San Diego Padres' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 23, 2015

San Diego Padres' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    USA TODAY Sports

    If case you haven’t been paying attention, the San Diego Padres and first-time general manager A.J. Preller have been busy this offseason.

    Since the beginning of December, the Padres have added some of baseball’s premier right-handed power hitters through trades in outfielders Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Wil Myers, as well as catcher Derek Norris.

    Amazingly, Preller was able to acquire the aforementioned players without giving up the organization’s three best prospects. However, that’s not to say the club didn’t part with a vast collection of promising young players: SS Trea Turner (will officially be traded in mid-June), LHP Max Fried, RHP Zach Eflin, RHP Joe Ross, RHP Joe Wieland, RHP Burch Smith, CF Mallex Smith, INF Jace Peterson, RHP R.J. Alvarez, 1B Jake Bauers and 3B Dustin Peterson.

    Austin Hedges is still one of the better catching prospect in baseball thanks to his elite defensive chops, but his bat dragged behind the rest of his game this past season at Double-A San Antonio.

    Outfielder Rymer Liriano returned from Tommy John surgery to light up Double-A and Triple-A, but struggled in his first taste of the major leagues. 2013 first-rounder Hunter Renfroe also enjoyed a strong first full pro season, and then continued to showcase his prodigious power in the Arizona Fall League. Meanwhile, the Padres improved their middle-infield depth at last year’s trade deadline with the acquisitions of second baseman Taylor Lindsey and shortstop Jose Rondon from the Angels in the Huston Street trade.

    There were questions about Turner’s bat when he was drafted (No. 13 overall pick in 2014), but the speedy shortstop certainly didn’t have any issues hitting Midwest League pitching last summer. However, he’ll join the Nationals in June as the "player to be named later" in the Myers trade. The Padres also landed a high-upside player in the second round in outfielder Michael Gettys, who’s loaded with tools and top-flight athleticism but is very, very raw and will need considerable time to develop in the minor leagues.

    And while the team’s crop of young arms was depleted this offseason through trades, they still have Matt Wisler and Casey Kelly to look forward to in 2015.

    Here are the San Diego Padres’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Zech Lemond, RHP

    Cory Spangenberg, INF

    Jordan Paroubeck, OF

    Casey Kelly, RHP

    Elliot Morris, RHP

10. Tayron Guerrero, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 1/9/1991 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’7”, 189 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2009 (Colombia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70554045

    Scouting Report

    After spending four years between the complex and short season levels, Guerrero, 24, finally put things together in his 2014 full-season debut, posting a 1.46 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 49.1 innings (39 appearances) between Low-A Fort Wayne and High-A Lake Elsinore.

    The 6’7” right-hander possesses a 70-grade fastball that registers in the mid-90s and scrapes triple digits, but Guerrero’s size and long limbs prevent him from consistently repeating his delivery and throwing strikes. His slider is a potential solid-average offering and should miss bats at the highest level, but he tends to overthrow the pitch while attempting to sync his lightning-quick arm and inconsistent mechanics.

    Guerrero’s control and command need some work, but if he’s able to make adjustments on that front, the hard-throwing right-hander could be working out of the Padres’ bullpen by the end of the 2015 season.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (late-inning reliever)Medium risk

9. Taylor Lindsey, 2B

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 12/2/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 by Angels (Desert Mountain HS, Arizona)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1 (Angels)

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6045454550

    Scouting Report

    The Angels moved Lindsey up to Triple-A last season after his breakout campaign at Double-A the previous year, but the 23-year-old struggled in his introduction to the Pacific Coast League and batted just .238/.306/.372 with 10 home runs in 116 games. The Padres acquired Lindsey last July as part of the deal for closer Huston Street.

    Lindsey's excellent hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills allow him to make consistently hard contact, and they also fuel his projection for an above-average hit tool. The left-handed hitter sets up with his hands low around the torso, only to elevate them as part of his timing mechanism, and he surprisingly doesn’t struggle to turn around quality velocity.

    While he’s always shown plenty of gap power and a knack for barreling the ball to all fields, it’ll be interesting to see whether he shows more in-game power next season after enduring a learning year at Triple-A.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular)Low risk

8. Franchy Cordero, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 9/2/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 175 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5055556050

    Scouting Report

    The Padres gave Cordero an aggressive promotion to Low-A Fort Wayne in 2014 after his impressive stateside debut in the Arizona League the previous year. However, the 20-year-old’s lack of plate discipline was exploited by Midwest League pitchers; he batted just .188/.237/.235 with 36 strikeouts in 94 plate appearances before receiving a demotion to Short Season Eugene.

