Top prospect Austin Hedges is already regarded as one of the top catching prospects in the game.
For the second straight season, the San Diego Padres boast a top-half farm system thanks to a healthy mix of developing prospects and big league-ready talent.
The organization has a new top prospect this season in catcher Austin Hedges, a 20-year-old whose defensive prowess makes him a safe bet to reach the major leagues. Meanwhile, the rest of the Padres’ prospect pool contains a slew of talent poised to contribute in a big way in 2013, including right-hander Casey Kelly, infielder Jedd Gyorko, southpaw Robbie Erlin and ground-ball machine Donn Roach.
Mixed in amongst their future big leaguers are numerous high-ceiling pitching prospects in Max Fried, Joe Ross and Matt Wisler, each of whom was acquired via the draft over the last two seasons.
The Padres aren’t as far away from contending in the National League West as it may seem, and should be regarded as a sleeper headed into the 2013 season. With the amount of depth on the farm, they could even swing a trade for an impact big-leaguer at some point during the year.
DOB: 12/21/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 230
Drafted/Signed: July, 2008 (Venezuela)
Scouting Notes: Impressive bounce-back season in 2012 while repeating Low-A Fort Wayne; dialed back explosive arsenal to showcase improved command; registered a 1.87 ERA with 81/45 K/BB at Fort Wayne; allowed only 54 hits in 91.2 innings; was promoted to Double-A San Antonio where success didn’t come as easily; posted a 7.20 ERA with 26/25 K/BB; more of a thrower than a pitcher; doesn’t require a ton of projection at 6’2”, 230 pounds.
Right-hander has a ridiculously fast arm; fastball sits in the mid-to-high-90s with late life; will sit in the high-90s in shorter stints; command of the pitch is inconsistent; isn’t around the plate enough to be highly effective and induce as many swing-and-misses as he should; flattens out when left up in the zone; desperately in need of a quality secondary pitch; will determine whether he remains a starter or is moved to the bullpen.
Spring Training Forecast: Invited to his first major league camp, Portillo will have a chance to showcase his stuff this spring as the organization gauges his future as both a starter and reliever.
2013 Outlook: After struggling following a late-season promotion to Double-A in 2012, the right-hander will open the upcoming season back at the level with a chance to reach the majors as a reliever.
DOB: 12/14/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 200
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2011 by Angels (College of Southern Nevada)
Scouting Notes: Acquired from the Angels in a deal for Ernesto Frieri; was excellent between both organizations in 2012 while reaching Double-A; right-hander is a bit older (23), but has more upside than many believe; 6’1”, 200-pounder registered a 2.16 ERA with 29/3 K/BB in 41.2 innings for High-A Inland Empire (Angels); posted a 1.74 ERA with 44/11 K/BB in 46.2 innings for High-A Lake Elsinore; made a brief appearance at Double-A San Antonio and registered a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings before reaching his innings limit.
Roach’s best pitch is a low-to-mid-90s fastball with incredible weight and heavy sinking action; generated a 3.53 GO/AO in 105.1 innings last season; above-average breaking ball which he locates well; present average changeup; excellent command profile; potential to reach the major leagues as a backend starter late in the 2013 season.
Spring Training Forecast: Roach should see more innings in big league spring training over the next month, as he’s someone who’s quietly jumped on the major league radar.
2013 Outlook: Roach and his power sinker will presumably return to Double-A to open the 2013 season, and the right-hander could start to move quickly if he’s able to replicate his success last season.
DOB: 9/12/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 175
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2011 (Bryan HS, Ohio)
Scouting Notes: A seventh-round draft pick out of high school in 2011, Wisler has a chance to be a major sleeper; highly advanced for his age in terms of both stuff and command; projectable, 6’3”, 175-pound frame; enjoyed impressive full-season debut last season at Low-A Fort Wayne, registering a 2.53 ERA with 113/28 K/BB in 114 innings; limits baserunners while missing bats.
Repeatable delivery with a clean arm action; free-and-easy fastball velocity that sits in the low-to-mid-90s; will top out at 95-96 mph with late life; impressive secondary arsenal; curveball and changeup are both potential above-average offerings, and he showcases advanced command of both; makings of an average slider; impressive polish for age could have him moving quickly beginning next year; projects as a mid-rotation starter in the major leagues.
