Conniff's Top 10 Padres' Prospects

Here is the big moment of the Hot Stove League for all the minor league junkies out in cyberspace, the last of three top 10 rankings on of the San Diego Padres' prospects.

I stuck with the standard that a batter must have 130 at bats or less to be considered a rookie, or under 50 innings pitched, which is why you don't see Tim Stauffer on this list, despite spending the majority of his time in the minor leagues in 2005. Profiles of players 11 through 30 will be posted later this week.

Top Ten for 2005

1) Josh Barfield
2) Ben Johnson
3) Cesar Carrillo
4) Clay Hensley
5) George Kottaras
6) Paul McAnulty
7) Freddy Guzman
8) Sean Thompson
9) Colt Morton
10) Jared Wells

1) Josh Barfield (2B)
Age: 23, 6-foot, 185-pounds, Bats: R Throws: R
Triple-A Portland: .310/.370/.450

2005 Highlights: Since his breakout year in 2003, Josh Barfield has been one of the Padres most heralded prospects. Barfield started out slowly in 2005, hitting .251 for April and May before catching fire and hitting .343 for the remainder of the season. Not only did Barfield average go up, but his on base and slugging percentage increased substantially as well, he hit 11 of his 15 home runs after June. Although not known for having great speed he still stole 20 bags in 25 attempts, while playing a very good defensive second base.

Negatives: Barfield has started slowly the past two years, but won't have that luxury this season if he is going to replace Mark Loretta.

In order to make the major leagues Barfield everyone why he has been one of the Padres top prospects to come through the organization. Hit, hit with power and field his position. The big league job is his to lose.

Conniff's assessment: As long as the Padres follow the path they established in developing Khalil Greene, ask him to do what has made him successful in the minors, Barfield should respond. He's not a leadoff hitter, or someone that is going to steal a lot of bags, but he will hit the ball hard into the gaps with runners on base, and should put up some good power numbers for a second baseman. he will, however, slump, probably at the beginning of the year. The Padres are going to have to have the confidence that he will fight through it and not bench him the moment something goes wrong. Look for Barfield and Greene to form a Padres double play combination for years to come.

2) Ben Johnson (OF)
Age: 24, 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, Bats: R Throws: R
Triple-A Portland: .312/.394/.558
San Diego: .213/.310/.467

2005 Highlights: After years of wondering if his play would ever match his potential, Johnson started to emerge in mid-2004 in Mobile and hasn't looked back since. Johnson had a very good Arizona Fall League in 2004, a strong spring training and his best overall year of his career this year. In Portland, Johnson hit 25 home runs and demonstrated that he could play all three outfield positions. He is probably more comfortable in right field, but he claims that his best position is center field. A classic five-tool player who should run more, he will see playing time in San Diego in 2006.

Negatives: Sometimes gets overanxious at the plate, and reverts back to his old habits of chasing balls out of the zone. Johnson has as much raw talent as anyone on the Padres, but needs to control his emotions better.

In order to make the major leagues Johnson must...keep up his confidence. Also the Padres as an organization need to decide that Johnson is the type of player that they need to develop and find consistent playing time for him. They cannot afford another Xavier Nady situation.

Conniff's assessment: Johnson is one of the most talented prospects the Padres have ever developed. However, putting him in the dreaded platoon system as a right-handed hitter could damage a fragile confidence. The team must look to find him playing time if they are going to reap the rewards of his ability. New Padres' first base coach Tye Waller, the former Director of Player Development, should help ease this transition.

3) Cesar Carrillo (SP)
Age: 22, 6-foot-3, 175-pounds, Bats: R Throws: R
High-A Lake Elsinore: 1-2 7.01 ERA 9 BB 29 K's
Double-A Mobile: 4-0 3.23 ERA 7 BB 35 K's

2005 Highlights: The Padres number one pick in 2005 had the most successful debut of anyone selected in the 2005 draft. In his contract negotiations, Carrillo requested an assignment straight to Lake Elsinore, bypassing Eugene and Fort Wayne where most draft picks start. The Padres agreed, and Carrillo didn't disappoint. Where Carrillo really shined was in Mobile, promoted after the trade of Travis Chick. Carrillo consistently throws in the 92-96 mph range, with a very hard curve and was dominant in one of the toughest leagues in the minors.

