Top-20 Padres Prospects of 2008

Another year, another Top-20 ranking of the San Diego Padres prospects by – and more "discussions".

"Let me get this right, you're ranking this guy at #6 with a grand total of five career home runs in two years?"

"You have to look at something more than a number it's what you project him to be in the future based on his tools."

"Why don't we put the ten year old in Santo Domingo in the top 5 because I project him to be a star in 2023."

"No, no I have a better idea. Why don't we put the twenty-four year old in Fort Wayne who is putting up big numbers. I really like his VROP, BRAR and you know the number of infield singles he had against left-handed pitchers named Jose."

And so it goes.

After more "discussions", ok loud arguments, threats, and minor pouting, we reach a consensus in attempting to form a balance between what may be and what is likely; the value of this year as opposed to a few years down the road.

Essentially, we are making apples to oranges comparisons in attempting to separate players at different stages of their development that are being judged by different criteria into some type of hierarchical order.

The short-season leagues are about getting your feet wet and the potential a player may or may not be able to reach. The A-ball leagues are where players learn to compete as professionals, which means not only a 140 game schedule, but instructional leagues and spring training. While it's still about potential, it's also about beginning to demonstrate that ability in the numbers you put up. Finally, the upper levels, Double-A and Triple-A, are not only about prospects and performance but, particularly at Triple-A, serve as a type of taxi squad for the big league team.

For each player listed, we provided some basic statistics, their 2007 Highlights, things they need to work on, projections on how much better we think they can become, why they were ranked where they were and a brief synopsis of what we believe this season has in store for them.

1) Chase Headley
Position: 3B/LF
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 215-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: B/R
How Acquired: Second-Round, 2005

San Antonio .330 .437 .580 507 143 74/114 63 20

Headley at Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: Headley had the best year of any Padres' prospect in a very long time, hitting .330/.437/.580 and winning the Texas League Player of the Year. He led the league in both on-base and slugging percentage and improved his defense, especially cutting down on his throwing errors. Away from San Antonio, which is mini-PETCO, he hit .346/.453/.624.

Negatives: His power numbers tailed off slightly in the second half and his range could still improve.

Projection: Medium - 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 his power numbers, his slugging percentage was over 100 points better than it was in his previous two years in the organization, and (2) can he continue to improve upon his defense, especially cutting down on throwing errors when coming in on ground balls.

Ranking Justification: Simply the best player in the system right now; a switch-hitting third baseman with power. Assessment: The Padres are going to try to convert Headley into a left fielder, mainly because 2007 #1 prospect Kevin Kouzmanoff has a strong hold on third. It's an open question if he will begin the year in San Diego or Portland, but, if it's with the Beavers, he should see significant time at third. Headley is a better defensive third baseman than Kouzmanoff, but not by as much as some believe.

2) Mat Latos
Position: RHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 215-pounds
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Draft-and-follow 2007, originally drafted in 11th-round, 2006

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
Eugene 1-4 3.83 56.1 74/22 58 30 24

Latos at Instructs in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: Nick Schmidt may have been the first pitcher the Padres selected in the 2007 draft, but Latos is the one that has everyone excited. His numbers improved every month, finishing with a 3.08 ERA in August with 37 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.

Negatives: His secondary pitches are going to have to improve and sometimes Latos can be a little too hard on himself when he's not perfect.

Projection: High - Latos throws with the velocity one would associate with his size and the only problem with his slider and change is consistency. Only 20 years old, he is the only pitcher in the system that has the potential to be a legitimate #1 or #2 starter with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a slider and change that have the potential to be plus pitches.

Ranking Justification: The velocity and the control are there with the fastball, right now it's a question of quickly his secondary pitches develop and learning how to pitch. He's that close. Assessment: He should spend the whole year in Fort Wayne and don't be surprised if he struggles some at the start. The hitters are better at this level and will be able to hit his fastball, regardless of his velocity, unless he locates it, and the cold of the first month in northern Indiana may take some adjustment for the South Florida native. Expect to see his numbers improve as the season goes on.

