speed can leave arsenal one-note; overthrew slider in AFL, reducing velo delta off fastball and lessening depth.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; late-inning relief
Realistic Role: High 4; middle-relief arm
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to reach Double-A; standard reliever volatility risk.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The rule about relievers in dynasty leagues is that you don’t want them unless they could be special from a strikeout perspective, and Guerrero likely doesn’t have the secondary offering to make that a reality.
The Year Ahead: Guerrero made good developmental progress this year, navigating two levels of full-season ball before being overmatched by advanced AFL bats. This is your typical high-risk/high-reward power arm, complete with requisite mechanical inconsistencies and physical projection. In a perfect world Guerrero develops enough comfort with his body and motion to successfully execute his fastball and slider, with a focus on working down in the zone and elevating as needed. Even if the control and consistency never fully come around, Guerrero should provide major-league value in some capacity, if only pumping an inning’s worth of upper-90s heat in low-leverage situations. Upper-minors bats should pose a formidable challenge for the late-inning hopeful, and another strong developmental year could leave him a stone’s throw from the Padres pen.
Major league ETA: 2016
Notable Omission: Trea Turner, SS. In an odd twist, Turner finds himself a member of the Padres system with an expiration date on his affiliation with the organization set at just over six months. This a result of the present limitation on trading draftees prior to the one-year anniversary of their signing, which as a matter of process requires the Nationals and Padres to wait until June 13, 2015 to formalize his inclusion in this December’s trade as a “player to be named later.” The 2014 first-rounder would have come in as the no. 5 prospect in the San Diego system, with the potential to stick at the six spot long term while providing some offensive value through his plus-plus speed and average hit tool. The former NC State standout has solid range to the glove side and is comfortable both coming across and behind the bag, but needs to improve his focus and execution in order to cut down on unforced errors. At the plate, Turner features a lengthy swing that sweeps in and out of the hit zone with little pitch plane overlap, leading to more swing-and-miss than you’d like to see from a top-of-the-order stick. There's first-division upside here with a likely outcome settling somewhere between utility glove and second-division shortstop.
Prospects on the Rise:
1. RHP Ryan Butler: At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Butler projects an intimidating presence on the mound even before uncorking a plus to double-plus fastball that can reach triple-digits. Both his slider and changeup play below average, though the later has flashed average periodically between the spring and summer, showing some arm-side fade and deception. With one Tommy John surgery already in his pocket and a limited collection of effective secondaries, the most obvious developmental path would be in relief, where the seventh-rounder could progress quickly with even minimal growth in his off-speed.
2. OF Jordan Paroubeck: The 2013 third-rounder failed to gain in-game experience his draft year due to a shoulder ailment, but rebounded nicely this summer with a noteworthy performance in the Arizona Rookie League. There is a level of controlled violence to the switch-hitter’s swings that a pro developmental team could shape into a 30-plus home run threat, and the former Fresno State commit also brings above-average speed and some defensive projection to the table. Paramount to Paroubeck’s development at this point is logging in-game reps, and with a developmental step forward in 2015 the NorCal native could establish himself as one of the more interesting talents in the system.
3. INF Fernando Perez: After sputtering through short-season ball in 2013, Perez emerged as a potent weapon in the middle of the Fort Wayne lineup this summer, tallying 18 home runs while cutting down on empty swings and generally showing a higher level of comfort in the box. The 2012 third-rounder is not a natural fit in the infield, lacking ideal range for second and the footwork or first-step quickness for the hot corner. For the time being, the Padres will take whatever defense they can get so long as the bat continues to progress. With the welcoming confines of the California League awaiting Perez in 2015, there’s a good chance his bat forces strong Top 10 consideration when this list is assembled next winter.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015)
1. 2B Cory Spangenberg: The former Indian River standout has progressed through the system at a pace belying his lofty draft status as the 10th overall pick in a loaded 2011 draft class. There isn’t much in the way of impact here, but as a lefty bat with good speed and an adequate glove at second there is very likely a spot for him on a National League roster, if only as a late-inning bat off the bench with some pinch-run utility. Spangenberg showed well in limited major-league action last summer, and he should enter the spring with a chance to break camp with the big club.
2. OF Alex Dickerson: Despite his size and strength, Dickerson does not offer the playable power expected out of an everyday corner bat. While he shows balance and fluidity throughout his swing, the path of the barrel plays best to line drive contact, and particularly so against same-side arms. While the former Indiana Hoosier missed much of 2014 after undergoing surgery on his left foot, he impressed at the plate during his short late-season stint at Double-A, and could be in line for a cup of coffee at some point in 2015. It’s a bat-only profile, and the ceiling on that bat isn’t particularly lofty. Still, as capable lefty stick with a knack for contact he could carve out a role as a bench bat capable of plugging a hole in an outfield corner or at first base as needed.
3. RHP Keyvius Sampson: Sampson straddled the line between starter and reliever during his 38 appearances for Triple-A El Paso, but his major-league future is without question in the bullpen. It’s been slow progress for the strong-armed righty, who boasts a mid-90s fastball and above-average changeup, but lacks a consistent breaking ball at present. Sampson has thrown both a curve and slider in the past, with more in-game utilization of the curve this summer despite having a higher ceiling with the slide piece. Sampson has the raw arsenal to excel in the latter innings, provided he can find enough precision in his execution to strike a balance between the heart of the plate and extremities of his batterymate’s reach. Once he wins over the confidence of the organization, he should get the opportunity to take his stuff for a test drive in Petco.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)
- Wil Myers
- Austin Hedges
- Hunter Renfroe
- Matt Wisler
- Rymer Lyriano
- Michael Gettys
- Robbie Erlin
- Jose Rondon
- Franchy Cordero
- Zech Lemond
With a new GM in place and a deep farm system at his disposal, the Padres have gone about an aggressive makeover. After shipping out several intriguing prospects and a handful of young, controllable big-league assets, the Padres have a roster poised to make a little noise in the National League West.
The acquisition of Myers forces the most substantial alteration to this list, as he immediately jumps to the top. Coming off a disappointing season in Tampa Bay, Myers currently carries an odd profile. On one hand, he still exhibits many of the exceptional traits that made him a high-end prospect worthy of massive praise. On the other hand, despite his obvious gifts, Myers has now been dealt by two teams that seriously value young talent. At the end of the day, Myers’ natural offensive gifts should shine through and help provide the Padres with the young middle-of-the-order hitter they need.
Left-hander Robbie Erlin has not experienced the success some would have predicted as he was approaching the majors, but he still has the raw ability to carve out a career as a finesse, back-end starter.
Even with such a substantial roster makeover, the Padres have managed to hold on to the upper-level prospects like Hedges, Renfroe, Wisler, and Liriano, giving them a chance to sustain any success they can find in 2015. That success could mean challenging for a playoff spot in 2015 if the team’s new acquisitions contribute as expected, and if they find starting pitching depth from the group of Erlin, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, and Cory Luebke. With any luck, A.J. Preller’s bold decisions and a subsequently revamped roster could be the first step toward an even more competitive NL West. —Mark Anderson
A Parting Thought: An active offseason has left the system thin and top-heavy, though the foursome atop the rankings could prove impactful at the major-league level in the near future.
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses at Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.