Top 30 Padres Prospects for 2008

Scouts have differing views throughout baseball. Philosophies are debated and questioned, but a scout always stands by his assessments and views. MadFriars.com is applying that disparity, as John Conniff weighs in with the top 30 San Diego Padres prospects for 2008 and attempt to answer the same basic question:

What is your philosophy on the value of a prospect as it relates to the Madfriars.com Top Prospects for 2008 rankings?

Prospect rankings are always fun but before looking at anyone's top whatever list it's important to know on what basis the prospects are being ranked. For example, last year at Madfriars.com we had Kevin Kouzmanoff as our top prospect while Baseball America had Cedric Hunter. Judging by the seasons each player had does this mean we were right and they were wrong?

Not really. We believed that Kouzmanoff would have the most impact of any Padres' minor leaguer in 2007, while Baseball America believed Hunter would eventually become the best player when all is said and done. Maybe they were right, maybe we were; but the point is the criterion was different for each ranking.

To me, the key to any rankings is the inclusion of a date. By including the date it's about what player could have the most impact on the team or the most value in trades for the coming year.

Does this mean players at higher levels will automatically be ranked over players at the lower levels? No, but in order to project someone at the lower levels there needs to be some demonstration on the field that he is on his way of reaching the levels that the scouts have projected. In other words, as opposed to a pure scouting profile, a minor league evaluation should include what the player has done on the field in addition to what he may become in the future.

For example, when compiling these lists its always tempting to rank the pitcher in lower levels who throws in the high-90s, but can't find the plate over the pitcher that throws strikes, wins games at upper levels, but doesn't have anything overpowering.

There is no doubt that the first pitcher could eventually become much more valuable than the other, but it's also more likely that he will never even reach the level of the lesser prospect in the minor leagues. A minor league system is not only about creating stars, it's about developing depth for the major league team; the ability to plug in useful players into roles that they can succeed so a team can avoid paying inflated salaries to free agents on the basis of what they once were.

Remember the biggest hurdle for any minor leaguer is the ability to replicate their best performances. If we stick with the pitching example it's more valuable to have someone that can consistently execute his good to average pitches as opposed to one who can throw a plus fastball on one pitch followed by a batting practice one the next pitch.

While potential will always be the watchword of the minor leagues, on field performance is the bridge from theory to reality.

To qualify for the list a player could have no more than 130 major league at bats or a pitcher could have no more than 50 major league innings pitched.

1. Chase Headley – 3B

Headley had the best year of any Padres' prospect in a very long time, hitting .330/.437/.580. The leader in the Texas League in both on-base and slugging percentages, he also improved his defense, cutting down on his throwing errors. Headley earned two brief call-ups to San Diego this year but two big questions remain about his future, (1) will he continue to improve with his power numbers, his slugging percentage was over 100 points better than it was in his previous two years in the organization and (2) with Kevin Kouzmanoff in San Diego will he be at third, the outfield or is he trade bait?

What is scary about Headley is that he could actually have a better year next year in Portland than he did in San Antonio in 2007. Portland will be easier for him to hit with its artificial turf and short right field fence away from the winds blowing in at Nelson Wolf Stadium. Away from San Antonio this year, he hit .346/.453/.624.

2008: With Kouzmanoff coming off of a second half where he hit .317/.366/.524 and neither player having any experience in left field, look for the Padres to start Headley in Portland to begin the year. Unless another team comes in with an offer for a young pitcher with the same considerable upside as Headley, he is with the Padres for the foreseeable future.

2. Matt Antonelli – 2B

Antonelli had a true breakout season, proving that he could hit with power, play second and most importantly continue to work deep in accounts and post a near .400 OBP in Double-A. He led the organization in runs with 123, finished fourth in home runs at 21, and second in steals with 28 to finish the year with a .307 batting average between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. In short, he is everything that the team is looking for in a leadoff hitter.

Looking at Antonelli's overall numbers, the needs of the Padres at second base and leadoff, it's easy to pencil him in as the starting second baseman for the Padres in 2008; but that could be a mistake. His season in San Antonio was a very good July [.419], a bad August [.229] and a so-so postseason, which was compounded by some struggles in the Arizona Fall League.

Don't get me wrong, Antonelli is the Padres second baseman of the future and is a better prospect than Josh Barfield, but the team's need for a second baseman/leadoff hitter could cause the team to rush him in the same way it did with Xavier Nady in 2003.

2008: Antonelli should start the year in Portland and stay there until at least July. Antonelli will be 23 next year and some have made the erroneous comparison to Barfield taking over at second for the Padres in 2006 at the same age. The major difference is that Barfield was with the Padres since graduating from high school and came into the season with five minor league seasons and over 2400 minor league at-bats. Antonelli will be entering his second full year of professional ball with only 739 at-bats and only one full year at second base. He's a very talented player, but when the Padres bring him up they need to bring him up to stay. Look for the Padres' to find a placeholder at second until he's ready.

3. Mat Latos - RHP

Nick Schmidt may have been the first pitcher the Padres selected in the 2007 draft, but Latos, signed as a draft-and-follow days before the draft, is the one that has everyone excited. Despite a 1-4 record, Latos struck out 74 batters in 56.1 innings against only 22 walks. His numbers improved every month, finishing with a 3.08 ERA in August while holding batters to a .240 average. Only 19 years old, he is the only pitcher in the system that has the potential to be a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 starter with a fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and a slider and changeup that have the potential to be plus pitches.

2008: He should spend the whole year in Fort Wayne. Don't be surprised if he gets hit around some at the start. The hitters are better at this level and will be able to hit his fastball if it's down the middle, compared to the Northwest League, and the cold of the first month may take some adjustment for the South Florida native.

4. Joe Thatcher - LHP

Thatcher was one of the key components in the Scott Linebrink trade, a deal that will be known in the future as the gift that keeps on giving. Heath Bell's pitching supplanted Linebrink as the 8th inning guy in San Diego, but Thatcher allowed the Padres to not only replace a quality bullpen arm, but improve the position. In 21 innings with the Padres, the left-hander struck out 16 against only 13 hits and six base-on-balls for a 1.29 ERA.

2008: By the end of the year he was the best option in middle relief after Heath Bell and should take over as the 7th inning man in 2008. He should have more impact on the major league team for the coming year than anyone else on the list.

5. Wade LeBlanc - LHP

LeBlanc put up a monster year between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio and was a big part of the Missions' drive to the Texas League Championship. LeBlanc's plus pitches are two devastating changeups to go along with good command of a fastball that can touch 90, but appears much faster because of the effectiveness of his change and a "show-me curve". His control is impeccable, walking only 36 batters in 149.1 innings against 145 strikeouts for a 2.95 ERA.

2008: He should begin the year in Portland and could have a shot at the Padres rotation by mid-season. His changeup is a truly amazing pitch, but he's going to need to be able to command his fastball low and inside for it to realize its full effectiveness. His curve could use some improvement as well. Because his change is so effective, the lefty has a chance to develop into a No. 3 starter in the major leagues.

