The stronger the system the more discrepancy you will see in the Top 30 lists. My initial list had around 50 players that I would rank as a "C/C+" prospect. So it should be noted that just because I left a player off does not mean they are not a prospect, but rather the Padres have so much depth that there just wasn't enough room for every prospect.
Compared to my colleagues I tend to differentiate more based on ceiling. The higher the ceiling the higher the prospects rank. The Padre's system is so rich that even at the lower prospect rankings you have players that could end up being consistent starters in the majors. For that reason I would rank a player like Adys Portillo higher than someone with a higher floor but a much lower ceiling. Yes, we might never see Portillo in the majors. However if he does produce, he is a player you can build a team around, rather than a player who might only make it to the majors as a bench player or middle reliever.
Ten years from now, we might look back at this list and wonder how we missed with so many "can't miss" prospects. I hope that ten years from now the list reads more like a whose who in the majors, and we can look at it as one of the lists that help launch the Padres not only into the playoffs, but to their first world series title. Maybe a bit too optimistic, but it is a really good list.
1) Matt Wisler RHP
Two years ago Wisler was not on any prospects list. After being drafted in the eighth round and then not recording an out in the Arizona Rookie League; quite a few Padre fans had already dismissed the pick as a waste. Since then, Wisler has gone on to be named the MadFriars' pitcher of the year, two years in a row. Since Wisler was drafted we have seen him add eight mph on his fastball, added more break on his slider and find more consistent control with his change.
Wisler is a great example of the mantra of the new regime. After dominating the Cal League in April, management decided to challenge him with an early promotion to AA. While his results were not as deadly in San Antonio (8-5, 3.00 ERA), he showed that he could make the needed adjustments to face the more advanced hitters. Wisler was one of the youngest players in the league and yet won the Texas League Pitcher of the Week twice, and helped lead the Mission's to a Texas League Championship by allowing only one run over 13 innings in the playoffs..
Projection: Wisler is already being talked about as a dark horse candidate to win the #5 starting spot for the Padres out of spring training. At only 21, Wisler already has the raw ability to be a solid #2 starter in the majors. Josh Byrnes has already hinted that management is high enough on him to have him jump other big name prospects to make the Padres. The only issue that could keep him in the minors for a few more months is home runs allowed. Wisler is a big time power, fly ball pitcher who will do great things at PETCO, but he needs to work on making sure his fastball stays low in the zone..
2) Austin Hedges C
It is hard for people to quantify just what it means to be a catcher with "great defense." Its not as simple as just showing the percent of caught stealing or catchers' ERA. What Hedges' does from a defensive standpoint this past season, left many scouts just gazing wide-eyed, exclaiming ‘WOW." The best comparison I could think of was Yadier Molina.
With that being said, the thing that separates Hedges' from the truly elite prospects in the minors is hit bat. He is only 21 and is improving at the plate, but still only hit .260/.333/.390 between two levels this past year.
Projection: With Hedges' being so young, and the Padres having both Hundley and Grandal already in the majors, there is not a rush to push Hedges through the system. Hedges will be a major league player, and should have a long career. However, the question will be can he hit enough to reach that truly elite level. He has time to polish his offensive game, but even if he only hits .220 he will eventually make a MLB roster.
3) Max Freid LHP
. Fried was recently ranked by ESPN's Keith Law as the second best left handed prospect in the game. While his numbers (6-7, 3.49 ERA, 56 BB, 100 K in 118.2 IP) do not stand out as elite, Fried made improvements as the year went on. His fastball currently sits around 92 but given his large frame he has the potential to still add a few more mph. He has a big break on his curve, and most impressively is the consistently weak contact he gets from his changeup. If batters were able to make contact against Fried it wasn't hit hard. Fried did have issues locating his pitches, but this is an issue that should become less of an issue as he grows into a pitcher instead of a thrower.