Negatives: Not a whole lot. Carrillo needs to work on his change up, but after that...

In order to make the major leagues Carrillo needs to...have a little bit better change-up. Once that is done we we'll see him in San Diego.

Conniff's assessment: We should see Carrillo in San Diego by mid-season, he will probably bypass Portland as Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton did. The Padres plan to start him in the warm weather of Mobile and, barring injury, he will be in the majors quickly.

4) Clay Hensley (SP/RP)
Age: 26, 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, Bats: R Throws: R
Triple-A Portland: 2-2 2.99 ERA 22 BB, 71 Ks
San Diego" 1-1 1.70 ERA 17 BB 28 K's

2005 Highlights: Came out of nowhere to become a significant contributor to the Padres NL West team. Hensley, who didn't make the top 30 in either or Baseball America last year, emerged as someone who could consistently throw a hard sinker in the low 90's at a batter's knees, which is going to get a lot of people's attention. At Portland this year, his most impressive statistic was not his BB/K ratios, but the ability to get batters to drive his hard slider into the ground. In 90.1 innings he only allowed 63 hits, holding batters to a .190 batting average. In San Diego, this time as a relief pitcher, he experienced the same success only allowing 33 hits in 47.1 innings with a 1.70 ERA.

Negatives: As with Carrillo, Hensley needs to develop a little better change-up as a third pitch. Also, some question his ability to go deep into games as a starter.

In order to make the major leagues Hensley needs to…keep on performing like he did this past year.

Conniff's assessment: Hensley should be the Padres #4 starter this year, and by the end of the season he could be the #3 starter. He may become the best starting prospect the Padres have developed since Jake Peavy, that is until Caesar Carrillo comes along.

5) George Kottaras (C)
Age: 23, 6-foot, 180–pounds, Bats: L Throws: R
High-A Lake Elsinore: .303/.390/.469
Double-A Mobile: .287/.397/.416

2005 Highlights: After a very good 2004 in Fort Wayne, Kottaras caught forty-two more games this year than he ever had before, and he held up despite concerns that his relatively slight frame couldn't withstand the punishment. A sweet left-handed stroke, with the ability to hit the ball hard into the gaps and draw a walk, Kottaras epitomizes the type of player that San Diego is trying to develop. Additionally, he handled the jump to Double-A very well, posting an .813 OPS.

Negatives: Not the biggest guy in the world behind the plate, he still had some problem with the transfer from the glove to his arm when attempting to throw out runners.

In order to make the major leagues Kottaras that he has the stamina to catch 140 games in the major leagues, while maintaining his offensive performance.

Conniff's assessment: Kottaras defense came a long way this year, and he continued to show that he can hit at any level. A very good player, the only thing preventing a higher ranking was that he only had 101 at-bats above A-ball. If he has another year like the past in Mobile/Portland, he'll be the top prospect for 2006.

6) Paul McAnulty (OF/1b)
Age: 25, 5-foot-10, 220-pounds, Bats: L Throws: R
Double-A Mobile: .282/.364/.453
Triple-A Portland: .344/.405/.563
San Diego: .208/.321/.208

2005 Highlights: The best pure hitter in the San Diego system. P-Mac continued to prove that his breakout season in 2004 wasn't a fluke, especially after putting up some serious numbers at Portland. As a corner OF/1b, P-Mac must continue to not only hit, but also hit with power. McAnulty also went a long way to proving that he could be a credible MLB outfielder, even starting a game in LF for the Padres in September.

Negatives: Must continue to work on his athleticism, so he can have other options besides first base.

In order to make the major league McAnulty must...continue to have a slugging percentage in the high 5's at Portland to force his way into the major leagues. In other words, hitting will take him where he wants to go.