6. Cedric Hunter - OF

At first glance, Hunter appears to have had an off season in Fort Wayne, hitting .282/.344/.373 – especially after the Triple Crown performance he put on last year in the Arizona League. He had a much better year, however, when all the factors are considered. He was 19 playing against players three to four years older than he was and was surrounded by little, if any, protection in the lineup. For most of the year he was forced to hit third, seeing nothing but a steady diet of breaking balls. The last month with a few more re-enforcements from the 2007 draft he put up his best numbers of the season, .317/.395/.471. His arm seems to have recovered from an injury suffered on the mound in high school and he makes many plays look effortless because of his speed.

2008: Hunter should be surrounded this year by some much better players than he was last year, which should allow him to play to his strengths – running, hitting the ball into the gaps, and getting on base rather than trying to be a middle of the lineup hitter. Throw in the fact that he will be coming off of his first full year of pro ball and the Georgia native will be playing in a warmer climate, he could put up some serious numbers in the California League.

7. Chad Huffman - OF

Huffman was the best player for the first half in Lake Elsinore, hitting .307/.402/.522 with 15 home runs and 76 RBIs in 84 games. If it hadn't been for some nagging injuries that affected his performance in San Antonio, he might have been on the same level of Headley and Antonelli. The former two-sport star from TCU, he was a backup quarterback on the football team, is still learning how to play the outfield, but he has a strong arm and decent instincts.

2008: He could start the year at either Portland or San Antonio, but I suspect the Padres will want to keep the same core group together from last year's San Antonio's team. Left field is a brutal position to break into the majors, but Huffman has a chance. He's going to have to put up the kind of numbers he did in Lake Elsinore rather than San Antonio, an OPS of .933 to .793, if he's going to expect the Padres to open a spot for him in 2009.

8. Kyle Blanks – 1B

"Gigantor" finally demonstrated the type of power that earned him an 80 ranking from scouts, setting personal records for home runs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage this year in Lake Elsinore. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound first baseman is also surprisingly athletic, legging out four triples to go along with 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts. The Padres have some concerns about his ability to stay in shape, and conditioning will be an issue with him throughout his career. He hit .335/.405/.604 before the All-Star break and .264/.353/.468 in the second.

2008: He won't turn 22 until September of next year and really does have tremendous potential. At the same time, he's limited to first base. He will be the starting first baseman for the Missions in 2008 but also could be a very attractive target for American League teams.

9. Kellen Kulbacki - OF

Kulbacki was the Padres second overall pick in the 2007 draft after putting up some monster numbers at James Madison University. His last year with the Dukes, pitchers pretty much refused to pitch to him, as he drew 56 walks in 53 games to go along with a .398/.538/.798 line. Suffice to say, most people believed he could hit. He briefly struggled for the first half of the year in Eugene before finishing off August strong hitting .356/.427/.656. His defense in right field was better than expected but Kulbacki's bat is what will take him to the major leagues.

2008: The Padres should skip Kulbacki to Lake Elsinore and he has a chance to replicate the success that Antonelli and Huffman had last year.

10. Josh Geer - RHP

Geer won 17 games this past year, 16 in San Antonio and one in Portland, and had as much success as anyone in the minors in 2007. So why doesn't he get any respect?

The main reason is that he doesn't have big velocity on his fastball, or any real plus pitches, so it's difficult for most to project how much better he could become or what type of success he could have at the major league level. The problem with that analysis is there is more to pitching than simply lighting up a radar gun, and Geer is a walking advertisement that it is more important what you do on the field is more important that what others think you may do in the future.

He does what the entire Padres' coaches preach, locates and commands his fastball, has movement and changes speeds. Geer throws a sinking two-seam fastball that he is able to put on either side of the plate, to go along with a good slider that batters chase outside the zone along with a very effective changeup.

2008: Geer will start the season in Portland and may find the hitter friendly PCL a little tougher than the pitcher friendly Nelson Wolf Stadium in San Antonio. If he can continue to use both sides of the plate and keep the ball down he's going to put up some good numbers again.

11. David Freese – 3B

Freese had a solid year and in most other organizations he would have been promoted at mid-season. The problem was that he had Headley in front of him. He hit a solid .302/.400/.489 but was most impressive with runners in scoring position [.351] and with the bases loaded [.647]. This year, he improved his BB/K ratio 69/99 and the former relief pitcher from South Alabama led the California League in fielding percentage at .958.

2008: He'll start the year in San Antonio at third, but in the Instructional Leagues saw some time behind the plate and at first. Even though he's blocked by Headley at third, the Padres like his athleticism, patience and power.

12. Nick Hundley - C

Hundley got off to a horrible start at the plate in April, hitting .206, but it didn't' affect his strong defense. He threw out nearly 37-percent of the runners that attempted to steal against him this year. His bat picked up after the All-Star break, hitting .253/.342/.500 and finishing the year with 20 home runs, fourth in the league in a very difficult park for offense, with a 23/40 base-on-balls to strikeout ratio. Hundley's defense is what will carry him to the majors, but he does have some power and knows the strike zone.

2008: He will start the year in Portland and improve his ability to make consistent contact. If he can demonstrate that he can be a little more consistent with his offense he could have a chance in 2009.

13. Drew Cumberland - SS

In 2005 it was Kyle Blanks, last year it was Cedric Hunter, this year it was Drew Cumberland. The Padres third overall pick in the 2007 draft hit .310/.383/.357 in the Arizona League at only 18. The Padres sent him up to the Northwest League for the last four games of the season where he had six hits in 18 at-bats. The left-hand hitting Cumberland is one of the better athletes in the system and was an an all-state football player in Florida. He's going to have to improve upon an .883 fielding percentage, which was partially cause by a broken bone in his hand, which didn't allow him to get as much work on the field as he needed, and an oversized glove that the team is weaning him away from.

2008: It's a very big jump from the Arizona to the Midwest League but Cumberland should make it. Look for him to struggle some in the first half with the improved pitching and cold weather, but he should settle in during the second half. The Padres believe he is a better fielder than he showed last year, and he should run a little more this year from the leadoff spot.

14. Drew Miller - RHP

Going into the season, Miller and Aaron Breit were the two big arms going into the season for the Wizards. Both were capable of launching fastballs consistently in the mid-90s with developing secondary pitches, but Miller was the one who emerged in 2007. Although a 4-6 record and a 4.69 ERA are not going to set any hearts afire, 87 strikeouts in 80 innings against only 24 walks with a fastball that touched 96 will. Throughout the year, he struggled with injuries while learning how to pitch. He did put together some stretches of what he could become.

2008: He'll start the year in Lake Elsinore and how far he advances this year will rest on his ability to stay healthy and develop a consistent changeup. If he can do both, he will be one of the top prospects in 2009 for the Padres.

