Sorry about another brief hiatus but, now my semester is officially over, and I should start cranking these things out again. Anyways I hope you guys enjoy.
As always, if you read the article, I ask you to comment below. I really enjoy the interaction, and discussion we have had with the previous articles (such as we had about the Rockies, and Dodgers). Some things to consider discussing are your thoughts on how I ranked the following prospects and my opinion on each, or any prospects I may have left off – state your case for them, etc. It has been a lot of fun the past couple of articles discussing with you guys so, let’s keep it going…
Top 15 Prospects
1. Mat Latos RHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-/a/R
The Padres’ top spot can be highly debatable; every guy ranked 1-5 has an argument for them to be the top guy. I picked Latos. An oblique injury prevented Latos from pitching more than 56 innings but, in those 56 innings he posted a 2.57 ERA, and struck out 69 batters. Latos throws an electric fastball, with some deception, that he throws in the mid 90s. He used to throw it in almost every count but, has since developed a “knuckle”-curve which he throws in the high 70s. His curve is still in development but, will be above average, and possibly plus in the future. Latos also throws a changeup, and slider but, both grade out to below average, and he rarely throws the slider. Latos is a top of the rotation starter, now that he has a second above-average pitch; however, he is also a few years away from the major leagues.
2.OF Age: 23 MLL: A
I am really high on Kulbacki, as I was last season following the 2007 draft. He can flat out hit. Last season Kulbacki hit .304, with a .400 OBP, and .940 OPS. He also possesses plus power with 22 homeruns, and a slugging percentage of .540, while knocking 38% of his hits for extra bases. Kulbacki has above average plate discipline, and his K to BB ratio is closer to 1:1, than 2:1. His defense, and arm are just below average so, the most accommodating position for him is left field in the majors. He also has below average speed. Kulbacki should be an above average corner outfielder when he reaches the majors.
3.RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AA
The best things going for Inman are his command, mental makeup, and pitchability. He put up good numbers in 2008 pitching 135 innings, in AA, with an ERA of 3.52 while accumulating 140 strikeouts. Inman’s fastball is just average, throwing in around 90 mph, but has a deceptive delivery. Inman’s curveball is his best pitch; it is an above average to plus pitch which he throws in the high 60s to low 70s. The disparity in velocities between the two pitches can really throw batters off. He also will occasionally throw a below average to average changeup. Inman’s stuff profiles him more to the back of the rotation but, I think he has the makeup to be much better, probably a number three starter.
4. Kyle Blanks 1B Age: 22 MLL: AA
I can not saying anything bad about his hitting. He ended the 2008 season with over a .300 BA, .400 OBP, .500 SLG%, and .900 OPS. He can hit, and he has plus raw power – and despite the 500 SLG% I am about to show you why it’s only plus raw power – however, his XBH% was only 30%, not terrible, but you would like to see more from a future middle of the order guy, Blanks hit 20 homeruns, though. His K:BB ratio was 90:51 last season which is also not bad – since his strikeout total is under 100, and the K:BB ratio is less than 2:1 – but, it is not going to receive my praise either. Blanks is a slightly below average defender at First Base, and his speed is below average. As I mentioned before Blanks should be a future middle of the order guy – especially with his OBP at .400+, and SLG at .500+. Blank’s biggest problem is that he will not start with the Padres with at first – as Gonzalez is a gold glove defender, and probably edges out Blanks offensively too – the Padres could try Blanks in left field but, I do not see him sticking there - think Adam Dunn when he plays defense.
5.2B Age: 23 MLL: AAA
I refuse to drop Antonelli any further. Yes, his 2008 season was abysmal - .215/.335/.322/.657 but, I am going to call that one disappointing year, and look at his 2007 numbers (when he was easily a top 50 prospect) .307/.404/.491/.894 with 21 homeruns, and 28 stolen bases. So, which is the real Antonelli? Well, I do not have the answers, but we will start find out when he goes to spring training in a few months. A couple constants for Antonelli are his high walk rates and 1:1 K:BB ratios. He is also a very athletic player, with the ability to play almost anywhere on the field (except shortstop and behind the plate), and he is above average defensively with a decent arm. Antonelli probably falls somewhere in between his 2008 and 2007 seasons. Which makes him an average second basemen, maybe more if his power numbers are closer to his 2007 campaign.
6.OF Age: 20 MLL: A+
Hunter’s only plus tool is his ability to make contact. He hit .318 in 2008, with an OBP of .362. His K:BB ratio was just about 1:1 – 47 Ks to 42 BBs. It is good that he only struck out 47 times but, he needs to take more walks, and bump up his OBP a few points – luckily he’s only 20. Hunter has some power but, it is mostly line drive power to his pull – which is the left side… in PECTO Park. His slugging percentage was .442 in 2008, and he did hit 11 homeruns. Hunter is average defensively in centerfield, with average speed (12 SBs), and a slightly below average arm. The hope is that Hunter can stay in center, despite his fringe arm, because he does not have the power to make him an above average corner outfielder. Hunter looks like a top of the order guy, especially if he can raise his OBP a couple of ticks. Hunter has a lot of upside because he still has a lot of time to develop better plate discipline, and possibly more power but, if he has to move to a corner his value will drop.
7. Allan Dykstra 1B Age: 21 MLL: A+
I really like Dykstra: 1. He is a 2008 draftee 2. He has plus power, with already above average plate discipline. I am convinced Dykstra’s bat will play at first in the majors. However, Adrian Gonzalez is there for the foreseeable future, and Kyle Blanks is next in line – and also has a higher ceiling. However, Dykstra is a better fielder than Blanks, and I believe he will be an average defensive first basemen by the time he reaches the majors. He also has a higher floor – in my opinion – and has better plate discipline than Blanks – Dykstra’s K:BB ratio was 1:1 in his pro debut this past summer/fall. I see Dykstra as an above average first basemen in the future.
