Best of the System: THE TOP FIVE (alternate)

This is's third year of ranking the San Diego Padres prospects and we have two versions of the top five 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 started 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

1. Tim Stauffer - RHP/Starting Pitcher
6-foot-2, 205 lbs.
Age- 22

2004 Highlights: Tim Stauffer was the Padres number one selection in 2003, third overall in the draft. He blew threw three levels of the Padres system in 2004. Starting off at Lake Elsinore, Stauffer went 2-0 in six games with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings with a 1.78 ERA. The Padres, as is their new philosophy this year, challenged Stauffer after his early success at Lake Elsinore and promoted him to Mobile. In the Southern League, Stauffer went 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 8 games. His numbers at Mobile were equally as impressive as they were in Lake Elsinore, and Tim was only a few innings away from being the Southern League ERA champion.

The Padres had originally decided that Stauffer would finish the year with Mobile, but his success there forced the Friars to promote him to Portland. At Portland, Stauffer continued to pitch well, going 6-3 with a 3.54 ERA in 14 starts. Again, he posted a good strikeout to base on balls ratio of 50/26.

Ranking justification: Both Tim Stauffer and Brad Baker had the best years of any Padres pitchers in the system in 2004. Stauffer noses out Baker slightly because of where he started and he projects as a number three or number four starter with a few more consistent pitches.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Stauffer needs too…start missing more bats. A big question about Tim is does he have enough "stuff" to go along with his plus control and makeup to be a successful major league pitcher. In 2004 Stauffer allowed more hits than innings pitched at both Mobile and Portland, but emerged as one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher, on both staffs. Big question is can he do the same at the major league level. Assessment: Stauffer had a great year in 2004, and started the year as the number two starter in Portland, but number one call-up option. If he continues to pitch as he did in 2004, he should be up with the big club by mid-season especially if San Diego experiences similar problems with the fifth starter again.

2). Brad Baker - RHP/Relief Pitcher
6-foot-2, 180 lbs.
Age - 24

2004 Highlights: At Mobile, Baker saved 30 games with 68 strikeouts to only 34 base on balls in 57 innings. Additionally, Baker went 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA. The most impressive statistic is that he struck out nearly a third of all batters that he faced (232 total batters, with 68 strike outs, yet he only gave up two home runs). The Padres decided to keep Baker at Mobile until the closer position opened up at Portland. Promoted late in the season to the Beavers, Brad had four saves in eight games, and again struck out nearly half of the batters he faced (38 batters faced, with 17 strikeouts).

Ranking justification: An examination of Baker' statistics in 2004 should answer any questions on this matter. Baker made the Southern League All Star team and was named the Pitcher of the Year by the Padres and

In order to succeed in the major leagues Baker needs too…..prove he's not Jeremy Fikac or JJ Trujillo, former Padres minor league relief phenoms who relied on changeups to get people out. The Padres have tried to take a different approach with Baker, as opposed to Fikac and Trujillo. The team is grooming him to be a closer, which is the only role which he has operated on at Lake Elsinore, Mobile and Portland. Additionally, the Padres have tried to continue to develop his fastball, and improve his curve, and not have him exclusively rely on his changeup. Assessment: Baker should start the season as Portland's closer, but if he continues to post the numbers that he has in the past year and half, we will see him in San Diego soon enough. If Brad's fastball continues to regain its former speed (low to mid 90‘s), and he develops a third pitch, he could be the real thing. We could see him in San Diego by mid-year in a middle relief capacity.

3). Josh Barfield - Second Base
6-foot, 185 lbs.
Age - 23

2004 Season: At first glance a .248 batting average shouldn't merit, "player of the year", but Barfield led the Southern League in RBIs with 90, hit 18 home runs and proved people wrong that he couldn't do the job defensively at second base.

Ranking justification: Essentially, Barfield was the best player on the best team in the Southern League. Most analysts would give Josh a higher ranking, but striking out 119 times in 521 at bats, which is nearly 20% of the time, sends up some red flags. He had a paltry on base percentage (OBP) of .313, in which his walk rate dropped from last year.