3) Matt Antonelli
Position: 2B
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 195-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: First-round. 2006

Lake Elsinore .314 .409 .499 400 109 53/58 32 14
San Antonio .294 .395 .476 217 55 30/36 19 7

Antonelli at-bat in San Antonio, Texas.
2007 Highlights: Antonelli had a true breakout season this year, proving that he could hit with power, play second and, most importantly, continue to work deep in counts 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 complete 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. His season in San Antonio was a very good July [.419], a bad August [.229] and so-so postseason, which was compounded by some struggles in the AFL.

Negatives: He wore down at the plate in the last month and in the Arizona Fall League, but he still had a very good season at the plate. Defensively, the ability is there, what isn't there is the instincts to play second base at the major league level.

Projection: High - A second baseman that has the potential to hit 20 home runs a year, steal 30 bags and post a .400 OBP, while playing an athletic second base – he has a chance to get there.

Looking at Antonelli's overall numbers, the needs of the Padres at second base and leadoff, it would have been easy to try to rush him into the majors at second, but the Padres wisely held off. In the off-season, they signed Tadahito Iguchi to a one-year deal to allow Antonelli more time to develop, mainly to become better defensively at second.

Ranking Justification: Made as big a jump as any Padres prospect last year and should be the team's starting second baseman/leadoff hitter for years to come, starting in 2009 Assessment: Antonelli will start the year in Portland and probably stay there for the full year. He's risen through the system at a very rapid pace but still will be entering into only his second full year of professional ball with only 739 at-bats and one full year at second base.

There has been some talk in the off-season of moving him to centerfield, and he was even brought in briefly in the off-season to take fly balls at PETCO, but he will spend the majority of his time at second in Portland.

4) Cedric Hunter
Position: CF
Height/Weight: 6-feet-0, 190-pounds
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Third-Round, 2006

Fort Wayne .282 .344 .373 543 140 47/78 29 7

Hunter on deck in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
2007 Highlights: At first glance, Hunter appears to have had an off season in Fort Wayne, .282/.344/.373, especially after the Triple Crown performance in the Arizona League last year. 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 in center because of his speed.

Negatives: He needs to incorporate better what he does in practice into games in addition to learning that he has to bring his "A" game every day. Also, for someone with his speed, he should be much better on the base paths than he is.

Projection: High - Hunter has only begun to show glimpses of his tremendous raw talent. Defensively, he has the speed to cover the cavernous outfield of PETCO, and, if he translates batting practice power into games, he could become a very good gap hitter. He has extremely good hand-eye coordination and very good strike zone judgment.

Ranking Justification: Maybe the best athlete in the system, and, if he develops the way we believe, the numbers will begin to equal the projections. Assessment: Hunter should be surrounded this year by some much better players than he was last year, which will 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.

5) Chad Huffman
Position: OF
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 205-pounds
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Second-Round, 2006

Lake Elsinore .307 .402 .522 358 97 42/56 36 15
San Antonio .269 .362 .431 189 45 22/44 12 7

Huffman at Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: Huffman was the best player over 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 has a strong arm and decent instincts.

Negatives: His defense needs to improve and he got into some bad habits at the plate because of injuries in San Antonio.

Projection: Medium - Left field is a brutal position to try to break into the majors at, but Huffman may develop into someone that could hit 30 home runs and post a high on-base percentage. His main problem defensively is getting comfortable in the outfield.

Ranking Justification: There isn't anyone in the organization that has his combination of power and patience. Assessment: He could start the year at either Portland or San Antonio, but the Padres will want to keep the same core group together from last year's championship San Antonio team. He's going to have to put up the kind of numbers he did in Lake Elsinore rather than San Antonio, [Lake Elsinore OPS of .933 to San Antonio OPS of .793] if he's going to expect the Padres to open a spot for him in 2009.