    More at home in the Northwest League, Cordero recovered from his slow start to bat .279/.329/.458 with nine home runs and 13 steals in 61 games. However, his free-swinging approach still produced 75 strikeouts in 259 plate appearances, which raised his overall strikeout rate to 31.5 percent.

    Cordero already shows easy power from the left side of the plate, and there should be more on the way as he grows into his projectable 6'3", 175-pound frame. His swing is pretty; it’s leveraged but still relatively quiet, and he generates big-time extension after contact thanks to his long arms.

    While his larger build makes Cordero a candidate to slide over to third base, early reports suggest that he might be able to stick at shortstop. However, after committing 51 errors at the position last season, it’s clear that the 20-year-old’s defense will need some serious work, regardless of his future position.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)High risk

7. Jose Rondon, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 3/3/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 160 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2011 by Angels (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 7 (Angels)

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5535505050

    Scouting Report

    After spending 2013 between the Pioneer and Arizona Leagues, Rondon bypassed the Low-A level and went directly to High-A Inland Empire of the California League last year for his full-season debut. The 20-year-old was traded to the Padres in July as a part of the Huston Street deal, and he subsequently joined the team’s High-A affiliate, also in the California League. Between both stops, Rondon batted .319/.365/.409 with 32 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases in 748 plate appearances.

    At 6’1”, 160 pounds, Rondon has room to fill out physically and should continue to add strength to wiry frame. His excellent feel for hitting at young age highlights his potential for at least a solid-average hit tool, as he’s short to the ball with good barrel control and a feel for using the whole field.

    On the other side of the ball, Rondon has good actions at shortstop to go along with footwork and instincts that are advanced for his age, all of which point to his likely future as a solid-average defender. And while his arm strength is only average, Rondon has no issues making throws from deep in the hole.

    Rondon should continue to move up the ladder next season with an assignment to Double-A San Antonio, and given the Padres’ shortstop situation, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the organization decided to accelerate his developmental timeline.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)Medium risk

6. Michael Gettys, of

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 10/22/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 203 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (Gainesville HS, Georgia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4555707065

    Scouting Report

    After receiving a seven-figure signing bonus as the No. 51 overall pick in last year’s draft, Gettys enjoyed a strong professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, batting .310/.353/.437 with 16 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 233 plate appearances.

    Gettys, 19, featured one of the more intriguing power/speed profiles in last year’s draft class, with excellent strength to his 6’1”, 203-pound frame and 70-grade speed that plays on both sides of the ball. There’s no doubt he’ll spend his career in center field, where his top-flight wheels translate to excellent range in all directions. Meanwhile, Gettys’ arm strength is unparalleled among his peers at the position, as he famously was gunned at 100 mph from the outfield last summer on the showcase circuit.

    At the plate, the right-handed hitter has explosive bat speed and plus raw power. However, his swing mechanics hinder his ability to make consistent contact, which helps explain his 28.3 percent strikeout rate last summer. Specifically, he tends to dip with his back shoulder and then force a high finish with his hands, limiting the time his barrel stays in the hitting zone. Plus, Gettys’ fringy pitch recognition and overaggressive approach only amplify his weaknesses and highlight the huge gap between his present ability and potential.

    If Gettys is to come anywhere close to his huge ceiling, then his hit tool will need to be at least serviceable at maturity.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (Potential All-Star)High risk

5. Rymer Liriano, of

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 6/20/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 225 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2007 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4560606050

    Scouting Report

    Rymer Liriano appeared to be on the fast track to the major leagues headed into the 2013 season, but he suffered an elbow injury during the spring that ultimately required season-ending (Tommy John) surgery.

    Fully healthy for 2014, Liriano quickly reminded everyone why he’s been one of the Padres’ top prospects for the last several years, batting .291/.362/.473 with 49 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases in 115 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

    The Padres called up Liriano on Aug. 11 and gave him regular playing time in right field down the stretch, but the 23-year-old was overmatched against big league pitching and batted just .220/.289/.266 with 39 strikeouts in 121 plate appearances.

    Liriano’s plus bat speed and raw power suggest plenty of untapped potential at the plate, although his hit tool is likely to be only average at best. The right-handed hitter keeps his hands inside the ball and has extensive plate coverage, which can work against him at times by generating too many weakly hit outs.

    With plus speed and a strong, accurate arm, Liriano has a clean projection as a right fielder in the major leagues. Unfortunately, his future role with the club is now up in the air after the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, as he’ll likely head back to Triple-A next season for further seasoning.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)Medium risk

4. Trea Turner, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 6/30/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (North Carolina State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Late 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5040705555

    Scouting Report

    Trea Turner, the No. 13 overall pick in last year’s draft, got off to a slow start to begin his professional career, batting just .228 over 23 games in the Short Season Northwest League. But despite his struggles, the Padres still decided to promote Turner to Low-A Fort Wayne in mid-July, which in turn jump-started his bat. During his 46 games at the full-season level, the 21-year-old shortstop batted a robust .369/.447/.529 with 69 hits (22 extra-base hits) and 14 steals. He also hit safely in 35 of those games, highlighted by 22 multihit performances.

