Though I loathe the phrase, the San Diego Padres really are in a “rebuilding phase.” They failed to make a huge splash this offseason, despite rumors they would land either a star pitcher or outfielder. Thus, San Diego fans, you’re predestined for another lackluster year, yet be optimistic towards the future.
Unless the Padres can pull of the much talked about miracle season rivaling the 2012 Oakland A’s or Baltimore Orioles, the Padres will most likely finish fourth or fifth in the NL West. I can’t see the SF Giants or Dodgers relinquishing their one to two strangleholds on the division, and I think it’s extremely optimistic to assume they’ll finish higher than the Diamondbacks or Rockies. Sorry fellow Padre fans.
However, what can we as fans look forward to?
Well, the future looks pretty good actually. MinorLeagueBall.com just ranked the Padres farm system sixth in the league in their annual rankings.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics come from Baseball-Reference.
Be surprised or not, but Baseball Prospectus ranks 19-year-old Austin Hedges as the top prospect in the Padres farm system. The fact that there is an argument for the team’s best prospect goes to show the strength and depth of the system. Validating his potential skill, Hedges also ranks 73rd in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect List.
Perhaps an even higher honor came from my colleague and B/R MLB Prospects Lead Writer, Mike Rosenbaum, when he named Hedges the best unknown catching prospect.
Depending on how Yasmani Grandal performs when he comes back from his suspension, and/or how Nick Hundley performs in his absence, we may see Hedges as early as the 2014 season.
In his 2012 A campaign, Hedges hit .279 with 10 home runs, 56 RBI and 14 stolen bases in only 96 games.
I know this may seem like a bad sign, but let me explain myself.
First and foremost, one of the Padres' previously highly ranked first base prospect, Yonder Alonso, completed his rookie year in 2012. Obviously, there shouldn’t be another first baseman waiting in the wings ready to be called up.
Secondly, with all-star in the making, Yasmani Grandal, seemingly holding down the catcher position, however, Austin Hedges is getting ready to debut at the same position, so I could see one perhaps platooning at first base to get some extra playing time. That or traded.
Jedd Gyorko may be the most MLB-ready prospect on this list. He is definitely the most prepared hitter. Gyorko’s talents are well documented, yet deservedly so. He currently is the highest-rated prospect in the Padres system, according to MLB.com, at 50th, and ScoutingBook.com.
Though he typically handles the hot corner, obviously the position is locked down by Padres NL MVP candidate, Chase Headley. However, Gyorko has been playing at second base—hopefully in preparation to make the Opening Day roster.
In 2012, through AA and AAA, Gyorko crushed it hitting .311 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Hit bat could provide Headley, Carlos and Quentin some much needed protection in the lineup.
Cory Spangenberg has gone pretty unnoticed with most of the attention going towards Gyorko. However, he deserves the consideration with both his bat and glove. Dominic Di Tolla, of ChickenFriars.com, even states his case for the unheralded second baseman.
In 2012, through high-A, Spangenberg’s speed earned him 27 stolen bases and 53 runs in only 98 games. His speed also gives him the fielding advantage and is able to cover a lot of ground. He also has a great batting eye, walking 26 times and raising his OBP to .324.
Haven’t heard of Jace Peterson? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
MinorLeagueBall.com ranks him as the Padres 16th best prospect, earning a C+ ranking overall. What makes Peterson exciting is his athleticism and elite speed. As MinorLeagueBall.com also points out, Petersen had 51 steals and 62 walks through low-A in 2012.
His speed, combined with existing players, Spangenberg and soon-to-be-mentioned Rymer Liriano, the Padres should provide some dangerous baserunners throughout the lineup.
To go along with his other stats, the 22-year-old has a .378 OBP and scored 78 times.
Rymer Liriano is another player deserving to be in the discussion for the Padres' best prospect. MLB.com ranks him slightly below Gyorko at 55th out of 100.
Liriano’s batting numbers are a little perplexing though. In 2012, he had a .280 batting average and a .350 OBP. What’s alarming are his 119 strikeouts in 127 games. Striking out or waking—seems like the next Adam Dunn or Mark Reynolds, right? Yes, except for the lack of power. Instead he has speed. He has eight home runs compared to 32 swiped bags.
If he can lower his k-rate, up his batting average and get some more pop behind the bat, Liriano will be a true five-tool player the Padres desperately need.
Now before the Robbie Erlin supporters start yelling, Max Fried truly deserves the award for the best left-handed prospect in the Padres farm system.
BaseballAmerica.com ranks Fried as the second best prospect in the Padres system (their top spot has yet to be revealed in this list). Again, MLB.com ranks Fried as the 53rd best prospect out of 100—sandwiched between Gyorko and Liriano.
The tall 19-year-old dominated in 2012. Through nine starts, Fried posted a 3.57 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. What’s yet to be seen is his stamina and authority against a higher-caliber hitter.
I know I’ll be one watching Fried closely this year as he ascends the farm system ranks.
Here’s where the true power and depth of the Padres farm system lie. Casey Kelly—yes, the unarguable best right-hander in the organization. Without a doubt he deserves to be in the starting rotation at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Other notable RHPs include Joe Wieland (also making a rotation push), Matt Wisler and Adys Portillo. All of which should make their MLB debut in the upcoming years.
Kelly, however, is my pick to be a Padres breakout star this year. After being one of the main pieces from Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, Kelly is set to shine in the MLB—hopefully as the Padres' No. 3 starter.
Kelly was also in the top 100 MLB.com list, finishing 69th . In 2012, Kelly had a lackluster 6.21 ERA through six starts for the Padres. Though he showed promise during certain stretches, there is still a lot of development to be done with the star-in-the-making.