MadFriars' Top 20 for 2011

In 2010 the San Diego Padres won 90 games and were eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the season after residing in first place for most of the year. The team won with a mixture of solid pitching, defense and an offense that played station-to-station baseball taking full advantage of the offensively challenging environment of PETCO Park.

The impact of their development system began to pay dividends as Mat Latos, a draft-and-follow pick in the 2006 draft, emerged as the ace, and Wade LeBlanc and Tim Stauffer helped to round out the rotation. Third baseman Chase Headley, outfielder Will Venable and catcher Nick Hundley were all part of an everyday offense and the depth of the Padres' minor league system allowed the team to make mid-season trades for Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick.

Going into this year three of the five starters, Latos, Stauffer and either LeBlanc or Cory Luebke, are homegrown as are three of the eight position players, Headley, Venable and Hundley.

Additionally, both shortstop Jason Bartlett, who was actually drafted by San Diego in 2001, and center fielder Cameron Maybin were acquired in the off-season as San Diego was able to use its minor league pitching depth to acquire major league talent. Only two of the projected everyday players, 2b Orlando Hudson and 1b Brad Hawpe, were acquired through free agency.

A quick note on the rankings. We only ranked players that played professionally last year; which excluded top picks from the 2010 draft, John Barbato and Zach Cates. Also, we used the standard cut-off points to define a rookie; less than 130 major league at-bats, or 50 innings pitched and the new metric this year less than 30 career relief appearances.

1. Simon Castro

Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP

Height/Weight: 6-5/225

Age: 23

Bats/Throws: R/R

How Acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Earned Runs
SA 7-6 129 2.92 23 107/36 107 42
POR 0-1 10 7.84 2 6/6 16 9

2010 Highlights: Castro came into the season as the Padres' top prospect and essentially held serve. He had a good but not great year because as with most Missions pitchers he benefited from the friendly confines of Nelson Wolff Stadium as he posted a 2.40 ERA at home compared to a 3.36 on the road. He has the best raw stuff of any pitcher in the system and proved his durability by making over 25 starts and throwing a 130 + innings for the second year in a row.
Negatives: He needs to become more consistent with his third pitch, his changeup, and because of his size his mechanics can get off kilter.

Projection: Medium Castro is close to being a major league starter. The development of third pitch will determine how high he ends up in the rotation. Assessment: He will start the season in Tucson in a much more difficult pitching environment against hitters who will force him to become more effective at mixing his pitches and changing speeds. Castro's progress as a pitcher is impressive and he could be ready for a call-up to San Diego by mid-June.

2. Casey Kelly

Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Traded for Adrian Gonzalez in 2010 from Boston

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Earned Runs
POR(AA) 3-5 95 5.31 21 81/35 118 56

2010 Highlights: Last year was Kelly's first full year as a pitcher and even though the numbers weren't impressive scouts were still impressed by the raw stuff. A tremendous athlete, he was recruited as a quarterback by the University of Tennessee in addition to as a shortstop/pitcher. In his first two years in the Red Sox system he pitched the first half the season and played the second as a shortstop. Last year Kelly suffered from some nagging injuries particularly; a badly split nail on his pitching hand which prevented him from throwing his breaking ball effectively. Kelly has a fastball which sets in the low 90's, a very good change and a curve ball many believe will improve as he gains experience.

Negatives: Kelly's tremendous athleticism can mask the fact that he hasn't really posted any great numbers since his low A debut in Greenville. He has pitched less than two hundred innings professionally.

Projection: High Kelly has barely scratched the surface of his ability. Assessment: Any discussion about Kelly always begins with the statement that he is a great athlete which leads most talent evaluators to believe that he will be able to consistently repeat his mechanics while throwing three quality pitches. He is slated to start the season at the best pitcher's park in the system so that should repair whatever confidence he lost in 2010.

3. Jaff Decker

Position: LF
Height/Weight: 5-10/190
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Supplemental first round/2008

LE .262 .374 .500 .337 47/80 76 33 17

2010 Highlights: Decker dropped weight, added muscle and arrived at spring training in the best shape of his career. Unfortunately he pulled a hamstring and was unable to make his debut in the Cal League until May 13. Throw out the first fifteen games in May and he hit .292/.421/.558 at twenty years old; which is significantly younger than the players he was competing against.

Negatives: He needs to maintain his fitness but is the real thing at the plate. He's not a plus fielder but is much better in the outfield and base-runner than he is given credit for.

