While ownership increased payroll and new General Manager A.J. Preller moved some money around to facilitate the trades, what allowed him to make the moves was a surplus of the most valuable commodity in professional baseball: young prospects.
Trea Turner, Joe Ross, Zach Eflin, Burch Smith, Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Mallex Smith, R.J. Alvarez, Jake Bauers and Dustin Peterson – who all would have been in this year’s Top 20 or just on the outside - were dealt to acquire the big four above. And while the organization’s depth of potential big leaguers has been its most notable strength for the last few years, now there is a significant gap between the top five and the rest of the system.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had this much collective uncertainty about what the farm might offer in future years. And that’s not only because of all the talent that’s left the organization. Seven players below were not in the organization 12 months ago – and we’re not even including 2014 first-rounder Turner, who remains Padres property until he can officially head to the Nationals. But one thing is certain. Since the end of November, prospects have been turned into starting players at five positions on the big league field. And that is a great thing for fans of the San Diego Padres.
All ages are based on the age the player will be on April 1, 2015.
2015 Padres Farm System at a Glance
Out from 2014 Top 20: LHP Max Fried (Braves), RHP Burch Smith (Rays), SS/2B/3B Jace Peterson (Braves), RHP Joe Ross (Nationals), RHP Zach Eflin( Phillies), RHP Keyvius Sampson (Reds), OF Reymund Fuentes (Royals), RHP Donn Roach (Cubs), RHP Joe Wieland (Dodgers), LHP Juan Oramas (Blue Jays).
In for 2015: CF Michael Gettys (2014 draft), RHP James Needy, SS Jose Rondon (acquired from Angels), RHP Zech Lemond (2014 draft), CF Auston Bousfield (2014 draft), RHP Kyle Lloyd, RHP Ryan Butler (2014 draft), 2B/3B Fernando Perez, OF Jordan Paroubeck, RHP Elliot Morris (acquired from Angels), OF Franmil Reyes, 1B/C/3B Cody Decker and RHP Seth Streich (acquired from A’s).
Synopsis: Much of the vaunted depth of the system is gone, but Preller hung on to the top prospects in the Padres’ system. The Padres may be stronger on the mound than many recognize with a strong quartet of sleepers in James Needy, Elliot Morris and 2014 draftees Zech Lemond and Ryan Butler.
The Lottery Ticket: Michael Gettys. Many doubted his ability to make consistent contact, but he put up some numbers in the rookie-level Arizona League. He should be the TinCaps’ starting center fielder and if he produces he will be one of the top prospects in baseball.
MadFriars’ Top 20 for 2015
1. Matt Wisler
Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-3/ 200
How Acquired: Seventh Round/2011
Wisler won't be 22 until September. (San Antonio Missions)
2014 Highlights: Detractors of the 2011 seventh-rounder will point to the ugly ERA in the Pacific Coast League and suggest that it indicates he doesn’t have quite enough to deliver at the highest level. But Wisler, as one of the youngest arms on the circuit, got better with each month in the high desert of the most offense-friendly league’s most offense-friendly division. He continued to rack up strikeouts while limiting walks all along, and of course, he began the year by absolutely owning the Texas League.
That’s the Wisler who Padres fans can ultimately expect to see in the Majors.
Negatives: He had some problems with his mechanics, particularly when throwing from the stretch which causes his four-seam fastball to flatten out. Consistency with his change-up also played a role in his struggles.
Projection: With his size and ability to eat innings he projects as at least a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, and his fastball is enough to provide additional upside.
MadFriars’ Assessment: With the addition of James Shields, Brandon Morrow and the possible health of Josh Johnson, there is zero pressure on Wisler to get to the big club in 2015, but he’ll be just a phone call away if and when the team needs him.
