San Diego Padres: Re-Ranking Their Top 10 Prospects After the Mike Adams Deal
At the trade deadline, all eyes were on the San Diego Padres as they had arguably the most available trade pieces of any team in the league.
While outfielder Ryan Ludwick was traded away to Pittsburgh for cash and a player to be named, reliever Mike Adams was shipped to Texas in a deal that involved two very solid pitching prospects coming into the Padres organization.
As a small-market team that plays in the most pitcher-friendly park in the league, it's wise to rely first and foremost on pitching and defense, and that's exactly the direction the organization is continuing to head in.
It's no secret that the Padres are well-stocked with pitching, both currently and for the future, and the Adams deal further bolstered their arsenal of young arms.
Do the new additions crack the list of the top 10 prospects in the Padres organization?
10. Joe Wieland, RHP
The answer is yes, for at least one of the two pitchers traded in return for Adams is now part of the Padres top 10, and his last start in the Rangers organization supports that claim.
Last Friday, Wieland faced the minimum number of hitters required to pitch a no-hitter, ironically facing the Padres Double-A affiliate, San Antonio.
Wieland, 21, is a right-hander that was stellar for Class A+ Myrtle Beach (6-3, 2.10 ERA) before being promoted to Double-A Frisco (4-0, 1.23 ERA).
Wieland's strength is the ability to throw pitches in the strike zone and avoid walks. He averaged nearly four strikeouts for every walk allowed, which pales in comparison to his unbelievable 24 strikeouts per walk (96 to four) in Myrtle Beach.
He has reported to San Antonio, and it shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see him as a Padre by 2013.
9. Kyle Blanks, OF/1B
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Blanks has already seen time as a Padre over the course of three seasons, but at only 24, he can still be considered a future prospect in the San Diego organization.
Standing at 6'6 and weighing in at an impressive 270 pounds, Blanks presents arguably the team's best power prospect for the foreseeable future.
He has been largely disappointing since the end of the 2009 season, in which he played in 54 games for the Padres, collecting a .250 average and 10 homers, although he has been fighting elbow injuries which led to a Tommy John surgery last summer.
If Blanks can improve his plate discipline and cut down on his strikeouts, he could become the right-handed power threat San Diego has been desperately searching for.
8. Blake Tekotte, OF
Blake Tekotte (pronounced tee-coh-tee) has seen 11 games at the big-league level this season for the Padres after being called up directly from Double-A San Antonio.
Outside of Cameron Maybin, the outfield positions are essentially open for tryouts in San Diego, and Tekotte could have an upper-hand in the future.
At 24, Tekotte is entering his prime and is looking to capitalize on his opportunities with the big league club, and his style of play fits Petco Park as well as the the type of player San Diego likes to put on the field.
In 86 games in San Antonio this season, the 24-year-old who played collegiate ball at the University of Miami hit .299/.410/.541 before his call-up.
The surprising part of his game is his power. Despite being only 5'11" and weighing 175 pounds, Tekotte hit 17 home runs in Double-A, and wasted no time in his first major league start, hitting a triple and double in his first two at-bats in Washington in late May.
Tekotte could be around the Padres lineup quite a bit from this point forward after the Ludwick trade opened up a regular outfield spot.
7. Donavan Tate, OF
Donovan Tate is without a doubt the most athletic player in the Padres organization.
There was heavy concern that the Padres' first-round pick (3rd overall) in the 2009 MLB Draft would not sign with the team because of his commitment to play both baseball and football at the University of North Carolina, but ultimately chose to sign with San Diego for $6.25 million.
The dollar amount was the most the Padres had spent on a draft pick since Matt Bush in 2004 at $3.15 million.
Tate has hit the ball well in 2011 in both Eugene of the Northwest League, and Fort Wayne of Single-A, putting up averages of .307/.407/.436 combined between both clubs.
Unfortunately however, there are concerns about his character and his susceptibility to injuries.
Since being drafted in 2009, he has missed games from a hernia and broken jaw sustained in an ATV wreck, among others, and he has been suspended twice for drug use, completing his most recent suspension in late July.
Despite the past issues, his pure athletic ability combined with his consistency when actually on the field lands him a spot on any list of top prospects in the Padres organization.
6. Jaff Decker, OF
Because the Padres traditionally struggle with power, it's only natural for many San Diego fans to be curious about left-handed Jaff Decker stepping into the box at Petco Park.
Decker doesn't put up home runs at an alarming rate, but does have 14 this season along with 20 doubles and 65 RBI in San Antonio, and he's among the top of the list in the organization that hits from the left side.
Decker, 21, has steadily moved up the minor league ranks since his signing with the Padres in 2008.
As previously mentioned, the outfield situation in San Diego is essentially a revolving door, and Decker will undoubtedly be looking to improve his overall offensive discipline in order to get the next promotion to Triple-A Tucson, or possibly San Diego.
Struggling with average so far this season at .225, Decker has still been able to remain a key piece in the (San Antonio) Missions lineup, helping the team to a 72-36 record as of August 3, good for 12 games better than second-place Frisco.
Decker is a very solid left-handed bat that still has the prime of his career ahead of him, and the Padres hope to reap the benefits in the future.
5. Robbie Erlin, LHP
Robbie Erlin is the other pitcher along with Wieland that came to the Padres organization in the Mike Adams trade, and Erlin is the more highly-touted of the two.