Projection: Freid will not be in San Diego before late 2015 at the earliest. While that sounds far off for someone reading this in November of 2013, Fried will not be 21 until January of 2015. No one will be surprised if Fried has an ERA in the 2.30 range next year with 130+ strikeouts. At the same time no one would be surprised if he has similar numbers to this past year. Fried will be really good, but he needs time.
4) Rymer Liriano RF
Last year was a wash after going down before the season even started. Like most people who miss a year, a lot will depend on the progress he makes over months 13-24. Liriano is still a five tool prospect, and has the ability to consistently be a 20/20 guy year in and year out.
Projection: Everything will depend on how he recovers from surgery. We've seen players come back 12 months after surgery; we've also seen players like Cory Luebke take closer to two years. The reports thus far are promising on Liriano, but even if he is 100% by next spring, chances are we will not see him in San Diego until late 2014 at the earliest.
5) Burch Smith RHP
Everyone got a taste of Burch Smith this past season and saw just what he is capable of. In order to see Smith become a truly dominant major league pitcher will be locating his fastball. Smith's secondary pitches showed potential, but they will always be secondary to his fastball.
Projection: Smith is already in the majors and should make the MLB roster out of Spring Training. There is a very strong possibility that Smith begins the season as a back of the bullpen guy. His big fastball could be a huge change of pace with Gregerson and Street barely able to top 90.
6) Hunter Renfroe OF
Renfroe burst onto the season this past season at Mississippi State. He profiles as a player with big power, a big arm, and excellent speed and defense. He has a great swing and can crush the ball to all fields. He was every bit of the #9 pick that the Padres used to draft him in the past draft. Renfroe's one "average" tool, is his hitting ability. Renfroe currently does not have a strong eye at the plate, and will expand the zone unnecessarily. This led to an increase in strikeouts and decrease in walks as a professional. If he can get a better eye at the plate, the sky is the limit.
Projection: Renfroe profiles as an everyday right fielder in the big leagues, and will move through the system as quickly as his swing will take him. There is a good chance that he starts the season in the hitter friendly Cal League. He should already be salivating at playing in places like Lancaster where a 10-8 game is a pitcher's duel. Do not be surprised if he has 15 home runs at the all star break and is moved up to San Antonio.
7) Jace Peterson SS
In the two years since being drafted, Peterson has been given multiple lofty titles including Best Athlete, Best Infield Arm, and Best Defensive Shortstop. This past season Peterson showed his ability to hit for a higher average, and with more power. He has gotten noticeably better at bunting for a hit, and has been more aggressive in the zone, which are all positive signs. While some of it might have been due to the hitter friendly Cal League, Peterson more than tripled his home run output, while finishing in the Top 10 in the league in triples. Peterson will never be a 20 home run hitter, but the extra power will be enough to keep fielders honest.
Projection : Peterson has one of the higher ceilings of hitters in the Padres top 30. At best he will be an MLB regular shortstop, batting at the top of the order and routinely being in the ten in steals. However, the likelihood of Peterson reaching his potential will depend on how well he can hit for average. His worst case scenario would be a Cedric Hunter-esque player of all speed and defense, but who can't steal first. Double-A tends to be the biggest identifier of major league success, so we should know by mid-season whether Peterson will be the shortstop of the future.
8) Joe Ross RHP
Ross began the year as the ace of a very talented Fort Wayne staff (four of five in top 30), and while he is ranked below Max Fried, he showed he had the potential to be a very solid #2 starter in the majors. Similar to Tyson, Joe has a big frame, and a big fastball. Early in the season, Ross was able to just pump the fastball by everyone. As the season wore on, Ross continued to rely on nothing but his fastball and saw hitters beginning to catch up to it. Part of it was fatigue due to Ross more than doubling his innings from the previous year. The rest was Ross' reluctance to trust his secondary pitches more to keep hitters honest.
Projection: Ross still has one of the highest ceiling of any Padre prospect. He will begin the year in Lake Elsinore, and could move up depending on the front office. Like Tyson, a big test will be whether Joe can trust his secondary pitches, and keep his fastball low in the zone.