Conniff's assessment: P-Mac will begin the year in Portland, and depending on a lot of factors could get a mid-season call-up. His big opportunity will come in 2007, with the expiration of Ryan Klesko's contract. McAnulty will have this year to prove he should be the successor.

7) Freddy Guzman (CF)
Age: 25, 5-foot-10, 165-pounds. Bats: S Throws: R
2005: Injured Reserve

2005 Highlights: None. Underwent arm surgery to repair an injured elbow after spring training. Still the best leadoff prospect because of his outstanding speed and strong baserunning skills.

Negatives: Absolutely no power, and in his trip to the majors in 2004 showed that he is vulnerable to the inside pitch. Also, despite his speed, some questions if he has the arm to play center field at PETCO.

In order to make the major leagues Guzman must...first show he can hit in Portland again. After that show that he has the arm to play center field. Guzman will never be a home run hitter, but he has to prove that he has the ability to put the ball into the gaps, which could make him a triples machine in San Diego.

Conniff's assessment: Leadoff hitter is one of the biggest voids on the Padres, and Guzman will be given every opportunity to demonstrate that he can handle it in Portland. If he has a big first half in Portland, it could spell a trade for Dave Roberts at mid-season.

8) Sean Thompson (SP)
Age: 23, 5-foot-11, 160-pounds, Bats: L Throws: L
High-A Lake Elsinore: 4-1 2.16 ERA 13 BB 45 K's
Double-A Mobile: 4-5 4.67 ERA 55 BB 94 K's

2005 Highlights: A great year in Lake Elsinore, but struggled in Mobile. Thompson has a big curve, a very effective change up, but for Sean it all begins and ends with his fastball, which tends to go up in the zone.
Negatives: Command of his fastball. If Thompson can keep it down and hit his spots, it sets up his best pitches.
In order to make the major leagues Thompson must...take a guess – command his fastball. Also, with such a slight frame Sean must continue to prove that he has the stamina to go deep into games to remain a starter.
Conniff's assessment: Still the best lefty in the system, and the second best pitching prospect in the system. Thompson will be a little more comfortable in Mobile this year and should be promoted in mid-season to Portland.

9) Colt Morton (C)
Age: 24, 6foot-6, 230-pounds, Bats: R Throws: R
Low-A Fort Wayne: .261/.362/.464
High-A Lake Elsinore: .323/.407/.646

2005 Highlights: This is finally the year where Colt Morton emerged, especially at Lake Elsinore. Morton credited a shortened swing and more patient approach at the plate, which not only resulted in a .646 slugging percentage in LE, but more importantly a .407 on-base percentage. A good defensive target, Morton has as much upside as anyone in the system because of his size and power.

Negatives: Needs to refine his release a little more, and as always, his plate discipline will determine his success as he moves forward.

In order to make the major leagues Morton must...continue to show that he can hit with power and patience along with meeting the defensive demands of catching.

Conniff's assessment: Morton will probably start the season in Lake Elsinore, with Kottaras in Mobile. Both should be promoted at mid-season and the jury is still out whether Morton will have the same type of success in Double-A, which is the biggest jump in the minors.

10) Jared Wells (SP)
Age: 24 6-foot-4, 200-pounds, Bats: R Throws: R
High-A Lake Elsinore: 11-3 3.44 ERA 26 BB's 80 K's
Double-A Mobile: 2-5 4.40 ERA 16 BB 22 K's

2005 Highlights: As with Morton, another player whose performance is beginning to match his potential. Jared throws in the low 90's, but the big reason for his success this year was the emergence of his slider. A physically imposing prospect, Wells showed the ability to go deep into games at Lake Elsinore.

Negatives: He needs to get an effective off-speed pitch, and continue to work on his slider.

In order to make the major leagues Wells must...continue his education as a pitcher and refine his talent, the ability is always there. Trust his stuff.

Conniff's assessment: Wells should start the year in Mobile, and probably will be in Portland by the end of the year. He could be a candidate for a back of the end rotation starter in mid-2007. Right now he's still trying to catch up to his natural talent.

Visit to see DJ's Top 30 Prospects and The Savage 60

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