Top 30 San Diego Padres Prospects

This is an exciting time to be a Padres fan. Chase Headley, Matt Antonelli, and Mat Latos have to be among the top 100 prospects in baseball. And when you get past that threesome you could argue for any order between four and eight, then the same goes for nine through 15… The Padres have ridiculous depth right now.

So, what is my philosophy in ranking minor league players?

I definitely value projection more than production (i.e. Latos and Hunter over Huffman), but I simply will not get excited about a guy who has not produced at all. I listen to the scouting reports and filter by stats.

For pitchers, I look heavily at strikeouts per nine innings as well as walk and hit rates… For instance, if a pitcher has a low ERA and a high win total but is giving up a lot of hits and not striking anyone out, it's likely that as he climbs the organizational ladder hitters who are making contact will do so with more authority and the pitcher will flame out.

For hitters, I want to see walk/strikeout ratios and power numbers (home runs & doubles)… Like the previously described pitcher, if a hitter is striking out a ton but also hitting for a lot of power, I think he'll make even less contact at higher levels… Or take a hitter with a high batting average but no walks and no power. As he climbs through the levels, he'll face tougher pitching, and his average will normalize thus causing the hitter to lose most of his value.

Now, on to rankings!

1. Chase Headley – 3B
Bats: S, Throws: R
Birthday: May 9, 1984
6-foot-2, 210-pounds
AA (TEX): .330/.437/.580 with 38 2B, 5 3B, 20 HR and a 74/114 BB/SO ratio

In 2006, Chase had a respectable season clouded by the dimensions of his home park (he hit .261/.368/.365 at home versus .321/.409/.502 on the road). Then, in the off-season before the 2007 season, Headley worked hard packing an additional 10-15 pounds of muscle on his frame… The extra power paid off in a big way (Chase hit .367/.453/.679 on the road and .308/.424/.542 at San Antonio where the wind blows straight in).

Chase is likely a better third baseman that Padres current third-bagger, Kevin Kouzmanoff. Chase is also more athletic, and Padres brass has already indicated he will get looks in left field in Spring Training.

2. Matt Antonelli – 2B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: April 8, 1985
6-foot-0, 203-pounds
Hi-A (CAL): .314/.409/.499 with 14 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 53/58 BB/SO ratio
AA (TEX): .294/.395/.476 with 11 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 30/36 BB/SO ratio

The Padres' Northwest League affiliate, the Eugene Emeralds, play in a hitters' park in a hitters' league. So when Matt Antonelli went homerless there, the critics understandably questioned Matt's power… Matt answered the critics with 21 HR and 25 doubles between High-A and Double-A… Matt finished the season slowly (.229/.338/.373 in August) but that probably should not be disconcerting. In 2006 Matt played 115 games over seven months (February through August), in 2007 Matt played 131 (plus playoffs) over five months (April through August). It's understandable that Matt might have been worn down.

The new question on Antonelli's back is whether he can handle the keystone corner… Matt is extremely athletic (he rates 70 as a runner and in high school was All-State in three sports), so he has all the tools he needs to be successful.

In my mind, the only question is whether he needs more minor league seasoning or if he should be the Padres big league 2B on March 31 against the Astros.

3. Mat Latos – SP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: December 9, 1987
6-foot-5, 210-pounds
SS (NOR): 1-4, 3.83 ERA, 56.1 IP, 58 H, 1 HR, 22/74 BB/SO ratio

Even though Latos was actually drafted in 2006, since he signed immediate prior to the 2007 draft (as a 2006 draft-and-follow), he is considered the biggest fish in the Padres' 2007 draft catch.

Latos features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can touch 97-8… His off-speed stuff is still work-in-progress but shows promise… Latos probably doesn't have Peavy's #1 starter-stuff, but he does profile as an above-average #2.

