Jorge Salgado

David Jay's Top 30 San Diego Padres Prospects heading into 2017

David Jay rounds out the individual Top 30 lists with his look at the top prospects in the Padres' rebuilt system.

I’ve said many times that prospect rankings tell you at least as much about the author as they do about the players who are ranked. You’ll see from mine that, among position players I tend to value upside significantly, while I’m quite happy to rank future innings-eating back-end starters higher than some others.

While I’ve always struggled to figure out what to do with relief prospects, it’s even harder now. In addition to the huge variability we see from late-inning guys, there’s even more value being put on moderately-talented set-up men in the big leagues.

I’ve opted not to include any pure relievers in my top 30 list this year. When Trevor Gott is worth a starting big league infielder in trade, Brett Cecil can snag a four-year, $30+ million contract, and Ryan Buchter emerges as a key contributor, it’s beyond my ability to determine where Phil Maton, Jose Torres, Yimmi Brasoban, Jason Jester, Brad Wieck, Kyle McGrath, Rafael DePaula and others – all of whom could conceivably provide quality innings at the big league level as soon as this coming season – belong in comparison to the guys I’ve ranked.

From last year’s list, Javier Guerra, Austin Smith, Jose Urena and Ryan Butler (whose suspension was announced about six seconds after I finished everything) took the biggest steps backward. Smith may have pitched his way out of starting, Urena’s going to have some trouble making a roster this year and Guerra is… god knows what.

Conversely, I was high man on Logan Allen, which I think was right even with the elbow issues last summer, and I’m still pleased to have stuck with my high estimation of Travis Jankowski, who will be collecting big league at-bats well into the next decade.

It goes without saying that this year’s list has a ton more depth – and a more at the very top – than last year’s. I gathered notes on over 60 non-relievers before settling on the list I have here. I’d gladly accept arguments for another 10-to-12 players who could have slotted in at the back end.

I only included one traditional July 2 signee, though there are certainly arguments for another half dozen players who have yet to make an appearance in a game in the United States, based purely on upside.

While only a few of the names on this list are likely to lose their eligibility in the coming year, given the amount of young talent in the system, I suspect there will be even more volatility between this list and next year’s than there has been in the recent past.

1) Anderson Espinoza, RHP

Espinoza came stateside for the Red Sox organization as a precocious 17-year-old and got the baseball world talking with 10 dominant starts in the GCL. In his first full season, his numbers weren’t nearly as eye-popping, but the stuff was. His fastball is easy in the mid-90s with the ability to touch higher. While his change was his best offspeed pitch when he arrived in the U.S., he focused on developing his curve this year. It’s now a strong offering and should play better when he’s mixing all three pitches in more consistently.

As impressive as Espinoza is now, the obvious opportunities for further development really get observers excited. He won’t be 19 until he’s been in Peoria for a few weeks next spring, but he’s already started experimenting with cutting his fastball a bit, and will likely add in a two-seamer before he hits the big leagues. He’s got really good feel for pitching and is much better able to articulate what he’s trying to do on the mound than many older pitchers. His impressive arm speed gives plenty of upside on both the fastball and curve. His combination of present ability, room for growth and youth is a rare package. He will be just one of many reasons Padres fans should plan to spend a lot of summer nights in Lake Elsinore in 2017.

2) Manuel Margot, CF

Last year I was cautious about “shiny new toy” syndrome with Margot (a strategy I should also have employed with Javier Guerra). But now that I’ve seen him and have much more information on him, I’m all-in on him as a guy who will be very good for a long time. Margot played the entire season in the PCL as a 21-year-old, pairing above-league-average offense with fantastic center field defense and real value on the basepaths. And there are plenty of indicators that there’s much more to come.

While Margot already has the components of a game built around getting on base – he makes solid contact, doesn’t strike out, has quality pitch recognition – he also shares traits with players who have suddenly added some solid power to their games in their early 20s. That would take him from being a valuable commodity to a top-tier player.

Margot will likely start 2017 in the minors, though perhaps he won’t have to wait until the Super-Two deadline to pass before he arrives at Petco. But when he arrives, the Padres will have their best all-around center fielder since their last World Series appearance.

