Padres Prospects: Top Sleepers for 2010

Although usually both Denis and John disagree on where certain players should or should not be ranked, this year's ranking was the least contentious. As we did last year, what follows is a look at a few sleepers within the San Diego Padres system along with a few that we would have ranked higher – if we were alone.

Conniff Confidential

Last year we also wrote a sleeper article which are two players who would have made the Top 20 and three others that we feel have potential to be much better than what they have shown so far.

My picks were Drew Macias and Lance Zawadzki for the Top 20 and Mike Ekstrom, Eric Sogard and Peter Ciofrone to watch out for. Denis chose Yefri Carvajal and Anthony Bass for his Top 20 and Adys Portillo, Lance Zawadzki and Logan Forsythe rounded out the prospects to watch.

We'll give Denis a mulligan on Yefri and me one on Ciofrone, but hopefully we will have the same success this year.

1. Luis Durango
Position: CF/LF
Height/Weight: 5-10/155
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: S/R
How Acquired: Signed out of the Panama

2009 Highlights: Durango has continued to improve each season in one category or another and a late season promotion to the big club opened a few eyes with his speed after posting a .390 OBP in AA San Antonio.

Negatives: The switch-hitting Durango must improve his stolen base percentage and show more power than last year, hitting only 11 extra-base hits in 537 plate appearances.

Projection: Medium – At the plate, he needs to not hit as much off of his front foot while getting stronger which will allow him to shoot more balls into the gaps to take advantage of his plus speed in addition to doing what he does best, bunt and slap balls over infielders' heads. His defense has improved, and he now has the arm to play a serviceable center and is not limited to left as in the past. He is easily the fastest player in the Padres' organization. Assessment: He should begin the year as the everyday center fielder and lead-off man in Portland. Durango has the intangibles, excellent hand-eye coordination along with a very good batting eye to be a major league player. How well he can correct and improve upon his mechanical and physical issues will determine his future.

2. Blake Tekotte Position: CF
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: 2008 draft, third-round

2009 Highlights: Maybe the best defensive center fielder in the Padres' system, he survived two miserable months in the beginning to put up some good offensive numbers by the end of the year. Tekotte led all Midwest League outfielders in total chances and putouts, and his defense was a big reason for the TinCaps success. He finished second on the team in extra-base hits, and as he continues to hone some mechanical issues, he could put up better offensive numbers.

Negatives: Although he has some power, he can sometimes try to do a little too much at the plate.

Projection: Medium – He worked to eliminate the wrap in his swing that caused his path to the ball to be elongated, Tekotte lost the timing that made him so deadly. As he became more comfortable with the revamped swing, he began striking the ball with authority. He can turn on an inside fastball and send it into the bleachers while also lining balls all over the field. Assessment: Tekotte should thrive in the Cal League, which not only is a hitters paradise but the Diamond tends to favor left-handed hitters. The key for him will be to not try to do too much at the plate, which got him in trouble early last year. He profiles as a leadoff man that can shoot the gap.

3. Aaron Breit
Position: RHP

2009: Breit has always been one of the more talented players in the system, and although he always threw hard and for strikes, the big question is where he threw strikes. This year he had 110 strikeouts in 107.2 innings against 45 walks.

Scouting Report: At 6-foot-4, Breit has good size and has always had the big fastball, but throwing more inside and trusting his curvenall and changeup led to his best year yet. The talent is there; the big question is can he put together the type of season he is capable of from start to finish.

2010: Regardless of a 2-6 record, there is much to like with anyone of his size and ability that appears to be on the brink of putting it altogether. It's very difficult to predict what he may or may not do this year with his ability and previous track record, but he has the type of ability that is certainly worth watching.

3. Craig Cooper
Position: 1B/RF/LF

2009: Cooper returned after a so-so season in 2008 to put up his best numbers since his short-season debut in Eugene in 2006. The Notre Dame grad led the team in hits, doubles, home runs and RBI and was also the season long leader in OBP and slugging percentage.

Scouting Report: He is considered the best defensive first baseman in the system in addition to being a solid corner outfielder. He's a good player, but for the positions he plays most teams usually want to see more than a .451 slugging percentage.

2010: He is one of the few lefties that bats from the right side, and his offensive numbers should jump up next year in the much more hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Cooper is a very versatile player that with a slight uptick in his power numbers should find his way onto a major league roster somewhere. Playing in Portland, as opposed to San Antonio, should see his offensive numbers go up.

5. Cole Figueroa
Position: 2B/SS

2009: Figueroa comes from a baseball background and was one of the more polished players in the organization this year. Capable of playing either shortstop or second, the team kept him at second for most of the year in Fort Wayne where he impressed the organization, as they raved about his range, athleticism and ability to put the ball into the gaps.

Scouting Report: There are some questions about how much power he has and if his knee will hold up over a full year, but there is much to like. Tremendous range defensively, and he has a very strong arm for a second baseman.

2010: He will team up with Drew Cumberland to form one of the more athletic double play tandems in the Cal League.

