Padres' prospects to watch in 2008

The 2008 season is almost upon us, and there will inevitably be prospects that make a charge towards the top in the coming year. Here are a few San Diego Padres prospects that expect to have big seasons and jump up the prospect rankings.

All of the following prospects were ranked outside of top-30 entering the 2008 season and inside the top-60 (prospects are ordered by those we think will make the biggest strides in the coming year):

Brad Chalk

A superb defensive player, Chalk had moments of tentativeness with the bat this past year. Part of that was due to a back injury that produced a slow start and part was due to a change mechanically. He picked it up in Instructs and was driving the ball with authority. He has a solid combination of tools, a year of experience under his belt, and it would not surprise to see Chalk among the top 20 prospects after the 2008 season.

Jeudy Valdez

It may be hard for some to believe, but Valdez has as much talent as another highly touted shortstop – Drew Cumberland. While shortstop likely won't be his final resting spot defensively, Valdez has lightning in his bat that is waiting to be harnessed. His struggles this past year came from fatigue and a bit of confusion – he didn't quite understand why he was relegated to a backup role after Cumberland arrived. This year, expect Valdez to make significant strides at the plate and land in the top-30.

Steve Garrison

The southpaw has great pitchability and locates his arsenal well. He attacks hitters, is not afraid to go inside, and works ahead in the count. The aforementioned traits are prerequisites to be successful, and Garrison should only improve in the coming year. He has the tools to be very successful at his craft and appears to be just hitting his stride.

Sean Kazmar

Kazmar had a terrible year at the plate in Double-A. He was long to the ball and never seemed to hit his stride, even when he tried to get back to the basics. He rebounded in Lake Elsinore, but this year will be big for him offensively. Kazmar must be more consistent in his approach and start looking for the gaps instead of homers. His defense is superb and he could be the perfect utility man on a major league roster. The smart money is to keep an eye on him this year.

Jesus Lopez

A terrific defender, Lopez has trailed behind with the bat. A lean frame that has some good pop now possesses more patience than ever before. His numbers don't tell the true story of his season, as he consistently hit the ball hard. While he may not have found the gaps last year, expect him to put together a lot more hits this year; the emergence of his bat will make him a prospect worth watching on both sides of the field.

Simon Castro

Most Latin prospects have one thing in common – they try and throw the ball too hard. Castro fits into that category. He has some incredible stuff - if he can work at peak efficiency rather than maximum effort, his mechanics and the placement of his pitches will improve. Expect him to learn those lessons this year.

Corey Kluber

Tired at the end of the year, Kluber's pitches weren't as crisp as he first showed in Eugene. An off-season of rest should bring back the confidence in his changeup and add a tick or two to a fastball he has been able to locate well. Kluber is driven to succeed and showed flashes of brilliance in his first professional season. He is someone to watch in 2008.

Daryl Jones

It would be easy to discount Jones. He has yet to put all of his innate ability together over the course of a full season. But, Jones put in a lot of time this winter in Peoria, Arizona, working on improving his hitting ability. He is, for all intensive purposes, in his contract year of sorts. If he does not perform this season, he could be out looking for a job. That motivation is enough for us to believe he will make the progress necessary to stick around, while proving he belongs in top prospect conversations.

Rolando Valdez

It was a disappointing year for Valdez from a development standpoint. The former outfielder regressed this season and was erratic with his plus changeup while not locating his fastball as well as he did in the past. The blow to his confidence must be overcome, and scouts expect him to make the adjustments in 2008.

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