Before the readers freak out and explode the comment section, let me clarify that I don’t believe anyone in the MLB is truly untouchable. Well, maybe Mike Trout. Even the best and most-hyped prospects can still be traded at the right price.
Padre fans don’t have to be reminded of this. This past January, the Padres traded their top prospect and top-rated first base prospect, Anthony Rizzo, to the Chicago Cubs. Thought to be untouchable at the time, Rizzo was the main piece the Padres got in return of the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox.
Thus, as I create this list, I’d prefer for “untouchable” to be defined as “not likely to be traded”.
Honorable Mentions: Casey Kelly, Yasmani Grandal, Andrew Cashner (I don’t consider any to be prospects anymore)
Jedd Gyorko is the current top prospect in the Padres’ system. Gyroko’s only problem is he primarily plays third base, the position currently held by Chase Headley, the Padres' best player and 2012 MVP finalist. However, the Padres foresaw this issue and began playing Gyorko in the middle of the infield last year.
In 2012, Gyorko tore through the AAA Pacific Coast League, batting .311 and hitting an even 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Add him to an improving lineup and the Padres have a much more balanced offense and provide Headley with some protection.
Cory Spangenberg is the perfect player to fit into the Padres’ scheme. He gets on base often and has the speed to steal, which goes great with the Padres’ small-ball.
In 2012, Spangenberg stole 27 bases and has a .365 on-base percentage through two years in the minors.
The term “untouchable” is used loosely with Spangenberg because he could be used as a trade chip to acquire a starting pitcher this offseason. The Padres and GM Josh Byrnes have openly said they are exploring a trade for an additional starting pitcher, and will most likely need to offer a prospect.
Robbie Erlin is the young lefty stud the Padres have groomed well to be an ace of their rotation.
In 2012, Erlin boasted a 2.92 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and an incredibly impressive 12.4 K/9. With numbers like these, Erlin should get the call to join the Padres sometime this upcoming season. Also, because he whiffs a lot of bats, he could fit nicely into the bullpen.
Rymer Liriano has it all: power, defense, speed, arm strength and hitting. Also, with the Padres lacking depth in outfield, Liriano is crucial to the franchise.
Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com says, “Liriano probably flashed the best raw power of the hitters I saw in the Arizona Fall League,” and also, “His complete tool package was very evident.”
Given the sub par performance of Will Venable and Carlos Quentin’s injury history, I wouldn’t be surprised if Liriano starts for the Padres sometime this season.
A few weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have included Austin Hedges on this list. However, that was before Yasmani Grandal’s PED suspension and the Padres' once-again reliance on Nick Hundley.
Hedges, the 20-year-old, is currently the 82nd rated prospect according to MLB.com. Though he’s still a few years away from joining the Padres, his talent is undeniable. His value is increased given the fairly thin pool of talent in the catcher position.
Corey Brock of MLB.com, states, “most of the raves were for his bat more than his advanced skills behind the plate, the trait the Padres fell in love with before the First-Year Player Draft in 2011.”
Perhaps if Grandal comes back and continues his surge through the MLB, Hedges may not be as useful to the Padres as he is right now. However, if that day arrives, his value will fetch top talent from other teams.