6) Wade LeBlanc
Position: LHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 180-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Second-Round, 2006

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
Lake Elsinore 6-5 2.64 92 90/17 72 32 27
San Antonio 7-3 3.45 57.1 55/19 48 22 22

LeBlanc on the mound in San Antonio, Texas (Stephanie Sanchez).
2007 Highlights: LeBlanc put up a solid year at two levels and was a big part of the Missions' drive to the Texas League crown. LeBlanc's plus pitches are two devastating changeups to go along with good command of a fastball that can touch 90 MPH, but appears much faster because of his ability to change speeds. His control is impeccable, walking only 36 batters in 149.1 innings against 145 strikeouts for a 2.95 ERA.

Negatives: Not much – velocity may never be his strength but he can improve upon his curveball.

Projection: Medium - He's never going to have a big fastball and will have to be very precise with the heater to be effective at the major league level.

Ranking Justification: He put up some great numbers in Lake Elsinore, struggled initially at San Antonio but was very good in August and September, holding batters to .193 and .217 batting averages, respectively. Assessment: He should begin the year in Portland and could have a shot at the Padres rotation by mid-season. His changeups are truly amazing pitches, but he's going to need to be able to command his fastball low and inside for him to realize his full potential. Because his changeup is so effective, the lefty has a chance to develop into a #4 starter at the major league level.

7) Kyle Blanks
Position: 1B
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 285-pounds
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Draft-and-follow 2005, 42nd-round pick in 2004

Lake Elsinore .301 .380 .540 509 140 44/98 59 24

Blanks at Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: "Gigantor" finally demonstrated the type of power that earned him an 80 ranking (on a scale between 20-80) from scouts, setting personal records for home runs, extra-base hits, and slugging percentage this year in Lake Elsinore. The huge first baseman is also surprisingly athletic, legging out four triples to go along with 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts. He hit .335/.405/.604 before the All-Star break and .264/.353/.468 in the second half.

Negatives: He needs to get in better shape and right now is limited to first base. His defense at first base needs to improve if he's going to have a chance in the National League.

Projection: High - When you're Blanks' size and age, and put the type of numbers that he did in the Cal League….

Ranking Justification: He has tremendous potential, but, as he advances up the system, some of his limitations are also coming into play; mainly conditioning and being limited to first. Assessment: With Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego it's tough to see much of a future for him with the Padres. He will be the starting first baseman for the Missions in 2008 but also could be a very attractive target for American League teams.

8) Yefri Carvajal
Position: OF
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 200-pounds
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006

Arizona .340 .404 .500 110 34 10/22 14 1
Eugene .262 .291 .369 127 32 5/39 8 2

Carvajal at Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: 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).

Negatives: He needs to learn more patience at the plate and stay away from breaking balls on the outside. Defensively, he will improve his value if he can learn to play both corner outfield spots.

Projection: High - Tremendous lower body strength and bat speed. He is truly a five-tool talent and is still a teenager. There are some questions about how much power he may or may not have.

Ranking Justification: He has tremendous potential and as high a ceiling as anyone in the Padres' organization, but this year his numbers are going to begin to play more of a role in his value than simply projection. Assessment: He could begin the year at right field for the Wizards. He shows a lot of promise but is also going to have to hit with a little more power and improve his plate discipline.

9) Kellen Kulbacki
Position: OF
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 190-pounds
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Supplemental First-Round, 2007

Eugene: .301 .382 .491 253 68 27/56 24 8

Kulbacki at Instructs in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: Kulbacki was the Padres second overall pick in 2007 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 the compact Kulbacki's bat is what will take him to the major leagues.

Negatives: Not a great defensive player, but if he can prove that he has the glove and arm to stay in right field it will help him. He's also going to have to show the power numbers that he had at the end of the year as compared to the beginning.

Projection: Medium - Kind of a Brian Giles clone, a left-hander with a quick powerful stroke. As he becomes more comfortable with wooden bats and centering the ball, he should hit for more power.

Ranking Justification: A very polished college hitter who has a chance to advance rapidly through the system, a left-handed version of Chad Huffman. Assessment: The Padres should skip Kulbacki to Lake Elsinore, and he could have a chance to replicate the success that Antonelli and Huffman had last year by ending up in Double-A at the end.

