The Top 50: #10-6...Part One

We take this seriously, we disagree, we argue. At, the <b>Top 10 Padres Prospects</b> is more than a list, it's an obsession. When it came down to it this year, we just couldn't agree. Rather than compromise, we decided to leave it up to you. Today you will get Senior Writer John Conniff's Top 10, complete with who just missed and why, and tomorrow, Publisher Denis Savage weighs in with his Top 10. On Wednesday, they go bare knuckles at an as-yet-to-be-determined venue.

Every year Baseball America publishes its top 30 list for each major league team. In recent years, they have also released the top 10 for each team on their web site. This is's third year of ranking the San Diego Padres prospects and we have two versions of the top ten that will appear this week to add a little flavor. In order to qualify for the rankings, position players can't have more than 130 at bats or pitchers more than fifty innings. For example, even though someone such as Xavier Nady spent most of last year with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League, Nady has 449 at-bats at bats at the major league level, which bars him from consideration. The age of each player is as of April 1, 2005.


Unlike Baseball America, I tend to put more weight on the success of players above the Double-A level, rather than what they project too. Also, I usually like to see how a player performs at the full season minor league level, which usually rules out players in Eugene and Peoria (short season minor league teams). For that reason, among others, I left off Matt Bush, the Padres number one pick in the entire draft for 2004. I think we will all have a better idea of what Bush can and can't do at the end of 2005, anything other than that is really nothing more than a blind guess.

Travis Chick, because of age, "stuff" and location, merited a high inclusion because he could project into a number one starter and put together some dazzling statistics at Fort Wayne in 2005. George Kottaras, because of his advanced understanding of the batting zone, left handed bat, age and being a catcher also ranked high despite playing only in the Midwest League in 2004. Both Chick and Kottaras could become top overall minor league prospects in 2006.

After a dominant 2003, Josh Barfield slipped in his advancement to Mobile. Barfield is still a very good prospect, but will have to address some concerns about his ability to control the batting zone. I've always liked Freddy Guzman, but his extreme lack of power and the ability to hit the inside pitch, also raises some concerns, despite his blinding speed and phenomenal success on the base paths. Jon Knott had another good year for power and average at the plate, but as Chick and Kottaras were upgraded because of their age and projectability, Knott was downgraded slightly because of his age and the position he plays. Despite putting together a solid season in Portland, the Padres simply do not have a place for him to play on their major league team in 2005.

Justin Germano had a brief call up to San Diego in 2004, and will probably start the year in Portland. Justin's biggest hurdle will be overcoming the perception that he is a "4A" pitcher. Paul McAnulty had a very good season in Lake Elsinore and in the Arizona Fall League. His next big challenge will be to prove that he can hit above A ball, in a very tough place to hit. Finally, Ben Johnson finally began to live up to his expectations last year in Mobile while on the other side Dale Thayer continues to defy people's expectations of him, something he has done at every level since high school.

Rankings Details
Padres Minor League Teams
Full Season Level League
Portland Beavers Triple-A Pacific Coast
Mobile BayBears Double-A Southern League
Lake Elsinore Storm High-A California League
Fort Wayne Wizards Low-A Midwest League
Short Season
Eugene Emeralds Low-A Northwest League
Peoria Padres Rookie Arizona League

Just Missing

Rusty Tucker
Sean Thompson
Chris Oxspring
Tagg Bozied
JJ Furmaniak
Greg Sain
A couple of quick notes on the players that just missed. If Rusty Tucker is completely healthy, he easily makes the top ten. Left-handed relief pitchers with great control and the ability to throw in the high 90's usually do. Sean Thompson is a good pitcher (and a columnist on, had a nice season at Fort Wayne in 2004. Because of his relatively short stature, the Padres seem to have some concerns if he has enough durability to become a starter. However, Thompson as a quality left handed pitcher will be given every opportunity to succeed at Lake Elsinore this year. Chris Oxspring, the Australian hero of the 2004 Olympic baseball team, had an up and down season at Portland this year. Considered to have the best slider in the system, along with a low 90's fastball, he has an outside shot to make the big club in 2004. In all probability he should be the number three starter in Portland this year behind Stauffer and Germano, but might get called up ahead of either because he projects more as a middle relief pitcher than a starter.