15. Yefri Carvajal – OF

Carvajal has created quite a bit of excitement ever since the Padres signed him at 16 out of the Dominican Republic. Last year he battled injuries and only played in 19 games, but he made up for lost time this year, hitting .340/.404/.500 in the Arizona League before being promoted to Eugene. While he didn't play poorly with the Ems, it wasn't until August when he started to hit .292. He's only 18, but appears to be limited to left field with his body starting to fill out a little bit more.

2008: While he shows a lot of promise, he is also going to have to hit with a little more power and improve his plate discipline, especially if he's limited to left field.

16. Mitch Canham – C

Another solid pick from the 2007 draft, Canham overcame a tough groin injury to still hit .293/.379/.393. One of the main components of Oregon State's championship baseball squad, Canham played well enough in the Northwest League to earn a late season promotion to Lake Elsinore, where he should begin next season.

2008: The left-handed hitting Canham will probably hit with a little more power than he showed last year in Eugene but is going to have to prove that he can handle the position defensively. He has a lot of talent and could be pushing Hundley by the end of the year for top catching prospect in the Padres organization.

17. Cesar Ramos – LHP

Ramos was the Padres second overall pick in 2005 and this year was his best in the organization, especially in the second half where he went 8-2 with a 2.64 ERA after a pedestrian 5-7, 4.01 ERA in the first. He's not going to wow anyone with his peripheral statistics, even in the second half his K/BB ratio was 41/21 and batters hit .241 against him in the best pitchers park in the Texas League, but he averaged nearly six innings a start, doesn't give up runs, and kept his team in nearly every game.

2008: he left-hander throws a fastball that can touch the low-90s with very good command, but is going to need to improve on his ability to throw his changeup and slider to keep batters honest as he goes further up the ladder. He'll begin the year in Portland.

18. Matt Buschmann – RHP

In the second half of the season, the Vanderbilt grad was one of the organization's better pitchers, going 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA, striking out 65 batters in 75.1 innings against only 11 walks. He throws three pitches, fastball, changeup and a slider. Buschmann credited his improvement to getting a more consistent arm slot and increasing his pitching tempo.

2008: He will start the year in San Antonio, and as most of the staff learned this year, his success or failure is going to be determined by his ability to throw his sinking fastballs on both sides of the plate.

19. Jared Wells – RHP

Midway through last year, we thought Jared Wells had a chance to be a starter in San Diego after solid performance in Mobile in the first half of 2006. Then he went to Portland and went 2-9 with a 7.27 ERA. His first half wasn't much better this year with the Beavers, going 2-7 as a starter before the team finally moved him to the bullpen. Once he was in the pen, especially as a closer where he didn't have to worry about pacing himself or throwing a changeup, Wells was dominant with his hard sinking fastball and crisp slider. After the All-Star break, Wells was 1-0 with eight saves and 29 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched against only 12 walks. In August he was particularly effective saving 6-of-7 opportunities with 20 strikeouts in 13.2 innings.

2008: There will always be some makeup issues with Wells, but his numbers are impressive since moving to the bullpen. He's the type of relief pitcher that the Padres like; he throws hard, averages over a strikeout per inning, doesn't walk many and he's very affordable. Depending on how the bullpen shakes out, he could have a shot to make the team out of spring training.

20. Will Inman – LHP

One of three quality pitchers that came over in the Linebrink trade, Inman was only 20 years old and already in Double-A. He throws three good but not plus pitches, a fastball, change and a curve – but his big calling card is that he posts some very good BB/K and K/IP ratios and had an ERA under 2.00 until he got to Double-A where he had a 5.45 ERA in Huntsville and a 4.17 ERA in San Antonio. He continued to post the solid peripheral statistics as he did in A-ball, but was hurt by the big hit, giving up six home runs in 41.1 innings in San Antonio. Although it's an overused comparison, Inman is a Greg Maddox type of pitcher – always around the plate, doesn't walk many – but isn't going to blow anyone away either.

2008: He will probably start the year in San Antonio, but he faces the same problem many older pitchers do, he's going to have to do a little more than change speeds and throw strikes to be effective. He's very young for this level but is going to need to catch a little less of the plate.

21. Cory Luebke – LHP

A left-hander that throws strikes and can bring it consistently in the low-90s. I think that gets everyone's attention. Luebke was one of five Padres supplemental first-round picks in the 2007 draft and pitched at three different levels in the organization despite throwing 117.2 innings at Ohio State. The 6-foot-4 southpaw is one of the better athletes in the system and throws a fastball, slider and change. He finished the year in Lake Elsinore, but was pretty much on fumes after pitching well for Eugene and Fort Wayne.

2008: Luebke should start the year in Lake Elsinore but could be in San Antonio before the year is out. If he can improve his secondary pitches he should move up very quickly.

22. Luis Durango – OF

At 21, Durango led the organization and the Northwest League in hitting at .367 and the Panamanian switch-hitter is the fastest player in the organization. He also led the NWL with eight triples and had a .460 slugging percentage in addition to posting a .422 on-base percentage, which was good enough for third in the league. Defensively, he has the ability and speed to become a good center fielder, he just hasn't shown it yet on the field; specifically, he needs to improve his routes and defensive instincts, which is going to take time and repetition. Also, for a man with his speed, he's going to have to improve his ability to steal bases, getting caught in 10 of 27 stolen base attempts.

2008: He will start the year in Fort Wayne either in left or center field, but if he can learn to play center he will have much more value. Offensively, he has a good strike judgment, but his baserunning is going to have to improve and is a big component of his future value. Although he's only hit two home runs in 443 career at bats, he does have some power, a .456 slugging percentage, for a leadoff hitter.

23. Colt Morton – C

In the five seasons he's been in the Padres' organization, Morton career has had as many up and downs as a carnival roller coaster and in 2008 it appears to be again on the upward swing. Morton battled back from shoulder injuries and rejoined San Antonio in mid-season and was solid at the plate, hitting .266/.383/.489, and behind the dish. He earned a late season call-up to the Padres at the end of the year. The 6-foot-6 Morton has surprising flexibility for a man his size behind the plate and pitchers love throwing to him. He has tremendous power and has dramatically cut down on what was previously a very long swing.

2008: He has an outside shot at making the Padres as a backup but will more likely be in Portland, where he should see time behind the plate, at first base and DH. If he can stay healthy and continue to improve at the plate he will see time in the majors.

24. Will Venable

Venable put together a good year in San Antonio, hitting .278/.337/.373, especially considering that he skipped High-A to Double-A, which is considered the biggest jump in the minor leagues. The former Princeton basketball star is a good athlete, but is more quick than fast. He played the majority of his games in right field, but also saw time in center and left and improved his arm strength from the previous year – but realistically only has the arm strength to play left field in the majors. If he's limited to left field, he's going to have to hit with much more power than he has shown so far. The Padres believe his development is a two-step process and the power will develop this year in Portland.