4. Kyle Blanks – 1B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: September 11, 1986
6-foot-6. 281-pounds
Hi-A (CAL): .301/.380/.540 with 31 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR, 44/98 BB/SO

A few years back a certain big-boned first baseman hit rather well in High-A (.304/.374/.514 in the FSL). That big-boned first baseman walked five more times than Blanks did this year, but he also struck out 53 more times… That "big-boned" first baseman is none other than Ryan Howard. Howard had that season as a 23-year-old. Blanks played 2007 as a 20-year-old…

Blanks has 70+ power (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and obvious hitting (contact) ability as well. Blanks size limits him to 1B or DH duties, but he is surprisingly athletic for his size. Now, I'm not going to suggest that Blanks will become Ryan Howard, but I do think he has the ability to make Adrian Gonzalez expendable by 2010.

5. Cedric Hunter – OF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Birthday: March 10, 1988
6-foot-0, 185-pounds
Low-A (MWL): .282/.344/.373 with 20 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 47/78 BB/SO
AAA (PCL): .500/.600/.1/250 with 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1/1 BB/SO

When Cedric hit .367/.467/.484 last year he was hailed, "The Next GREAT Prospect." Then he "only" hit .282/.344/.373 this season, he was called, "The Next Padres Bust." The truth may lie somewhere in-between, but the Midwest League is known for being pitcher-friendly and Cedric hit seven home runs there after hitting only one in the Arizona League in '06. Likewise, Cedric didn't walk more than he struck out (as he did in '06) but he did have a more-than-respectable 47/78 BB/SO rate.

Assuming Cedric Hunter can stay in CF (and we're not hearing that question as much as we used to), Cedric should be the Padres starting CF sometime in 2010 or 2011.

6. David Freese – 3B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: April 28, 1983
6-foot-2, 217-pounds
Hi-A (CAL): .302/.400/.489 with 31 2B, 6 3B, 17 HR, 69/99 BB/SO

I'm a huge David Freese fan. He could hit for a bit more power… It would be nice if he weren't going to turn 25 at the beginning of next season… But even with those complaints I'm only nitpicking. How can you be anything but excited about a guy who has hit .299 or better at every stop of his minor league career, about a guy who has a minor league career on-base percentage of .399, about guy with 90 extra-base hits in 765 career at-bats?

Freese is blocked at third base by both Kouzmanoff (I think Kouz is Freese's best comp) and Chase Headley, and at first by Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks… To give his bat more places to play, the Padres taught him to play catcher and he'll likely get at-bats there in 2008 and at 1B as well as at both corner outfield positions…

7. Wade LeBlanc – SP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Birthday: August 7, 1984
6-foot-3, 202-pounds
Hi-A (CAL): 6-5, 2,64 ERA, 92.0 IP, 72 H, 5 HR, 17/90 BB/SO ratio
AA (TEX): 7-3, 3.45 ERA, 57.1 IP, 48 H, 8 HR, 19/55 BB/SO ratio

Like virtually every lefty whose fastball doesn't regularly break 90, Leblanc gets the obligatory Glavine-comparison… Unlike most others, for Leblanc, it fits.

As a collegian, Leblanc posted an aggregate 9.11 K/9 rate. As a professional he has posted a more-than-respectable 8.51 K/9 rate. Also, as a professional, Leblanc has only once posted an ERA greater than 3.45 (he posted a 4.29 in 21.0 innings in Eugene) and has a cumulative 2.97 professional ERA.

The biggest reason for the Glavine-comp is Leblanc's change. Baseball America called it the best changeup of the 2006 draft. Also, like Glavine, Leblanc has a mid-upper 80's fastball and decent curve.

Leblanc may not be a member of the Padres 2008 starting rotation in April, but he will likely make his MLB debut next season.

8. Will Inman – SP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: February 6, 1987
6-foot-0, 200-pounds
Hi-A (FSL): 4-3, 1.72 ERA, 78.2 IP, 56 H, 4 HR, 23/98 BB/SO ratio
AA (SOU): 1-5, 5.45 ERA, 39.2 IP, 38 H, 7 HR, 16/42 BB/SO ratio
AA (TEX): 3-3, 4.17 ERA, 41.0 IP, 33 H, 6 HR, 19/40 BB/SO ratio

In 2006, Baseball America ranked Will Inman the third best Brewers prospect (they also said the Brewers had the fifth best organization). Since coming over to the Padres, Will has not hurt his reputation, but neither did he thrill us. His 180 strikeouts are hugely impressive as is his .220 BAA.