Spring Training Forecast: Wisler will participate in minor league camp, though he’s a strong candidate to see home time on the mound with the parent club later this spring.
2013 Outlook: Slated to open the 2013 season at High-A, Wisler’s combination of stuff and command may warrant consideration for a bypass of the California League directly to Double-A.
DOB: 5/21/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011 (Bishop O’Dowd HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: 6’3”, 185-pound right-hander has a big arm with plenty of room left for physical projection; more of a thrower than pitcher, but that should evolve with experience; promising but raw arsenal; struggled in full-season assignment at Low-A Fort Wayne to open the season, registering a 6.26 ERA with 27/11 K/BB; suffered a mid-season injury; demoted to short-season Eugene where he righted the ship with a 2.02 ERA and 28/9 K/BB in 26.2 innings.
Athletic, clean mechanics generate a plus fastball with the chance for a few more ticks as he develops; jumps out of his hand and on opposing hitters; slider flashes above-average potential with sharp break; changeup is raw and he’s still learning to turn it over, but it has the makings of a plus offering; may take him a while to get there, but he should be able to reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.
Spring Training Forecast: Ross will participate in minor league camp where he’ll work to build up endurance and improve his secondary arsenal.
2013 Outlook: After struggling at Low-A to open the 2012 season, Ross will take another crack at the level this year, and if he makes the necessary adjustments, could even finish his campaign at High-A.
DOB: 10/8/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 190
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2009 by Rangers (Scotts Valley HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Acquired from the Rangers in the Mike Adams trade in late 2011; undersized left-hander with impressive pitchability; battled various injuries for most of the 2012 season; registered a 2.92 ERA with 72/14 K/BB in 52.1 innings at Double-A San Antonio; excellent command; knows how to pitch to opposing hitters’ weaknesses; sequences pitches and locates them exceptionally well throughout the strike zone.
5’11”, 190-pound southpaw sits anywhere from 88-92 mph and understands how to add and subtract; above-average-to-plus command of entire arsenal; curveball has late, downward break; spots it well in the dirt to draw swing-and-misses; changeup gives him another slightly above-average secondary offering; aggressively attacks hitters; bulldog mentality on the mound; will have to live low in the zone, though pitching in Petco Park will reduce his home run tendencies; potential No. 3 or No. 4 starter who should be a pleasant surprise.
Spring Training Forecast: Erlin is a long shot to break camp in the Padres’ starting rotation, though he’ll be given his share of innings to prove he belongs this spring.
2013 Outlook: As a command-oriented lefty who still misses a fair amount of bats, Erlin is a solid sleeper candidate to spend a majority of the 2013 season in the Padres’ rotation.
DOB: 10/4/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008 by Red Sox (Sarasota HS, Fla.)
Scouting Notes: A former first-round pick of the Red Sox (as a shortstop) in 2008, Kelly ultimately reached the major leagues after missing most of the season with elbow inflammation; upon returning to the mound, the 6’3” right-hander registered a 3.78 ERA in three starts at Double-A, followed by a 2.25 ERA over two starts for Triple-A; registered a 6.21 ERA with 26/10 K/BB in six big league starts.
Excellent athlete who was drafted as a position player; pitchability is his calling card; fastball sits in the low-90s; was touching mid-90s before elbow injury early in the year; thrown on solid downhill plane; induces ground balls; curveball is above average with depth and late break; above-average potential; changeup continues to improve and adds another secondary weapon; command-oriented right-hander; reliant upon getting ahead in the count and sequencing pitches; lacks an elite offering; profiles as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.
Spring Training Forecast: After reaching the major leagues late last season, Kelly will likely compete with a few other pitchers for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation.
2013 Outlook: Kelly will probably be given additional time to develop at Triple-A before returning to the major leagues later in the seasons.
DOB: 6/20/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 210
Drafted/Signed: July, 2007 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: A physically mature player with tons of raw strength, Liriano boasts at least average tools across the board; continues to hold his own as a younger player at advanced levels; batted. 298/.360/.443 with 29 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases in 74 games at High-A Lake Elsinore; reached Double-A San Antonio for the first time and batted .251/.335/.377 with 15 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases and 50/20 K/BB in 53 games; needs to establish overall consistency; hit tool will never develop into anything beyond average; toolsy outfielder’s plus bat speed and raw power suggest plenty of untapped power; keeps his hands inside the ball; extensive plate coverage results in too many weakly-hit outs.