3) Adrian Morejon, LHP

The Padres’ decision to blow the roof off their international spending coincided nicely with MLB’s clearance of Morejon as a free agent. The 17-year-old lefty has been on teams’ radar since he earned the victory over the United States in the gold medal game of the 2014 Under 15 World Cup, and was part of the mass exodus from the island in the second half of 2015.

Morejon is widely seen as the real deal. He sits mid-90s with his fastball and already shows a change-up and slider that have many in the organization giddy. Those who saw him in the Dominican like  both his consistent mechanics and work ethic, and several think he can move very quickly. But it seems more reasonable to project him to compete for a rotation spot in Fort Wayne and then work through the many adjustments he’ll be facing in his acclimation to the game stateside. If he has success there, he’ll already be well ahead of the curve.

4) Hunter Renfroe, RF

From the time he came into the system as a first-round pick in 2013, one question has followed Renfroe: would he make contact often enough to let his prodigious power play. After striking out in just over a quarter of his plate appearances at Single-A, the big Mississippian has pared that down to just over 20 percent in Triple-A. While there’s been significant concern aired in some circles about that, I’m inclined to side with those in and out of the system who are bullish on Renfroe. He’s demonstrated abilities to make adjustments in both approach and mechanics, and I think he will again do so that the big league level. While we’ll probably see that K rate edge back up, I also think he’ll begin to draw walks again at the rate he did in San Antonio.

As he showed when he became the first player to put a ball on top of the Western Metals building in a game, Renfroe has truly light-tower strength. He’s coming off a 30 homer season in El Paso and, even factoring in the difference of hitting at Petco, has that sort of power at the highest level as well.

Unlike most corner outfielders with his offensive profile, he also provides value defensively too. Though his routes are sometimes questionable (a remnant of having significantly less experience coming out of college than the typical SEC first-rounder), he covers ground well and has a plus or better arm. He’ll be 25 when spring training opens and has nothing left to prove in the minors. We should expect to see him in the middle of the Padres lineup for 2017 and beyond.

5) Cal Quantrill, RHP

During the spring of his senior year of high school, Quantrill and the rest of his Canadian U18 national team spent a few weeks in Arizona barnstorming against minor league players. When the team hit Peoria, there were 20-plus scouts and scouting directors out at Field 6 to watch him throw at 10:00 a.m. That was the first time I heard it suggested he might be the top pick in 2016. Obviously, the intervening three years took the son of long-time big leaguer Paul Quantrill on a more circuitous route than he might have hoped, but there is no doubting the potential here.

He’ll go into spring training this year 23 months off Tommy John surgery, having thrown only 37 competitive innings since. But he showed plenty to like in his pro debut, flashing a fastball with a bit more velocity than the organization expected in the early going and the same feel for a fantastic change-up that evaluators remembered.

While he will definitely be working under an innings cap in 2017, the team likely won’t settle on a target number of pitches until later in spring. If things go well, they’ll probably want him to use most of his innings in Elsinore, but they could be aggressive in moving him up to San Antonio. If it were me, I’d go slow and assume you’re prepping him for a big league job at the start of 2019, with the goal of having him ready to throw 180-plus innings then.

6) Jake Nix, RHP

In a system that had a ton of young pitching at the start of last season, I think Nix clearly stands out. While the guys above who joined the organization in the last ten months passed him, I’ve heard from several people who think he’s the best true returner at any level. While his numbers in his first full professional season were more solid than stellar, there’s little doubt he has the arsenal of a big league starter. His fastball can hold at 93-94 deep into outings, and he already uses his curve effectively for both swinging and called strikes. He  was a strong student of Burt Hooten’s in Fort Wayne and is able to work a plan very effectively.

At 21 years old, Nix will be coming back home to Southern California to open the year in the Storm rotation. He has the physical presence, pitching mix, and approach you want to see, and has put together the mental side of his game as well.

7) Luis Urias, 2B

Urias is better at making quality contact than anyone I’ve seen in the decade-plus I’ve been covering the organization. While there are plenty of things that he’s not, what he’s good at is incredibly valuable. He’s added some muscle mass since he burst onto the scene as a barely-18-year-old in Fort Wayne in the summer of 2015, but he’s never going to be the size of a prototypical big leaguer. But the kid can hit – and he’s getting to the point where he can inflict some damage.