Erlin, who doesn't turn 21 until October, just pitched his first game for San Antonio, making that his third team he's taken the mound for this season after beginning in A+ Myrtle Beach.
Erlin pitched six scoreless innings, allowing five hits, striking out six and not allowing a walk. The outing only continues his trend of lights-out pitching thus far in 2011.
Despite a 4.32 ERA in Double-A Frisco (Rangers), the California native still earned a 5-2 record and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8.71, allowing only seven in 66.2 innings pitched.
The Padres organization knows how to treat and develop pitchers, so expect Erlin to have a bright future ahead of him. His strength is his control, which is a necessity due to his size, which is smaller than normal for a pitcher, although at only 20 years of age, he does have time to fill out and add strength.
4. James Darnell, 3B
James Darnell has suddenly become a hot commodity in the San Diego organization in 2011, and with good reason.
Until this season, Darnell was a player on the horizon who was seen as the possible third-base replacement to Chase Headley in the future. Headley has had a breakout year at the hot corner for the Padres, but Darnell is continuing to put himself in the position to challenge for the spot in the coming years, if not sooner.
Darnell, 24, has been in San Antonio for most of the last two seasons, hitting .265/.368/.408 in 2010 for the Missions, and bouncing back with an outstanding .333/.434/.604 with 17 homers for the club this season before earning a recent promotion to Triple-A Tucson.
In 22 games so far for the T-Pads (Tucson Padres), Darnell is hitting a respectable .253 and has six homers.
One big upside the young California native possesses is that he doesn't strike out as often as many young hitters do, especially those with as much power as he has.
With their playoff hopes dashed, San Diego will likely be giving their second round pick from the 2008 draft a look with the big club as the season wears on.
3. Simon Castro, RHP
Simon Castro established himself as one of the Texas League's top pitchers in 2010. He has largely struggled this season between San Antonio and Tucson, but the Padres believe it has been due to flawed mechanics and therefore, wavering confidence.
With that aside, Castro still possesses electric stuff, and when he's on his game, he's one of the top prospects in the entire Padres organization, and arguably one of the top pitching prospects in the league.
Castro has a potentially dominant fastball/slider combination with a useful change-up to boot, and is a true strikeout pitcher.
Despite his struggles in 2011, he has still managed to prove his worth striking out hitters. In Tucson he has been averaging 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings and averaged almost a strikeout per inning in San Antonio.
Castro is a very strong physical presence at 6'5, and his 3/4 arm angle means he will present hitters with a deceptive view of the ball as it comes out of his hand, which is a large reason why despite his struggles when hitters are making contact, he can still strike out an above average number of batters.
Don't expect Castro to break in with San Diego in the immediate future, but when he does, expect him to be ready and to make a big impact.
2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
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Left-handed first baseman Anthony Rizzo came over to the Padres from Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez trade last December and was immediately (and unfairly) the recipient of comparisons to the former San Diego all-star.
Rizzo has struggled in his stint in San Diego, but has dominated the PCL while playing for Tucson.
In 66 games for the T-Pads, the soon-to-be 22 year old has hit .367/.437/.750 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI.
San Diego saw the beginnings of fan interest in Rizzo during the early portion of his call-up to the big club in early June, but the novelty quickly wore off when his consistency at the plate wavered and he seemed to be guessing too often. Rizzo was unable to catch up to major league fastballs, but at 21 he's still learning at the top level and the unfair expectations may have weighed him down.
Despite his early struggles, Rizzo is still the top offensive prospect in the Padres organization, and with good reason.
The Red Sox didn't want to give up Rizzo in the Gonzalez trade, but Padres GM Jed Hoyer, who was an assistant GM in Boston before taking the job in San Diego, knows the Red Sox system well, and wouldn't let go of the left-handed power bat in the deal.
With a hitter as naturally gifted and productive as Rizzo is at Tucson, in addition to only being 21 years old (22 on Monday), there is very little doubt among the Padres that he will have a very good career in San Diego, and is the best first base prospect in the organization since Gonzalez himself.
1. Casey Kelly, RHP
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Casey Kelly was also brought to San Diego in the Gonzalez trade, and in many eyes is actually the prized prospect in the deal, ahead of Rizzo.
Like Rizzo, Kelly is also a 21-year-old Floridian and was another prospect Jed Hoyer would not do the Gonzalez deal without getting.
Kelly's physical stature, like Simon Castro, is just simply that of a prototypical pitcher. At 6'3 and around 200 pounds, he is able to generate power from his lower body into his seemingly-effortless delivery on the mound.
In his first year in the Padres farm system, Kelly has shined in San Antonio, sporting a 10-4 record with a 4.15 ERA, stiking out nearly seven hitters per nine innings.
His go-to pitch is his fastball, which can top out around the mid 90s, with his change-up and curveball coming in at second and third respectively.
Unlike the Padres' most recent highly-touted pitching prospect, Mat Latos, Kelly has a calm and mature demeanor on the mound, and doesn't let himself get in his own way; something that will do nothing but benefit him in his ongoing development process.
He has all the physical tools in the world (he was drafted as a shortstop in the 2008 Rule Five Draft) and will undoubtedly be climbing the Minor League ladder until he reaches San Diego for good in the coming years.
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