Due to his plus speed and strong, accurate arm, Liriano has a clear future in right field, though he’ll need to feature more power for a favorable long-term projection; one of the few prospects who seems as though he’s poised for a breakout 2013 campaign; Liriano is a raw talent loaded with upside; there’s a large, pre-existing gap between the present and future.
Spring Training Forecast: Rehabbing.
2013 Outlook: Unfortunately, Liriano will miss the entire 2013 season after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery.
DOB: 9/23/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 195
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2010 (West Virginia)
Scouting Notes: An offense-oriented prospect, Gyorko continued to rake in 2012; batted .262/.356/.431 with 10 extra-base hits and 27/17 K/BB in 34 games; put up monster numbers after an early-season promotion to Triple-A Tucson in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League; batted .328/.380/.588 with 48 extra-base hits, including 24 home runs; possesses excellent hand-eye coordination and the ability to barrel the ball with consistency; a 5’11”, right-handed hitter, he does an excellent job keeping his hands inside the ball and adjusting to various pitches throughout the strike zone; balanced and effortless swing yields hard contact to all fields; mashes left-handed pitching; hit tool projects to be above-average; Gyorko’s power may not translate in the major leagues as it did last season in the Pacific Coast League, which hurts his projection as a third baseman.
Despite shifting to second base last season, he lacks the up-the-middle tools and skills to project long-term at the position; footwork and turns are a big work-in-progress; faster path to the major leagues; hit tool potential should outweigh any defensive shortcomings.
Spring Training Forecast: After mashing at Triple-A last season, Gyorko will presumably compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster as the team’s starting second baseman.
2013 Outlook: Whether he opens the year in the majors or at Triple-A, Gyorko’s hit tool is advanced enough to spend a majority of the 2013 season in the major leagues.
DOB: 1/18/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’4", 185
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2012 (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Selected with the seventh-overall draft pick in 2012, Fried made his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League; reports said he wasn’t fully healthy and pitching at 100 percent; registered a 3.57 ERA with 17/6 K/BB in 17.2 innings; athletic and projectable southpaw with lots of polish for his age; has a smooth delivery and fluid arm action.
Fastball ranges anywhere from 88-93 mph with arm-side action; left-hander’s curveball is easily his best offering with a big break and the potential to draw lots of swing-and-misses; changeup also flashes at least above-average potential and is thrown with deceptive arm speed; given his three-pitch mix and overall polish relative to his age, it’s easy to envision Fried as a No. 2 starter in a few years, especially in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
Spring Training Forecast: Fried will use the spring to improve his secondary pitches and build endurance before making his full-season debut.
2013 Outlook: The left-hander will likely open the 2013 season in extended spring training before making his full-season debut at Low-A.
DOB: 8/18/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2011 (Junipero Serra Catholic HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Arguably the top defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Hedges’ prowess behind the plate is special—he can seriously do it all; the fact that his bat came alive last year in his full-season debut makes him a potentially elite prospect; batted .279/.334/.451 with 38 extra-base hits (10 home runs), 14 stolen bases and 62/23 K/BB in 96 games for Low-A Fort Wayne.
Already an advanced receiver and blocker, it’s nearly impossible to identify a flaw in Hedges’ defensive package; he stifles opponents’ running game with a plus arm and quick catch and release; has also received praise from both his pitchers and managers for his game-calling skills and ability to slow everything down; even if he never hits, there’s still a strong chance that Hedges will reach the major leagues; plenty of gap power with emerging game power; hit tool projects to be average-to-above-average; more speed and athleticism than typical catcher; instincts should allow him to approach double-digit stolen bases totals; high-level prospects with All-Star potential.
Spring Training Forecast: Hedges will participate in his first major league camp and should receive some playing time early in the spring. However, his primary objective will be familiarizing himself with the organization’s pitchers.
2013 Outlook: While his defense is good enough to make the jump the Double-A, Hedges’ bat should fare well at High-A to open the 2013 season.