Ten Questions with BA's Matt Eddy

Since 2007, Matt Eddy has been ranking the top Padres' prospects for Baseball America's annual Prospect Handbook whose arrival is the highlight of anyone's winter. This year San Diego continued its yearly hopscotch up and down the overall organizational rankings coming in at #9;

The move up the chain was based on the arrivals of right-hander Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and center fielder Reymond Fuentes in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, all of whom landed in the top ten.

We caught up with Matt to go be reasons for some of the individual rankings.

Baseball America has Anthony Rizzo as the Padres' #2 prospect. Rizzo is a first baseman and in all likelihood the Padres will be sending Kyle Blanks back to Triple-A. Which player do you believe the team has a preference for as the first baseman of the future?

Matt Eddy: I think that so many of the guys in the front office are Boston expats they are going to want to see Rizzo in their everyday especially when you consider what they gave up to get him. When Blanks gets healthy he could also go left field and I really don't see Clark taking at-bats away from either of them. All of Clark's value is wrapped up in his ability to hit home runs with some holes in his swing and his defense isn't good for first base. Rizzo is also the best defender of the three.

Baseball America ranked Reymond Fuentes very high at #4. What stood out about him so much for you?

Matt Eddy: I think that the guys that can play up the middle are always going to get their chances. Cameron Maybin is a great example of that. Fuentes has a lot of maturing in front of him and if you look at the record of guys from Puerto Rico it does take them awhile. And no, [laughs] I don't see him as a bigger version of Luis Durango.

Baseball America still doesn't seem to be that high on Jaff Decker. In your write-up you didn't really take into account that he missed all of spring training and the first six weeks of the Cal League season. If you throw out his first two weeks in May he hit 292/.421/.558 at twenty. Can you foresee him as a starting left fielder in PETCO and if so, wouldn't he be ranked a little higher?

Matt Eddy: The Padres have started to change their tune on him and I think see him as more of a complete player. I can see him as a regular left fielder but so much of his value is wrapped up in his bat. Also I don't see him getting better defensively, and right now he doesn't have that much to give, so that is going to take him down a little as well.

Donavan Tate fell from the number one prospect to number eight this year mainly because of injuries and a poor performance in the Arizona League. What type of year do you expect from him in the Midwest League this upcoming season?

Matt Eddy: It could be tough because when you think about it if Everett Williams struggled there, Tate certainly could too. The best example I can think off, in a positive way, is the Phillies with Dominic Brown who was another guy that was pretty raw when he was drafted and now is their top prospect. They had him in short-season ball for two years.

The negative side is that the Padres don't really have the type of track record of turning great athletes into great baseball players. Also its not the end of the world if the Padres keep him in extended and send him out Eugene 2011 too. I think he still can be the next Mike Cameron, you just have to be prepared to wait.

You wrote that Drew Cumberland has "virtually no power" but this past year he had a .542 slugging percentage in Lake Elsinore. Are you basing that on what he did in San Antonio before getting hurt or how you project him in the future?

Matt Eddy: I think the Padres are really going to stress taking the fly ball out of his game. Everywhere outside of the Cal League he hasn't had much power and I think that will be the case as he goes forward. I think they tend to see him more as a second baseman in the future but are going to keep him at short for the time being.

It seems like much of Jason Hagerty's ability to move forward will be based on how much he can improve defensively at catcher. What do you think of his ability to play that position and stay there?

Matt Eddy: It sounds like he is working his way to being average defensively at catcher but if he can continue to hit he's going to stay at catcher. You know if you can hit from the left side with power in the big leagues while being behind the plate you have a great chance. He does have some serious power. I had a scout who saw him in the ACC and in the Northwest League tell me that he hit two of the longest home runs that he had ever seen. So he is an interesting guy.

You had Casey Kelly as the number one prospect despite that fact that Simon Castro and Cory Luebke put up much better numbers at the AA level and above. What did you see in Kelly that made him a superior prospect than those two in your opinion?

Matt Eddy: Castro can throw strikes and has a plus fastball. Luebke put up some good numbers in San Antonio and Portland and throws three pretty good pitches although none of them are really plus. Kelly has a very strong, and usually plus, changeup to go along with a good sinking fastball that gets ground balls. He's not an overpowering guy and his fastball is not of a swing-and-miss variety but he is a very good athlete which gives him a very good chance to be able to repeat his delivery and to me that is the separator.

Cedric Hunter was Baseball America's #23 prospect last year despite having a bad year in San Antonio. This year he was arguably the best hitter in AA and significantly improved his on-base and power numbers but is nowhere to be found in your Top 30 ranking. Why?

Matt Eddy: I don't think he's done enough to really profile as a regular. His defense has gotten better but there isn't a lot of patience and power either despite the bump we saw last year. I think if you gave him 500 at-bats on the big league level he could hit between .275 to .280 but he would also have a pretty low on-base percentage. Really with the Padres after you get to #15 on our rankings its pretty wide open. I could see someone putting him in that range but I didn't.

Who is your sleeper in the organization and why?

Matt Eddy: I like Jose DePaula. Scouts who saw him in the Midwest League thought he had the best stuff on the staff. He missed all of '09 and goes out there in '10 and shows a good fastball and breaking ball and is really no one knew a whole lot about going into the season.

There always seems to be a tendency to rank players over what they might be over what they are. How do you respond to that.

Matt Eddy: In a way you are always looking for the next big thing and the lower level guys really haven't been exposed. In a way it might be better to have separate rankings of the Double-A and above players and maybe one or more rankings below. But you know the rankings are what they are.

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