Projection: Medium The key for him is to maintain and improve upon his conditioning to allow his plus baseball skills to come through. His last month gave everyone an idea of what he can do when he really gets going hitting .360/.492/.860 in fourteen games in August before getting hurt. Assessment: Last year Decker was, and is, the best pure hitter in the organization even with an early end to his season because of a broken hand. If he continues to hit in San Antonio its hard to not see him in San Diego in either 2012 or 2013.

4. Cory Luebke

Position: Starting Pitcher/LHP
Height/Weight: 6-4/200
Age: 26
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Supplemental first round/2007

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Earned Runs
SA 5-1 56 2.40 8 44/12 41 15
POR 5-0 57 2.97 9 44/17 42 19
SD 1-1 17 4.08 3 18/6 17 8

2010 Highlights: There isn't much more left for Luebke to prove in the minors as he dominated in both San Antonio and Portland. He relies on a good sinking two-seam fastball and a four-seamer that can get up in the low 90's. This year he cleaned up his secondary pitches as his slider and change-up became more consistent.

Negatives: He doesn't have a true plus pitch and while his secondary pitches are good will have to improve even more to become an effective big league pitcher.

Projection: Low What he is right now is pretty much what we will see in San Diego a solid mid to back of the rotation starter. Assessment: Luebke should have a very good shot at competing for the fifth slot in the big league rotation and offers more upside than any of the other candidates. He has options left and if he does go down will be the first one back up.

5. Drew Cumberland

Position: Shortstop/Second Base
Height/Weight: 5-10/195
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: Supplemental first round/2007

LE .365 .404 .542 264 15/34 91 26 7
SA .278 .298 .333 55 1/11 15 3 0

2010 Highlights: Cumberland is a tremendous athlete who would be ranked higher if he had played in more than 80 games once in his four year career. He came into camp much stronger than in years past due to some intensive off-season workouts which translated into increased pop in the Cal League. He only got in 15 games in San Antonio, but as with most he hit much better away from the Wolff (.391) than at home (.191). At Lake Elsinore he was 20 for 29 in stolen bases.

Negatives: He needs to play a full season and become more patient offensively. His game on the major league level is going to be about getting on base and hitting the ball into the gaps.

Projection: High Last year at Lake Elsinore provided the first glance of the type of player that Cumberland can be. It's impossible for the Padres to design a player that would fit better into the PETCO profile. Assessment: The Padres have really worked at refining Cumberland baseball skills to catch up to his athletic ability. Many in the organization believe that he will be able to stay at shortstop defensively after some adjustments to his throwing mechanics. He's going to have to try to re-conquer San Antonio again but he may have the best opportunity with his line drive swing that keeps the ball out of the wind.

6. Matt Lollis

Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-9/285
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 15th round/2009

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Earned Runs
EUG 2-2 34 2.86 6 24/8 21 11
FW 5-2 54 1.66 9 45/13 47 10
LE 0-0 5 1.69 1 7/1 6 1 (playoffs)

2010 Highlights: No one came further and faster than the giant from Riverside in 2010. Lollis is one of the few Padres' prospects that throws both a curve and slider but primarily relies upon a hard two-seam fastball. His ability to stay on top of his pitches and throw downhill to hitters which changes their eye level and makes it difficult to get good wood on the ball.

Negatives: He is more athletic than people think but he is going to have to really focus on his conditioning. Although his secondary offerings are good he needs to use them more often as he advances.

Projection: High Seriously, how could you expect anything else? Assessment: His velocity sits in the low 90's but the organization believes it will go up as his mechanics become more refined. However his big advantage is that he is throwing at such a downward angle the ball is through the hitting zone so quick its tough to hit. He should start the year in Lake Elsinore but this is really someone to watch.

7. Anthony Rizzo

Position: First Base
Height/Weight: 6-3/220
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Traded for Adrian Gonzalez in 2010 from Boston

Salem .248 .333 .479 133 32/16 26 17 5
Portland .263 .334 .481 459 45/100 109 50 20

2010 Highlights: For better or for worse Rizzo is bound to be compared to the man he was traded for. They are both known for smooth left-handed swings and being good around the bag. Both played in AA Portland at twenty and Rizzo actually put up better overall numbers with an OPS of .815 to AGon's .781. He has already overcome major adversity in his life surviving a bout with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2008.

Negatives: He needs to make more consistent contact while not sacrificing his power; which is much easier written than done.