J.J. Furmaniak had a very good season in Portland in 2004, after a slow start in Mobile hitting .292/.346/.487, with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs. Normally this would entail a shot at the big league roster, but the Padres seemed to squash that with the signing of Geoff Blum. The big problem I have with JJ is despite the Padres assertions that they are grooming him to be a utility player, I have yet to see a rookie make the team in this capacity for a job that usually goes to a veteran like Blum. Everyone in the organization admires Furmaniak's work ethic and is pulling for him to make the roster. JJ has the ability to play all the infield positions and an injury could open a spot for him on the big league roster in 2005.

Tagg Bozied has continually been touted as having the best power in the organization, but together a fine season before he got hurt. The big problem that Bozied has is his defensive limitations to first base. With Phil Nevin, Ryan Klesko, Brian Giles and Xavier Nady it will be very difficult for him to be given an opportunity.

I've always believed that Greg Sain has usually received the short end of the stick with the Padres. Despite leading the Southern League in home runs, it was up in the air whether Sain would be promoted to Portland for 2004; the main reason was a lack of a position for him to play. In Mobile Sain hit the most home runs of the three, posted the highest OBP and had the least amount of errors. The big drawbacks with Greg are his age, and the position he is best suited for, first base.

Here is the bottom five of the top ten 2005 Padres Prospects, including some that just missed inclusion:

Honorable Mention - "Number 11"

Chris Kolkhorst
5-foot-9, 180-pounds
Age - 23

2004 Season: Chris played at three different levels for the Padres in 2004 after being drafted out of Rice University, and ended up in the Midwest League where he hit .340/.429/.532 in 47 at bats with the Wizards.

Kolkhorst played all three outfield positions for the Padres in 2004, but the Padres have placed him in CF to take better advantage of his speed. Although he is a not a home run hitter, he has shown the ability, as his high slugging percentage will attest, to be a very competent gap hitter. A left handed-hitter, Kolkhorst could develop into the Padres leadoff-hitter of the future. He's not a base stealing threat as is Freddie Guzman, but his on base percentage, control of the strike zone and gap power has gotten him noticed within the organization. Kolkhorst and George Kottaras were the only two players with significant playing time in the system to walk more times than they struck out on the year. Chris drew 27 walks while striking out 24 times this year. He was also hit by eight pitches, giving him a .474 on base percentage in his first year within the Padres' system.

Ranking justification: Just missed the top ten because of his limited time in the Midwest League, but might be the second best leadoff hitter in the system. Not much home run power, but did demonstrate the ability to hit doubles, draw a walk and score runs.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Kolkhorst needs too…overcome perceptions about his size and continue to be the slashing player that he has shown so far in addition to playing a quality defensive center field. Assessment: Chris played very well in his brief call up at Fort Wayne in 2004, and should open the season as their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. If he is able to maintain his performance from college and his first year as a professional, he should rise quickly within the Padres system. It isn't inconceivable that he could end 2005 in Mobile, which with his age, 23, is where the Padres should hope he finishes 2005.

If you are a Fort Wayne fan, make sure you see him early, he probably won't be around for long.

10. (tie) Dale Thayer
6-foot-0, 190-pounds
. Age - 25

2004 Season: Once again Dale Thayer put together another solid season for the Padres. Moved into the closer spot in mid season for the Lake Elsinore Storm, Thayer flourished with 54 strikeouts in 55 innings. Dale appeared in 50 games, with 23 saves, and a 2-1 record with a 1.63 ERA.

Dale started the season in middle relief, but ten straight scoreless outing convinced the Storm to make him their closer. Thayer, as does Brad Baker, relies on a nice combination of a fastball and change, but also has one of the better sliders in the system. The key to his success at the higher levels will be his ability to throw all three for strikes.

