San Antonio Missions

We talk San Diego Top 20 Prospect lists with's Jim Callis

Jim Callis has been working as a baseball reporter/analyst since 1988, when he graduated from the University of Georgia and began with Baseball America. In 2013 he left Baseball America and now his work, and Jim heads prospect coverage for MLB Network and As always Jim was kind enough to give us some time to chat about this year’s Padres’ prospects.

When you’re ranking players, how do you balance between performance and ceiling?
Jim Callis: I really don’t think there is a set formula. You take in all of the information that you can and try to apply it.

I try my best to get information from both within and outside organizations because teams are usually going to like their own players more than others. For Padres’ fans I think all you kind of saw that play out last season with the flurry of trades we saw A.J. Preller make because they were all someone else’s players.

I kind of follow, to some extent, the paradigm that Theo Epstein set up. Tthe higher up you go the more important numbers are. You can have all of the tools in the world, but if you are not putting up statistics in Double-A and Triple-A, it’s a concern.

At the lower levels, a lot of us have been covering these guys since they were in high school, so we have some history there, and tools play a bigger role.

What was your overall impression of the system before and after the trades?
Jim Callis: Like everyone, I like it a lot more after the Craig Kimbrel trade. We can argue between [Manuel] Margot and [Javier] Guerra on which one is better, but I also really like getting [LHP] Logan Allen.

Allen wasn’t a high pick, but he was paid like one. [Allen was given a $725,000 signing bonus according to Baseball America.]

Our list was done last July and we should update it again in late February. It’s still a fairly thin system but it is a lot better than it was before.

Manuel Margot is your top prospect. What do you see as his strengths and where are his weaknesses?
Jim Callis: The way our list worked we had Margot, Renfroe and Guerra in the Top 100, but that could change.

Margot was only 20 years old last year and makes contact fairly easily, which I think hurt his walk totals. I think he will hit for average at higher levels and I project him as a player that could post a batting average of around .290 with an on-base percentage in the .350 range.

The big question with him will be how much power he will have down the road.

You are still high on Hunter Renfroe despite his struggles early in the season in Double-A. Do you have concerns about how much contact he will make at higher levels?
Jim Callis:
I wouldn’t say that I am pounding the table on him, but I still think that he has some of the best right-handed power in the minor leagues, which is difficult to find. Of all of his tools, the hit tool may be the worst.

He plays a good right field, doesn’t cheat himself on his swings and can run a little. I would like to see him draw a few more walks and he should start the year in Triple-A.

What gives Austin Smith have a higher upside than Jacob Nix?
Jim Callis: It’s a pretty small differential. Nix is essentially a high school pitcher as well. Smith has a little better breaking ball, but they both almost have the same build.

At MadFriars, none of us are as high on Jose Rondon's hitting tool or his ability to stay at shortstop as others are. What do you like?
Jim Callis: I don’t know if we are that high on him. Remember we did our lists at mid-season. I don’t see him as a high-ceiling guy or that he has a tool that you can hang your hat on either. In the big leagues he could hit .260 with no power or walks, but then again there is a higher floor on him in that I think he will get there.

There is no comparison with him and Guerra, especially defensively. However, you also have to keep in mind that Greenville [the Red Sox Low-A affiliate] is a pretty good place to hit.

Ryan Butler seems like a sleeper to me. If he can stick as a starter, where do you see his upside?
Jim Callis: I like the arm but I see him as more of a reliever. He throws really hard, but his slider and change are too inconsistent right now to go along with a checkered medical past.In the Arizona Fall League, I thought many of the hitters were sitting on his fastball, which gave him some problems. He’s going to need something else to go along with his fastball, but I do like the arm. Right now his slider just doesn’t have a lot of tilt.

Two of the guys on the list, Colin Rea and Travis Jankowski, should see time in San Diego this summer. What do you think of them?
Jim Callis: Rea’s stock really surged and the Padres really do like him quite a bit. I thought he pitched reasonably well in San Diego. He has a good fastball with secondary pitches that still need some work. He’s the type of pitcher that fits solidly in the middle of the rotation.

Jankowski can run and really plays a very good centerfield. A big question is how much power he may or may not have, especially in PETCO. I think last year the strike zone got away from him a little bit in the big leagues - which happens to a lot of young guys their first time up. I would like to see him adapt a little bit more his second time around.

A guy both of us liked last spring was Michael Gettys. Do you think he will gain more plate discipline?
Jim Callis: I don’t know. Plate discipline is kind of one of those things you either have or you don’t; and with Michael that has been a question going back to his high school career. The strikeout numbers [162 in 522 plate appearances] in 2015 are a serious concern. He was only 19 and still has plenty of time to develop, but so far I don’t have a lot of confidence in what I have seen.

Who is your sleeper?
Jim Callis: I don’t know how how much of a sleeper Logan Allen is, but he is someone that I would watch this season.

I know Zech Lemond had a tough 2015, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see if he bounces back, especially if he is in the bullpen. I like Jose Torres, a sinker/slider guy and a guy I know you guys are aware of too that I really like Dinelson Lamet. He’s was a little old for the Midwest League last year, but I like his fastball.

Last question. The Padres have six of the first 85 picks in next year’s draft. Have you heard anything especially with Logan White taking over the draft?
Jim Callis: Logan’s drafts were as good as anyone’s in baseball with the Dodgers, so that is a good indicator going forward for San Diego.

It’s still too early to tell who they may or may not take. It’s an okay draft and there is no clear number one pick. There are about four pitchers that are head-and-shoulders above everyone else. San Diego has the eighth pick and there should be some interesting outfielders in that range.

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