Inman will turn 21 in February 2008. So he is still young for his level. He'll probably begin the season back with the Missions (depending on who all comes back next season, the Missions could be the best team in Minor League baseball at the start of the season).

9. Chad Huffman – OF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: April 29, 1985
6-foot-1, 217-pounds
Hi-A (CAL): .307/.402/.522 with 19 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 42/56 BB/SO ratio
AA (TEX): .269/.362/.431 with 4 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 22/44 BB/SO ratio

Huffman is a lot better athlete than he gets credit for (he was the second-string QB at TCU and played 2B, 3B, and 1B on the TCU baseball team), but as someone pointed out (I can't find the quote) it is hard to break into the bigs as a left fielder…

In Huffman's favor: he can hit; Huffman owns a career minor league .306/.401/.512 line. In nearly 700 AB Huffman has walked 91 times and struck out only 136 times.

Huffman struggled a bit upon his promotion to San Antonio, so he'll probably begin 2008 back with the Missions. Also, as we noted above, since it is hard to break into the bigs as a left-fielder, the Padres will probably allow Chad to get all the minor league seasoning he needs. Huffman has the ability to be a starting LF on a op-tier team but that probably will not be in 2008.

10. Yefri Carvajal – OF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: January 22, 1989
5-foot-11, 190-pounds
Rookie (AZL): .340/.404/.500 with 13 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 10/22 BB/SO ratio
SS (NOR): .262/.291/.369 with 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5/39 BB/SO ratio

Yefri might have the highest upside of any Padre prospect. His power potential is probably second to only Blanks'. Despite his stocky stature, Carvajal is a legitimate five-tool talent (think Kirby Puckett with less speed and more power).

His obvious weakness is a lack of plate discipline… If Yefri can learn to control the strike zone he'll rocket up this list.

11. Cory Luebke – SP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Birthday: March 4, 1985
6-foot-4, 200-pounds
SS (NOR): 3-0, 1.46 ERA, 24.2 IP, 18 H, 2 HR, 2/26 BB/SO ratio
Low-A (MWL): 1-2, 3.33 ERA, 27.0 IP, 29 H, 2 HR, 5/30 BB/SO ratio
Hi-A (CAL): 7.71 ERA, 7.0 IP, 10 H, 1 HR, 1/5 BB/SO ratio

Prior to the 2007 draft, Luebke was considered a fifth-round talent. The Padres took the lefty at the end of the supplemental round; much to the dismay of draftniks like myself.

Luebke features a low-90s fastball and a lot more talent than should be available in the fifth-round. The Padres, obviously, thought the same thing and didn't want to risk losing out by waiting until the fifth-round. Since the draft, at least one expert called Luebke, "the steal of the draft."

12. Kellen Kulbacki – OF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Birthday: November 21, 1985
5-foot-11, 185-pounds
SS (NOR): .301/.382/.491 with 13 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 27/56 BB/SO ratio

Kulbacki probably has more upside than Huffman. However, they're both likely limited to left field and Huffman's superior plate discipline gives him the upper hand in my book.

After drafting Kellen, Towers remarked that all Kulbacki does is hit the ball and hit it hard. Kulbacki's size and hitting ability draws comparisons to Brian Giles.

13. Mitch Canham – C
Bats: L, Throws: R
Birthday: September 25, 1984
6-foot-2, 215-pounds
SS (NOR): .293/.379/.397 with 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11/35 BB/SO ratio

Canham is described as a leader first and baseball player second (and he does both well). In 2006, Canham was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 41st-round. Mitch felt he was worth a lot more than what St. Louis was offering so he decided to come back to school. St. Louis caved to his thinking and offered Mitch his asking price. Since Mitch felt he had committed himself to his Oregon State teammates for the 2007 season, he declined the Cardinals offer and led Oregon State to a second consecutive College World Series Championship.

As a baseball player, Mitch is a lefty-hitting catcher with defensive promise and offensive prowess. He's only played catcher for three years now and regularly records sub-2.00 "pop" times.

Mitch is the Padres "catcher-of-the-future" and should arrive in 2010-11.