2. Hunter Renfroe
How Acquired: First Round/2013
Renfroe put up some serious numbers in Lake Elsinore. (Cherished Memories)
2014 Highlights: Renfroe’s first full season in the system gave everyone a look at just what he’s capable of – and what he still must work on to turn his prodigious talent into consistent on-field ability. The Mississippi native mashed in the Cal League, showing off his top-shelf power and a throwing arm that will ultimately be the focus of highlight reels. But after a midseason promotion to Double-A, he really struggled.
The good news is that his strikeout rate actually dipped in San Antonio while his walk rate went up, and he had a nice bounce-back in the AFL. However, the contact he made over two months in the Texas League wasn’t very good.
Negatives: Renfroe just hasn’t played that much baseball, compared to other top prospects. He has a tremendous amount of athletic ability but a .307 on-base percentage in the Texas League shows that his plate discipline is going to have to come a long way this year. Some of his detractors have argued that he could be the second coming of Jeff Francoeur.
Projection: A power hitting right fielder who is a plus defender.
MadFriars’ Assessment: With a newly-reconstituted big league outfield, there is no rush to get Renfroe to the bigs, so he can go out this spring and work to keep honing his game without shouldering unnecessary burdens. If Justin Upton leaves as expected at the end of the year, he could be a starter in 2016. Also, look for him to get more time in center this season.
3. Rymer Liriano
How Acquired: Signed from Dominican Republic, 2007
El Paso propelled Liriano to San Diego. (Ivan Pierre Acquire)
2014 Highlights: For the first time since coming stateside, when Liriano arrived at a new level in late July, he went on a tear. His torrid performance in El Paso, paired with a dearth of production at the big league level, led to a surprise promotion to the Padres, a remarkable turn-around for a guy who missed all of 2013 following Tommy John surgery. Not surprisingly, though, he struggled to make adjustments immediately, and then fell into scattered playing time that didn’t help matters.
Negatives: In the past, Liriano had struggled from being too aggressive, but at the major league level he had trouble adjusting to hard stuff in after getting pitched away throughout his minor league career.
Projection: His ceiling is a true five-tool player but the addition of a crowded outfield on the major league level and Renfroe could make him a trade candidate.
MadFriars’ Assessment: His 2015 season will likely be spent back in El Paso unless one of the newly-acquired outfielders suffers a major injury. And that should be a good thing. Liriano, who is still prone to chasing breaking stuff out of the zone, has shown an ability to make adjustments with time. This coming season can serve as a finishing school of sorts for the guy who remains one of the highest-upside players in the organization.
A strong year will put GM AJ Preller in the enviable position of either having a low-cost contributor to slide into the 2016 big league roster or having a highly-desirable trade chip coming into the deadline.
4. Austin Hedges
How Acquired: Second Round/2011
Hedges is still the best defensive position player in the system. (San Antonio Missions)
2014 Highlights: Austin Hedges remains one of the most gifted receivers in the game. On defensive value alone, he will merit a long big league career. But after a year of going backward offensively in San Antonio, many will be watching whether the former big-bonus standout can get his bat back on track.
Negatives: Defensively - as was probably true midway through his debut 2012 professional season - he not only could catch in the major leagues, but was at least the equal of anyone on the Padres’ roster. He got frustrated by Nelson Wolff Stadium last year and found himself off-balance by trying to pull the ball too much.
He has a new hitting coach in San Antonio who could make a difference.
Projection: Easily the most upside of any position player in the system. He has the skills to be an elite defender with more than enough offense too. The key for him will be to forsake some power and try to use the middle of the field some more.
MadFriars’ Assessment: We’ll have to see whether he returns to San Antonio – a third trip to the same level would be awkward for such a highly-regarded player, though that’s only a possibility because of the previous regime’s curious decision to rush him to San Antonio in 2013 – or heads to the much more friendly hitting environment in El Paso. He’ll be working with a new set of instructors at both places to get back to some of the basics with the bat.