Urias has a short, easy swing with great pitch recognition and he gets the barrel to all parts of the strike zone easily. He’s walked more than he’s struck out as a professional, and looked completely comfortable when the organization showed confidence in him by giving him a three-day cameo in Triple-A last summer. He’ll have amassed a few hundred at-bats in Double-A before he turns 20 in June, and is likely the club’s long-term solution at second base, though he does have enough arm for third and it’s conceivable the club’s plan to experiment with him at shortstop in 2017 will lead to a bit more positional flexibility.

8) Michael Gettys, CF

Gettys was a toolsy upside gamble when the Padres tapped him with their second-round pick in 2014. The question then was whether he’d ever hit enough to tap into his impressive raw abilities offensively. Two-plus years later, there’s more reason for optimism, but still a lot of questions to answer. He came in to camp slightly less bulky this year, but is still physically imposing. But it was his development mentally which was glaringly obvious – a tribute both to Michael and Director of Professional Development, Jason Amoroso.

With a much more relaxed approach – accentuated by a unique back stretch going into his set-up before every pitch that he added with Morgan Burkhart last spring – the 21-year-old true center fielder posted averages above .300 in both Single-A levels and boosted his isolated power while decreasing his strikeout rate. Making improvements in both simultaneously is very encouraging sign, but it only brought his K rate down from ungodly to troublesome. He should spend a good part of 2017 back in Lake Elsinore, especially after his poor showing in the Arizona Fall League, but the real test for Gettys will be whether his pitch recognition and ability to stay in the moment hold up when he reaches Double-A. If he can keep his strikeout rate in the merely poor range, his combination of power and potentially plus defense in center field put him in line to spend plenty of time in the big leagues over the next decade.

9) Dinelson Lamet, RHP

Lamet’s backstory is an odd one. Because he was caught using a fake identity to try to sign with the Phillies in 2012, he wasn’t able to begin his professional career until a very brief cameo in the DSL as a 22-year-old in 2014. He has more than made up for lost time.

Lamet totally outclassed Cal League hitters before getting promoted to San Antonio, and the hard-throwing righty continued to impress there. He’s got a big fastball and a slider that can be really nasty. The organization’s been trying to help him develop the change as an effective third pitch that will allow him to continue to start in the Majors, and several people think he’ll get to the point where it’s more than that. If so, some of the walks he’s surrendering now could turn into more swinging strikes, and he’d be in a really good spot.

He should spend much of 2017 in El Paso, but without much competition at the top of the system, he’ll likely get a look in San Diego at some point.

10) Carlos Asuaje, 2B

The rare internationally-born player drafted out of a U.S. college (he moved to the states from Venezuela as a teen and is fluent in both English and Spanish), Asuaje was the least-heralded player acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade last winter. But the left-handed hitting infielder showed great bat-to-ball skills in El Paso, earning league honors as he posted a .321/.378/.473 line. He profiles more as a solid contributor than a long-term starter, but his proximity to the big leagues, potential positional versatility at second and third, and contact-oriented offensive game all earn him a spot here on the list. He should see plenty of at-bats in San Diego in 2017.

11) Fernando Tatis, Jr. SS

After signing with the White Sox for a significant, but not top-end, bonus last July 2, Tatis had people talking when they saw him in Glendale this spring. The son of a long-time big league slugger, Tatis had grown significantly and was impressing at the plate and in the field. His profile jumped significantly in June as he became the central return when the Padres traded James Shields (and a boatload of money) to Chicago.

As impressive as his raw power and bat speed are, he also has a tendency to swing way too often – a trait that is somewhat surprising for a kid who’s had as much exposure to the game at its highest levels as he has. Some in the organization think he was trying too hard to impress after drawing as much attention as he has, but it will definitely be important to see quick improvements in this area.

That said, he’ll be a young 18-year-old playing a lot of shortstop in the Midwest League all year, and even if he ultimately outgrows the position, there is no doubt that he’ll be able to stay in the infield. He’s got as much upside as any position player in the organization right now, but there are enough red flags and he’s far enough away that it’s best to remain cautious.

12) Mason Thompson, RHP

If you called central casting for a Texas high school pitcher, they’d send you Mason Thompson. He’s long-limbed, has a frame that will add plenty of good weight, and he really knows his craft of pitching. The 18-year-old was on watch lists after his freshman year in Round Rock and worked with Team USA, ultimately earning the victory over Cuba in the gold medal game of the 15U tournament a year before Morejon got his.