However, a few other stats stand out. Josh's average was nearly fifty points higher with runners on base, which helps to explain the 90 RBIs that led the Southern League, and nearly a third of hits were for extra bases. If Barfield follows the usual progression of Padres prospects from Mobile to Portland, Greene, Knott, Gautreau, and Bozied, his numbers should take a big upturn in Portland. Finally, it's not everyday you find a second baseman that is capable of hitting in the middle of the order.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Barfield needs too…control the strike zone more, especially the outside corner. Josh needs to start drawing more walks, while maintaining his power, which will lift a relatively pedestrian OPS of only .820. Assessment: In 2003, Barfield put up a monster year in High-A Lake Elsinore hitting .337, with 46 doubles, 16 home runs, 128 RBIs (in only 135 games) and OPS of .919. Combine that with playing solid defensively at second base and doing it all while he was 21, Josh got some attention. Although Mobile is a much tougher place to hit, and he did injure his hamstring in spring training, Josh's performance fell off in 2004.

His OPS numbers went from .919 in 2003, to .820 in 2004. Doubles from 46 to 28, batting average from .337 to .248. Josh, like everyone else in the Padres system, will probably hit much better in Portland. The big question is will he hit well enough for the Padres to even consider moving Mark Loretta, the team MVP two years running?

4). Travis Chick – RHP/Starter
6-foot-3, 220 lbs
Age - 20

2004 Season: Acquired in the Ismael Valdez trade from Florida, Chick began paying instant dividends for the Padres at Fort Wayne. As we have seen so far in previous reports on, the top Padres pitching prospects are dominated by control specialists, Tim Stauffer and Justin Germano or relief pitchers with "trick pitches", Brad Baker and Dale Thayer. Travis Chick represents something else, a "control pitcher" with a big fastball that simply blew away the competition in the Midwest League in 2004. Chick started seven games, won five and in the process had 55 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched, while issuing only nine base on balls with a 2.13 ERA.

With the Marlins South Atlantic affiliate, the Greenville Bats, Chick also pitched well. He was 6-4, with a 4.04 ERA, but had 112 strike outs in only 91 innings, against 27 walks. His ERA was slightly high at 4.04, but again his strikeout to base on balls ratio was outstanding.

Ranking justification: A rarity in the San Diego system, a power pitcher who has the ability to throw strikes. The only thing tempering a higher ranking for Chick is his lack of experience at higher levels, but we could see him go through two levels in 2005.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Chick needs too…prove first that he can succeed in the Southern League. Travis is still very young, and it's not clear if the Padres will be as aggressive in promoting him as they were with Stauffer in 2004. Assessment: The most impressive thing about Chick is two fold, his size and ability to throw strikes as a power pitcher. After reviewing his statistics it's hard to believe the Marlins were willing to give him up for someone like Ismael Valdez. At only twenty years old, Chick may be the Padres pitcher with the highest upside in the entire system.

The organization has power pitchers in Jared Wells and Aaron Coonrod, but both have major problems with control. We could see Chick in the Pacific Coast League by mid-season, and possibly even a September call up with the big team.

He may be that good.

5). George Kottaras - Catcher
6-foot, 190 lbs.
Age - 21

2004 Season: In 2004, George Kottaras established himself as one of the better players within the system. At Fort Wayne, Kottaras hit .310/.415/.461 (batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage), with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 78 games. George also represented Greece at the Olympic Games. A left-handed hitter, Kottaras has worked hard with Padres roving catching instructor Joe Ferguson to improve his defensive game.

Ranking justification: Drafted behind fellow catchers Colt Morton and Matt Lauderdale, George has established himself as the Padres leading catching prospect going into 2005. The statistic that jumps out at you when analyzing Kottaras is that he walked 51 times, while only striking out 41 times. He also slugged at a .461 pace, the highest of any regular on the Wizards in 2004.

In order to succeed in the major leagues Kottaras needs too…obviously prove he can still hit and control the zone, but more importantly show that he has the defensive ability and is durable enough to become a major league catcher. Assessment: - Kottaras is the starting catcher at Lake Elsinore, but could be promoted to Mobile in mid-season because of his ability and the lack of talent ahead of him. Both Kottaras and Chick are the two youngest and brightest stars in the Padres system, however they are both about a year and half to two years away from being major league players.

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