9) Keyvius Sampson RHP
Sampson rebounded nicely after an off year in 2012. He backed up an impressive AA season with a just as impressive AFL stint (0.79 ERA, 7.94 K/9).
Sampson has the confidence and mound presence to succeed at any level, and is able to back it up with a 94 mph fastball, a big curve, and a much improved changeup. He has plenty of movement on all his pitches which generate plenty of swing and misses. However, he has yet to fully keep that movement in the strike zone. The key to his success will be control.
Projection: Sampson was just added to the 40 man roster, which should provide an indication of what the organization thinks of him. Whether he ends up in the rotation or bullpen will depend on his control. The Padres have a ton of depth in the rotation in the upper minors. Which means the they might move him to the pen sooner rather than later where he has a better chance of making the big club.
10) Casey Kelly RHP
Kelly missed all of the 2013 season after having Tommy John surgery. When he did last take the mound he left some Padre's fans disappointed because he is not a pitcher that will throw it in the upper 90's, or have a Hoffman-esque change. What he does have is arguably the best curveball in the system and great movement on all his pitches which causes a lot of groundballs. He is also a great athlete who fields his position among the games' best.
Projection: Despite the injury Kelly profiles as a #2 or #3 type pitcher. At this point he has already been passed by Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland, Smith and Wisler. This might be a blessing in disguise as there is no longer pressure for Kelly to rush to get healthy to help San Diego. He should begin the year in El Paso and then we can see what happens.
11) Reymond Fuentes CF
When Fuentes first came over from Boston, one scouting report compared his potential to Donovan Tate, but concluded that he had a better head on his shoulders with a better chance of reaching that potential. It took a couple years, but we are finally beginning to see it. After struggling his first two years in the organization, Fuentes spent last offseason bulking up, and trying to be more aggressive early in the count. This led to a 140 point increase in his SLG (.302 in SA in 2012 vs .441 in SA in 2013), while also seeing his strikeouts go down and his walks go up.
Projection: Similar to Peterson, Fuentes' ability to stay in the majors will be based on his ability to hit for average. With his speed and excellent defense if he can even hit around .260 he will be an everyday CF. Barring another injury to Cameron Maybin, Fuentes will probably begin the year in AAA, but should get another crack at the majors by mid-season.
12) Zach Eflin RHP
The third prospect in the fantastic Fort Wayne rotation, Eflin was the most consistent of them all. After late April, he did not allow more than three earned runs in any start the rest of the year. Eflin has a big projectable frame, with an above average fastball and a much improved curve and change. The biggest issue holding him back had been injury concerns, but he managed to show this past season that they were a thing of the past.
Projection: Eflin profiles as a #2 starter, but will once again be behind both Ross and Fried in Lake Elsinore. He has the best control of any of the starters, which could mean he moves quicker through the minors. Like most young pitchers Eflin needs to continue working on spotting his fastball low in the zone. If he continues pitching like he did in 2013, tackling the hitter friendly Cal League should not be a problem for him.
13) Franchy Cordero SS
Cordero ranked third in the Baseball America's Top 20 AZL prospects. While BA had him labeled as a third baseman, Cordero played a majority of his games at short. With Peterson (3B) and VanMeter (2B), the Padres will give Cordero every chance to stay there. He is a big, strong, left-handed bat who profiles as an above-average hitter.
Projection: Success in the AZL is far from success in the big leagues. Like most young Dominican players, Cordero has a very high ceiling and will begin the season as the Fort Wayne shortstop; which means that his first big task will be adjusting to a league that routinely has "snow outs" in April. No matter how well he does in Fort Wayne do not expect to see him in San Diego before 2016.
14) Donn Roach RHP
The Padres liked Roach enough to put him on the 40 man roster. Despite the 2013 record that was far from impressive, he rebounded nicely in the second half. He posted Roach like 2.59 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and a 2.29 GO/FO ratio. Those numbers would get him placed on nearly any major league forty man roster. He will pound his heavy sinker eighty percent of the time and even when hitters know it is coming they still have problems generating anything more than a weak grounder.