But the 6-6 righty underwent Tommy John surgery during the spring of his junior year, sat out the showcase circuit and made only one appearance in his senior year. That didn’t keep Mark Conner’s scouting group from taking him in the third round and paying him mid-first round money this June.

Watching him throw, it’s easy to see why player development folks like him. Thompson has nice extension and good arm action, and has had lots of exposure to high-level coaching for a long time (he credits former big-leaguer Paul Byrd for his quality change-up). While he wasn’t showing his pre-surgery velocity very much in Peoria, there’s general consensus that it will and improve as he gets further away from the injury. He’ll likely open the year piggy-backing in the Fort Wayne rotation, and is likely to follow a similar development path to 2015 third-rounder Jake Nix.

13) Logan Allen, LHP

The lefty’s first season in the Padres organization was cut short by a midyear stint on the disabled list for vague elbow soreness. It’s encouraging that he got back into games for the last month of the year, but still a concern looking ahead. There’s plenty to like in the package he offers on the mound. Allen has good fastball movement from the left side, already solid feel for a breaking ball, and a mental approach well beyond his years. And he won’t turn 20 until May.

If it were my call, given his age, paucity of professional innings, and the absurd depth of starting pitching in Single-A, I’d likely send Allen back to open 2017 in Fort Wayne. But I certainly would not expect him to spend the summer in the Midwest League.

14) Eric Lauer, LHP

Lauer was the last of the Padres’ three first-round picks in the 2016 draft, Lauer is pretty close to a finished product already. The 21-year-old lefty, another in a crowd of players Mark Conner had as a local Midwest scout before his current gig as scouting director, has four pitches, none of which are stellar, but all of which play solidly. He’s a quality athlete (he earned accolades as a high school wide receiver) and excelled with the spotlight on him on the Cape in the summer of 2015. The bulk of his professional innings this year came in Tri-City where he overmatched hitters pretty thoroughly.

It would be surprising if Lauer doesn’t open 2017 at least in Lake Elsinore, and it’s not out of the question that the team might push him up to Double-A to put him up against hitters who can be selective within the zone in match-ups. He’s got more velocity than some of the natural name comps (please don’t say Wade LeBlanc), and it’s possible that he’ll emerge as more than a back-of-the-rotation starter. But if he can be a solid contributor in that role, given the amount of money teams are spending on pitchers whose contributions often aren’t solid, it would be a huge boost for the Padres.

15) Josh Naylor, 1B

There are things to like about Naylor, especially his impressive natural power, bat speed, and incredible youth. Two weeks younger than Luis Urias, Naylor got an aggressive assignment to join Urias with the Storm when the Padres acquired him from the Marlins. That was a lot to ask of the burly Canadian barely a year after he was the 12th overall pick in the draft – a pick that was widely seen as a reach by the Marlins at the time. His line in 144 Cal League plate appearances was an uninspiring .252/.264/.353, but he was in the midst of a decent first season in Low-A before the trade.

The organization was very pleased with his showing at instructs, and he wowed with his batting practice when the group came over to Petco in October. (He’d done the same as the youngest member of the MLB Futures Game three months earlier.)

Naylor has no chance of playing anywhere but first base, and despite all the protestations that he’s athletic for his size, his work around the bag defensively was not encouraging in my limited views. Ultimately, being a one-dimensional slugger is a tough way to make it through the minors, and I worry that his incredibly violent swing will make it hard for him to adjust to advanced pitching. But the big man is going to get a lot of opportunity to turn his monster raw tool into a quality skill. He’ll likely spend all of 2017 at Lake Elsinore, and his future from there will depend on how much improvement he shows.

16) Hudson Potts, TBD

Potts was a surprise first-rounder whose below-slot bonus allowed the Padres to spend heavy on pitching with subsequent picks. But, in addition to being the youngest player to sign out of the draft (he did not turn 18 until a few days before instructs ended), the Texan also proved to be one of the better performers in the AZL. While there’s near universal certainty he won’t stay at shortstop, and some question whether he can stay on the infield at all, there’s also plenty of observers who believe in the bat. One scout I spoke to in Arizona had him second only to Leody Taveras among position players on the circuit this year.