    Turner will enter 2015 in an interesting position, as he was traded to the Nationals in December as the "player to be named later" in the three-team deal with the Rays for Wil Myers. However, because he only began his career last June, Turner isn’t eligible to be traded until next June—hence the PTBNL tag.

    At 6’1”, 175 pounds, Turner is an excellent athlete with legitimate plus-plus speed and the defensive chops to stick at shortstop long term. At the plate, the right-handed hitter shows above-average bat speed, but he lacks consistent swing mechanics and at times struggles to make consistent hard contact.

    While Turner’s plate discipline and approach are both highly advanced for his age, the adjustments he makes to his swing in the coming years will ultimately determine whether he reaches his hit-tool ceiling.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (first-division player)Medium risk

3. Matt Wisler, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 9/12/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3’, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Seventh rough, 2011 (Bryan HS, Ohio)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6045605560

    Scouting Report

    Wisler dominated at Double-A San Antonio during the first month of the season, posting a 2.10 ERA and 35-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 30 innings (six starts) en route to an early-season promotion to Triple-A El Paso.

    Though he mostly struggled during his time in the Pacific Coast League, the 22-year-old right-hander was able to finish his season on a positive note, registering a 3.38 ERA and 8.6 K/9 in 48 innings over his final eight starts.

    While his fly-ball and home run tendencies will be less of an issue in the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park, Wisler still hasn’t figured out how to retire left-handed batters, which was evidenced by their collective .279/.333/.462 batting line against him in 2014.

    An athletic and projectable right-hander, Wisler pounds both sides of the plate with a plus fastball in the low to mid-90s and will run it as high as 95-96 mph with lots of late life. His slider is another plus offering and utterly devastating against same-side hitters, thrown with excellent depth and a two-plane break in the 82-87 mph range, and he’ll also mix in a changeup that flashes plus with late dropping action.

    Wisler will probably begin next season back at El Paso, but he’s a safe bet to crack the Padres’ rotation at some point and log meaningful innings in the major leagues.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)Low risk

2. Hunter Renfroe, of

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 1/28/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Mississippi State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5070556050

    Scouting Report

    Renfroe made the most of his assignment to the California League last season, as the 2013 first-round pick batted .295/.370/.565 with 40 extra-base hits (16 home runs) in 316 plate appearances, including a .343/.415/.636 line over his final 34 games. However, the 22-year-old’s aggressive approach and swing-and-miss tendencies hurt his power frequency after a midseason promotion to Double-A San Antonio, as he hit just five home runs in 60 Texas League games.

    Renfroe stands out for his enormous raw power, which produced six home runs in this year's Arizona Fall League, as well as his ability to punish mistakes. However, he also likes to swing (a lot), and therefore is always going to strike out more than desired. But while his approach needs refinement, the 22-year-old has a true knack for getting the barrel to the ball, and he’s just missing a lot of pitches at this point in his career that he won’t in the future.

    While the Padres' acquisitions of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton during the offseason seemingly hurt Renfroe's chances of reaching the major leagues anytime soon, it also gives the club the freedom to develop him more thoroughly in the upper minors over the next year-plus.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (Potential All-Star)Medium risk

1. Austin Hedges, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 8/18/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2011 (JSerra Catholic HS, California)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5540456575

    Scouting Report

    Austin Hedges struggled at the plate last year in his first full season of Double-A baseball, as the 22-year-old posted the second-lowest OPS (.589) among everyday players in the Southern League. However, his overall numbers were weighed down by a rough second half during which he batted .198/.234/.237 with five extra-base hits in 54 games.

    On the other side of the ball, Hedges registered a 38 percent caught-stealing rate last season and committed only six passed balls in 106 games behind the plate. Hedges' defense could make him an everyday player in the major leagues right now; his quickness and footwork efficiency are unparalleled among his peers, while his top-end catch-and-throw skills, insanely quick transfer and plus arm strength allow him to essentially shut down the running game.

    Yet, the right-handed hitter’s bat will ultimately determine whether he reaches his ceiling of an All-Star-caliber catcher, or settles in as a glove-first regular. Power has never been Hedges’ calling card—and probably never will be—though he does have the consistent gap pop to be a doubles machine. His approach was challenged in Double-A in 2014 and led to a career-worst strikeout rate of 19 percent, so it’ll be interesting to see what adjustments he makes next season.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (Potential All-Star)Medium risk

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