5. Michael Gettys
How Acquired: Second Round/2014
Gettys also threw over in the mid-90s as a pitcher in high school. (Scott Rodgers)
2014 Highlights: The super-toolsy outfielder from Georgia actually seems a lot like the players Preller’s former club, the Rangers, have feasted on in recent drafts. He has immense athletic ability and his power, arm and speed can be carrying tools. And he might also never figure out how to make contact with enough frequency to make any of it matter. The second-rounder had a strong .310 average and swiped 14 bases in his pro debut in Peoria. He also struck out in nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances.
Negatives:There has been quite a bit of talk about his swing and his ability to make contract. So far the Padres claim they don’t see it but life can change once a player gets out of the AZL and into the cold of the Midwest League.
Projection: He’s very young and very far away, but the tools are something to really be excited about.
MadFriars’ Assessment: He’s a guy who could still be a valuable big league regular even hitting .230, but there are plenty who doubt whether he’ll ever be able to do that consistently. It will be interesting to see whether the organization pushes him to Ft. Wayne or if they keep him back to work on swing mechanics in extended spring training.
6. Cory Spangenberg
How Acquired: First Round/2011
(San Antonio Missions)
2014 Highlights: Spangenberg suffered a second serious concussion early in the year - and many thought his career could be in doubt - but he bounced back with a torrid .343/.378/.452 line and earned a promotion to the big club.
In San Diego he continued to show his versatility playing second, third and a little outfield.
Negatives: His defense improved greatly under former Oriole great Rich Dauer but still can look a little awkward. Also, for his speed game to work, he must get on base at a better clip and pull the ball better so he doesn’t face the same defensive alignments that flummoxed Sean Burroughs.
Projection: If he can improve his on-base percentage a little more and show people that he can handle either second or third, he could be a regular.
MadFriars’ Assessment: It’s going to be tough for him to break camp with the talent on the big league team, but the infield is also far from set. If Will Middlebrooks and Yangervis Solarte struggle early on at third he could be on the first Southwest flight to San Diego from El Paso.
7) James Needy
Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
Height/Weight: 6-6/ 230
How Acquired: Sixth Round/2009
Needy had a second strong year where he ate innings and posted a low ERA. (San Antonio Missions)
2014 Highlights: Needy is not the type that excites a lot of minor league pundits. His velocity is good not great and he is never going to post huge strikeout-to-walk ratios. What he has done in the past two years is eat innings and rank among the league leaders in ERA. We like that; it’s a big part of winning baseball games to keep the other team from scoring. The six-foot-six Santana graduate relies on sharply tilting sinker that makes it difficult to get solid contact along with an improving slider/changeup.
Negatives: Needy is a pure sinkerball pitcher. Since he is not a swing-and-miss pitcher, his margin for error will be small.
Projection: There will always be more glamorous prospects in the system, but if the opportunity comes along at the right time, Needy has all the tools to be a reliable, quality big league starter.
MadFriars’ Assessment: The Padres will send him to Triple-A El Paso where his ability to keep the ball down will be put to the test. If he can make it through El Paso and some of the other parks in the PCL, Needy has a shot to be in the rotation where PETCO would fit his game like a glove.
8. Jose Rondon
How Acquired: Acquired from Angels for Huston Street in 2014.
2014 Highlights: Rondon was the jewel in the Huston Street trade that saw four Angels’ prospects come over. He is a slick fielding shortstop who has continually hit for a high average. This past year may have been the season that put his name on the map. The Padres believe as he matures he will get stronger and add more power.
Negatives: Others don’t believe his “slap and dash” swing will play at higher levels. He has the arm to play shortstop but some question if he has the lateral quickness to stay there.
Projection: A major league shortstop if he can show he has the bat.
MadFriars’ Assessment: The trade of Trea Turner really opened it up for Rondon, and without any prospect ahead of him in El Paso he has a clear path as far as his talent will take him.
2014 Highlights: The last remaining piece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, Kelly has now worked a total of only 86.2 innings since the start of the 2012 season. He returned from Tommy John surgery in May, made four appearances, and then disappeared completely.
When he’s on he is an athletic pitcher with a very good moving two-seamer/sinker who can eat innings and force a lot of bad contact.