Potts will likely spend all of 2017 in Fort Wayne, and the club will continue to rotate him through shortstop as long as they can. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him, at such a young age, struggle through the campaign as he adjusts to cold weather and the rigors of the professional workload, and continues to grow into his offensive game. But at this point, the numbers are not the top priority; if he demonstrates ability to make adjustments and learn, the numbers will follow in the future.

17) Chris Paddack, RHP

The last time a player announced himself so loudly in Fort Wayne was when Ruddy Giron came out guns blazing when he joined the TinCaps in 2015. Paddack, the player acquired straight-up for All-Star reliever Fernando Rodney, made three ridiculous starts for Fort Wayne, giving up just one run and striking out nearly twice as many batters as he allowed to reach base in 14 innings. But then the 20-year-old righty blew out his elbow, ultimately undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him out of action all of next year.

The big Texan already owns a solid fastball and a change-up that elicited words like “absurd” and “obscene” from multiple observers. As impressive as his showing in Low-A for both the Marlins and Padres was, he’s ultimately going to be a 22-year-old with 42 innings of full-season ball under his belt when he takes a mound again in 2018. Absent the injury, he likely could have been much higher on this list. But until we really see what he looks like upon his return, it’s hard for me to put him higher.

18) Walker Lockett, RHP

In the course of 12 months, Lockett went from a guy sent out to the complex league whose future was in doubt to starting a Triple-A playoff game ready to join the 40-man roster. That just doesn’t happen. But the big Floridian, who earned our nod as the Pitcher of the Year, finally put together the year that three different scouting and player development groups thought he had in him. He works primarily off his two-seam fastball, though he integrated a four-seamer he can get past hitters up in the zone more this year, and showed two different breaking balls and a change this year.

The 22-year-old is a perfect example of how much of player development is a matter of being in the right spot at the right time. In many organizations, it might be hard for him to get a look at the big league level coming into 2017. But given the status of the Padres’ pitching staff, Lockett will most likely get real opportunities throughout the year. It’s certainly not a lock that he’ll be able to convert on the chance, but he has enough ability – and has shown he can overcome adversity – that it’s quite possible that he’ll wind up launching a solid big-league career this year.

19) Franmil Reyes, RF

For two straight years, I’ve held on as the high man on the massive right fielder, waiting for him to convert on his tools in game situations. Soon before his 21st birthday this summer, we finally saw him performing the way he had in the desert in 2013. Mechanical changes in his set-up and lower half to shorten some of his long levers resulted in a second half in which Reyes unloaded for a .320/.386/.522 line with 11 homers in 66 games.

I think the big man could have even more in him, and I suspect the extended taste of success will go a long way toward making him think so too. While he’s only an average, at best, defender in the outfield and it might ultimately make sense to move him to first base, he has enough raw power to put it out of any part of any park – a fact he seemingly just embraced this year. He’ll spend next summer in San Antonio. If he can keep doing what he did for the final three months of 2016 – which will largely hinge on his pitch recognition -  he’ll be getting an awful lot of attention at this time next year.

20) Brett Kennedy, RHP

A cold-weather (New Jersey) kid from an unheralded Fordham program who was never really on the circuit as a high schooler, Kennedy was an astute pick as an 11th-rounder in 2015. After a quick stint in Fort Wayne to open his first full professional season, he spent the bulk of the year in the Cal League, where he more than held his own.

Working with a fastball that was effective at both the top and bottom of the zone and an emerging slider, he was pretty dominant except for a pair of shellackings in High Desert. He’ll open 2017 as a 22-year-old at the front of San Antonio’s rotation. While he doesn’t have the same prototypical innings-eater body type, he reminds me in some ways of Matt Andriese. That’s a guy who could emerge as a quality back-of-the-rotation starter in the majors without ever having gotten much love as a prospect.

21) Joey Lucchesi, LHP

Although the NCAA strikeout leader has a lot of funk to his delivery, he’s more than just a lefty who relies on deception. The lanky southpaw, who put up completely ridiculous numbers in the Northwest League this summer after signing as a senior in the fourth round, can dial his fastball up to the mid-90s with pretty pinpoint control and surprised with more consistent feel for his changeup than he’d previously shown.

