Top Padres Sleeper Prospects

Anytime you have a combined rankings there is always someone that you believe should have been in there, but alas either the hockey goon or numbers cruncher didn't quite see it the same way. This year we each selected two players that we believe should have been in the Top 20, and where we would have put them, along with three others that by the seasons end could take some big leaps.

Conniff Confidential

1. Drew Macias
Position: Center field
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 205-pounds
Age: 26
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: San Diego 2002 35th-round (Draft and Follow)


2008 Highlights: For the past few years, Macias has not only been the best defensive outfielder in the Padres' system, but has also had the best arm. There is no one in the system that would be a better fit in the vast expanse of PETCO Park than Macias. The problem has always been whether he could hit enough to be an everyday player. Macias should have been in Portland in '08, but San Diego wanted to find out what Will Venable could do as the everyday center fielder, so Macias was sent back to San Antonio. After a tough April, he put together the best offensive stretch of his career. He finished second on the team in hits, extra-base hits, home runs, and tied for second in RBI. He led the league in walks and was in the top 10 in OBP.

Negatives: He's 26 and has Cedric Hunter breathing down his neck.

Projection: Medium - In the six seasons he's been with the Padres, Macias has put on a solid thirty pounds. With, a much more selective approach, he is beginning to drive the ball more and we could see some improved power numbers in cozy PGE Park.

Where I would have put him: #15, after Hunter, I think he's the second best centerfield prospect. Assessment: He's going to get to play everyday in Portland and could put up even better offensive numbers. Because of his speed and his arm, he could be given a chance in the second half in San Diego, if he continues to hit as he did last year.

2. Lance Zawadzki
Position: Shortstop/Second Base
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 190-pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: S/R
How Acquired: San Diego, 2007 fourth-round


2008 Highlights: When the Padres drafted Zawadzki in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft, it was considered both a steal and a bit of a reach. Zawadzki has always been regarded as a five-tool player – the problem is a combination of injuries and multiple colleges hadn't really provided him an opportunity to prove it. Last year in the Midwest League, he started off slowly, but in the second half he hit .292/.370/.442. He led the team in stolen bases with 28 in 31 attempts, hits (124), total bases (181), and extra-base hits (38), second in walks, third in slugging percentage and second in OPS.

Negatives: He was slightly old for the league last year and will be 24 in May in the California League. Defensively, he also led the team with 32 errors, due mostly to poor footwork. Also his right side, 220/.294/.298, needs to catch up with his left,.304/.385/.458.

Projection: High - He'll be on a much better stronger team than last year and the hitter friendly Cal League could really benefit him. The tools, quickness, speed and a cannon arm are there; it's just a question of putting them altogether.

Where I would have put him: #20, I would move Geer up and remove Inman. Assessment: Zawadzki may be the better fit in the long run than Drew Cumberland at shortstop because he has a much stronger arm. The question is if he can get his footwork in sync to play the position. His bat and ability to play middle infield is going to get him noticed.

Others to Watch

1. Mike Ekstrom: He experienced much more success when he moved to the bullpen, which allowed his velocity to spike while also seeing a big improvement in his slider. The biggest affect the move seemed to have on Ekstrom is it enabled him to focus much more on getting the man facing him out, rather than worrying about pitch sequences and how many times he threw his changeup.

2. Eric Sogard: If he can erase some doubts about his ability to handle second base defensively, he could push Antonelli. At the plate, he has a very good eye and the ability to shoot the ball into the gaps.

3. Peter Ciofrone: He had the best year of his career last year, but with Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley entrenched at third, he's not going anywhere. Going into 2009 he may be the everyday third baseman, and if there is a trade of either Kouz or Headley, he could be given an opportunity.

Savage Sub-rosa

1. Yefri Carvajal
Position: OF
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 220-pounds
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: San Diego, signed out of the Dominican Republic, 2005


2008 Highlights: Getting a ton of at-bats in the Midwest League is a benefit and managing to hit .268 has to be a positive. Carvajal came in with a lot of press because of his innate talent and power potential but that didn't always come to the forefront. He hit 27 doubles, showing he does have pop, and he hit .311 with runners on base and .356 with runners on and two outs. He also hit .280 off right-handers. Carvajal batted .296 during a three-month stretch from May until the end of July.

Negatives: Carvajal clearly suffered from poor pitch selection. He swung at too many pitches down and away – outside of the zone, which resulted in high strikeout totals and low walks. He also didn't show the power that is pent up in a strong frame.

Projection: High - Better pitch selection is the foundation for his success. Staying away from the breaking ball away – where he leans out and is off-balance is essential. Carvajal showed he can do that in the Instructional League and is hoping to take that into the 2009 season. He has immense power potential and will meet it if he focuses on getting good pitches to hit. He doesn't put a lot of pressure on himself with runners on base, which should translate into run production at the heart of an order.

Where I would have put him: #10, he has more talent than almost anyone in the system and the production will finally match the hype this season. Assessment: Right now, Carvajal has fallen short of expectations. One thing to remember, however, is Latin kids will come at their own pace. He takes to teaching and has enhanced his grasp of the English language over the last year. He has four of the five coveted tools but has to reach that potential. A consistent approach at the plate will allow that to happen. It starts this season, regardless of whether it is in Fort Wayne or Lake Elsinore.

2. Anthony Bass
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 190-pounds
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: San Diego, 2008 fifth-round


2008 Highlights: Bass was used in the bullpen after a long college season, earning seven saves in eight chances. He struck out 10.75 batters per nine innings pitched and held right-handed hitters to a .169 average. The opposition had just five hits in 32 at-bats off him with runners in scoring position.

Negatives: Not a whole lot except that his innings were limited and Bass did not truly have a chance to showcase all of his talents. He did have one spell where he walked five over three games but was in the zone most other times. It is tough to gauge but he wouldn't always use all four pitches – but that might be because he was coming out of the pen.

Projection: High - With a plus fastball, a terrific slider and plus changeup, Bass' top three pitches can get him out of jams. His curveball needs some work but three quality pitches is hard to argue with. Bass profiles as a middle of the rotation starter that could be even more.

Where I would have put him: #18, right behind Drew Miller. He has four pitches and all have a chance to be above average. Assessment: Back in the rotation, Bass will be the top starter on a talented Fort Wayne squad. His competitive nature and plus stuff will allow him to blow through the competition. A shot at Lake Elsinore at midseason is not of line.

Others to Watch

1. Adys Portillo: I had the benefit of seeing Portillo throw where John did not. He is a player to be extremely excited about. This kid could top the rankings as soon as next year – his stuff is that good. Beyond the pitches he throws – which are quite impressive and will be even better when his command is refined – Portillo is a mature young man that remains humble despite the signing bonus. He will skip the DSL and come straight to the states. Something special is brewing in this kid.

2. Lance Zawadzki: There are few who have the wide range of talents that Zawadzki does. In fact, he might be the ‘five-tool' talent many speak about but seldom see. He has power, the ability to hit for average, speed that he knows how to use, a terrific arm and is getting better defensively. Consistency has kept him back, but he turned the proverbial corner in the second half last year. Look for him to have a breakout campaign and threaten the top 10 at the end of next season.

3. Logan Forsythe: Again, I had the benefit of seeing Forsythe for an extended period of time when he was healthy, and what he showed was impressive. The infielder has a terrific foundation, a solid eye, and flashes the ability to do damage – consistently. He has power that should blossom while also maintaining a high batting average. He will be someone that is fun to watch because he doesn't give at-bats away.

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