Projection: Medium He can hit but can he hit for both power and average? Assessment: He should be the starting first baseman at AAA Tucson which is a great place to hit. A potentially interesting situation could arise if Kyle Blanks fully recovers from his off-season Tommy John surgery on who will be the Padres' first baseman of the future.

8. James Darnell

Position: Third Base
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Second Round/2008

SA .265 .348 .408 417 44/64 99 32 10
FW .360 .500 .640 30 5/4 9 5 1

2010 Highlights: The season didn't quite turn out that way Darnell or everyone else expected. Between struggling with a cyst on his hand and the wind at Nelson Wolff Stadium he didn't replicate the offensive dominance that he showed last year in Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. However, his season is better than most will believe at second glance. He hit .311/.382/.467 on the road and really came through in August, batting .349/.432/.547. He has the ability to be a good defender, and did improve from last year, but still had 24 errors in 101 games.

Negatives: The Padres believe he took a big step forward by being more aggressive earlier in counts at the end of the season. If he's going to be a viable candidate for third base his defense is going to have to pick up.

Projection: Medium He has shown what he can do, its just a question of becoming more consistent. Assessment: If he puts up big numbers in Tucson he could force the Padres to make some hard choices in 2012 on who they want at third base on the big club. If everything is going right Darnell is a great combination of athleticism and power/patience and is going to be much cheaper than Headley going into 2012.

9. Reymond Fuentes

Position: Centerfield
Height/Weight: 6-0/160
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Traded for Adrian Gonzalez in 2010 from Boston

Greenville .270 .328 .377 399 25/87 101 25 5

2010 Highlights: Fuentes is the third wheel in the big AGon trade and possibly has the highest upside because of his defensive ability and speed, and what most believe will eventually show up, power. A first round pick by the Red Sox in 2009 he stole forty-two bases in forty-seven attempts last year in the South Atlantic League but is going to have to improve his batting eye to maximize his talents.

Negatives: Arm strength, power and plate discipline.

Projection: High He has a ways to go but the tools are there. Assessment: If Fuentes can have a better idea of what he wants to do at the plate, and on the offensive side the Padres do excel in this aspect of the game, he could have a very big year in the best hitting environment in the system. The key stat for Fuentes this year will be his on-base percentage.

10. Jedd Gyorko

Position: Third Base
Height/Weight: 5-10/205
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Second Round/2010

EUG .330 .383 .528 115 9/26 35 11 5
FW .284 .366 .389 181 19/31 46 13 2

2010 Highlights: Gyorko is an extremely gifted hitter with a good idea of the strike zone and who tore up short-season Eugene last summer. A shortstop in college, he was drafted as a second baseman but spent all but a few games at third. Gyorko has the quickness and arm to play at the hot corner but his range is limited. Offensively he is comfortable using the whole field and the Padres believe once he begins to recognize what pitches he can pull, the power numbers will go up.

Negatives: Because of his body there are always going to be questions about his conditioning. He is limited to third base and the big question is going to be if he can hit with enough power to become an everyday major leaguer.

Projection: Medium By getting in better shape the organization believes he has a chance. It can't be stated enough how advanced his understanding of the strike zone is. Assessment: He will break with the Storm and could end up in San Antonio by the break if he hits.

11. Jason Hagerty

Position: Catcher
Height/Weight: 6-3/225
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 5th round/2009

FW .302 .423 .494 519 88/104 130 52 14

2010 Highlights: The first comment most people make about Hagerty is that he was "old for the league" which may or may not be true at but his numbers, especially in the second half of .351/.479/.586 in a pitcher's league are hard to argue with. Hagerty has worked hard to maintain a consistent swing from both sides and showed uncanny patience along the way.

Negatives: Right now his bat is more advanced than his glove. How fast he rises is dependent on how quick he develops behind the plate.

Projection: Medium Randy Smith, the Padres' Vice-President of Player Development believes he was the most improved player in the system not only for his offensive numbers but how much he developed behind the plate in 2010. Assessment: He will begin the year in Lake Elsinore where we should see some big numbers. Hagerty is they system's best catching prospect since Nick Hundley.

12. Keyvius Sampson

Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 4th Round/2009

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Earned Runs
EUG 3-3 43 3.56 10 58/17 35 17

2010 Highlights: So far Sampson has emerged as the best of the Padres' heralded 2009 draft class which saw them take three high school players with their first four picks. He is not the biggest pitcher in the world but generates tremendous arm strength and deception with a fastball consistently in the low 90's. His change-up also started to show up this year as well as his curve.