2008: Should begin the year in Portland, and probably in right field if Huffman starts the year with the Beavers. He really did all that was expected of him this year and the lower ranking shouldn't be perceived as a downgrade, just the Padres' system is significantly improved in the depth of their talent from last year.

25. Craig Cooper – 1B

Cooper won three consecutive batting titles in the Big East at Notre Dame and hit .320/.418/.485 in his first season with Eugene. This past year, after skipping the Midwest League, Cooper hit .317/.397/.469 bouncing between first base, right field and DH.

A rare lefty that bats right-handed, Cooper's best attribute is his superior strike zone judgment and ability to drive the ball into the gaps. He has the arm to play right and may be the best defensive first baseman in the system.

2008: Cooper should be the starting right fielder for the Missions in 2008, and if he can maintain his batting eye while putting a few more balls over the fence he's going to shoot up this list.

26. Manny Ayala – RHP

Along with LeBlanc, he was one of the best pitchers in Lake Elsinore. The big right-hander went 11-3 with a 2.22 ERA. Ayala struck out 74 batters against only 19 walks in 101.1 innings pitched, averaging nearly six innings a start. Ayala makes his living with a low two-seam fastball and relies on getting ahead in the count to set up batters for his plus changeup. His slider is still a work in progress and some nagging arm injuries prevented him from really getting a chance to show what he could do in San Antonio.

2008: As an undrafted free agent signed out of the Independent Golden Baseball League, Ayala's progress has been impressive. He should begin the year in San Antonio and again be part of a solid rotation.

27. Vince Sinisi – OF

After his career nearly ended because of a forearm injury that developed into a staph infection, Sinisi came back with a big year in Portland before a hip injury shut him down in early July. Up until that time, he was hitting .310/.356/.475 and has the ability to play all over the outfield and a very good first base. Sinisi could have come back the last two weeks of the season but the Padres chose to hold him out for precautionary measures.

2008: Sinisi is a talented player and would have been a first round draft pick in 2003 if a few teams hadn't been scared off by his contract demands. He'll be 26 next year and his versatility and patient approach at the plate could give him a shot in San Diego next year. He seems to have fully recovered and was hitting .339 in the Dominican Winter League.

28. Paul McAnulty – OF

P-Mac started off the year strong, tearing it up during Spring Training, hitting .371/.436/.571 and proving to people that he could be an effective left fielder. Unfortunately, a knee injury derailed his shot for a starting bid in left and when he came back, although he was on the roster, he never really got his rhythm back, hitting only .200 in 40 at bats with the Padres and .262 in Portland. In fairness to McAnulty, he simply fought too many injuries throughout the season, which caused him to post the worst numbers of his career.

2008: If he's healthy in Spring Training, he should be able to hit, but he's going to be 27 next spring and is probably going to have to make the major league roster. Going back to Portland for a fourth year isn't going to do either party any good. He's never going to hit 30 home runs or be a great fielder, but he has a career .393 OBP in the minors and he will hit the ball hard in the gaps. If he's given a chance he can be a productive major league player.

29. Steve Garrison – LHP

The third and final pitcher included in the Linebrink trade, the slight left-hander pitched well for the Strom over seven starts. He held California League batters to a .205 average and posted a 28/6 K-to-BB ratio while allowing 32 hits in 42 innings. Only 20 years old, he throws four pitches: a fastball, curve, slider and change. His fastball isn't overpowering, but he has command and moves it around. Like Inman, he's a very intelligent pitcher who knows what he can do and more importantly what he can't.

2008: He has a chance to start the year in Double-A, but it's going to be much more of a challenge for him than where he's previously been. Without a plus pitch, he won't have as much margin of error, but then again not everyone is left-handed and has command of four pitches.

30. Aaron Breit – RHP

Breit has as much talent as any pitcher in the organization. Unfortunately, he didn't show it much this year until the last month. Before the All-Star game, he had a 2-7 record with an 8.07 ERA, as batters tagged him at a .337 clip. He wasn't that much better in June and July as the Padres took him out of the rotation for some extra side work but it began to pay off in August when he has his best month, going 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA and a 23/5 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio. He still caught a little too much of the plate with batters hitting .270 against him, but the improvement was there. He has a fastball that is consistently in the low to mid-90s, a developing slider, and change. As his pitching coach noted, he does throw strikes consistently, he has just has to improve where he throws the strikes.

2008: Breit is only 21 and it's not inconceivable that the Padres could start him off in Fort Wayne to begin the year and get some confidence before promoting him to the tougher California League. He has the talent to move very far up the list very quickly, he just needs to learn to pitch to his strengths.

While the following players did not make the Top 30, all three were in the Padres' system in 2007 and briefly appeared with the big club. The following reviews are some quick breakdowns of what they accomplished and their possible futures in San Diego.

Tim Stauffer – RHP

Stauffer has thrown too many innings in the majors 94.2 to qualify, but still he spent the majority of the year in Portland and is former number one selection of the Padres, fourth overall. He was 5-1 in the second half of the year with a 2.00 ERA. So where would he rank if he was eligible? He wouldn't. He did improve and pitch better this year, but again it was his fourth year with Portland, and he was shelled in two starts in San Diego with a 21.13 ERA.

2008: He's never really been the pitcher that the Padres thought they drafted in 2003 and it's hard to see him in the organization for another season.

Jack Cassel – RHP

Everyone cheers for a pitcher like Cassel – eight years in the minors before being given an opportunity. Cassel was 1-1 in four starts, including a big win over the Pirates down the stretch. He throws a sinking fastball, a slider that he tries to get batters to chase and a so-so change. His game relies on getting batters to put the ball in play, but he was hit very hard in a few starts and advanced video scouting could really hurt him at the major league level. Even though Portland did have a bad defense, he still allowed 203 hits in 156.2 innings.

2008: It's doubtful he will be the fifth starter in San Diego, but he could make the team as the long man out of the bullpen. He's come a long way and everyone will be pulling for him.

Brian Myrow – 1B

Another feel good story, Myrow, at 31, won the Pacific Coast League batting title, hitting .354 to go along with a .447 on-base percentage and a .579 slugging percentage.

2008: He's limited to first base and the Padres have quite a few left-handed hitters, so it's a big uphill climb to make the major league roster. He could come back to Portland for another year but is probably better off trying to latch onto an organization that is a better fit.


MadFriars Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\nWhat is your philosophy on the value of a prospect as it relates to the Madfriars.com Top Prospects for 2008 rankings?

\r\nProspect rankings are always fun but before looking at anyone's top whatever list it's important to know on what basis the prospects are being ranked. For example, last year at Madfriars.com we had Kevin Kouzmanoff as our top prospect while Baseball America had Cedric Hunter. Judging by the seasons each player had does this mean we were right and they were wrong?