Projection: It has been mentioned that the Padres might experiment with moving Roach to the pen. The heavy ground ball inducing sinker could be huge late in games, and provide a change of pace from other harder throwing relievers. Roach only has a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter, but it is his floor and excellent sinker that gets him listed so high, and barring injury will eventually lead him to a MLB roster.
15) Cory Spangenberg 2B
Numbers wise Spangenberg had a better year in 2013. His average, slugging, and on base all improved year to year and he then continued to show his improvement hitting .308/.357/.492 with 7 stolen bases in just 19 games. Spangenberg profiles as an ideal lead-off hitter because he sees a lot of pitches at the plate, steals bases, and hits for a high average.
Projection: The thing that will keep Spangenberg from reaching his potential is the strikeouts. A light hitting second baseman should not strikeout in over twenty percent of his plate appearances. If he can cut down on his strikeouts he has a bright future.
16) Tommy Medica 1B/DH/C /OF
Padre fans got a taste of the offensive powerhouse that is Tommy Medica. When the Padres first drafted him they considered him a "catcher with + offensive skills." Two shoulder surgeries later, catcher is now a loose term as Medica hasn't caught in almost two years. Despite that, he has become every bit the hitter the Padres envisioned and then some. As a 1B/DH Medica was one of the top Missions in nearly every offensive category, despite missing considerable time early in the season. Medica is a pure hitter, who can hit to all fields and with power.
Projection: While Medica has expressed his interest in going back to catching the Padres seem fairly set on having him stay at first base. He went from AA to the Padres last year, so starting off the season in AAA could be beneficial for him. Do not be surprised to see him back in a Padre uniform by mid-season.
17) Joe Wieland RHP
Wieland missed all of 2013 after having Tommy John surgery and did manage to make his return to live baseball the last week of the AFL season, appearing in two games. At his best Wieland has three solid MLB pitches but no one "out" pitch. He has good movement on all his pitches, and is able to locate his pitches at will (46 walks in the last 303.2 minor league innings).
Projection: A lot will depend on how he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Assuming he is able to make a full recovery, Wieland should begin the year in El Paso. Wieland does not have the ceiling of most of the other pitchers on this list, but similar to Roach, has a very high floor. He might only profile as a back of the rotation starter, but with great control he is a guy that any manager can rely on for six to seven innings per start. That workhorse mentality is something every staff needs.
18) Alex Dickerson 1B/OF
Acquired from Pittsburg for Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas, Dickerson is the type of player the Padres' organization was missing this past year. A left- handed power hitter. Despite jumping a league in 2012, Dickerson has continued his assault on pitching. What is more impressive is that every off-season he has gained muscle leading to more power at the plate. While he might never become a 25+ home run hitter, he should be able to continue to hit for average and enough power to make him a threat in the middle of the order.
Projection: Similar to Gyorko last year, Dickerson is a man without a real position. He was mediocre at best as a first base, prompting Pittsburgh to move him to the outfield. He is no more than an average fielder in left, but it will be his bat that takes him to the big leagues. Dickerson should open up the season as the El Paso left fielder, but don't count him out as a dark horse candidate to make the twenty-five man roster.
19) Yeison Asencio OF
Asencio is one of the best defenders in the Padres system. He has an outstanding arm, and is a great rout runner. Offensively he is the ideal number two hitter. Asencio hits for a high average and rarely strikes out. In fact he struck out just 29 times in over 300 plate appearances in the Texas League last year. Asencio has enough pop (47 extra-base hits) to provide protection in the order, and while he doesn't steal much, that is a trait that the front office believes will improve with age.
Projection: The good news is that a great defender who hits over .300 will always have a spot in a major league starting outfield even if he doesn't hit 20+ home runs or steal 20+ bases. The bad news is that if that same hitter can only hit .250 he will be lucky to ride the bench.
Asencio has a fairly high ceiling, but so much of his projection revolves around the likelihood that he hits closer to .300 (.323 in Fort Wayne, .296 in Lake Elsinore), and not .260 (.261 in San Antonio). I am optimistic on Asencio's chances which is why he is ranked so high. If he begins the year in the hitter friendly PCL he should once again battle for the batting crown.