14. Drew Cumberland – SS
Bats: L, Throws: R
Birthday: January 13, 1989
5-foot-10, 175-pounds
Rookie (AZL): .318/.389/.365 with 2 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 7/9 BB/SO ratio
SS (NWL): .333/.429/.389 with 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2/2 BB/SO ratio

Easily one of the most athletic players in the Padres' system, Drew rates as a "70" in the 20-80 scouting scale as a runner. He needs to add polish as a defender, but he is easily the top shortstop in the system.

15. Nick Hundley – C
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: September 8, 1983
6-foot-1, 210-pounds
AA (TEX): .247/.324/.475 with 23 2B, 1 3B, 20 HR, 42/74 BB/SO ratio

Nick is another guy that is hard to rate. Consider:

A. .276/.347/.453
B. .224/.306/.493

The "A" stats are Nick's home stats where the wind blows straight in from CF and the park favors pitchers by a wide margin. The "B" stats are the from the hitter-friendly Texas League… Here is another relevant home/road statistic: Nick's BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was .304 at home and .217 on the road.

Without having seen every game, it is hard to determine what factors might have been at play here … A .304 BABIP is not abnormal (the San Antonio Missions as a team had .298 BABIP). The easiest (and likely, most accurate) conclusion to jump to is that Nick was unlucky on the road.

I think that Mitch Canham is going to turn out better, but Hundley is underrated should be an above average back up or average-to-slightly below average starting catcher.

16. Drew Miller – SP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: February 24, 1986
6-foot-4, 190-pounds
Low-A (MWL): 4-6, 4.69 ERA, 80.2 IP, 74 H, 12 HR, 24/87 BB/SO ratio

Miller is another difficult player to rate. In April and June (he did not pitch in May) hitters posted sub-.600 OPS against Miller. In July they managed a .741 OPS and in August they torched him with a .892 OPS (he gave up sixteen ER in three starts in August over 14.1 IP).

Fatigue? Tendonitis? Something more serious?

Miller is one of only a few Padre minor league pitchers that can crack 95 (his fastball sits at 91-4 but can touch 95-6. His off-speed stuff shows promise as well.

If Miller can rebound to his early 2007 he could quickly become one of the top Padres pitchers in the system. Otherwise…

17. Will Venable – OF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Birthday: October 29, 1982
6-foot-2, 205-pounds
AA (TEX): .278/.337/.373 with 19 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 38/84 BB/SO ratio

Venable fell more (in my book) than any other hitting prospect on this list.

When it comes to ranking prospects, one thing to look at is age. If, however, a player dominates the level he is at it should not be counted against as much (see David Freese). Last year I wrote,

[Will Venable] has much less baseball experience than most Low-A players. Now, because Will was late to baseball, he may continue to "grow" into the sport, making the outfielder's 2006 campaign [(.314/389/.477)], his first full-season of professional baseball, all the more impressive.

While Venable did skip a level, his lack of power (both his lack of power-production and his lack of development) and reduced walk-rate hurt.

As a defender, the jury is out. If Venable can play above-average defense in CF, he may be able to carve out a big league career. If Will is defensively limited to a corner OF, his bat will be a liability.

18. Joe Thatcher – RP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Birthday: October 4, 1981
6-foot-2, 230-pounds
AA (SOU): 1-0, 0.55 ERA, 16.1 IP, 11 H, 0 HR, 2/20 BB/SO ratio
AAA (PCL): 3-1, 1.78 ERA, 30.33, 29 H, 0 HR, 8/44 BB/SO ratio
MLB: 2-2, 1.29 ERA, 21.0 IP, 13 H, 1 HR, 6/16 BB/SO ratio

If you watch Joe pitch and have a radar gun handy, you won't be impressed. He might touch 90, which from the left is solid but not spectacular, but he won't blow you away. But then there's that old saying, "The hitters will tell you how good his stuff is." In 192+ innings over four years in the minors ,Thatcher has allowed only seven HR and 151 hits.

Thatcher has already established himself as a Major League reliever. He's nasty against left-handed hitters and solid against right-handers.