Negatives: Right now it’s just about showing that he can stay on the field.
Projection: He profiles as a mid-rotation starter but he is going to need at least half a year in El Paso to prove he’s the same guy he was in 2011.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Once he’s game ready, he will head out to El Paso where the Padres will be very careful with his innings so he doesn’t have a repeat of last year.
10. Zech Lemond
Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
How Acquired: Third Round/2014
The big question is will Lemond remain a starter. (Eugene Emeralds)
2014 Highlights: Former scouting director Jaron Madison may have pulled a coup when he was able to get Lemond in the third round of this year’s draft. Lemond was primarily a relief pitcher at Rice, but San Diego believes he has the stuff to be a quality starting pitcher with three plus pitches.
Lemond has a good fastball that sits in the mid-90s to go along with a plus spike curve. His change-up was also better than advertised in Eugene.
Negatives: An arm injury caused him to drop to the third round and there are many who doubt he can take the workload of a starter.
Projection:In a perfect world he is mid-rotation big league starter, but that is going to take a while. If he stays in the bullpen he could be up by September.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Under former Director of Development Randy Smith the plan was to give Zech a chance to compete for a starter’s job in Lake Elsinore. Given the depth of the pitching in Fort Wayne in 2014, that plan should still be on the table. The Houston native could be a fast riser through the organization.
11. Auston Bousfield
How Acquired: Fifth Round/2014
Bousfield can do a bit of everything. (Eugene Emeralds)
2014 Highlights: Bousfield was one of the youngest college players taken in the draft after a solid three-year career at Ole Miss showed the type of all-around game that will get him noticed to go along with 12 stolen bases in 16 attempts for the season.
Negatives: While he’s solid across the board, he doesn’t really have an outstanding tool or the arm to play right field.
Projection: Bousfield is a solid defender whose greatest asset is his fundamentally well-rounded game. He walks, can steal a base and has some pop. How far he goes will depend on how much he can build upon that.
MadFriars’ Assessment: With Michael Gettys in center for Fort Wayne, the Padres may take a chance and push Bousfield to High-A Lake Elsinore. If he’s in the Cal League, he will put up better power numbers than he did in his debut season. He’s the type of player that is really only going to be challenged once he reaches Double-A.
12. Kyle Lloyd
Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
How Acquired: 29th Round/2013
Lloyd led the organization in strikeouts in 2014. (Jeff Nyez)
2014 Highlights:Lloyd was a late addition to the TinCaps’ squad who became the team’s best pitcher and had one of the better years in the organization. The old adage “he is a horse” is particularly true of Lloyd, who can eat innings and drive the opposition crazy with his hard splitter. He led the organization with strikeouts, but can sometimes catch a little much of the zone.
Negatives:He was old for the league and there are some concerns about how long his arm will last throwing the splitter as much as he does.
Projection:The big challenge for him will be improved fastball command against better hitters to set up his split.
MadFriars’ Assessment: He will start the year in High-A Lake Elsinore but if he shows promised the team will want to get him to Double-A San Antonio as soon as possible because of his age.
13. Ryan Butler
Position: Relief Pitcher/RHP
How Acquired: Third Round/2014
Butler can touch 100 mph with his fastball. (Jeff Nyez)
2014 Highlights:Butler was a starter in college, but San Diego sees him more as a reliever. He already came back from Tommy John surgery in 2012 and if anything came back stronger. The move to the pen will allow him to go max effort right from the start.
In college he would sit 92, ramping it up to 97 when needed. In Fort Wayne he was consistently hitting 96-97 on the gun and even touched 100. He has good movement to his pitches which leads to a lot of groundball outs.
Negatives: His arm injury history is a red flag, and he needs to improve his slider and change-up.
Projection:There was some talk of moving him back to a starter, but if he stays in the bullpen he has a chance to be special.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Butler is one of the true sleepers in the system and could be the first 2014 draftee to reach the majors. He has some serious heat and if he can coax a little more out of his slider he could move very quickly. He should be the closer for the Storm.