10) Drew Cumberland
Position: SS
Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 175-pounds
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: Supplemental First-Round, 2007

Arizona .310 .383 .357 91 26 7/10 3 0
Eugene .333 .429 .389 20 6 2/2 1 0

Cumberland at Instructs in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: In 2005, it was Blanks. Last year, it was Hunter. This year, it's Drew Cumberland - the Padres wunderkid. He was 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 all-state football player in Florida. He's going to have to improve upon an .883 fielding percentage, which was caused by a fractured hand when he first arrived in the San Diego system, which didn't allow him to get as much work on the field as he needed too.

Negatives: The ability is there, but he's really going to have to tighten up his footwork and glove to stay at shortstop. First step: trade in that big glove.

Projection: High - A very good debut and a tremendous athlete. It's doubtful that he will ever hit with much power, but his game is going to be built around speed and defense.

Ranking Justification: A young athletic teenager who put up some good offensive numbers despite fighting through injuries. If his defense develops, he could become a middle infielder with top of the order speed. Assessment: 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. The Padres believe he is a better fielder than he showed last year, and he should be able to hit at higher levels.

11) Drew Miller
Position: RHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 190-pounds
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Draft-and-Follow 2006, drafted in 37th-round of 2005

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
Fort Wayne 4-6 4.69 80.2 87/24 74 45 42

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

Negatives: Health, breaking pitches and sometimes he forgets that if you throw the ball down the middle, no matter how hard it is, it's going to come back even faster.

Projection: High - A very big fastball with control. If he can stay healthy and improve his breaking pitch and changeup, he could challenge Latos as the pitcher with the biggest upside.

Ranking Justification:

After Latos, Miller has as much potential/talent as any pitcher in the system. Assessment: He'll start the year in Lake Elsinore. How far he advances this year will rest on his ability to stay healthy and develop a consistent changeup.

12) Nick Hundley
Position: C
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 220 -pounds
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Second-Round, 2005

San Antonio
.247 .324 .475 415 92 42/74 44 20

Hundley at Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: Hundley got off to a horrible start in April, hitting .206, but it didn't affect his defense where he threw out nearly 37-percent of the runners attempting to steal. His bat picked up after the All-Star break, hitting .253/.342/.500 and finishing the year with 20 home runs – good enough for fourth in the Texas League in a very difficult park for offense.

Negatives: Making consistent contact. He's going to have to improve in that area to have a real shot.

Projection: Medium - He's not going to make any giant leaps, but each year his defense and power have steadily improved.

Ranking Justification: Hundley's defense is what will carry him to the majors, but he also has some power and knows the strike zone. Assessment: He will likely start the year in Portland. If he can demonstrate that he can be a little more dependable with his offense, he could have a chance at a big league job next spring.

13) Joe Thatcher
Position: RHP/RP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 205-pounds
Age: 27
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Trade with Milwaukee Brewers for Scott Linebrink along with Will Inman and Steve Garrison

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
Huntsville 1-0 0.55 16.1 20/2 11 1 1
Nashville 2-1 2.08 21.2 33/7 19 5 5
Portland 1-0 1.04 8.2 11/1 10 4 1
San Diego 2-2 1.29 22 16/6 13 6 3

Thatcher throws a pitch for the San Diego Padres.
2007 Highlights: 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 also get better and cheaper.

Negatives: His walks were a little high for a relief pitcher but it's really tough to pick on someone with a 1.29 ERA.

Projection: Low - Right now, Thatcher is what he is. A lefty with a deceptive delivery and fastball that moves along with a sweeping slider.

Ranking Justification: The big question about Thatcher is what type of relief pitcher will he be this year, a left-handed specialist or a relief pitcher that can get anyone out? Assessment: By the end of the year, he was the best option in middle relief after Heath Bell and could take over as the 7th inning man for the Padres in 2008. If he can accomplish this, the Linebrink trade will look even better than it does now.

