Padres Top Prospects: Conniff 21-30

The bottom ten – or the first ten of 30. This list is filled with players who have either performed well, but there are doubts about their ability to replicate these performances at the next level, or with players whose athletic abilities indicate they should be better than what they have shown so far.

21) Drew Macias (CF)
Age: 23
6-foot-3, 175-pounds
Bats-L Throws-L
Cal: (Avg/OBP/Slg).289/.355/.396

2005 Highlights: Another solid season for Macias, whom many believe is the best defensive outfielder in the Padres system. The big question with Macias is always going to be his bat. He struggled hitting .255 on the road as compared to .321 at home.

Ranking Justification: Possibly the best centerfielder in the system, and with a major league field such as PETCO, that is going to carry a lot of weight. Offensively it's hard to see what niche he fits. He needs to be more effective stealing bases (15-for-30) and his on-base percentage is going to have to get better if he's going to get a shot at the big time.

Negatives: Offense, but it is improving.

Conniff's assessment: Macias will be the starting centerfielder in Mobile for 2006, and this will be a big season for him, especially at the plate. Macias needs to continue to solidify his reputation as the system's best fielder while improving on his stolen base success rate and on-base percentage. The Southern League may be a struggle for him.

22) Brent Carter (LHP)
Age: 23
6-foot-3, 205-pounds
Bats-L Throws-L
NWL: Eugene 4-2, 1.88 ERA, 7 BB, 66 K's
MWL: Fort Wayne 2-0, .75 ERA, 1 BB, 13 K's

2005 Highlights: Ok, if you look at the stats its pretty obvious that Brent Carter had a good year. Drafted in the 16th round out of the University of Alabama, he was easily the best pitcher in Eugene, Carter's superior control and ability to change speeds allowed him to dominate. At Alabama, he ended his career as the Tide's all-time leader in strikeouts.

Ranking Justification: While his statistics are very good, Carter also throws in the mid-80s and as with most talented college pitchers, greatly benefited with the big learning curve that comes with the hitters learning how to hit with wooden bats at the lower professional levels.

Negatives: He really needs a third pitch, which he is trying to develop now, a slider. Carter shouldn't have any problems in the Midwest League, but he is going to need that slider once he arrives in Lake Elsinore.

Conniff's assessment: Carter did everything the Padres could have hoped for in his initial professional season. A lefty that can both start and relieve with control is always going to have value. The team needs to be careful in his advancement and make sure that he has three solid pitches working for him before going to the light air of the Cal League.

23) Cesar Ramos
Age: 21
6-foot-2 190-pounds
Bats-L Throws-L
NWL: 0-1 6.53 ERA 7 BBs 13 Ks
MWL: 3-2 4.19 ERA 7 BBs 32 K's

2005 Highlights: Supplemental first round pick of the Padres in 2005. Ramos is a left-hander out of Long Beach State who had an up and up and down first professional season. He put together a nice base-on-balls to strikeout ratio in Fort Wayne, but really was not that impressive in his first season, especially in Eugene. At Fort Wayne, he pitched better, but still allowed 42 hits in 38.2 innings pitched and batters hit .282 against him. Has four pitches, fastball, curve, change and slider, but relies more on deception and change of speed to get batters out.

Ranking Justification: The prototypical "smart college pitcher", good control, changes speeds. A big reputation, but didn't really show enough this year to justify a higher position.

Negatives: He's either going to have to increase his velocity or come up with some better breaking pitches, but he did pitch better in Fort Wayne than in Eugene.

Conniff's Assessment: The Padres really like this guy and believe that as a pitcher that "pitches to contact" he will become more effective as he moves up the ladder and has better defense behind him. This theory seems to have played out in his promotion from the Northwest to the Midwest League. I'll become more of a believer if he has success in the California League, or else he's just another in a long line of smart college pitchers with so-so fastballs, good control and a changeup who got rocked in the California League and above. If you have any doubts about this, ask Gabe Ribas, the Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2003 about the dangers of going above the Midwest League when you're best known for your control and change of speeds. He'll need to add something more.