\r\nNot really. We believed that Kouzmanoff would have the most impact of any Padres' minor leaguer in 2007, while Baseball America believed Hunter would eventually become the best player when all is said and done. Maybe they were right, maybe we were; but the point is the criterion was different for each ranking.

\r\nTo me, the key to any rankings is the inclusion of a date. By including the date it's about what player could have the most impact on the team or the most value in trades for the coming year.

\r\nDoes this mean players at higher levels will automatically be ranked over players at the lower levels? No, but in order to project someone at the lower levels there needs to be some demonstration on the field that he is on his way of reaching the levels that the scouts have projected. In other words, as opposed to a pure scouting profile, a minor league evaluation should include what the player has done on the field in addition to what he may become in the future.

\r\nFor example, when compiling these lists its always tempting to rank the pitcher in lower levels who throws in the high-90s, but can't find the plate over the pitcher that throws strikes, wins games at upper levels, but doesn't have anything overpowering.

\r\nThere is no doubt that the first pitcher could eventually become much more valuable than the other, but it's also more likely that he will never even reach the level of the lesser prospect in the minor leagues. A minor league system is not only about creating stars, it's about developing depth for the major league team; the ability to plug in useful players into roles that they can succeed so a team can avoid paying inflated salaries to free agents on the basis of what they once were.

\r\nRemember the biggest hurdle for any minor leaguer is the ability to replicate their best performances. If we stick with the pitching example it's more valuable to have someone that can consistently execute his good to average pitches as opposed to one who can throw a plus fastball on one pitch followed by a batting practice one the next pitch.

\r\nWhile potential will always be the watchword of the minor leagues, on field performance is the bridge from theory to reality.

\r\nTo qualify for the list a player could have no more than 130 major league at bats or a pitcher could have no more than 50 major league innings pitched.

\r\n1. Chase Headley – 3B

\r\nHeadley had the best year of any Padres' prospect in a very long time, hitting .330/.437/.580. The leader in the Texas League in both on-base and slugging percentages, he also improved his defense, cutting down on his throwing errors. Headley earned two brief call-ups to San Diego this year but two big questions remain about his future, (1) will he continue to improve with his power numbers, his slugging percentage was over 100 points better than it was in his previous two years in the organization and (2) with Kevin Kouzmanoff in San Diego will he be at third, the outfield or is he trade bait?

\r\nWhat is scary about Headley is that he could actually have a better year next year in Portland than he did in San Antonio in 2007. Portland will be easier for him to hit with its artificial turf and short right field fence away from the winds blowing in at Nelson Wolf Stadium. Away from San Antonio this year, he hit .346/.453/.624.

\r\n2008: With Kouzmanoff coming off of a second half where he hit .317/.366/.524 and neither player having any experience in left field, look for the Padres to start Headley in Portland to begin the year. Unless another team comes in with an offer for a young pitcher with the same considerable upside as Headley, he is with the Padres for the foreseeable future.

\r\n2. Matt Antonelli – 2B

\r\nAntonelli had a true breakout season, proving that he could hit with power, play second and most importantly continue to work deep in accounts and post a near .400 OBP in Double-A. He led the organization in runs with 123, finished fourth in home runs at 21, and second in steals with 28 to finish the year with a .307 batting average between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. In short, he is everything that the team is looking for in a leadoff hitter.

\r\nLooking at Antonelli's overall numbers, the needs of the Padres at second base and leadoff, it's easy to pencil him in as the starting second baseman for the Padres in 2008; but that could be a mistake. His season in San Antonio was a very good July [.419], a bad August [.229] and a so-so postseason, which was compounded by some struggles in the Arizona Fall League.

\r\nDon't get me wrong, Antonelli is the Padres second baseman of the future and is a better prospect than Josh Barfield, but the team's need for a second baseman/leadoff hitter could cause the team to rush him in the same way it did with Xavier Nady in 2003.

\r\n2008: Antonelli should start the year in Portland and stay there until at least July. Antonelli will be 23 next year and some have made the erroneous comparison to Barfield taking over at second for the Padres in 2006 at the same age. The major difference is that Barfield was with the Padres since graduating from high school and came into the season with five minor league seasons and over 2400 minor league at-bats. Antonelli will be entering his second full year of professional ball with only 739 at-bats and only one full year at second base. He's a very talented player, but when the Padres bring him up they need to bring him up to stay. Look for the Padres' to find a placeholder at second until he's ready.

\r\n3. Mat Latos - RHP

\r\nNick Schmidt may have been the first pitcher the Padres selected in the 2007 draft, but Latos, signed as a draft-and-follow days before the draft, is the one that has everyone excited. Despite a 1-4 record, Latos struck out 74 batters in 56.1 innings against only 22 walks. His numbers improved every month, finishing with a 3.08 ERA in August while holding batters to a .240 average. Only 19 years old, he is the only pitcher in the system that has the potential to be a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 starter with a fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and a slider and changeup that have the potential to be plus pitches.

\r\n2008: He should spend the whole year in Fort Wayne. Don't be surprised if he gets hit around some at the start. The hitters are better at this level and will be able to hit his fastball if it's down the middle, compared to the Northwest League, and the cold of the first month may take some adjustment for the South Florida native.

\r\n4. Joe Thatcher - LHP

\r\nThatcher was one of the key components in the Scott Linebrink trade, a deal that will be known in the future as the gift that keeps on giving. Heath Bell's pitching supplanted Linebrink as the 8th inning guy in San Diego, but Thatcher allowed the Padres to not only replace a quality bullpen arm, but improve the position. In 21 innings with the Padres, the left-hander struck out 16 against only 13 hits and six base-on-balls for a 1.29 ERA.

\r\n2008: By the end of the year he was the best option in middle relief after Heath Bell and should take over as the 7th inning man in 2008. He should have more impact on the major league team for the coming year than anyone else on the list.

\r\n5. Wade LeBlanc - LHP

\r\nLeBlanc put up a monster year between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio and was a big part of the Missions' drive to the Texas League Championship. LeBlanc's plus pitches are two devastating changeups to go along with good command of a fastball that can touch 90, but appears much faster because of the effectiveness of his change and a \"show-me curve\". His control is impeccable, walking only 36 batters in 149.1 innings against 145 strikeouts for a 2.95 ERA.

\r\n2008: He should begin the year in Portland and could have a shot at the Padres rotation by mid-season. His changeup is a truly amazing pitch, but he's going to need to be able to command his fastball low and inside for it to realize its full effectiveness. His curve could use some improvement as well. Because his change is so effective, the lefty has a chance to develop into a No. 3 starter in the major leagues.

