Padres have talent at upper levels

The San Diego Padres have assembled talent at each level of their minor leagues, but who will help them in the immediate future? We turned to Kevin Goldstein of <i>Baseball America</i> to get more insight into prospects at the upper levels, including some insight on where they will rank this year.

Portland Beavers: First off, even though he wouldn't qualify under Baseball America's rankings, is Xavier Nady. What are your thoughts on his game and where he will end up?

Kevin Goldstein: Right now you would have to say he's been a disappointment, although quite a few in the Padres organization still are high on him. He's kind of limited to left field, and right now it's really hard to see where he is going to play. Who else stands out on the roster?

Kevin Goldstein: Jon Knott went down in the rankings this year. He had a decent year, but there are serious concerns about his defensive ability, his swing is a bit long and he's going to be 26 this year. He played a little in the major leagues this year, and is really seen as more of an American League type player.

Freddy Guzman is someone on whom there is a wide variety of opinions. Guzman is thought to have "game changing speed" a pure 80 on the scale (side note - scouts will rank players on 20-80 basis). Every team has one or two of those in their system, but Guzman has some other attributes as well. He has a decent command of the strike zone, can surprise you with some power in the gaps, a pretty good centerfielder and right now can steal bases on speed alone. Really, Guzman just needs to improve, or really get a little better at a few things. I think you could see Guzman get 300 at bats this year with the Padres after starting the season in Portland, but it's interesting to see the Pads get Dave Roberts as a little insurance.

Jake Gautreau had a nice rebound season, but is still thought to have too many holes in his swing and too many questions about his defensive ability.

J.J. Furmaniak is a prospect. The Padres sent him down to Mexico this winter to essentially learn to become a utility player by playing second base. Furmaniak has some pop in his bat, is solid defensive player and just plays a real hard gritty game. It's hard not to like someone like that. He has an outside shot at making the big club.

Tagg Bozied was having a real good year until a knee injury late in the year sidelined him. He's made some adjustments in his swing, which is shorter and the power is still there. He put up some impressive numbers, but is still a right handed hitter that is limited to first base, which is a real hard climb. He's also kind of stuck behind a lot of players on the Padres, so right now I think he's prime trade bait. Portland had a very good starting rotation in 2004. What are your thoughts on Tim Stauffer, Justin Germano and Chris Oxspring (the fourth member Dennis Tankersley was traded in the off season with Terrence Long for Darrel May). KG- Well the best of the bunch is probably Tim Stauffer. Justin Germano probably has better "pure stuff" than Stauffer, but with Stauffer everything else is off the charts. He has great makeup, solid command and really knows how to pitch. Stauffer will probably be a solid number #3 starter. The only problem is he doesn't really miss a lot of bats. Stauffer should start the season in Portland, but you should see him in San Diego before the end of the year. Germano also projects as a #4 starter, and is also very young. Another guy that is more of a pitcher, than a power guy. He needs to work on his command a little more, but both Stauffer and Germano rank among the top Padres pitchers.

Chris Oxspring had a great Olympics where he carried Australia to a medal. Oxspring has two good pitches a low 90's fastball and a very effective slider. He has an outside chance to make the Padres in middle relief. The only real negative about him is his age, 27.

Mobile BayBears This year three position players stood out for Mobile, Josh Barfield, Ben Johnson and Greg Sain. How do you see them?

Kevin Goldstein: Even though so many people say there is no such thing as a "clutch hitter", Barfield makes a pretty interesting case against that. If you look at his average with runners in scoring position, it's about 50 + points higher than his overall average in each of the last three seasons. He put up a few more home runs than last year, and definitely projects as an offensive second baseman. The Padres are now convinced that he can play second base in the major leagues, although he is never going to be a gold glover at that position. There are some concerns about his ability to control the strike zone, as evidenced by his relatively low on-base percentage, but he can play.

Ben Johnson may be the sleeper in the Padres system. A very "toolsy" player. Essentially he was promoted too quickly, and finally reached the right level at the right time for him. He still needs to work on his plate discipline, but he is improving rapidly. Johnson can also play a passable centerfield, but was in right field for most of the year with Mobile. Played very well in the Arizona Instructional League and scouts who saw him last year in Lake Elsinore are amazed at his improvement.

Greg Sain has power, but is another guy for whom going to the major leagues will be a long haul. He's a right-handed hitter whose best position is first base, and doesn't make enough consistent contact. The only pitcher who really stood out this year in Mobile was Brad Baker, whom Baseball America left off its Top 30 list last year? Have you guys reconsidered?

Kevin Goldstein: Well Baker definitely had a good year. He has a plus, plus change, but is essentially a trick pitcher. He is a little different from past Padres minor league relief phenoms of Jeremy Fikac and J.J. Trujillo in that he does have a decent fastball which he can throw in the low 90's. He's a former first round pick, with some ability. The Padres do like him and he probably projects as an effective set up man in the major leagues. Speaking of Padres relief pitchers, any word on the progress of Rusty Tucker?

Kevin Goldstein: Rusty is just starting to come back from major arm surgery (Tommy John). So far the Padres are very happy with his progress. The velocity is starting to return, which is the first thing usually to come back. The Padres are still very high on him, and he should start the season in either Mobile or Portland. My guess would be Mobile to stay out of the cold for the first few months. One of the better pitching prospects in the Padres system.

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