The velocity is relatively new for Lucchesi, who went undrafted out of high school and junior college in the Bay Area, and following his junior season at Southeast Missouri, and he used it to become the first two-time pitcher of the year in the Ohio Valley Conference. Because his journey to draft day was circuitous, he will turn 24 in June of his first full professional season, so the organization will likely want to be aggressive with his timeline. I’d expect he’ll open in Elsinore, and if he’s able to maintain anything close to the crazy numbers he put up in Tri-City – where he struck out 53 and walked two on his way to a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings – he could be pushed on to San Antonio relatively quickly.

22) Jorge Oña, OF

There’s a decent chance having the 19-year-old Cuban this low will look really stupid in a year. He received a $7 million bonus in July, a year after he left the island. He drew attention by blowing through the COPABE tournament in 2014, and received wide praise during his workouts before finally signing. But several people who saw him during instructs saw a much less complete package than we’d previously heard. It’s important to remember that he’d had a significant layoff from actual game situations, but I’m going to wait for more information before going all-in on him, especially given some recent high-profile flameouts by young Cubans.

Oña will open the 2016 season in right field for Fort Wayne. If things play out the way Chris Kemp and AJ Preller hope, he’ll show prototypical right fielder skills as a power hitter with a plus arm in the outfielder. His performance will definitely merit plenty of attention early in the season, and he’ll be a reason we put Fort Wayne on our travel schedule early.

23) Ruddy Giron, INF

Like Michael Gettys, Giron was on the bubble for opening the 2016 season in Lake Elsinore, but ultimately returned to Fort Wayne to hone a few skills (and wait for a positional traffic jam to clear in front of him). Unlike Gettys, the second pass at the Midwest League was not looking good at the end of June. But then Giron incorporated a few mechanical changes into his swing, saw his second-half OPS jump by more than 200 points from the first half, and earned himself a late promotion to the Storm.

I still don’t think Ruddy is a shortstop in the long term (and with Javier Guerra back in Elsinore to resurrect his status to start 2017, he’ll wind up deferring on the position as soon as this spring). But despite the challenges this year, I do still believe the bat will develop to the point where he’ll be a viable starting infielder in the major leagues. Even when things were going horribly this spring, he wasn’t striking out, he was taking good at-bats, and wasn’t sulking in the field because of his hitting. I think we’ll see a big bounce-back in the Cal League in 2017, and then it will be up to Giron and the coaching staff to keep him on track with his newly simplified swing as he moves up from there.

24) Enyel De Los Santos

A year ago, De Los Santos became the first Low-A arm AJ Preller targeted in a trade of a big league player. He was a still-19-year-old with 62 professional innings under his belt when he was acquired with Nelson Ward for Joaquin Benoit. Pushed to develop his offspeed stuff in his first year in the Padres system, the 6-4 righty was solid if not spectacular, but there’s a lot more in there.

He’s got impressive fastball velocity but is still working to command it consistently, and has got the makings of both a slider and change. He seemed gassed in the last start I saw him make, but another offseason of strength training should help with that – and his frame definitely has room for growth. With the massive wave of starters coming behind him, De Los Santos might be pushed ahead to San Antonio faster than would be ideal for his development, and if the slider doesn’t come along fast enough, he still has upside as a reliever.

25) Buddy Reed

Buddy Reed has everything you’d want in a top-tier prospect - except any meaningful history of performance. A fantastic three-sport athlete in high school, Reed was recruited to the University of Florida (after choosing not to sign with AJ Preller’s Rangers) and showed great athleticism but inconsistent baseball skills. Coming into his junior year, there was thought that, if he put it all together, he’d be a top 10 pick. Instead, he took a step backward and fell to the Padres in the second round.

A natural right-hander, Reed is a switch-hitter – a move designed in part to take advantage of his fantastic speed. But he has trouble with swing mechanics from both sides of the plate, especially the left. It might ultimately make more sense to get him back to only having to worry about one swing, and think a bit more about hitting the ball with authority rather than a slap-and-dash game. He’s already a stellar defender and even moderate improvement in his offense would make him a potential big league contributor.