\r\n6. Cedric Hunter - OF

\r\nAt first glance, Hunter appears to have had an off season in Fort Wayne, hitting .282/.344/.373 – especially after the Triple Crown performance he put on last year in the Arizona League. He had a much better year, however, when all the factors are considered. He was 19 playing against players three to four years older than he was and was surrounded by little, if any, protection in the lineup. For most of the year he was forced to hit third, seeing nothing but a steady diet of breaking balls. The last month with a few more re-enforcements from the 2007 draft he put up his best numbers of the season, .317/.395/.471. His arm seems to have recovered from an injury suffered on the mound in high school and he makes many plays look effortless because of his speed.

\r\n2008: Hunter should be surrounded this year by some much better players than he was last year, which should allow him to play to his strengths – running, hitting the ball into the gaps, and getting on base rather than trying to be a middle of the lineup hitter. Throw in the fact that he will be coming off of his first full year of pro ball and the Georgia native will be playing in a warmer climate, he could put up some serious numbers in the California League.

\r\n7. Chad Huffman - OF

\r\nHuffman was the best player for the first half in Lake Elsinore, hitting .307/.402/.522 with 15 home runs and 76 RBIs in 84 games. If it hadn't been for some nagging injuries that affected his performance in San Antonio, he might have been on the same level of Headley and Antonelli. The former two-sport star from TCU, he was a backup quarterback on the football team, is still learning how to play the outfield, but he has a strong arm and decent instincts.

\r\n2008: He could start the year at either Portland or San Antonio, but I suspect the Padres will want to keep the same core group together from last year's San Antonio's team. Left field is a brutal position to break into the majors, but Huffman has a chance. He's going to have to put up the kind of numbers he did in Lake Elsinore rather than San Antonio, an OPS of .933 to .793, if he's going to expect the Padres to open a spot for him in 2009.

\r\n8. Kyle Blanks – 1B

\r\n\"Gigantor\" finally demonstrated the type of power that earned him an 80 ranking from scouts, setting personal records for home runs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage this year in Lake Elsinore. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound first baseman is also surprisingly athletic, legging out four triples to go along with 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts. The Padres have some concerns about his ability to stay in shape, and conditioning will be an issue with him throughout his career. He hit .335/.405/.604 before the All-Star break and .264/.353/.468 in the second.

\r\n2008: He won't turn 22 until September of next year and really does have tremendous potential. At the same time, he's limited to first base. He will be the starting first baseman for the Missions in 2008 but also could be a very attractive target for American League teams.

\r\n9. Kellen Kulbacki - OF

\r\nKulbacki was the Padres second overall pick in the 2007 draft after putting up some monster numbers at James Madison University. His last year with the Dukes, pitchers pretty much refused to pitch to him, as he drew 56 walks in 53 games to go along with a .398/.538/.798 line. Suffice to say, most people believed he could hit. He briefly struggled for the first half of the year in Eugene before finishing off August strong hitting .356/.427/.656. His defense in right field was better than expected but Kulbacki's bat is what will take him to the major leagues.

\r\n2008: The Padres should skip Kulbacki to Lake Elsinore and he has a chance to replicate the success that Antonelli and Huffman had last year.

\r\n10. Josh Geer - RHP

\r\nGeer won 17 games this past year, 16 in San Antonio and one in Portland, and had as much success as anyone in the minors in 2007. So why doesn't he get any respect?

\r\nThe main reason is that he doesn't have big velocity on his fastball, or any real plus pitches, so it's difficult for most to project how much better he could become or what type of success he could have at the major league level. The problem with that analysis is there is more to pitching than simply lighting up a radar gun, and Geer is a walking advertisement that it is more important what you do on the field is more important that what others think you may do in the future.

\r\nHe does what the entire Padres' coaches preach, locates and commands his fastball, has movement and changes speeds. Geer throws a sinking two-seam fastball that he is able to put on either side of the plate, to go along with a good slider that batters chase outside the zone along with a very effective changeup.

\r\n2008: Geer will start the season in Portland and may find the hitter friendly PCL a little tougher than the pitcher friendly Nelson Wolf Stadium in San Antonio. If he can continue to use both sides of the plate and keep the ball down he's going to put up some good numbers again.

\r\n11. David Freese – 3B

\r\nFreese had a solid year and in most other organizations he would have been promoted at mid-season. The problem was that he had Headley in front of him. He hit a solid .302/.400/.489 but was most impressive with runners in scoring position [.351] and with the bases loaded [.647]. This year, he improved his BB/K ratio 69/99 and the former relief pitcher from South Alabama led the California League in fielding percentage at .958.

\r\n2008: He'll start the year in San Antonio at third, but in the Instructional Leagues saw some time behind the plate and at first. Even though he's blocked by Headley at third, the Padres like his athleticism, patience and power.

\r\n12. Nick Hundley - C

\r\nHundley got off to a horrible start at the plate in April, hitting .206, but it didn't' affect his strong defense. He threw out nearly 37-percent of the runners that attempted to steal against him this year. His bat picked up after the All-Star break, hitting .253/.342/.500 and finishing the year with 20 home runs, fourth in the league in a very difficult park for offense, with a 23/40 base-on-balls to strikeout ratio. Hundley's defense is what will carry him to the majors, but he does have some power and knows the strike zone.

\r\n2008: He will start the year in Portland and improve his ability to make consistent contact. If he can demonstrate that he can be a little more consistent with his offense he could have a chance in 2009.

\r\n13. Drew Cumberland - SS

\r\nIn 2005 it was Kyle Blanks, last year it was Cedric Hunter, this year it was Drew Cumberland. The Padres third overall pick in the 2007 draft hit .310/.383/.357 in the Arizona League at only 18. The Padres sent him up to the Northwest League for the last four games of the season where he had six hits in 18 at-bats. The left-hand hitting Cumberland is one of the better athletes in the system and was an an all-state football player in Florida. He's going to have to improve upon an .883 fielding percentage, which was partially cause by a broken bone in his hand, which didn't allow him to get as much work on the field as he needed, and an oversized glove that the team is weaning him away from.

\r\n2008: It's a very big jump from the Arizona to the Midwest League but Cumberland should make it. Look for him to struggle some in the first half with the improved pitching and cold weather, but he should settle in during the second half. The Padres believe he is a better fielder than he showed last year, and he should run a little more this year from the leadoff spot.

\r\n14. Drew Miller - RHP

\r\nGoing into the season, Miller and Aaron Breit were the two big arms going into the season for the Wizards. Both were capable of launching fastballs consistently in the mid-90s with developing secondary pitches, but Miller was the one who emerged in 2007. Although a 4-6 record and a 4.69 ERA are not going to set any hearts afire, 87 strikeouts in 80 innings against only 24 walks with a fastball that touched 96 will. Throughout the year, he struggled with injuries while learning how to pitch. He did put together some stretches of what he could become.

\r\n2008: He'll start the year in Lake Elsinore and how far he advances this year will rest on his ability to stay healthy and develop a consistent changeup. If he can do both, he will be one of the top prospects in 2009 for the Padres.