14) Mitch Canham
Position: C
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 215-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: Supplemental First-Round, 2007

Eugene .293 .379 .397 127 34 11/35 7 2

Canham at Instructs in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: Another solid pick from the 2007 draft, Canham overcame a tough groin injury to still play well enough to earn a late season promotion to Lake Elsinore. One of the main components of Oregon State's championship baseball squad, Canham showed more power in college than he did in his first year of professional ball [.326/.447/.524] but most expect that to change next year.

Negatives: Lack of power and he was converted from third base to catcher at Oregon State so his defense is still a work in progress.

Projection: High - The Padres believe that by making some adjustments in Canham's swing mechanics more power will come. Right now, his mental abilities outshine his physical abilities behind the plate, but they are improving as well.

Ranking Justification: The potential is there, it's just a question if he can reach it. Like Hundley, Canham has the type of vocal take-charge personality the Padres like to see behind the plate. Assessment: 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. By the end of the year, he may push Hundley for the top catching prospect in the organization.

15) Josh Geer
Position: RHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 180-pounds
Age: 25
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Third-Round, 2005

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
San Antonio 16-6 3.20 171.1 102/27 163 67 61
Portland 1-0 3.00 6 6/3 6 2 2

Geer poses for a picture.
2007 Highlights: Geer won more games than anyone else in the Padres' organization last year. 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 what type of success he could have at the major league level. Every time he goes out on the mound, Geer seeks to prove that there is more to pitching than simply lighting up a radar gun. He is a walking advertisement that what you do on the field is more important than what others perceive you may do in the future.

He does what the entire Padres' organization preaches, locates and commands his fastball and changes speeds. He is able to put his sinking two-seam fastball on either side of the plate, to go along with a good slider that batters chase outside the zone and an effective changeup.

Negatives: Without a big fastball or an outstanding secondary pitch, Geer has to know exactly what he is doing whenever he takes the mound. There just isn't much margin for error. As he advances, the window for error will get even thinner.

Projection: Low - His velocity improved slightly this past year and his secondary pitches also improved. The big question with Geer will be if he can continue to throw effectively to both sides of the plate.

Ranking Justification: Regardless of what his major league projections may or may not be, 17 wins is 17 wins. Assessment: Geer will start the season in Portland and may find the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League a little tougher than 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.

16) Cory Luebke
Position: LHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 210-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Supplemental First-Round, 2007

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
Eugene 3-0 1.46 24.2 26/2 18 6 4
Fort Wayne 1-2 3.33 27 30/5 29 13 10
Lake Elsinore 1-1 7.71 7 5/1 10 6 6

Luebke at Instructs in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: After a successful career at Ohio State, the former high school basketball star rose through three levels before finally wearing down at Lake Elsinore. Luebke throws three pitches, fastball, slider and changeup with excellent command. He blew away the competition in the Northwest League and did very well coming in the later part of the season on a bad Fort Wayne team.

Negatives: As with many of the Padres pitches he doesn't have a big fastball and much of his success in the Northwest and Midwest Leagues was due to his ability to locate his fastball. His secondary pitches are going to have to improve in the California League and beyond to continue his success. Also, he threw a little over 175 innings between college and his first pro season, which is a little scary.

Projection: High - Wearing down in August, stamina will be a question. If his changeup and slider come along he could develop into a quality middle of the rotation starter.

Ranking Justification: The best debut of any Padres' pitcher taken in the 2007 draft after Latos and a solid fastball for a left-hander that has been a plus pitch at times. Assessment: Luebke will start the year at Lake Elsinore. If he has some success after much needed rest, he could finish the season in San Antonio. He could be the first from the 2007 draft to reach the majors.

17) Matt Buschmann
Position: RHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 195-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 15th-Round, 2006

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
Lake Elsinore 12-6 2.89 149.1 115/26 153 60 48
Buschmann at Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona.
2007 Highlights: In the second half of the season, the Vanderbilt grad was one of the organization's best 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, two-seam fastball with movement, a changeup and an improving slider. Buschmann credited his improvement to getting a more consistent arm slot and increasing his pitching tempo.

Negatives: Buschmann works in the high-80s occasionally touching the 91-92 MPH range so his secondary pitches are going to have to get better, especially his changeup, which is the weakest of the three.

