He is the total package. He has the tools but flaws do exist. Plus power, speed and arm give him an absolute edge. He can crush any ball and is a constant threat on the base paths. The lack of plate discipline and mental strife that can affect different pieces of his game must be overcome. Each time he has entered a new league, Liriano has placed undue pressure on himself to perform. When he is sent down, he thrives. Overcoming that hurdle and allowing his natural ability to carry him will be key. Along with that, he must be more patient with his pitch selection. If he can conquer those, the sky is the limit.
Sampson has been marred slightly by injury so health has been a big factor. He has worked on both his changeup and curveball in the last year, flashing both as above average pitches. The only time he struggled last year was when he had extra time between starts, meaning there is something to his preparation that keeps him focused. Sampson has to continue to improve on the curveball consistency. It can get away from him at times. Fastball command is also a must and must continue. With three pitches that can be plus, Sampson could man a rotation.
There is no doubting his pure stuff – Portillo has it all, at times. Consistency within his mechanics and location of each pitch is where the questions arise. He lacks fastball command and his breaking ball and changeup are erratic. When he is on, few can touch him. That has not happened very often. Settling into a rhythm with his delivery is vital and he can build from there. He has undergone many changes through the years to get to the point where he can repeat the mechanics. Once he has that down, Portillo could soar and being an ace of a staff is not out of the equation.
Catchers are a premiere position within the league. Few can put all the components together on the hitting side with all of their responsibilities tied up defensively. Grandal, a switch-hitter with power, could be the answer. While he grades out as average defensively, he is a natural leader that will command the respect of his pitching staff – giving them confidence in his abilities. Grandal's hit tool is a plus in terms of contact but the power has been slower to develop. He has a good feel for the strike zone and quality setup to his approach, giving him a quick path to the ball. There are some concerns about his overall bat speed, but he has yet to allow that to be a deterrent. Grandal could be an above average player at his position with more refinement on both sides. If you remember, Hundley wasn't considered a defensive player when he joined the Padres but has worked hard at his craft. Grandal has the same type of work ethic.
Forget about the bad-body type. That is scout-speak for missing out on a player with the abilities that Decker has at the dish. Decker is a masher that leaves little doubt with his hit tool. He is patient, sometimes to a fault, but can also tear the cover off any ball. Decker has trouble when he tried to go outside of his game in an attempt to be more aggressive. There are times, as a run-producer, that Decker will have to look to drive a ball to score a run and he can be too complacent. When he tries to alter his game, Decker ends up swinging at balls he should not. Make no mistake, however, Decker can be an All-Star hitter with some minor tweaks. Those who doubt would rather see the perfect body doing it. He will likely enjoy proving them all wrong.
Tate…really? Absolutely. Tate has played in less than 75 games as a professional over the last two seasons. At this point, he should have been close to 200 games into his career. In order to prove he was a top-five selection, a few seasons of model health are necessary. Tate is raw at the plate but the tools are in his arsenal to be a plus power guy that can be a terror on the bases with his speed. He has adjustments to make but can only make those if he continues to see live pitching. Pitch selection, getting a more compact swing, and seeing all types of pitches are part of what is necessary. If he maintains his health, Tate could be back in the prospect talk to become a superstar.
A left-hander with a filthy curveball and fastball command, DePaula is the total package. He has some early health concerns and mental fortitude will be necessary as he is challenged in Double-A this season. With fastball command and a knee-buckling curveball, DePaula must work on consistency. He can rely too much on his low-90s fastball and throws his changeup too hard for it to be an effective offering. He also gets away from the curveball and, as a result, it becomes easy to guess his pitch sequencing. If he can improve the changeup and trust in his curveball, DePaula has the stuff to be a great asset to the Padres.
Defensively, Hedges is all there. He has a plus combination of arm, footwork and game calling ability. Yes, there is room for improvement, but the natural athleticism will lead him to being an overall plus defender that can shutdown a running game. The bat is where everything begins and ends. He has changed some of his mechanics since entering the system to shore up some holes in his swing. Given his age and aptitude, there is little reason to think he cannot become a quality hitter with power. He already has good pitch selection but needs to become comfortable in his body with a swing to match. Doing that could make him an All-Star caliber player.
One of the more advanced approaches from the Padres Dominican complex, Martinez has a ton of tools that are beginning to blossom. An athletic center fielder that is growing into his 6-foot-1 frame, Martinez is quick to the ball and squares up just about anything. He should be a powerful specimen as he continues to fill in his frame and a legitimate power threat with .300 potential to go along with speed on the base paths.
We are about to let you in on a secret. A really big, 6-foot-7, secret. His name is Guerrero, Tayron. The numbers are what they are today – not good when compiled from a distance. But this behemoth has the potential to be the real thing. Mastering command of his mid-90s fastball is the primary objective along with the improvement of his secondary pitches. If he cam become proficient in those categories, which requires time and patience for this 21-year-old Colombian, Guerrero could be a superstar. It is clear he has the most "ifs" to improve upon on this list to make it so.
In the what could have been class: Drew Cumberland
The most exciting prospect in the system to watch has hung up the cleats due to a rare condition where portions of his inner ear that controls balance are damaged. This was a guy that reminded of Howie Kendrick in his ability to put the ball in play on a line with some homer potential and lightning in his legs. He was an ultimate table-setter that could have matured into a thriving All-Star. A consummate professional with incredible work ethic and an incredible heart who wasn't happy with a clean uniform, we wish him well in life after baseball.