8. Mitch Canham C Age: 24 MLL: A+
Canham is athletic, and should be at least an average defensive catcher when he finally finishes developing. That being said Canham is above average offensively, for a catcher. In 2008 he hit .285, with a .382 OBP, and .434 SLG%, his XBH% was 34%. Canham also hit 8 homeruns, and also struck out only 73 times, compared to 66 walks, and also stole a surprising 13 bases. Canham is a line drive hitter, which means he will not hit a lot of home runs but, will hit a lot of other XBHs.
9. Nick Schmidt LHSP Age: 23 MLL: INJURED IN 2008
Yes, Schmidt missed all of 2008 following Tommy John surgery but, a lack of depth on this list allows me to make him a top 10 guy. Schmidt is a big (6’5) lefty, he throws his fastball in the low 90s (90, 91 mph), he also throws an above average changeup, and a slider which still needs to be refined. Schmidt has good command, and that darn pitchibility thing (you know when a does not have great stuff but, still manages to put up big numbers, especially at lower levels). There is no way anyone could make an accurate prediction about Schmidt’s future but, I do not see any reason why Schmidt will be any less of a pitcher now that he is healthy. He certainly looks like a major league pitcher.
10. Jaff Decker OF Age: 20 MLL: a/R
Decker is an interesting prospect. Taken in the first supplemental round of the 2008 draft, Decker hit .343, with a .513 OBP. He also showed some power, finishing the season with a .521 SLG%. He does not have much projection left power-wise, and will likely end up with only average, or maybe a little above average power. Decker plays centerfield but, he really does not project as one at the major league level, and has below average speed so, I am counting on a move to a corner, which diminishes his value. Decker has a plus arm – in fact he could make a switch to the mound, if he falls short at the plate, he throws his fastball in the 93-91 mph range with a good curveball, and good command. I have Decker pegged as an average corner outfielder, or in the future.
11. James Darnell 3B Age: 21 MLL: a
Darnell has a lot of power potential, and great overall hitting ability. He hit for an OPS of 1.044 in limited action last season after being drafted in June. Darnell has very limited range – but, he does have good hands, and fielding skills - and thus will likely shift to a corner outfield spot eventually. However, I do believe Darnell has the bat to be a productive player there. He has an average arm, and is not a threat with his speed. Darnell is very raw, and should move up this list pretty fast.
12. Drew Cumberland SS Age: 19 MLL: A-/R
Cumberland is a high upside player. He has tremendous potential as a shortstop however, he is an inconsistent fielder, and may have to move to second, or centerfield – like B.J. Upton did. Cumberland hit well in 216 at bats last season. Finishing with a .296 BA, and .354 OBP, Cumberland has well below average power. Cumberland possesses plus plus speed, and has great base running instincts, as well as considerable range at short (or second, or centerfield). However, Cumberland is still a long way away, and I want to see the offensive numbers over a full year. If it turns out Cumberland will stick at short, and continues hitting at a high level, he will become one of the best prospects in this system.
13. Dan Robertson OF Age: 23 MLL: a
A personal favorite, Robertson has a very advanced approach to the game in multiple aspects. In 302 at bats Robertson hit .377, with a .443 OBP, and .497 SLG%. He also ended 2008 with a strikeout to walk ratio of 1:1 (34:34), and stole 20 bases. He is above average defensively in centerfield. Robertson was taken in the thirty third round of the amateur draft but, has thus far out played a majority of the players drafted last June. Obviously it is too early to give an accurate prediction on Robertson, and I would like to see him play a full season before thinking about moving him into the top 10.
14. Matt Buschman RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AA
You have to like the numbers Buschman put up in 2008. In AA Matt pitched in 148 innings with a 2.98 ERA, and struck out 118 innings. Buschman throws a sinker/slider combination but, his velocity max’s out in the high 80s. He will start 2009 in AAA but, will graduate to the majors if he can show last season was not a fluke, and his mediocre stuff will work at higher levels. His ceiling is not that high: a number four or five starter, or reliever but, the stats are tough to argue with.
15. Chad Huffman OF Age: 23 MLL: AA
The numbers were there in 2008, Huffman hit .284, with a .383 OBP. However, he did not hit for much power; hitting nine homeruns, and finishing the season with a .419 SLG%, and .32 XBH%. Huffman is very limited defensively, which makes the power numbers all the more important. Huffman could/should be a very good role player, and likely bench outfielder, with a good bat.
Strengths: After finishing the write-up on this system, I like it more than I did when I started. One thing I really like about this list is its diversity. The Padres have a really high ceiling pitcher in Latos, as well as a lower ceiling “sure thing” pitcher close to the majors in Will Inman. They have some high ceiling bats in Kyle Blanks, Dykstra, Darnell, and Cedric Hunter, as well as a couple guys with more polish in Kulbacki, Antonelli, Dykstra – he could be classified as either, and Mitch Canham, Cumberland is a bit of a wild card.
Weaknesses: I do not think they have that one true number one prospect – instead they have a good number of top five guys… which is certainly not bad. I have Latos ranked number one, but he is still mostly projection, Kulbacki does not have the largest ceiling, and I am not sold on Blanks. Otherwise… good list.
Next Up: San Francisco Giants, then the NL West Wrap up, then I conclude the National League with yet another wrap up.