Savage Sub-rosa

I went away from convention here and chose players that were not in my personal top 20 at all. Therefore, Chris Fetter (18), and Cedric Hunter (20) were not eligible. Jerry Sullivan (21) and Sawyer Carroll (23) made the combined top 20. Hard to believe there were only two prospects that veered between John and myself. I am bringing him over to the dark side, slowly but surely. Deciding to be a bit ornery, I also didn't choose anyone that was on his list since I was given a sneak peak. Figueroa was the only player he chose who made my original list.

There were quite a few candidates. I chose those I felt most strongly about. At the end of the year, we will see if John and I did well – and how much gloating we can do at the other's expense.

1. Jorge Reyes
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2009 draft, 17th-round

2009 Highlights: Signing just before his eligibility fled, Reyes debuted in the Northwest League and made a positive impression for his ability to locate two pitches while working down in the zone. Five double play grounders were impressive in only 13 innings of work.

Negatives: There had been concerns regarding his mental makeup after having a successful freshman year in college. After being named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2007 College World Series, Reyes suffered through two dismal years at Oregon State. That has led people down the path of questioning his desire, heart, and ability to overcome obstacles.

Projection: High – Reyes has all the talent in the world. He has a world-class slider and impeccable fastball command that has downward movement to induce ground balls. His changeup remains a work in progress, but Reyes could have three plus pitches to pull from. If his pitch sequencing also improves, he could be special. Assessment: The feeling is he needed a structured environment to thrive and the Padres will provide him with that. Having success early on was a boon for Reyes and should serve him well. How he responds to adversity will be the true measure of his mettle. If he responds in a positive fashion – look out. Reyes could quickly fly up and through the ranks.

2. Nick Schmidt
Position: LHP
Height/Weight: 6-5/230
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: 2007 draft, first-round

2009 Highlights: It was a tale of two seasons for Schmidt. He was money in Fort Wayne but struggled when he hit a wall in Lake Elsinore – a dead arm coming back from major surgery. He was crisp in the first half, throwing strikes and commanding his secondary pitches. That all fell apart in Lake Elsinore, as his pitches were elevated and had little break.

Negatives: The wall he hit in Lake Elsinore affected his command. He could work magic for a batter or two but his stuff would disappear, frustrating the left-hander immensely. He still needs work on commanding his curveball.

Projection: Medium – Two years removed from surgery, Schmidt should be back to recovery – showing the form that made him a first-round pick. He is someone that is not afraid to pitch inside. That will open up a lot of door for him to see success. Assessment: The one consistent talking to team insiders is his incredible work ethic. Schmidt already had a plus changeup and that remains true today. His velocity is back into the low-90s and the breaking ball is all that is left. He has also made some changes mechanically, which should help him find better location. This could be a huge year for the former first rounder.

3. Allan Dykstra
Position: 1B

2009: Overall, it was a disappointing year for the first baseman. He had his walks and that will never be in doubt but failed to do more damage with hard contacts. In his defense, he underwent significant changes to his swing in 2009 and seemed to find a groove late in the year. He was not aggressive enough with men in scoring position.

Scouting Report: Dykstra has monster power but has not been able to show it often due to changes mechanically to lengthen his stride and become shorter to the ball. He did, however, embrace the change – even when things weren't going well. He has a great eye and that can be a detriment when he is being counted on to drive in runs. Swinging early in the count when the pressure is on the pitcher would produce bigger numbers.

2010: Has the muscle memory settled in, giving him a consistent swing that will produce extra-base hits with regularity? The bet here is he has a monster season, is more aggressive with runners in scoring position and still takes a plethora of walks.

4. Craig Italiano
Position: RHP

2009: Acquired via trade, Italiano moved from the rotation to the bullpen and found immediate success. He was barely touched during his stint in Lake Elsinore, and the Padres protected him on their 40-man roster this off-season.

Scouting Report: With a mid-90s fastball and biting slider from a near three-quarters arm slot, hitters have a tough time picking up his ball. Oakland moved his arm slot down and found that he had free and easy action that produced more movement on each of his pitches.

2010: Italiano could be in line for a quick ascension to San Diego. He has the stuff and only needs more innings to get truly comfortable in a relief capacity. He is a quick worker that has no fear of giving hitters his best. That should serve him well in shutting down the opposition.

5. Cameron Monger
Position: OF

2009: Drafted late, Monger was given a lot of game action to prove what he could do with some instruction. He did not disappoint, improving in nearly every aspect of the game while flashing blinding speed.

Scouting Report: A speed demon that is only in the beginning stages of learning how to play baseball. He has a strong acumen for attaining knowledge and applying it on the field. If he can keep the ball on the ground with the occasional extra-base hit, Monger offers a ton of excitement that will get fans leaping from their seats.

2010: Monger could fly around the bases and up the prospect rankings. He is a guy that can steal over 50 bases and score more than 100 runs at any given time, provided he takes the lessons given and puts them into application. He has shown an affinity for that to date and must continue to harness the innate ability into controlled talent.

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