Padres general manager Kevin Towers is fantastic at building premier bullpens inexpensively. Thatcher will do nothing to ruin that reputation.

19. Eric Sogard – 2B
Bats: L, Throws: R
Birthday: May 22, 1986
5-foot-10, 180-pounds
SS (NWL): .256/.354/.376 with 9 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, with 19/16 BB/SO ratio
Low-A (MWL): .253/.308/.349 with 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR with 6/13 BB/SO ratio

Eric did not hit as well in professional debut as I expected. I do, however, expect him to break out in 2008.

Eric is one of those players who gets that "ballplayer" tag. He won't grade highly in any of his tools, but he simply produces. Sogard followed current Boston 2B, Pedoria, at Arizona State, and gets compared to him for both his tools and his production.

20. Craig Cooper – 1B/OF
Bats: R, Throws: L
Birthday: October 27, 1984
6-foot-2, 223-pounds
Hi-A (CAL): .317/.397/.469 with 32 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 56/87 BB/SO ratio

Quick, name another guy who bats righty but throws lefty… Yeah, me either.

Cooper doesn't have enough power to be a starting right-fielder or first baseman. Over two years and three levels of professional baseball, however, his .317 batting average and .397 on-base percentage are each career lows. Cooper may not have a lot of power, but he can hit.

Reportedly, Craig plays sublime defense at 1B and has enough range to have played CF part-time… With his defensive skill-set, his contact-ability and strike zone control he is as unique as his backwards righty/lefty handedness.

21. Steve Garrison – SP
Bats: S, Throws L
Birthday: September 12, 1986
6-foot-1, 185-pounds
Hi-A (FSL): 8-4, 3.44 ERA, 104.2 IP, 105 H, 6 HR, 28/74 BB/SO ratio
Hi-A (CAL): 2-3, 2.79 ERA, 42.0 IP, 32 H, 2 HR, 6/28 BB/SO ratio

Garrison has underwhelming stuff (upper 80's fastball and average-at best off-speed stuff) with solid, if unspectacular, results (3.25 ERA with a 6.26 K/9 and a 2.09 BB/9). Garrison actually pitched better in the hitter-friendly California League than he did in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.

The Padres have a lot of depth in their crop of pitchers at the lower levels. So Garrison will have to do a lot to distinguish himself and earn a rotation slot in San Diego in a few years… He profiles as a 4th or 5th starter.

22. Jeremy Hefner – SP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: March 11, 1986
6-foot-4, 215-pounds
SS (NWL): 2-5, 3.90 ERA, 62.1 IP, 51 H, 3 HR, 20/74 BB/SO ratio

Playing along side Latos obscured how good Hefner was in 2007. His ERA and won/loss record also hide Hefner's more telling stats. Hefner ranked fourth in K/9 (10.69) among NWL pitchers with more than 50 IP. Hefner also allowed fewer hits than innings (Hefner had a 1.14 WHIP).

Jeremy throws a low-90s fastball (up to 93) and has a decent change and curve…

Hefner performed a lot better as a starter than he did as a reliever (4.78 ERA vs. 0.68). I think Jeremy will improve as a starter in 2008.

23. Jared Wells – RP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: October 31, 1981
6-foot-4, 200-pounds
AAA (PCL): 3-7, 5.24 ERA, 92.2 IP, 107 H, 9 HR, 48/87 BB/SO ratio

Wells' statistics suggest he should be much lower on this list. Once the Padres converted Wells to a reliever, however, he started performing at much higher level. Wells doesn't trust his changeup. As a reliever he doesn't need it and his above average velocity (mid-90s fastball and upper-80s slider) stand out as assets despite the lack of movement or smallish break on each pitch.

Wells will get an opportunity to win a big league job in Spring Training. He could probably stand to get more experience as a reliever, and with the caliber of bullpens the Padres put together, it is unlikely Wells will be with the Padres on March 31.

24. Aaron Breit – SP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: April 19, 1986
6-foot-3, 180-pounds
Low-A (MWL): 3-11, 6.73 ERA, 108.1 IP, 139 H, 8 HR, 47/80 BB/SO ratio

Earlier I pointed out that Venable fell further than any other position player. Unfortunately for Aaron, he is the pitchers' answer to Venable.