The most interesting aspect in Thayer's background has been the lack of respect he has been given by the baseball establishment despite posting superior numbers. At Santa Ana College, despite leading the Orange Empire Conference in saves and striking out 43 batters in 39 innings, he went undrafted. At Chico State, Thayer was an All-American, and again was undrafted. The Padres signed Thayer as a free agent, where he led the Midwest League in saves for 2003. Despite being honored as the best reliever in the Midwest League by Baseball America's Best Tools survey, being second in the Padres' chain in saves and ranking third among league relievers in saves and strikeouts per 9.0 innings (13.5); Thayer still could not crack Baseball America‘s top prospects in 2004. However, the relief pitchers ranked ahead of him in the system, Edgar Huerta, Aaron Coonrod and Wilmer Villatoro did not even come close to replicating Thayer's success in 2004. An interesting side note, Brad Baker didn't make the top thirty either in 2004 for the Padres.

Ranking justification: Dale put together his second straight quality year in the Padres system, but, as it has been throughout his whole career, people always question his ability to pitch at the next level.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Thayer needs too..prove that he has enough of a fastball to set up his slider. Assessment: Thayer could be better than Brad Baker next year in Mobile, giving the Padres a very nice corps of young relief pitchers coming up in Brad Baker, Rusty Tucker and Dale Thayer. The better that Dale is able to rely upon three pitches for strikes, the higher he will climb.

10) Ben Johnson
6-foot-1, 200-pounds
Age - 24

2004 Season: Ben Johnson had a good year in Mobile for 2004 hitting .251/.334/.482, with 23 home runs and 85 RBIs, which was second in the Southern League. However, as with Josh Barfield a big concern is his strikeout to at bat ratio, which for Johnson was 136 in 475 at bats with only 55 walks.

Ranking justification: Ben Johnson, Josh Barfield and Greg Sain were the Mobile BayBears offense in 2004. Always regarded as a "toolsy" player, Ben finally started to approach the expectations that the organization has for him in 2004.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Johnson needs too…control the strike zone better while increasing his walks and maintaining his power. Another avenue might be his ability to play center field. A good athlete, Johnson has played there before and could significantly increase his value with the Padres if he shows that ability to potentially cover the large expense of PETCO. Assessment: Johnson will start the year as Portland's right fielder, but if Freddy Guzman is called up to San Diego it will be interesting to see if the Padres attempt to put Johnson in centerfield. After several lukewarm minor league seasons, Ben must continue to prove to the Padres that 2004 was no fluke, and that he can continue to develop his speed and power.

9. Paul McAnulty
5-foot-10, 220-pounds
Age -24

2004 Season: Padres Minor League Player of the Year, McAnulty hit .297/.404/.521 with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs. A further look into the stats reveals that Paul posted the best K/BB ratio of any member of the Storm striking out 106 times, to 86 walks, which not only led the Storm, but tied him for the lead in the California League. The biggest change in McAnulty from previous years was not only his new trimmed up body, ending comparisons between him and John Kruk, but his new found power, a part of his game that had not been evident before.

A late season promotion to Mobile for the playoffs, McAnulty continued his progression hitting safely in two out of the three games he appeared. In the Arizona Fall League, McAnulty again continued to turn heads batting .353/.400/.647, with six home runs and 25 RBIS in only 102 at bats. In proving that he could become a serviceable outfielder and dramatically increasing his home run output as well as conditioning, Paul has turned himself into a legitimate prospect.

Ranking justification: A very good season at the A level, but some concern about his age and ability to play the outfield on a major league level. Also, McAnulty has to prove he can hit in the Southern League, which is the toughest place to hit in the Padres' system.

In order to succeed in the major leagues McAnulty needs too…prove he can continue to hit for average and power on the AA level. Additionally, Paul needs to sustain the belief that he will not become out of shape as he was in 2003, along with continued improvement in his defensive ability. Assessment: 2005 will be a huge year for McAnulty. To make it as an OF/1b is very difficult, and especially with what the Padres have in the major leagues and with players such as Xavier Nady, Jon Knott and Tagg Bozied ahead of him. On the other hand, there are other factors that could propel McAnulty forward. First and foremost is he is a left handed batter in a system that is very weak with left handed hitters. Currently, the only real left handed hitter above A ball is the switch-hitting Freddy Guzman.. Additionally, the Padres will probably have to move at least one of Knott or Bozied in the coming year. Factor in the Padres should have either Nevin, Klesko and possibly Giles gone by 2006, and McAnulty could become a factor.