Negatives: He's not the biggest pitcher in the world and there is some concern about the seriousness of his shoulder injury that he suffered at the end of last year.

Projection: High Deceptively fast with a moving fastball and a solid work ethic to complement his athleticism. Assessment: He will go into the year being the top pitcher in Fort Wayne and if he stays healthy, will be someone to watch. The organization is going to be very carefull with him as they gradually build up his arm, but make no mistake about it; he is a talent.

13. Adys Portillo

Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-2, 190 lb
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Signed out of Venezuela

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Earned Runs
EUG 2-6 62 4.79 14 62/40 55 33
FW 0-0 2 4.50 0 1/1 2 1

2010 Highlights: Portillo was one of the Padres first big signings in Latin America to kick off their new facility in the Dominican Republic. If he was born in the U.S., would have been a high school senior and for the most part had a good year in Eugene.

Negatives: Command and secondary pitches.

Projection: High A fastball that sits in the low to mid-90's and is not yet twenty. So yes, many people tend to like him. As with most young pitchers he needs to improve his command and secondary pitches. Assessment: Portillo has the size, athleticism and plus fastball everyone wants to see in a pitcher. The organization loves his work ethic and the improvement they have seen in him so far. His future in the big leagues is still very far away, but he is on the right path.

14. Blake Tekotte

Position: Center fielder
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: 3rd Round/2008

LE .310 .419 .522 239 36/46 63 26 8
SA .250 .324 .444 294 26/63 67 25 10

2010 Highlights: Tekotte's game is somewhat similar to Cumberland's with its gap power, speed and defense. As with most players he struggled with the swirling winds of Nelson Wolff Stadium hitting .203/.288/.407 at home and .290/.356/.476 on the road. His arm is his weakest tool but he covers as much ground as anyone in the organization in center. His game is about going gap to gap and running everything down in between.

Negatives: Tekotte is the embodiment of the cliche that a little power can sometimes be trouble. He gets in trouble when he tries to go for a little too much.

Projection: Medium Tekotte needs to continue to refine his ability at keeping the ball out of the air and strengthening his arm. Assessment: Tekotte is an underrated talent and along with Cumberland has a game built for PETCO with his speed and plus defensive ability. But before that can take place he is going to need to figure out a way to beat the winds in San Antonio.

15. Jeremy Hefner

Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Age: 25
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 5th Round/2007

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Earned Runs
SA 11-8 167 2.95 28 115/51 156 55

2010 Highlights: Hefner rebounded from a tough year in Lake Elsinore after two successful seasons in Fort Wayne and Eugene to post his lowest ERA of his career. The big right-hander benefitted from pitching in San Antonio but the Padres also saw an uptick in his velocity to the low 90‘s to go along with an improved curve and change-up made for a solid year.

Negatives: Lack of a truly plus pitch and an inconsistent curve ball.

Projection: Low Hefner pretty much is what he is. His velocity returned to what is was in college and he may pick up some improvement in his secondary offerings. Assessment: Hefner was very adept at managing games this year in San Antonio as he led the organization in games started at 28. When he's on he can eat up innings and induce ground balls. If he puts up the same type of year in hitter friendly Tucson he is going to covert many into believers.

16. Logan Forsythe

Position: Second/Third base
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: First Round Supplemental/2008

SA .253 .377 .337 467 75/95 99 26 3

2010 Highlights: Forsythe went into the season as one of the Padres' top prospects on the basis of a big first half in Lake Elsinore in 2009. But for the second consecutive year he struggled at the plate in San Antonio, the minor league park that closest resembles PETCO, hitting .189/.300/.245. The good news is the transition to second went well and on the road he was the type of player the Padres' believe he can be, hitting .316/.449/.429.

Negatives: Power on the offensive side and range at second on the defensive.

Projection: Medium Forsythe had some good numbers before his two years in the offensive perdition, otherwise known as San Antonio and may recapture his power and prospect status in Tucson. Assessment: Getting out of Nelson Wolff Stadium is going to help his offensive numbers but for an organization that seeks to find plus defenders at positions up the middle and values speed he's going to have a tough time supplanting Orlando Hudson on the big squad or holding off Cumberland from below.