20) Travis Jankowski
Similar to both Asencio and Fuentes, Jankwoski is another great defender with little power. What separates him from the others though, is his excellent speed (71 stolen bases last year) and complete lack of power (one home run, 26 extra-base hits). It got to the point last year that the opposing team would play Travis at pitchers depth because they could take away bloop singles. At his best Jankowski is an ideal leadoff hitter. He can hit for high average to all fields (.284 lifetime batting average), can work the count and draw a walk (.350 on base percentage), and once on base is a horror for opposing pitchers.
Projection: Like Fuentes, Jankowski should eventually make it onto a major league roster just because of his excellent speed and defense. The difference between being a pinch runner and a starter will be based solely on if he can continue to hit over .280, and if he can hit for enough power to at least make defenses respect him. He will begin the year in San Antonio.
21) Leonel Campos
Campos might be the "Venezuelan Gregerson." The why is pretty simple, Campos has an truly outstanding slider, that hitters can know it is coming and still swing and miss badly. In 67 innings this past season Campos had a .144 batting average against and 106 strikeouts. The two big knocks on Campos are age (26) and control (5 walks per 9 innings). Campos was late arriving to baseball as he tried to be a professional soccer player before returning to baseball. While 26 is extremely old for the Midwest League, 26 is only slightly old for AA, and Campos did even better in AA. Control will still be an issue, but the more time he gets with Padres' manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley, the fewer control problems he should have.
Projection: Some prognosticators are already indicating that Campos has a shot at the Padres bullpen in Spring Training. While this might be farfetched as he is not on the 40 man roster and if his control improves even slightly (maybe down to 4 walks/9 innings), he will be in San Diego by the All-Star Break and will be a fixture in the back of the pen by September. Look for Campos to start the year in El Paso.
22) Juan Oramas LHP
Oramas fell off the charts last year after having Tommy John surgery. He came back midseason , and proved to have not missed a step. He does not have the "normal" physique of a pitcher as he is 5'10" 215 lb., but sits comfortably in the low 90's with a solid changeup. While he has been in the organization for what seems like years he is still only 23, and currently pitching well in the Mexican Winter League.
Projection: Oramas is an extreme flyball pitcher who generates plenty of swing and misses with his change. Being a lefty, and on the 40 man, the Padres might try to move him to the bullpen with a shot at making the club. If they do envision him as a starter chances are he stays in San Antonio for a fourth year, rather than go to the extreme hitter parks of the PCL.
23) John Barbato RHP
Barbato has a big time fastball (mid 90's, and can touch 98 mph comfortably) and a plus curve. Those two pitches alone are enough to guarantee himself a spot as a future back of the bullpen arm. Like most fastball pitchers, Barbato is a fly ball pitcher with control issues. However he improved on his control (3.80 BB/9 in 2012 to 3.38 BB/9), and his bloated ERA (5.01) was mainly do to being a fly ball pitcher in the Cal League.
Projection: While other relievers have gotten more recognition, Barbato has the highest upside. He should be the closer in San Antonio, and should benefit greatly by shifting to the pitcher friendly San Antonio. He has only recently turned 21, and still has some maturing to do before we see him in San Diego. However, he has a high enough upside that we should see him being a back of the bullpen arm in San Diego before too long.
24) Adys Portillo RHP
This ranking is based on projection alone after he missed most of 2013 with various arm and shoulder injuries. Portillo still boasts a ceiling of a #1/2 starter, however time is starting to work against him. Portillo has three plus pitches and boasts great movement on all of his pitches, but is still having problems harnessing that movement.
Projection: Every year he is a scouts pick of "breakout player." The Padres liked him enough to put him on the 40 man roster last year, and keep him on this year. Portillo is still only 21, so he still has plenty of room to grow. Provided he remains healthy, the Padres will put him back in San Antonio and hope that he can get his mechanics in line.
