Into the breach stepped Baseball America. While it doesn't focus as much on the major leagues as its predecessor did, their coverage of the minor leagues and amateur baseball was unprecedented.
The highlight of Baseball America's year is the release of its annual ‘Prospect Handbook', which it has been publishing since 2001. The Prospect Handbook ranks the Top 30 prospects for every team in major league baseball.
Naturally, as a website that covers the Padres minor leagues, we had some questions for Matt Eddy of Baseball America who ranked the top 30 San Diego prospects this year.
First can you give us a little background on yourself, what you did before you got to Baseball America?
Matt Eddy: I grew up in central New York and went to St. Bonaventure. I began working at Baseball America in 2000 and joined the editorial staff in 2006. It's actually my second rankings of the Padres along with the Blue Jays, and this year I also ranked the Mariners.
I know the Baseball America Prospect Guide reviews your methodology, but could you give us a brief rundown of how you go about compiling your Top 30?
Matt Eddy: We really try to talk to the people making the decisions, scouting directors, roving instructors and minor league directors and of course scouts. With the Padres this year, most of their talent was in Double-A, so we really focused on Texas League guys. The writer, in this case me, then has to justify his list to Jim Calis and John Manuel, who act as editors for the Guide. The discussions can get a little heated, but if the writer makes a compelling case for his selections, they usually stick with them.
In your chat on Baseball America you wrote that Hundley's throws lack accuracy but he threw out 37% of those who tried to run against him – he was one of the leaders in the Texas League – finished third behind the Frisco and Tulsa catchers – so I'm not sure how he is not an accurate thrower.
Matt Eddy: The reason for the lower ranking last year was mainly his bat, he really doesn't profile as a regular catcher. He can hit for power and has value, but his skill set is more for a backup catcher. As for his defense, from the reports that I had, he flies open with his shoulder a little too much and the ball tends to drift away from the second baseman. It's more of a problem with fundamentals and is something that can be corrected.
Matt Eddy: Inman is a tough case, he led the minors in strikeouts last year, which is not really supported by his tools. There really isn't a consensus on him; the reason you and some others may perceive the rankings as generous is he really wasn't at the top of his game with the Padres. You have to look at last year's rankings with the Brewers and his performance there to really have a sense of what he can do.
As for comparing him to Geer, his breaking ball is a little better than (Geer) and his fastball has a little more velocity.
Are you a little worried that Inman may have not passed the "Double A Test" where pitchers that have good command of their fastball, but not much velocity begin to get hit as compared to lower levels? His peripheral numbers were good in Double-A, but his ERA and the number of home runs allowed were high.
Matt Eddy: Inman definitely has exceptional fastball command, but he doesn't have a lot of play on the ball and its fairly straight. As I said before, it's hard to tell from his performance with the Padres.
Steve Garrison, the third pitcher in the trade is somewhat like Inman – solid command, but he doesn't have big velocity on his fastball or a plus plus pitch.
Matt Eddy: It's always a possibility; he doesn't have a knockout pitch, but everyone just raves about his makeup and athleticism. It's difficult to put a whole lot of stock in intangibles, but the Padres do really like him a great deal. He relies on defense and keeping the ball down; it's some of the extra dimensions that separate him from Inman.
I thought Cedric Hunter had a little better speed than your write-up indicated, do you really see him as a corner outfield prospect in the future? Do you think he has the power to play there?
Matt Eddy: It's a bit of a mismatch definitely. You would need some power in other spots. He's not quite good enough for centerfield, but the Padres tend to be a little more tolerant of players defensive shortcomings. For example, they are going to give Scott Harrison some time in center this year. Hunter does have a much better chance to make it as a major leaguer in center field, I'm just not sure about his speed and quickness out there.
A player that I liked but didn't make your Top 30 is Craig Cooper – who had a good year at Lake Elsinore – what did you think of him?
Matt Eddy: The Padres really like him, he's really their type of player, a solid college guy with good fundamentals and makeup. He's the type of guy that does everything well but not anything exceptionally well. He's a good defender at first base but a right-handed bat and lack of home run power really hurts his chances if he's limited to that position. If they move him to the outfield, he could have a better shot. They lobbied pretty hard for him to make the big list, but he just missed.
Matt Eddy: I wanted to get Breit on their he's got a ton of talent, but had a bit of a rough year [laughs], but he did pick it up in the last month. I also liked Simon Castro from the Arizona League, he's got a huge fastball, just not much command of it right now or secondary pitches, but he is intriguing.
Matt Eddy: Headley's talent should win out in the long run. Kouz is a fine player, but Headley's ability as a switch-hitter and glove will make him an attractive option. In the short run, I'm not really sure what they do with Kouz, trade him or move him to the outfield? I really don't know.
I do not see Headley as a left-fielder. Do you see Chase Headley as a left fielder?
Matt Eddy: As a rookie only, most of his value is tied to holding down third base. He's above average at third base and much closer to average as a left fielder.
Chad Huffman was not ranked in the BA Padres top 10 prospects, why? I think that Huffman is very underrated. Huffman stats at Lake Elsinore were better than Headley at Lake Elsinore.
Matt Eddy: It was really tough this year with him, Hundley, and Cesar Ramos. Last year, no one in the Padres really had a big year, and it was a struggle to rank these guys with the influx of talent that the Padres had with the draft this year and from the Linebrink trade. Huffman is a left fielder who doesn't have gigantic power, and I would be surprised if he hit for big power in the majors. They already have a guy like that in Hairston.
You ranked Will Venable at #15, and he's two years older than Huffman, pretty much limited to left field on a big league level – even though he played mostly right field and some center for San Antonio – and has hit for much less power than Huffman in his career. Any reason why he should be considered a better pro prospect than Huffman?
Matt Eddy: That is a fair point on Venable. If he can develop into a guy that can play some centerfield, good enough for a fourth outfielder, I could see him in the majors. The Padres rave about him, he runs very well – 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts, but no, he's not that explosive. I think his best-case scenario is that he becomes a fourth outfielder.
Corey Luebke – do you see him as starter (front, middle, or end). Corey 6-4 at 200 can you see more zip on his fastball with the weight gain?
Matt Eddy: He's going to be 23 next season, so that might be a little much for him to do. He's already pretty good, good movement on his fastball, good command and was a serious consideration for the Top 10. A lot of people like him, he could be intriguing. He doesn't have a knockout pitch like LeBlanc, and I think his best case would be mid-rotation.
Any relief Padres pitchers that you liked?
Matt Eddy: The relief conversion with (Jared) Wells went pretty well, but he didn't perform that great in Mexico in the winter leagues. I think he starts back in Triple-A; the Padres really don't have a spot for him on the big league roster. Obviously, the Padres like Wilton Lopez and Ernesto Frieri – they put them both on the 40-man roster. Also Joe Thatcher and Carlos Guevara should be in San Diego this year.
MadFriars.com subscribers were given the opportunity to ask Matt Eddy questions on our subscriber-only message boards