14. Fernando Perez
How Acquired: Third Round/2012
Perez can play three different infield positions. (Jeff Nyez)
2014 Highlights: A native of Ensenada, a product of Otay Ranch high school, and a 2012 pick out of junior college, the bat-first Perez is our pick for the system’s biggest 2015 offensive breakout.
After a thumb injury short-circuited his 2013 campaign, he paced the Tin Caps with 18 homers and over 200 total bases last season, hitting the ball with authority without a high-effort swing. He’s not going to draw a ton of walks, but he’s not Diego Goris either.
Negatives: He has great hand-eye coordination, but he needs to be more selective at the plate. Also, there are concerns about his ability to maintain his current weight.
Projection: Fernando is already too big to play second base on a major league level and really doesn’t have the bat for first base or the speed for the outfield. He has defensive versatility, but his best position is third base.
MadFriars’ Assessment: With the trade of Dustin Peterson, he should settle into third base for the Storm. In an organization without a lot of left-handed bats, Perez could see his value really shoot up this season.
15. Jordan Paroubeck
How Acquired: Second Round/2013
Photo Unavailable. (MadFriars)
2014 Highlights: He looks the part, he has a great background in the game, and when he finally got on the field last year, he was very effective. His shoulder still wasn’t 100 percent in the Arizona League, limiting his play in the field. However, he should be ready to go without restriction in 2015.
Negatives: He needs to stay on the field and right now is limited to left field.
Projection: A lot of talent, on tools alone he could be a star but he’s also only played 34 professional games.
MadFriars’ Assessment: It will be interesting to watch whether the organization decides to push the 20 year old to full-season ball, or if he’ll stay back and head to Tri-Cities in June. If it’s run like last year, he will start the year in Fort Wayne and if he performs, he stays. Ft. Wayne fans should keep their eyes open for his godfather, Barry Bonds, in the stands.
16. Elliott Morris
Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
How Acquired: Fourth Round/2013 (Angels), acquired in the Huston Street trade.
Morris could be the sleeper in the Huston Street trade. (Cherished Memories)
2014 Highlights:As with the acquisition of Jesse Hahn last year, Morris may have the most upside of the four prospects that were brought over in the Huston Street trade. Morris is really just learning how to pitch and more than anyone else, benefitted from the tutelage of Lake Elsinore pitching coach Bronswell Patrick in honing his slider and two-seam fastball.
With the Storm, he showed an ability to go relatively deep in games - seven of his eight starts were over six innings. This was mainly with just throwing one pitch, a four-seam fastball.
Negatives:He needs better secondary pitches.
Projection: The secondary pitches and a two-seam fastball were starting to come at the end of last year in Lake Elsinore. If they pan out, he’s a mid-level big league starter.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Morris appeared to be on the verge of some significant leaps at the end of the season in the Cal League and if he keeps improving on his slider and two-seamer, he could be the sleeper breakout pick along with Lemond and Butler.
17. Franchy Cordero
How Acquired: Signed from Dominican Republic, 2011
Can Cordero stay at SS? (Eugene Emeralds)
2014 Highlights: Yes, his work at shortstop is enough to make you pine for the halcyon days of Edinson Rincon in the infield.
Yes, his swing is weird to watch. But the young Dominican can hit the ball with authority. He has plenty of fast-twitch power. He’s a plus runner. It’s not clear whether the organization will give him one more shot at shortstop in 2015 (there’s not another obvious candidate for the job in Ft. Wayne unless Josh VanMeter stays behind), but the tools will get him all the chances in the world.
Negatives: With 51 errors in 55 games at shortstop in both Fort Wayne and Eugene, the obvious answer is his defense and where he will play. Most of the errors resulted from bad footwork or making ill-advised throws. He has the ability to make all the plays at shortstop, his problem is he didn’t play there until he signed professionally.