\r\n15. Yefri Carvajal – OF

\r\nCarvajal has created quite a bit of excitement ever since the Padres signed him at 16 out of the Dominican Republic. Last year he battled injuries and only played in 19 games, but he made up for lost time this year, hitting .340/.404/.500 in the Arizona League before being promoted to Eugene. While he didn't play poorly with the Ems, it wasn't until August when he started to hit .292. He's only 18, but appears to be limited to left field with his body starting to fill out a little bit more.

\r\n2008: While he shows a lot of promise, he is also going to have to hit with a little more power and improve his plate discipline, especially if he's limited to left field.

\r\n16. Mitch Canham – C

\r\nAnother solid pick from the 2007 draft, Canham overcame a tough groin injury to still hit .293/.379/.393. One of the main components of Oregon State's championship baseball squad, Canham played well enough in the Northwest League to earn a late season promotion to Lake Elsinore, where he should begin next season.

\r\n2008: The left-handed hitting Canham will probably hit with a little more power than he showed last year in Eugene but is going to have to prove that he can handle the position defensively. He has a lot of talent and could be pushing Hundley by the end of the year for top catching prospect in the Padres organization.

\r\n17. Cesar Ramos – LHP

\r\nRamos was the Padres second overall pick in 2005 and this year was his best in the organization, especially in the second half where he went 8-2 with a 2.64 ERA after a pedestrian 5-7, 4.01 ERA in the first. He's not going to wow anyone with his peripheral statistics, even in the second half his K/BB ratio was 41/21 and batters hit .241 against him in the best pitchers park in the Texas League, but he averaged nearly six innings a start, doesn't give up runs, and kept his team in nearly every game.

\r\n2008: he left-hander throws a fastball that can touch the low-90s with very good command, but is going to need to improve on his ability to throw his changeup and slider to keep batters honest as he goes further up the ladder. He'll begin the year in Portland.

\r\n18. Matt Buschmann – RHP

\r\nIn the second half of the season, the Vanderbilt grad was one of the organization's better pitchers, going 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA, striking out 65 batters in 75.1 innings against only 11 walks. He throws three pitches, fastball, changeup and a slider. Buschmann credited his improvement to getting a more consistent arm slot and increasing his pitching tempo.

\r\n2008: He will start the year in San Antonio, and as most of the staff learned this year, his success or failure is going to be determined by his ability to throw his sinking fastballs on both sides of the plate.

\r\n19. Jared Wells – RHP

\r\nMidway through last year, we thought Jared Wells had a chance to be a starter in San Diego after solid performance in Mobile in the first half of 2006. Then he went to Portland and went 2-9 with a 7.27 ERA. His first half wasn't much better this year with the Beavers, going 2-7 as a starter before the team finally moved him to the bullpen. Once he was in the pen, especially as a closer where he didn't have to worry about pacing himself or throwing a changeup, Wells was dominant with his hard sinking fastball and crisp slider. After the All-Star break, Wells was 1-0 with eight saves and 29 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched against only 12 walks. In August he was particularly effective saving 6-of-7 opportunities with 20 strikeouts in 13.2 innings.

\r\n2008: There will always be some makeup issues with Wells, but his numbers are impressive since moving to the bullpen. He's the type of relief pitcher that the Padres like; he throws hard, averages over a strikeout per inning, doesn't walk many and he's very affordable. Depending on how the bullpen shakes out, he could have a shot to make the team out of spring training.

\r\n20. Will Inman – LHP

\r\nOne of three quality pitchers that came over in the Linebrink trade, Inman was only 20 years old and already in Double-A. He throws three good but not plus pitches, a fastball, change and a curve – but his big calling card is that he posts some very good BB/K and K/IP ratios and had an ERA under 2.00 until he got to Double-A where he had a 5.45 ERA in Huntsville and a 4.17 ERA in San Antonio. He continued to post the solid peripheral statistics as he did in A-ball, but was hurt by the big hit, giving up six home runs in 41.1 innings in San Antonio. Although it's an overused comparison, Inman is a Greg Maddox type of pitcher – always around the plate, doesn't walk many – but isn't going to blow anyone away either.

\r\n2008: He will probably start the year in San Antonio, but he faces the same problem many older pitchers do, he's going to have to do a little more than change speeds and throw strikes to be effective. He's very young for this level but is going to need to catch a little less of the plate.

\r\n21. Cory Luebke – LHP

\r\nA left-hander that throws strikes and can bring it consistently in the low-90s. I think that gets everyone's attention. Luebke was one of five Padres supplemental first-round picks in the 2007 draft and pitched at three different levels in the organization despite throwing 117.2 innings at Ohio State. The 6-foot-4 southpaw is one of the better athletes in the system and throws a fastball, slider and change. He finished the year in Lake Elsinore, but was pretty much on fumes after pitching well for Eugene and Fort Wayne.

\r\n2008: Luebke should start the year in Lake Elsinore but could be in San Antonio before the year is out. If he can improve his secondary pitches he should move up very quickly.

\r\n22. Luis Durango – OF

\r\nAt 21, Durango led the organization and the Northwest League in hitting at .367 and the Panamanian switch-hitter is the fastest player in the organization. He also led the NWL with eight triples and had a .460 slugging percentage in addition to posting a .422 on-base percentage, which was good enough for third in the league. Defensively, he has the ability and speed to become a good center fielder, he just hasn't shown it yet on the field; specifically, he needs to improve his routes and defensive instincts, which is going to take time and repetition. Also, for a man with his speed, he's going to have to improve his ability to steal bases, getting caught in 10 of 27 stolen base attempts.

\r\n2008: He will start the year in Fort Wayne either in left or center field, but if he can learn to play center he will have much more value. Offensively, he has a good strike judgment, but his baserunning is going to have to improve and is a big component of his future value. Although he's only hit two home runs in 443 career at bats, he does have some power, a .456 slugging percentage, for a leadoff hitter.

\r\n23. Colt Morton – C

\r\nIn the five seasons he's been in the Padres' organization, Morton career has had as many up and downs as a carnival roller coaster and in 2008 it appears to be again on the upward swing. Morton battled back from shoulder injuries and rejoined San Antonio in mid-season and was solid at the plate, hitting .266/.383/.489, and behind the dish. He earned a late season call-up to the Padres at the end of the year. The 6-foot-6 Morton has surprising flexibility for a man his size behind the plate and pitchers love throwing to him. He has tremendous power and has dramatically cut down on what was previously a very long swing.

\r\n2008: He has an outside shot at making the Padres as a backup but will more likely be in Portland, where he should see time behind the plate, at first base and DH. If he can stay healthy and continue to improve at the plate he will see time in the majors.

\r\n24. Will Venable

\r\nVenable put together a good year in San Antonio, hitting .278/.337/.373, especially considering that he skipped High-A to Double-A, which is considered the biggest jump in the minor leagues. The former Princeton basketball star is a good athlete, but is more quick than fast. He played the majority of his games in right field, but also saw time in center and left and improved his arm strength from the previous year – but realistically only has the arm strength to play left field in the majors. If he's limited to left field, he's going to have to hit with much more power than he has shown so far. The Padres believe his development is a two-step process and the power will develop this year in Portland.