Aaron had a stellar professional debut and an equally bad sophomore season. In his pro debut, Breit posted a 9.81 K/9; in 2007 his rate fell to 6.65 K/9. In 2006 Breit allowed 60 hits in 64 IP; in 2007 he allowed 139 hits in 108 innings. In 2006 Breit posted a 3.08 BB/9; in 2007 he that rate climbed to 3.94 BB/9. He struck out fewer hitters and allowed more walks and hits…

Breit's season did, however, end on an encouraging note. In his last six appearances he posted a 1.92 ERA over 23.1 IP striking out 22 and walking only three.

If Aaron can perform in 2008 like he did in August of '07 and in 2006, he will climb back up this list.

25. Colt Morton – C
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: April 10, 1982
6-foot-5, 230-pounds
Rookie (AZL): .290/.366/.419 with 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 5/11 BB/SO ratio
Hi-A (CAL): .500/.600/1.167 with 7 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 4/3 BB/SO ratio
AA (TEX): .309/.414/.584 with 3 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 15/34 BB/SO ratio

Colt's career minor league line is .248/.348/.473. When he came out of college, scouts said he had above-average defensive ability then… He has a tremendous arm as well as top-shelf power. The questions are: one, can he make enough contact, and two, can he stay healthy?

If Colt is healthy he could be an interesting back-up catcher option.

26. Ernesto Frieri
RP, Bats: R, Throws: R, Birthday: July 19, 1985
6-foot-2, 180-pounds
Low-A (MWL): 2.64 ERA, 64.2 IP, 48 H, 4 HR, 23/65 BB/SO ratio
Hi-A (CAL): 1.25 ERA, 21.2 IP, 11 H, 1 HR, 6/27 BB/SO ratio

Ernesto has not had the overpowering fastball that a lot of top relief prospects have. He has, however, consistently struck out 9+ per 9 IP (career 9.84 K/9). He also does not allow a lot of hits (123 hits allowed in 180+ minor league IP). Ernesto now has a plus fastball that hit 95 during the 2007 season, and his slider is above-average… Ernesto is frequently overlooked as a prospect (coming into 2007 Baseball America had him 11th among right-handed relievers). I think he's one of the Padres top relief prospects. Despite Ernesto's success, the Padres are not rushing him. Ernesto will likely be back in Lake Elsinore to start 2008.

27. Josh Geer – SP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: June 2, 1983
6-foot-3, 190-pounds
AA (TEX): 16-6, 3.20 ERA, 171.1 IP, 163 H, 9 HR, 27/101 BB/SO ratio
AAA (PCL): 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 0 HR, 1/6 BB/SO ratio

Josh is overlooked more than a merely good-looking woman at a beauty contest. Other than going 1-1 in five games in Fort Wayne, he's had winning record at every level of professional baseball. He even went 12-4 in college at Rice.

To Geer's credit, he doesn't allow home runs; he's never allowed more than 10 in a season and has allowed only 27 over three minor league seasons. Why then don't I have him ranked higher? Two reasons: One, in 400 minor league innings, Geer has allowed 421 hits, and secondly he has a 5.53 career K/9 rate. The stat that means more than anything to me is K/9 and I also don't like to see more hits than innings pitched. Geer reminds me a lot of Michael Thompson.

28. Cesar Ramos – SP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Birthday: June 22, 1984
6-foot-2, 190-pounds
AA (TEX): 13-9, 3.41 ERA, 163.2 IP, 153 H, 15 HR, 43/90 BB/SO ratio

I once read a study (by Voros McCracken I think) that resonated with me. The author demonstrated how rare it was for MLB pitchers to succeed with K/9 rates below 5.5 K/9 (a round approximate number close to what the study actually demonstrated). I've seen other studies that show that how pitchers' K/9 rates decline in the Majors (from the minors) and decline further while in the Majors… Thanks to that study I look come closely at K/9 rates when I evaluate pitchers.