8. Justin Germano
6-foot-2, 190-pounds
Age – 22

2004 Season: Germano started the year in Mobile, and quickly earned a promotion to Portland by mid-season. At Portland, Germano formed one of the best rotations in AAA, with Dennis Tankersley, Chris Oxspring, Mark Sweeney and Tim Stauffer. Germano had the best year winning nine games and losing five with an ERA of 3.38 in 123 innings. He had a nice BB/K ratio of 25/98. Germano was called up to the big club twice, the first time being better than the last.

In May he started two games for the Padres, winning one with an ERA of 3.27 in two hitter's parks, Philadelphia and Colorado. However, he struggled in June and September, and the Padres went to four man rotation down the stretch.

Ranking justification: Germano had one of the better years in AAA, and was supposed to be given a chance to win the #5 spot in spring training. Justin put together slightly better numbers than Tim Stauffer this past year in Portland, but he's also been playing professional baseball since 2000. Germano has the ability to throw strikes, and uses a curveball, slider, fastball and a good change. His curve is his best pitch, but he needs to have all four pitches working in order to be effective at a MLB level.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Germano needs too…,like Stauffer, miss more bats. There is some concern that Germano will become the quintessential "4A" player, clever enough to get hitters out in Portland, but a pitcher who doesn't have the "stuff" to get out MLB hitters. Assessment: Germano will start the season at Portland again in 2005, and if he continues to refine his control he could develop into a Brian Lawrence type pitcher. The trouble with Justin is, he doesn't have the dominant pitch that Lawrence has with his slider to get out of jams at the MLB level. He could develop into a back of the rotation starter, but right now he‘s probably behind a few guys for that opportunity.

7. Jon Knott
6-foot-3, 220-pounds
Age - 26

2004 Season: Knott followed up a good year in Mobile in 2003, with a better year in Portland. Knott hit .290/.376/.533, for the Beavers with 26 HRs and 85 RBIs. In Portland's playoff series Knot was a one man wrecking crew batting .438 with 7 RBIs in four games.

With the Padres Knott saw action in nine games, hitting .214 with three hits in 14 at bats.

Ranking justification: After Xavier Nady, Knott was the best power hitter the Padres had in the system last year. For the past three years Jon Knott has proven that he can hit, and hit with power. He plays a credible corner OF, and also some first base.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Knott needs too…to be given a chance. It's really that simple. In a very brief call up Jon was given only 14 at bats, and only two starts. Assessment: With the Padres highly paid trio of Brian Giles, Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin, coupled with the teams commitment to Xavier Nady and recent signing of Mark Sweeney, it looks like Jon will begin the season again in Portland for 2005, unless someone gets hurt.

6. Freddy Guzman
5-foot-10, 165-pounds
Age - 24 ( we think..)
2004 Season: Recovering from an injury that he suffered in Spring Training, Freddy took off in 2004 from where he left off in 2003, blazing. Guzman stole 17 bases (out of twenty three attempts) in 35 games, while hitting .283/.359/.370. Promoted to Portland, he continued to perform in his trademark fashion, stealing bases, playing a good centerfield and hitting for very little power, .292/.365.379. Because of San Diego's problem's in centerfield during 2004, he was promoted briefly to the Padres for twenty games where he was frequently overmatched with pitchers challenging him on the inside corner.

Ranking justification: Guzman is not only one of the fastest players in baseball, but also has one of the best percentages steals/caught stealing. A good defensive player, who is somewhat limited by an average arm, Freddy could be the answer to the Padres desire for not only a leadoff hitter but a centerfielder. However, in order to do that he must prove he can hit at the major league level, especially with the inside pitch.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Guzman needs too…hit with more power. Not necessarily home runs, but with his speed if he can put the ball in the gap he can get quite a few doubles and triples. He must prove he is capable of hitting something other than a single and draw more walks. Assessment: If Dave Roberts falters, or if Freddy is really tearing it up in Portland, expect to see him in San Diego soon. The Padres do not have a great many options for leadoff hitters with speed going into 2005.

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