24) Matt Bush (SS)
Age: 20
5-foot-11, 170-pounds
Bats-R Throws-R
MWL: Fort Wayne .221/.279/.279

2005 Highlights: Bush was the number draft pick in 2004 and has struggled since signing amid much hoopla as the local boy (Mission Bay High School) made good. Despite the paltry offensive numbers and 38 errors, there were some positives. Bush made the Midwest League all-star game largely on the basis of some spectacular plays at shortstop and his bat showed some, although few and far between, signs of improvement in 2005. A very good athlete with the best infield arm in the organization, both in the minors and on the Padres.

Ranking Justification: The best defensive shortstop and infield arm in the Padres organization. His hitting is still far from the majors, but he has showed some ability and the Padres are confident that he will eventually hit.

Negatives: His offense. No matter how much promise or progress you can argue that he has or has not made, his offensive numbers were bad this year. Essentially a college freshman, competing in a league where most players were three or four years older than he was, its not to be unexpected that he would struggle.

Conniff's assessment: Bush should be in Lake Elsinore in 2006, teaming up with Sean Kazmar to give the Padres one of the more athletic double play combinations in the league. Also, look for Bush to benefit from another year of Instructional Leagues and the much better hitting environment of the California League. In all likelihood his average will go up significantly, but nearly everyone's average takes a big leap from Fort Wayne to Lake Elsinore.

25) Matt Varner
Age: 24
5-foot-11, 200-pounds
Bats-R Throws-R
MWL: 4-5, 4.00 ERA, 34 saves 18 base-on-balls, 62 K's

2005 Highlights: The closer for the Wizards during the 2005 season led the Padres organization in saves with 34. Varner posted a solid 18-to-64 BB-to-K ratio, but his earned run average was a little high for a closer, inflated by two bad months (a 9.00 ERA in April and a 5.54 ERA in July). Varner destroyed right-handed batters, holding them to a .167 average, but was much more vulnerable against lefties, .318. Varner is another one of the Padre organizations closers who makes his living by keeping the ball down and changing speeds as opposed to blowing away batters with heat. He was called up to Lake Elsinore and was impressive in the few games that he pitched in with the Storm in the playoffs.

Ranking Justification: The organization's save leader, has a solid slider, curve, circle change and a split, all of which he counts on to drop.

Negatives: A little undersized, Varner had trouble against lefties, and also didn't perform that well with runners in scoring position, .295. Is much more effective coming in with the bases empty, .198 or leading off .146, which will have to change if he is going to try to make the big leagues as a middle reliever. He will also be 25 and in the California League.

Conniff's assessment: Had a solid season, but there are a few warning signs. Doesn't have great size and is going to have to learn to pitch better with runners on when he has to get the ball over the plate. Still if he can continue to keep the ball down, could have a future.

26) Leo Rosales Age: 25
6-foot-1, 190-pounds
Bats-R Throws-R
Cal: 8-7 3.18 ERA, 27 saves 24 base-on-balls, 77 K's

2005 Highlights: Rosales improved dramatically as the season progressed and after May he held opposing batter to under a sub-.200 batting average. He had a nice BB-to-K ratio and only allowed 53 hits in 65 innings. Rosales' best pitch is a changeup which can make a lot of batters look foolish, but he also tends to leave it up in the zone when he misses, which will be crushed as he advances. Very tough with runners on, held batters to a .239 average and only .219 with runners in scoring position. A decent fastball and breaking ball, but his change is the big pitch.

Ranking Justification: A solid year, and some good stats, but any relief pitcher whose best pitch in the minors is a change gives me some pause.

Negatives: Only real major league pitch is a change-up, which when he misses he leaves up. See Jeremy Fikac, Jesse Trujillo and now Brad Baker for other Padres' relief pitchers who put up big numbers with mainly a changeup.

Conniff's assessment: Had another good season, but not quite as good as last year in Fort Wayne (6-1 with a 1.40 ERA). As he moves up he's going to have to develop another pitch to keep batters honest for his best pitch.

27) Brett Bonvechio
Age: 23
6-foot-1, 190-pounds
Bats-L Throws-R
Cal: .267/.385/.467

2005 Highlights: The starting third baseman for the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2005 put together a nice season, except for the strikeouts. A .847 OPS, 19 home runs and 73 RBI's to go with 86 base-on-balls wasn't a bad season. Bonvechio has a strong accurate arm, but he also made 35 errors in 131 games. The Padres have noted that the hard as asphalt infield in Lake Elsinore leads to a lot more errors than anywhere else.