\r\n2008: Should begin the year in Portland, and probably in right field if Huffman starts the year with the Beavers. He really did all that was expected of him this year and the lower ranking shouldn't be perceived as a downgrade, just the Padres' system is significantly improved in the depth of their talent from last year.

\r\n25. Craig Cooper – 1B

\r\nCooper won three consecutive batting titles in the Big East at Notre Dame and hit .320/.418/.485 in his first season with Eugene. This past year, after skipping the Midwest League, Cooper hit .317/.397/.469 bouncing between first base, right field and DH.

\r\nA rare lefty that bats right-handed, Cooper's best attribute is his superior strike zone judgment and ability to drive the ball into the gaps. He has the arm to play right and may be the best defensive first baseman in the system.

\r\n2008: Cooper should be the starting right fielder for the Missions in 2008, and if he can maintain his batting eye while putting a few more balls over the fence he's going to shoot up this list.

\r\n26. Manny Ayala – RHP

\r\nAlong with LeBlanc, he was one of the best pitchers in Lake Elsinore. The big right-hander went 11-3 with a 2.22 ERA. Ayala struck out 74 batters against only 19 walks in 101.1 innings pitched, averaging nearly six innings a start. Ayala makes his living with a low two-seam fastball and relies on getting ahead in the count to set up batters for his plus changeup. His slider is still a work in progress and some nagging arm injuries prevented him from really getting a chance to show what he could do in San Antonio.

\r\n2008: As an undrafted free agent signed out of the Independent Golden Baseball League, Ayala's progress has been impressive. He should begin the year in San Antonio and again be part of a solid rotation.

\r\n27. Vince Sinisi – OF

\r\nAfter his career nearly ended because of a forearm injury that developed into a staph infection, Sinisi came back with a big year in Portland before a hip injury shut him down in early July. Up until that time, he was hitting .310/.356/.475 and has the ability to play all over the outfield and a very good first base. Sinisi could have come back the last two weeks of the season but the Padres chose to hold him out for precautionary measures.

\r\n2008: Sinisi is a talented player and would have been a first round draft pick in 2003 if a few teams hadn't been scared off by his contract demands. He'll be 26 next year and his versatility and patient approach at the plate could give him a shot in San Diego next year. He seems to have fully recovered and was hitting .339 in the Dominican Winter League.

\r\n28. Paul McAnulty – OF

\r\nP-Mac started off the year strong, tearing it up during Spring Training, hitting .371/.436/.571 and proving to people that he could be an effective left fielder. Unfortunately, a knee injury derailed his shot for a starting bid in left and when he came back, although he was on the roster, he never really got his rhythm back, hitting only .200 in 40 at bats with the Padres and .262 in Portland. In fairness to McAnulty, he simply fought too many injuries throughout the season, which caused him to post the worst numbers of his career.

\r\n2008: If he's healthy in Spring Training, he should be able to hit, but he's going to be 27 next spring and is probably going to have to make the major league roster. Going back to Portland for a fourth year isn't going to do either party any good. He's never going to hit 30 home runs or be a great fielder, but he has a career .393 OBP in the minors and he will hit the ball hard in the gaps. If he's given a chance he can be a productive major league player.

\r\n29. Steve Garrison – LHP

\r\nThe third and final pitcher included in the Linebrink trade, the slight left-hander pitched well for the Strom over seven starts. He held California League batters to a .205 average and posted a 28/6 K-to-BB ratio while allowing 32 hits in 42 innings. Only 20 years old, he throws four pitches: a fastball, curve, slider and change. His fastball isn't overpowering, but he has command and moves it around. Like Inman, he's a very intelligent pitcher who knows what he can do and more importantly what he can't.

\r\n2008: He has a chance to start the year in Double-A, but it's going to be much more of a challenge for him than where he's previously been. Without a plus pitch, he won't have as much margin of error, but then again not everyone is left-handed and has command of four pitches.

\r\n30. Aaron Breit – RHP

\r\nBreit has as much talent as any pitcher in the organization. Unfortunately, he didn't show it much this year until the last month. Before the All-Star game, he had a 2-7 record with an 8.07 ERA, as batters tagged him at a .337 clip. He wasn't that much better in June and July as the Padres took him out of the rotation for some extra side work but it began to pay off in August when he has his best month, going 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA and a 23/5 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio. He still caught a little too much of the plate with batters hitting .270 against him, but the improvement was there. He has a fastball that is consistently in the low to mid-90s, a developing slider, and change. As his pitching coach noted, he does throw strikes consistently, he has just has to improve where he throws the strikes.

\r\n2008: Breit is only 21 and it's not inconceivable that the Padres could start him off in Fort Wayne to begin the year and get some confidence before promoting him to the tougher California League. He has the talent to move very far up the list very quickly, he just needs to learn to pitch to his strengths.

\r\nWhile the following players did not make the Top 30, all three were in the Padres' system in 2007 and briefly appeared with the big club. The following reviews are some quick breakdowns of what they accomplished and their possible futures in San Diego.

\r\nTim Stauffer – RHP

\r\nStauffer has thrown too many innings in the majors 94.2 to qualify, but still he spent the majority of the year in Portland and is former number one selection of the Padres, fourth overall. He was 5-1 in the second half of the year with a 2.00 ERA. So where would he rank if he was eligible? He wouldn't. He did improve and pitch better this year, but again it was his fourth year with Portland, and he was shelled in two starts in San Diego with a 21.13 ERA.

\r\n2008: He's never really been the pitcher that the Padres thought they drafted in 2003 and it's hard to see him in the organization for another season.

\r\nJack Cassel – RHP

\r\nEveryone cheers for a pitcher like Cassel – eight years in the minors before being given an opportunity. Cassel was 1-1 in four starts, including a big win over the Pirates down the stretch. He throws a sinking fastball, a slider that he tries to get batters to chase and a so-so change. His game relies on getting batters to put the ball in play, but he was hit very hard in a few starts and advanced video scouting could really hurt him at the major league level. Even though Portland did have a bad defense, he still allowed 203 hits in 156.2 innings.

\r\n2008: It's doubtful he will be the fifth starter in San Diego, but he could make the team as the long man out of the bullpen. He's come a long way and everyone will be pulling for him.

\r\nBrian Myrow – 1B

\r\nAnother feel good story, Myrow, at 31, won the Pacific Coast League batting title, hitting .354 to go along with a .447 on-base percentage and a .579 slugging percentage.

\r\n2008: He's limited to first base and the Padres have quite a few left-handed hitters, so it's a big uphill climb to make the major league roster. He could come back to Portland for another year but is probably better off trying to latch onto an organization that is a better fit.

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