26) Austin Allen, C

On May first, Allen had an OPS north of 1.100, more walks than strikeouts, and more than half the balls he’d hit had fallen in for hits. While he returned to earth for the rest of the season, the big-bodied, left-handed hitter still put up impressive numbers as a catcher in his first full professional season. The two questions the St. Louis native must answer are whether he can stay behind the plate, and how much of his raw power will ever be part of his game. The big man doesn’t have much loft in his swing, and despite making solid contact frequently, his isolated power number of just .105 is troubling, though I think he can build on it. A year in the Cal League will definitely give him the opportunity to do so.

The defense is a bigger question for me. While Allen’s made real progress from when he came into the organization, I still don’t know that he’s even a below-average receiver. He’ll spend this winter working to hone the skill again, and the organization will hope he takes another stride as big as last year’s. But until we’ve seen it in games, I can’t put the former fourth-rounder higher.

27) Franchy Cordero, CF

The 22-year-old Dominican’s fast-twitch athleticism and strong arm enticed the team to keep trying to turn him into a shortstop. Once that experiment finally ended in May of 2015, things started to improve quickly. The 2016 season was an important breakout for Franchy, whose swing mechanics are so much cleaner than they were when he took the AZL by storm in 2013. From the left side, Cordero offers a nice mix of power and speed, though his tools in every facet of the game still outpace his performance pretty significantly.

There are some pretty big red flags – he strikes out too much, his baserunning decisions and outfield routes mean he gets a lot less out of his speed than he should, and he was exposed in the AFL  -  but he performed impressively at Double-A after getting pushed there noticeably earlier than the organization really wanted.

He should be back in San Antonio until Michael Gettys again forces the organization to bump them both up, and if Margot keeps performing, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him included in a trade before the start of 2018.

28) Luis Almanzar, SS

Typically, I don’t evaluate J2 signees in my lists because the amount of real, first-hand information is simply so low. Almanzar is not typical for two reasons. One is that he was actually in the states for a few years and spent his freshman year at Florida’s highly productive American Heritage Academy before returning home to the Dominican to sign. The other is that he was universally seen as one of the top two 16-year-olds in his class. We got just the briefest of looks at him in October, and certainly the tools and physical presence are intriguing. But he’s also a long, long, long way off. Almanzar has the build and arm to stay on shortstop, and the wiry strength to be a force at the plate. He’s also got a more refined approach at the plate than other guys with his experience level. Unless something goes awry, he’ll open the 2017 season in the AZL, where he’ll timeshare the position much the way Fernando Tatis and Hudson Potts did last year.

29) Henry Henry, RHP

Even aside from the spectacular name, Henry is a guy you should get to know. Pitching as a 17-year-old in the AZL, his surface-level numbers were pretty mediocre, but the underlying indicators were positive. He struck out one per inning and didn’t give up a lot of hits, though the walks were (predictably) high. He’s a big personality who has plenty to work on, but he also showed quality stuff and was a sponge for information when I saw him. Already much thicker than his listed weight, Henry has the prototypical build, feel for a breaking ball, and solid velocity. His release point flew around a little in the game I watched, but the organization’s decision-makers are bullish on him. It would definitely be very aggressive to try to get him to Fort Wayne in 2017, but he’ll still be well ahead of the developmental curve even if he works another full summer in Peoria.

30) Javier Guerra, SS

The first time I saw Guerra in person was the Storm’s opening game in Rancho. After putting him at number one on my list last winter based on video and first-hand reports from several people I respect, I was having buyer’s remorse by the fifth inning. Every time I saw him this year, his plate appearances were awful. His backside was going the wrong way, his swing was painfully long to the ball, he wasn’t recognizing pitches, and when he did guess right, he had a bad approach. And his defense was no more reassuring. While early on, I saw him dial up his impressive arm when he needed to, he also showed poor footwork, was lazy with his release, and often looked like he was uninterested in the field.

The Padres ultimately shut him down in early August with an unspecified injury. While he was in uniform and working out during instructs, his only two in-game at-bats were at Petco, and included a weak grounder and strikeout. I genuinely don’t know what to do with him. He’s still got the same talents everyone saw in Greenville, but I’ve truly never seen someone with that talent look as lost on the field as he did by July. I’m not ready to give up entirely on him, but it’s going to take a LOT for him to get back to a spot where you can see a pathway to the big leagues.


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