25) Dustin Peterson
Drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, Peterson is athletic, quick and a great eye at the plate. He is able to track the ball well into the zone, and then make contact with a quick swing. While his power did not show up in the AZL, he should add plenty of muscle in the next few years, and profiles as a player with above average power.
Projection: Peterson will begin the season as the starting third baseman in Fort Wayne. Like most high schoolers from warm areas, Peterson will have to first adapt to the cold before he adapts to the new league. He profiles as an above average third baseman when all is said and done, but don't expect him to be replacing Chase Headley anytime soon, as he has a long way to go before San Diego.
26) Walker Weickel RHP
Weickel was the 55th pick in the 2012 draft. Weickel has a fastball that sits in the mid 90s and a plus curve. Like most teenage pitchers, he struggled at times with location and having fluid mechanics. One batter Weickel will look like an All-Star, the next like an A Ball washout. His big body and could still add a few miles on his fastball before all is said and done.
Projection: Weickel will begin the year at the back of the Storm rotation. This will hopefully give him time out of the spot light to improve on the consistency in his mechanics. He is a ground ball pitcher who shouldn't be affected too badly by the hitter friendly Cal League.
27) Brad Boxberger RHP Reliever
It shows something that the Padres kept Boxberger over fellow relievers Brad Brach and Miles Micholas. Boxberger has two plus pitches, and has a change that has vastly improved since he was traded to the Padres. Boxberger makes the list a final time, simply because his floor is higher than many pitchers ceilings. His biggest flaw is still his control (13 walks in 22 big league innings), however he still had a 2.86 ERA, and frequently looked dominant on the mound.
Projection: Boxberger should fit in as part of the Padres pen. If he can at least limit his control issues to where they were in the minors (3 BB/9 IP), he could take over the seventh inning spot vacated by Dale Thayer. If he can't we will see a repeat of 2013, where Boxberger bounces between El Paso and San Diego, too good for AAA but not enough control for the majors.
28) Matt Andriese RHP
If Matt Andriese were in any other system, he is easily a Top 20 prospect, maybe top 10 depending on the system. Unfortunately in the Padre system he barely scratches the Top 30. In 2012 Andriese led the Cal League in ERA, in 2013 Andriese was one of the top pitchers in AA with a 2.70 ERA, 8-2 record, and great ground ball ratio. He is a big bodied right-handed starter, who has three solid MLB pitches. He is able to mix and match his pitches extremely well, and is not afraid to pitch inside. .
Projection: Andriese did not have the same success in Tucson, but still was one of their better starters over the final two months of the season. While Andriese was not added to the forty man roster, he will be given a chance in Spring Training to compete for the final spot. Chances are though he ends up starting the deep El Paso rotation.
29) Franmil Reyes OF
The Padres were extremely high on the now 18 year old Dominican prospect. He did nothing short of impress in the AZL to a line of .315/.387/.467. Reyes' is thought of as having the best raw power in the system., and profiles as a 30+ HR solid right fielder.
Projection: Reyes has an extremely bright future, but also is really young. With nearly all of Eugene struggling he will be given an opportunity to start in right field in Fort Wayne. His power will keep him as an ideal middle of the order hitter, and if he can continue to hit for average, he will be a Top 10 prospect next year.
30) Kevin Quackenbush RHP Reliever
There are plenty of deserving prospects for the final spot in the rankings. Quackenbush beats them out based on performance. He went through four levels of professional baseball and never had an ERA over 0.94. Quack finally "struggled" in AAA by only have a 2.91 ERA, but did manage to not allow a run over his final ten appearances. Quack does not have the one true out pitch, he does have three quality big league pitches. What really makes him efficient is his bulldog mentality on the mound. He is one of the few pitchers that will purposefully throw a fastball high and inside, just because the batter is creeping to close to the plate.
Projection: Quackenbush will be given an outside shot of making the Padres bullpen out of spring training. He is not on the forty man roster so he will have his work cut out for him. More than likely he will end up being the closer for the El Paso team.