17. Edinson Rincon

Position: Third base
Height/Weight: R/R
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Signed out of Dominican Republic

FW .250 .315 .399 555 44/95 128 49 13

2010 Highlights: The Dominican native was young for the Midwest League and as with most Latin players the early cold weather effected his performance with batting averages of .202 in April and .234 in May. Once the weather warmed up he began to show the promise that he did last year in Eugene with lines of .326/.382/.500 in June and .280/.339/.430 in July before wearing down at the end of the year. Although he was young he didn't have a good year and his ranking is based on the promise that he showed in the past.

Negatives: His defense. He made 36 errors last year despite spending a significant amount of time at DH. He is not an infielder and the jury is still out whether he has the ability to chase down fly balls in the outfield.

Projection: High His 2009 numbers in Eugene were very good and only so-so this year in Fort Wayne. Before he can really progress he has to find a position in the field where he is comfortable. Assessment: Jedd Gyorko is going to be the everyday third baseman in Lake Elsinore so there is a good chance that Rincon will return to the Midwest League. The big question is will the Padres continue to try to make him into a third baseman?

18. Brad Brach

Position: Relief Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
Age: 25
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 42nd Round/2008

Team W-L IP ERA Saves K/BB Hits Earned Runs
LE 5-2 65.2 2.47 41 74/11 50 18

2010 Highlights: This season Brach set the Cal League record for saves with 41 in 44 save opportunities and the Cal League Pitcher of the Year. However, the season ended badly for him as he gave up the game winning double in the playoffs to end the Storm's season. Still, Brach has been dominant in both the Midwest and Cal Leagues relying upon a four-seam fastball that can consistently paint the outside corner to go along with a sweeping slider. This year he also showed progress with a splitter/change that he throws inside to right-handers.

Negatives: He's always been a little old for both full season leagues and he doesn't posses a truly plus pitch.

Projection: Medium If Brach can develop a pitch that he can throw on the inside of the plate with the same consistency that he does on the outside he has a chance of having a long career in the major leagues. Assessment: Regardless of what anyone thinks of the utility of the save statistic Brach has saved 74 out of 77 games in the past two years and has struck out 189 batters in 151 innings with a 1.90 ERA. He can pitch. However to succeed against better competition he is going to have to be able to throw to both sides of the plate as hitters and scouting improves as he advances.

19. Rymer Liriano

Position: Center/Right Field
Height/Weight: 6-0/215
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Signed from Dominican Republic

EUG .271 .335 .394 220 17/53 55 19 0
FW .191 .234 .293 198 10/54 36 14 2
LE .220 .291 .320 55 5/12 11 3 0

2010 Highlights: The Padres were aggressive with Liriano early in the year promoting him to Fort Wayne from the AZL last year and he struggled; hitting .198 and .177 in his first two months. Moving him down to Eugene he regained his confidence and his stroke hitting .315/.370/.457 and earning a end of the year call-up to Lake Elsinore. Liriano is a potential five tool talented and rotated between center and right field. Across three leagues he stole 31 bases in 44 attempts.

Negatives: He needs to work on his plate discipline and maintain his fitness to maintain his outfield range.

Projection: High Even though he struggled in his first two months it was still a very good year for Liriano. Very few, if any, have his blend of speed and power in the organization. Assessment: The Padres may be aggressive with Liriano again this year, sparing him the early season cold of Fort Wayne with a return to Lake Elsinore. Combined with Reymond Fuentes it could be a very fun and talented outfield to watch.

20. Cedric Hunter

Position: Center Field
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: 3rd Round/2006

SA .308 .375 .423 310 31/22 86 21 4
POR .263 .305 .370 278 16/22 69 19 3

2010 Highlights: Hunter bounced back from a disappointing 2009 improving his on-base percentage by 81 points. He was the only regular on the Missions to hit in San Antonio with a .299/.364/.453 line before being promoted to Portland in late June. Some minor injuries and fatigue hurt his overall numbers in Portland, particularly in September; but still a solid year.

Negatives: He needs to continue to add to his secondary offensive skills, patience and power to have a viable shot as a big league player. He is starting to run more but will have to do better than 14 stolen bases in 22 attempts.

Projection: Medium Hunter showed significant improvement in his patience at the plate with his best on-base percentage since his big year in the AZL in 2006. Assessment: Hunter should be the everyday center fielder in Tucson which will be his best hitting environment since his big year in Lake Elsinore, where he led the league in hits. He has a chance if can convince people that there is more to his game than batting average.

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