Mike Rosenbaum has been with MLP Pipeline and MLB.com since 2015. In addition to making the top 30 list for San Diego, he also is in charge for the lists for Baltimore, Cleveland, Miami, Milwaukee, Oakland, Seattle, Tampa, Toronto, and Washington. Previously he was the head writer for Bleacher Report. Mike is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheGoldenSombrero.com. He has also work for Rotoworld and Prep Baseball Report. Mike is originally from Chicago (White Sox fan), and now lives in New York.
You can read Mike's Padres article here and he was nice enough to give us a few minutes of his time to discus his thoughts.
The Padres were ranked by many publications as having one of the top five systems in all of baseball. When you and the other MLB.com writers come together to decide on the organizational rankings, what exactly goes into the ranking?
Mike Rosenbaum: We look at the overall quality particularly of the high level [top 100] prospects. We also factor in guys who we deemed just missed the top 100, and finally we look at further down the list to see the type of player that rounds out the top 30.
Is it a bunch of low level low ceiling longshots who just had one good season in A-Ball, or is it a legit prospect a few years away? We are also looking for overall depth both pitching and hitting, and finally we look at waves of talent. Are all of a team’s top prospects in one league, or is it spread out throughout the levels? With the strong systems like the Padres, Brewers, White Sox, Braves and Dodgers those are the organizations that have those waves of impactful of talent.
Is overall depth and waves of talent the reason for the Padres being ranked fourth compared to barely making the top 10 last year.
Mike Rosenbaum If you look, I haven’t analyzed every team on the complete list yet, but if you look at the Padres Top 30 they have 21 players ranked 50 or higher which is higher than all other teams. While they have some top 100 prospects in [Manuel] Margot, [Hunter] Renfroe, [Anderson] Espinoza and [Cal] Quantrill, their ranking has more to do with the sheer number of talented players.
Speaking of the grading system, how easy is it for a player to change their future value grades?
Mike Rosenbaum: The guys who have yet to make it to full season ball are continuously changing themselves. They are growing both mentally and physically, and their tools usually change from year to year. You can see a drastic fluctuation from year to year, especially international players who are really just coming into their own in the States. Often you will see a young player go from obscurity to top 100 prospect, and then possibly back down to obscurity after a bad year or two.
Once a player reaches Double-A or higher there really isn’t much change for a player. Every once in awhile you will see a velocity jump for a pitcher or a hitter adds a leg kick and begins to hit for more power. Those obviously will change their grade, but only in that one part and usually the player is still the player we thought they were.
A player who seems to fit that mold perfectly is Javier Guerra. You still have him ranked as one of your top 30 prospects, but he understandably fell out of the Top 100. What is it about Javier that makes you believe in his ability to regain the hype?
Mike Rosenbaum: The tools are still exciting, but it is a difficult one with him. It was a down year for him. I feel like the focus issues have been addressed and hammered a bit too much. Although I read something the other day from someone on our site, saying he is all smiles in camp next year and seems to be conducting himself like an entirely different person.
The defense and arm are so good that he could have a floor as a utility infielder. He is so young that you cant give up one him after one down year.
One such player who made the jump from obscurity to one of the best second base prospects in baseball is Luis Urias. Even with the additional depth in the Padres’ system, Urias still climbed from 22nd last year to 7th this year. What did he do differently that made you change his grade and overall view as a prospect?
Mike Rosenbaum: For Urias the approach has always been there. He has always shown a really impressive hitting skill, and one that most people thought would continue at the higher levels. While he might have hit a few home runs, most of that was due to the Cal League.
In his case, it might be a scenario where we underrated his power just based on size and didn’t give enough credit to just how good of a pure hitter he is. He will always have below average power, but in his case the difference between no power, where outfielders play him like a pitcher, and some power, could make all the difference.
A player that has never had to worry about the “no power” designation is Hunter Renfroe. MLB.com was a bit more favorable in regards to his overall ranking than a few other publications… and Keith Law who didn’t have him ranked in the overall top 100 (Law had him as the Padres’ #7 prospect). Is that just based on his contact rate and lack of walks, or what about his game made you rank him as a top 50 overall prospect?
Mike Rosenbaum: Look at the worst-case scenario for Renfroe, assuming health isn’t a factor; 25 plus home runs, his batting average might bottom out about .220 and his OBP is determined by his streakiness and the hitters around him.
I think Jay Bruce is a great comp for him as a worst-case scenario. Something like .220/.290/.440 with 25 plus home runs. That would be a floor for Renfroe. Even a slight improvement on that and you have an All Star, either way with his defense and arm that is an impact player at the major league level.
From looking at the rankings, I was surprised by how high Michael Gettys was ranked (13th) and that he was seen as having a better outfield arm than Renfroe. What stood out about Gettys that had you believe in him so much, even after a less than stellar AFL?
Mike Rosenbaum: Gettys has an absolute cannon and he is not afraid to show it. In fact one of his issues might be knowing when to tone down his aggressiveness in the outfield. From what I was told he did a better job of doing that this year. He is a guy like Renfroe that almost dares the runner to go just to show off his arm. It is hard to have a measurable for arm strength but Gettys is probably one of the top few in the minors, and Renfroe isn’t too far behind him.