Ranking Justification: Bonvechio had a good season. He demonstrated that he had the ability to hit for power, .462 slugging percentage, the ability to get on base, .385, along with some home run power, 19 home runs, which is ten more than he had ever hit. He plays a premium defensive position, the Padres weakest position.

Negatives: One hundred and sixty three strikeouts in 480 at bats. Despite being one of the leaders in the minor leagues in drawing walks Bonvechio must put the ball in play with more consistency.

Conniff's assessment: Bonvechio will be the BayBears starting third baseman, and if he puts up the same type of numbers he could be in position to challenge for a job on the big team in 2007. His ability to cut his strikeout at least in half and maintain his power and walk rate will be a big challenge. He's got a real talent behind him in Chase Headley and this will be Bonvechio's best opportunity to show the Padres what he can do. The Southern League can, however, humble a prospect.

28) Neil Jamison
Age: 22
6-foot-3, 185-pounds
Bats-R Throws-R
NWL: 1-2 1.32 ERA 8 Saves, 8 BB 31 K's
MWL: 1-1 2.70 ERA 5 BB 12 Ks

2005 Highlights: A local boy out of Ramona High School, Jamison made third team All American with Baseball America as relief pitcher for Long Beach State in 2005. Drafted in the sixth round by the Padres, Jamison experienced little difficulty in the Northwest League and was promoted late in the season to Fort Wayne. Throws in the 88-93 MPH range and has a good slider with a developing change. He moved into the closer role in Eugene, and could have the same role in Fort Wayne in 2006.

Ranking Justification: A lot of talent and pitched in some big games from a big time college program. A solid professional debut.

Negatives: He's going to have to develop a little better fastball or become more consistent with his breaking ball. He also struggles to keep on weight and will need to get stronger.

Conniff's assessment: Someone to watch, could be the closer for the majority of the season or the bridge in the eighth on a strong Wizard's team.

29) Javis Diaz (OF)
Age: 22
5-foot-11, 165-pounds
Bats-L Throws-L
AZL: .352/.425/.510
NWL: .211/.348/.211

2005 Highlights: Speedy outfielder who can cover a lot of ground and showed some ability to hit the ball hard into the gaps. Diaz also stole 19 bases in 39 games. A late promotion to Eugene, Diaz may be able to break into Fort Wayne to start the season.

Ranking Justification: After Blanks, Diaz had the best year on the Rookie League Peoria Padres. A two-year veteran of the Padres Dominican program, Diaz showed significant progress in his first year in the states.

Negatives: A good year, but still it was the Arizona League. Somewhat slight, and while he does posses a good deal of athleticism, some questions about his arm and the routes he takes to the ball.

Conniff's assessment: A good young player with speed and power, who hits left-handed is always welcome. Diaz may get a shot at Fort Wayne in 2006, but it is more likely he will begin the season in extended spring training before playing in Eugene.

30) Corey Smith (3b)
Age: 24
6-foot-1, 205-pounds
Bats-R Throws-R
SL: .254/.317/.424

2005 Highlights: Acquired from the Indians for former first round draft pick Jake Gautreau, a swap of two underperforming former number one draft picks. Smith had an up and down season at the plate, he hit 18 home runs with a .424 slugging percentage, but only hit .237 with runners in scoring position. Suffice to say, Smith is not going to be in the running for any gold glove awards for his play at third base, where he made 35 errors in the field, nearly three times as many as his nearest teammate. He did, however, show some promise in the Arizona Fall League hitting .330/.390/.626 after a lot of work with Padres hitting guru Rob Deer.

Ranking Justification: Its mainly all based on what he did in the Arizona Fall League and the possibility that someday he could learn to play third base.

Negatives: A very bad glove, and most of his value is wrapped up in his ability to play third base. He had a so-so season in Mobile, but this was his third trip through Double-A.

Conniff's assessment: It will be interesting to see how much of the Arizona Fall League carries over to Portland. The Padres apparently aren't too sure it will; they left him off of the 40-man roster. Smith is going to have to prove that not only can he do it with his bat, but also his glove has to take a significant jump for him to have a chance. He is either going to make it as a third baseman, or not at all.


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