Projection: Medium - Buschmann improved as much as anyone in the Padres' system in the second half, as the command and run of his fastball improved dramatically. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but, if his change comes along, it's going to look a lot better.

Ranking Justification: While he may not have the overpowering tools of some on the list or a plus pitch, his performance in the second half of the year has earned him a place in the discussion. Assessment: He will likely start the year in San Antonio. As most of the Missions 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.

18) Rayner Contreras
Position: 3B/2B
Height/Weight: 6-feet-0, 170-pounds
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Signed from the Dominican Republic in 2006

Fort Wayne .276 .330 .414 290 74 22/53 21 7

Contreras on deck in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
2007 Highlights: A good year statistically in a tough league, as injuries and adjustments to much better pitching slowed him down. He put up much better numbers in 2006 with the Arizona Rookie League Padres (.316/.389/.439) but also showed flashes of power potential in his lanky frame. The tools are there, but Contreras, as do many young players, has problems building consistency. In July, he provided a glimpse of what he can do, hitting .322/.354/.441. His defense at second, .900 fielding percentage, wasn't good, and he was even worse at third, .859.

Negatives: His defense has been woeful thus far and consistency at the dish is an issue.

Projection: High - He has the offensive potential to be a force in every facet of the game but his defense is a major question mark. Look for him to settle in at second where his offensive potential will become an even bigger strength.

Ranking Justification: Tools, tools and more tools. Injuries took away the final two months of the year, but he showed solid power that is growing each year. Assessment: Contreras is the closest Latin American positional prospect the Padres have to the major leagues. He has immense potential packed into a growing frame with a sweet swing that packs a wallop. He could force Antonelli to move to centerfield in the future. He can be that good.

19) Aaron Breit
Position: RHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 205-pounds
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Draft-and-follow 2006, 12th-round in 2005

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
Fort Wayne: 3-11 6.73 108.1 80/47 139 97 81

Breit on the mound in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
2007 Highlights: As the numbers above indicate, this was a tough year for Breit. It wasn't until the final month of the season that he had an ERA under 6.29. So, why is he in the Top 20? He has as much raw ability as any pitcher in the Padres system, is still very young, and changed his mechanics early in the year, sticking with it through the tough times. Additionally, there was some progress in the last month of the season where he was 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA and a 23/5 K/BB ratio.

Negatives: He throws strikes, but it's a question of where he throws strikes. He has always been able to overpower people throughout his career and is going to have to learn to be more of a pitcher. Also his secondary pitches are very raw.

Projection: High - With his size, fastball and age there is always reason for optimism.

Ranking Justification: Despite having a rough year, Breit's tools, combined with his end of the year progress, are simply too much to ignore. Assessment: It's unclear whether the Padres will put him in Lake Elsinore to begin the year, which is a much tougher pitching environment than the Midwest League. If he does start the year in Fort Wayne and performs like he did in August, he'll be in the desert soon enough.

20) Cesar Ramos
Position: LHP/SP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 190-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: Supplemental First-Round, 2005

Affiliate W-L ERA IP K/BB Hits Runs Earned Runs
San Antonio 13-9 3.41 163.2 90/43 153 69 62

Ramos on the mound in San Antonio, Texas.
2007 Highlights: Ramos was the Padres second overall pick in 2005. 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 record with a 4.01 ERA in the first half. 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. He averaged nearly six innings a start, doesn't give up runs, and kept his team in nearly every game.

Negatives: Average fastball, slurvy slider and his change needs work. He doesn't strike out many people and if his fastball is up it is punished. He has better stuff than Geer but lacks the consistency.

Projection: Low - He's difficult to project because his peripheral statistics aren't going to blow anyone away and neither do his tools; but he finds a way to compete and win.

Ranking Justification: Ramos showed significant improvement in the second half, mainly due to his ability to cut down on his walks and drastically cut down on the number of home runs. Assessment: The 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 will likely begin the year in Portland.

Denis Savage of contributed to the top-20 rankings in conjunction with John Conniff.

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