Most teams will have most of their first five rounds or so draft picks ranked in the top 30 the next year. The Padres had eight such picks but no pick after the second round made the top 30. What were your impressions of the draft for the Padres, and what was the main factor for so few 2016 draftees being ranked?
Mike Rosenbaum: It was a very strong draft for [A.J.] Preller, [the Padres General Manager].
He had a big year for adding talent both in the draft and internationally. With so many picks they had to play it conservative in some places, and I think they did a good job balancing the high ceiling high risk players with those that might not have the ceiling but have a high probability of becoming big leaguers.
[Eric] Lauer, Quantrill, and Lucchesi are all players that fit that profile very well. Even a pick like Buddy Reed who might not have been the sexiest pick there, but has enough tools to at least reach the big leagues. Those picks allowed the Padres to get a Mason Thompson or Reggie Lawson that weren’t ranked because of their high risk, but either one could very easily be a top 10 prospect next year.
Speaking of adding talent, it was widely reported that the Padres were going to blow through their international (“J2”) spending limit this past July. As far as the number of players and amount of talent added, how do you believe they did, and how hard is it to rank a 16-year old who has yet to set foot in the US?
Mike Rosenbaum: It is incredibly hard to rank and evaluate these kids. Especially for someone like me who stays stateside and has to rely on other people’s opinions and videos to come up with grades. I usually don’t get to see them until they get to Arizona or Florida, which means a lot of their grade is dependent on the feedback we get from our reliable sources and scouts.
Pretty much everyone Preller signed had just rave reviews from scouts. Preller said he was going to go out and buy the best players on the international market and he did just that. They could start reaping the rewards for this in a few years. Especially since a guy like [Adrian] Morejon and [Jorge] Ona are not your normal international prospect. They can move quickly through the minors. They added an interesting crop of talent on top of an already strong system.
Morejon and Ona have definitely been given the most hype since their signing, but is there any of the other J2 signings who you think could end up being a top 10 Padre prospect or even a top 100 overall prospect?
Mike Rosenbaum: [Luis] Almanzar and [Jeisson] Rosario both have great chances to make the jump. From everything I have been told and seen about them leads me to believe that they are already incredibly advanced hitters at their young age. They have the natural hitting ability, and carry themselves in such a way that you are not worried about other issues. You could see both in the AZL this year and excel, possibly even making it to Fort Wayne in 2018.
Josh Naylor is another international prospect, although he is from Canada as opposed to Latin America, saw his stock fall after a down half season where he was the youngest player in the Cal League. What caused the drop in production, and do you think he will be able to right the ship?
Mike Rosenbaum: As far as ranking in the Padres’ system he was more a casuality of the influx of talent than anything else. As the season wore on and I got to see more players, including in the Arizona Fall League, it just became apparent that Naylor was not a top 10 guy.
With some improvements, he could easily be back in the mix for top 100, but for right now given the depth of the Padres system and sheer number of high profile picks and signings, it might make it difficult for Naylor to get back in the top 10. Where he is ranked won’t affect how he is viewed in the system and whether he can become a solid major league hitter.
Who were a few players that just missed the top 30?
Mike Rosenbaum: Egy Rosario, the 17-year old second baseman. He made the jump from the DSL to Peoria. He has that youmg, undersized, hit the crap out of the ball profile. He would have been my guy at number 31.
I’ll give you a few others, I had a long list of Padres that I was trying to chose from. In fact, and this isn’t something we measure, not only did I have more Padres’ ranked 50 or higher than any other organization, but I had more Padres ranked 45 than any others as well. A few other names that just missed would have been Gabrial Arias, Joey Lucchessi, Nick Torres, Luis Torrens and Hansel Rodriguez. They are all easily 45 future value players and all could see a big bump in their grades after next season. There was another dozen players I could give you but that should hopefully work.
How long did the process take?
Mike Rosenbaum: Seemingly an eternity. The process really starts at the end of the previous season. I will start in October doing the prep work for each organization, head to the AFL for awhile while I continue to work on it. Then there is a lull before we come back in the end of December early January and hammer out the list. We make a lot of phone calls, do a lot of writing, and now we can thankfully take a breather for a little bit.
Final question, is there a Padre hitter or pitcher who you think could have a breakout year and climb into being a top 100 overall prospect?
Mike Rosenbaum: I would go back to what we were discussing earlier and say Luis Almanzar. Rosario and [Fernando]Tatis could also easily make the jump, although I know Tatis is already a top 100 player in some lists. One could easily breakout. Jacob Nix who we didn’t even talk about, probably had the biggest breakout of any Padre last year, and if he continues his improvement could find himself as a top 100 prospect.
Hmm… Urias, Lauer, wow that’s the thing about this list. I can look at any of the top 15 players, and even some outside the top 30 all together and make the argument that they should be a top 10 prospect, and potentially even push other “big leaguers” out of their job. I’m excited to see what Phil Maton can do in the big leagues.
Are you a believer in spin rate?
Mike Rosenbaum: Oh yeah! I have known about him, having done this list last year, and then seeing him for the first time this year, his spin rate and breaking ball is completely legit. I am a believer in Maton.