Here are Ramos' K/9 rates as a professional:

2005 (Eugene): 5.66 K/9
2005 (Fort Wayne): 7.45
2006 (Lake Elsinore): 4.47
2007 (San Antonio): 4.95

The Padres argue that Ramos is an extreme contact pitcher (and groundball pitcher) and that as he moves up the organizational ladder he will have better defenses behind him and he will succeed in spite of allowing a large number of balls to be put in play because of the defenses.

I don't buy it. I cannot look past those K-rates and see future success.

29. Luis Durango – OF
Bats: S, Throws: R
Birthday: April 23, 1986
5-foot-10. 145-pounds
SS (NWL): .367/.422/.460 with 6 2B, 8 3B, 2 HR, 29/32 BB/SO ratio

Durango is so slender and his lack of home runs and doubles (2 HR in 2007, 0 in 2006 with 6 2B in '07 and only 2 in '06) raise questions about his power. As he climbs to higher levels will better pitchers knock the bat out of his hands? That said, he has won batting titles at every level he plays and even takes a walk. Durango does have premiere speed but he needs to work on his skills; he was caught 10 times out of 27 attempts.

Next year, Durango will get his first crack at full-season baseball and we'll learn a lot more about what kind of prospect Durango is.

30. Jeremy McBryde – SP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: May 1, 1987
6-foot-2, 195-pounds
SS (NWL): 5.31 ERA, 59.1 IP, 67 H, 6 HR, 18/56 BB/SO ratio

I have McBryde listed as a starting pitcher because he started 12 games. His value is, however, as a reliever; McBryde posted a 6.60 ERA as a starter versus 0.69 as a reliever.

He usually pitches in the low-90s, so relieving might allow him to pick up another tick or two… Much like Durango, we'll have a better idea about McBryde next season.

Injured – not ranked

Cesar Carrillo
SP, Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: April 29, 1984
6-foot-3, 175-pounds
AAA (PCL): 0-2, 8.62 ERA, 15.2 IP, 22 H, 2 HR, 14/8 BB/SO ratio

If we were including injured players, Cesar would probably be the hardest player on this list to rank. On one hand, pitchers who have TJ nearly always return with all their abilities. On the other hand, Cesar has thrown only 68 innings in two years…

When Cesar is on his game, he profiles as a 2nd or 3rd starter. He throws a two-seam fastball at 89-92 and a four-seam fastball that can touch 95-6.

Again, if Cesar is all the way back, he could be a top four prospect on this list. Cesar will be one of the most interesting Padre prospects to watch in 2008.

Nick Schmidt – SP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Birthday: October 10, 1985
6-foot-5, 220-pounds
Low-A (MWL): 0-1, 6.43 ERA, 7.0 IP, 8 H, 0 HR, 6/6 BB/SO ratio

With Michael Main and Rick Porcello still on the board, the Padres passed on the two high school fire-ballers and took the collegiate lefty. Nick's stock has slid since being drafted, and he joins a long line of Padres' first round pitching picks who have been injured or busts (Mark Phillips in 2000 never reached the big leagues, Tim Stauffer in 2003 injured his shoulder and never regained his pre-injury promise, Cesar Carrillo in 2005 was successful until succumbing to Tommy John surgery, even converted-pitcher and number 1 pick overall, Matt Bush had Tommy John surgery this year). Nick, like Carrillo and Bush, had Tommy John surgery this fall and will likely miss all of 2008.

Schmidt walks more hitters than I would like (3.70 BB/9 as a collegian) but he also strikes out his share of hitters (9.12 K/9 as a collegian). He also maintained a low hit rate while in college.

In college Nick would pitch at about 88-91 and would flash a few 93-4's. He also has an above average change and solid curveball.

Matt Bush – RP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Birthday: February 8, 1986
5-foot-10, 189-pounds
Rookie (AZL): 1-0, 1.23 ERA, 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 HR, 2/16 BB/SO ratio

You just gotta love guys who can pump it up to 98… Other than the seven innings in Arizona, Matt hasn't pitched since high school. The converted shortstop with a cannon arm failed at hitting so… Haven't we heard this one before?

Matt Bush will always be considered a bust since he was taken first overall. His arm is useful, and once he recovers from Tommy John surgery he should move quickly.

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