Both Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks have moved on from their perches at BP onto big league jobs, Kevin is the Director of Pro Scouting for the Houston Astros and Jason is one of the scouts for the Chicago Cubs’ organization.
This year the duties on prospects have been split between Chris Mellen and Nick Faleris, with Nick responsible for the NL West. Nick is currently a lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP but has also been as professional scout and written for a wide variety of baseball publications.
We caught up the Nick about his recent ranking on the Padres for 2015.
1). C Austin Hedges
2). OF Hunter Renfroe
3). RHP Matt Wisler
4). OF Rymer Liriano
5). OF Michael Gettys
6). SS Jose Rondon
7). SS Franchy Cordero
8). RHP Zech Lemond
9). 2B Taylor Lindsey
10). RHP Tayron Guerrero
First, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you went about compiling the list. Do you see any of them play in person?
Nick Faleris: Chris Mellen and I did 15 different organizations and split them up by the ones that each of tended to see the most. For me a big chunk of what I got was west of the Mississippi, so the NL West was mine where I have seen many of the guys that I am ranking play.
Each of us is responsible for the initial framework, which is about 25 hours on the front end and involves speaking to people within the organization and scouts from different organizations. From there we put together a tiering system and then shoot back out initial draft to our minor league team at Baseball Prospectus and see if anyone has any problems with what we wrote or wants to champion a particular prospect.
After that we go back into the bunker and put together a firmer framework. The whole process started at the beginning of September.
How do you balance between ceiling, age and performance?
Nick Faleris: A lot of that comes down to personal preference. Ceiling is important, it’s not typical to have someone with a moderate ceiling that blows through it, so I do look for it. A raw skill set can be shaped into an impact major league player.
Where it gets tricky is how do you assign risk and probability? If we are talking about pitchers for example, is he issuing a lot of free passes? Is it a problem with command that can be solved? Also how much mileage is on the arm is also very important; so yes, there are a lot of balances that you have to figure out when you are making these lists.
Some big moves in the past few weeks. I always thought the Padres’ system was more heavy on depth than stars. One, how do you see it and two, how much weaker are they now?
Nick Faleris: It has thinned out quite a bit but with what they got back and some other factors it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
There is still talent at the top and Hedges, Renfroe and Wisler could be contributing factors to the success of the big league team; but as you said I think going into the off-season the strength was in the depth of the talent not in its impact.
Another way to look at it is with the trades for players like Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers they don’t need the system to plug as many holes. They can put more effort into player acquisition and take more chances on guys with long lead developmental times. Where you are going to see this will be at the lower levels.
It wouldn’t shock me, especially with a new administration in place, if that is really an auxiliary benefit of all the trades; they are going to start to build with players that will be their guys.
You have Austin Hedges at the top who nearly everyone agrees is one of the best defensive catchers in the minors but he really struggled at the plate this season in San Antonio. Do you believe he will hit and if so, why?
Nick Faleris: I do and have been familiar with Austin back to his days as a junior in high school. I like his approach at the plate and I think his advance skills as a catcher will translate to what he needs to do as a hitter.
This year he just ran into some good AA arms. He simply wasn’t driving the ball. At the AA level if you are not a threat to drive the ball you are going to be challenged until you prove that you can beat them. At the lower levels sometimes you can get by with just having a good idea of the strike zone and that will be enough. I think when he adjusts his approach and gets a little stronger we will see the offensive numbers come back up.
I thought your bottom five selections were interesting. Do you think Franchy Cordero can stay at shortstop and why?
Nick Faleris: I don’t see him as a shortstop in the long-term, but it gets tricker with the younger guys. Also a change in management may indicate a greater willingness to move him to a different position. I think he has the arm and the bat to be a right fielder but that may be too aggressive a defensive demotion for some to do, so I could see him staying on the dirt awhile longer, maybe at third base.
To me that bat is why he is ranked where he is and as far as I am concerned I would like to see the Padres short-circuit his defensive pathway and just move him to the outfield.
Michael Gettys to me is one of the Padres most interesting prospects and surprised many this year with is ability to make consistent contact. What did you see in him?
Nick Faleris: I actually pushed him up the list because I was not a huge fan of him as an amateur. When I saw him at the USA Baseball Invitational he had some of the worst looks that I saw at the plate - he was swinging through low 80s velocity fastballs and chasing breaking balls; easily the worst that I saw of him. He was not a guy that I would have signed with a mid six-figure bonus.
When I saw him at the Perfect Game he threw 98 mph from the outfield and was 3.9 down the line. His swing looked better he still seemed to struggle with good velocity. However the Padres really like the upside, and he has the biggest of anyone in their draft.
He had a very strong showing in the Complex League [Arizona League] and from what the scouts have told me is that his swing is a little simpler and he really worked on just finding the ball with the barrel. If San Diego’s development squad can tease the talent out of him and put it on the field you will be hard pressed to find a better Lotto ticket.
Taylor Lindsey made your Top 10 despite putting up some bad numbers in AAA El Paso and Salt Lake when he was with the Angels organization. Why?
Nick Faleris: I wasn’t overly concerned with the numbers this season. He still looks like the same player that we have seen in the past; a down the order hitter, useful defender and a guy that could help a major league team.
His presence in the Top 10 is a more of a question of his proximity to the major leagues than his ceiling. Down the road I could see him being a piece in a trade of a call-up to the big league roster. His hit tool has a chance to be solid.
Who is the biggest sleeper for you in the organization?
Nick Faleris: He is in the Top 10 so I’m not sure he is a sleeper, but I like Zech Lemond, especially if he can stay healthy and be a starter. He has all the pitches but if they keep him in the bullpen he could be in the major leagues within 18 months.