He has power at the plate but also has a tendency to lunge at pitches and off-speed might give him more trouble than the average prospect as he moves forward.
Projection: It all depends on how far he has progressed defensively. He may never make it out of the Cal League, but he could also put together the tools and thrive.
MadFriars’ Assessment: He will start they year again at Fort Wayne and right now it looks as if they will give him another opportunity at shortstop.
18. Franmil Reyes
How Acquired: Signed from the Dominican Republic in 2012
Reyes' size attracts attention. (Jeff Nyez)
2014 Highlights: The monster 19-year-old really floundered in the second half of his first full season, but the Dominican has plenty to build on going forward. If he responds to his struggles by committing to a serious conditioning program, he could make people forget 2014 pretty quickly.
Negatives: He is prone to trying to do too much, ultimately taking the bat out of his own hands sometimes. But when he trusts himself enough to stay short to the ball, he can do some serious damage.
Projection: Offensively, Reyes has huge potential. He has shown that he can hit for a high average, hit to all fields, and with incredible power that you just don’t see from an 18-year-old. He has a strong arm and has the potential to be an above-average defender.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Reyes should get a shot at playing in Lake Elsinore next year mainly because they have talented outfielders below him.
19. Cody Decker
How Acquired: 22nd Round/2009
Decker's versatility could earn him a trip to San Diego. (Ivan Pierre Acquire)
2014 Highlights: Decker led the organization in home runs and finished third in RBI; and it’s not his first time among the leaders in the organization in these categories. At the beginning of last year, he had the most home runs of any current minor leaguer who had never appeared in the major leagues. It seems likely he will have that distinction once again this spring.
So why didn’t he get a chance at the majors? Your guess is as good as ours, but for one of the coveted 40-man roster spots frequently it just comes down to the subjective views of who is in charge. On the plus side, he seems like the perfect bench player for a National League team with his ability to play multiple positions and ability to hit for power.
Chihuahua’s manager Pat Murphy also allowed him to get in a game as a pitcher where Decker threw a clean slate.
Negatives: He will be the first to admit that he is a better hitter than his on-base percentage indicated last season and may have gone at times for a little too much power. The perception that he is a one-dimensional power player who is too short for first base and questionable elsewhere; things will have to line up just right for him to get a shot. If that time comes, his bat will determine the outcome.
Projection: If the Padres allow him to play more third base and catch, he really could be a valuable bench player. Decker may not have the greatest range, but is relatively sure-handed with a career .991 fielding percentage (we know there are better ways of measuring defensive efficiency but we are going to go with this) at five different positions and has a strong arm.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Decker is the type of player everyone roots for. He does all the little things right, and will always go the extra mile to succeed. He might never make it to the majors with the Padres, but similar to Dean Anna and Dan Robertson last year, Decker’s play in the field has warranted that shot either in San Diego or somewhere else.
20. Seth Streich
Position: Starting Pitcher/RHP
How Acquired: Sixth Round/2012 (A’s); acquired with Derek Norris for R.J. Alvarez and Jesse Hahn
Streich came over in the Jesse Hahn off-season trade. (Chris Lockard/Scout.com)
2014 Highlights: Streich was a two-way star for the University of Ohio Bobcats finishing off with a career .294/.333/.490 slash line before dedicating himself to pitching with when he entered the pros. In three years in the A’s organization, he posted a 3.37 ERA and 246 strikeouts in 262 innings pitched.
He throws in the low 90s and has a decent two-seamer to go along with a developing curve and change-up.
Negatives: He’s still learning how to pitch and needs to be more aggressive with his stuff.
Projection:Back of the rotation starter, but without big velocity his secondary pitches are really going to need to pick up.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Streich had shoulder surgery in late August and will miss the first few months of the season. Before all of the off-season trades, the San Antonio staff may have been the best in the organization. Streich won’t replace Joe Ross or Zach Eflin, but he will be a quality arm who also should be fun to watch hit once he is back on the field.
Compiled and written by John Conniff, David Jay and Ben Davey