2014 Top 10 Prospects: San Diego Padres

The strength of the Padres system is definitely young pitching but many of the arms are still in A-ball. Luckily help will be more readily available from the likes of Matt Wisler and Casey Kelly, both of whom could contribute to the big league roster in 2014. There are also some very intriguing hitting prospects that came to the organization via the international market but they just missed being ranked within the Top 15 prospects in the system.


#1 Austin Hedges | 60/AA (C)

20 401 93 30 4 33 68 8 .262 .333 .392 .326

The Year in Review: Injuries held Hedges to just 86 games played during the regular season but he earned a late-season promotion to Double-A after spending most of the year in A-ball. The young catcher showed solid gap power but not even the potent California League could help him hit more than four home runs in 233 at-bats. He got some extra playing time in after the regular season with 15 appearances in the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Arguably the best all-around defensive catcher in the minors, there isn’t really anything Hedges doesn’t do well behind the plate. He’s the type of backstop that brings out the best in his pitchers and he controls the running game with aplomb. Hedges’ offensive potential is still open for debate, especially since we can’t read too much into his numbers from the California League. Based on his skills, though, he should be able to provide enough offence to justify playing everyday for the benefit of his glove. The good news is that he makes solid contact and doesn’t strike out a ton. Just don’t expect a high on-base percentage or much power.

The Year Ahead: Hedges should return to Double-A to open the 2014 season but could reach Triple-A in the second half — if he’s not pushed all the way to the Majors. Both projected big league backstops (Nick Hundley and Rene Rivera) are probably better suited to back-up or platoon roles.

The Career Outlook: Hedges should receive a taste of big league action by the end of 2014 and could be ready to take over the starting gig in San Diego at the beginning of 2015. He’ll probably never set the world on fire with his bat but the glove is something special.


#2 Matt Wisler | 60/AA (P)

20 26 26 136.0 107 8 8.67 2.18 2.78 2.83

The Year in Review: Drafted out of high school with a seventh round pick in 2011, Wisler had one of the worst debut appearances a pitcher can have (no outs recorded, two hits, two walks, four runs scored) but he then went on to dominate Single-A and Double-A hitters over the next two seasons. In 2013, he made just six appearances in High-A ball before moving up to Double-A where he made another 20 appearances. In total, he pitched 136.0 innings and struck out 131 batters.

The Scouting Report: Wisler has always had plus control but his command has also improved. He features a four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. His best secondary pitch is a potentially-plus slider and he also has a curveball and changeup. Wisler has good size and should be a durable pitcher but he could stand to induce more ground-ball outs by leveraging his height. His splits suggest he needs to improve either his changeup or curveball to help combat left-handed batters.

The Year Ahead: Wisler should move up to Triple-A in 2014 where he’ll look to add a little polish to his overall game before he earns a second-half call-up to The Show.

The Career Outlook: Just 21 years old, Wisler is almost ready for the Majors and could have a long career ahead of him as a No. 2 or 3 starter.


#3 Max Fried | 60/A- (P)

19 23 23 118.2 107 7 7.58 4.25 3.49 3.90

The Year in Review: One of the best left-handed pitching prospects in the game, Fried is quite polished for a teenager with just two pro seasons under his belt. He spent the 2013 season in Low-A ball where he allowed just 107 hits in 118.2 innings of work. He struggled a little more with his control than expected and he issued 56 free passes.

The Scouting Report: Fried does an outstanding job of staying on top of his pitches and pounds the lower half of the zone. Fried’s repertoire includes two potentially plus offerings in his low-to-mid-90s fastball and curveball. His changeup needs more development than the other two pitches but it should be average or better in time. He nibbles more than he needs to given his solid present stuff, which led to the higher walk rate, as well as a lower strikeout rate.

The Year Ahead: Fried will move up to High-A ball in 2014 but he could actually spend more time in Double-A. He could push for a big league promotion by the end of 2015.

The Career Outlook: Fried has the potential to develop into a No. 2 starter with the ability to rack up both strikeouts and ground-ball outs.


#4 Casey Kelly | 55/MLB (P)

22 29.0 8.07 3.10 55.8 % 6.21 4.78 3.86 -0.7 -0.1

The Year in Review: Kelly, 24, pitched at four levels in 2012 but made just 14 appearances while battling with health issues that eventually caused him to undergo Tommy John surgery in early 2013. As a result of the surgery, he did not throw an official pitch last season.

The Scouting Report: Kelly’s above-average athleticism helps him squeeze every ounce of potential out of his pitching tools. His fastball works in the low-90s but its movement and sink generates a plethora of ground-ball outs. His curveball has plus potential and is strikeout pitch for him when he commands it consistently. The changeup could develop into an average offering. Kelly has a solid delivery with minimal effort and his injury took the organization by surprise.

The Year Ahead: Kelly will certainly need some more minor league seasoning once he’s ready to take to the mound in game situations. He should spend the majority of the year in Triple-A. The organization is looking for his stuff to bounce back to pre-surgery levels and won’t be too concerned if he’s not able to make it back to the Majors in 2014.

The Career Outlook: Kelly has the potential to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter if he returns to full health after his elbow injury.


#5 Rymer Liriano | 55/AA (OF)

21 621 159 37 12 47 140 38 .286 .354 .432 .350

The Year in Review: Liriano injured his elbow early in 2013 and underwent ligament replacement surgery, which wiped out his entire season. He attempted to shake off the rust by playing sparingly in the Dominican Winter League.

The Scouting Report: Liriano is a potential four- or five-tool player if he rebounds, as expected, from the injury. The biggest question mark is his power tool. The raw strength is there but he doesn’t always tap into it in game situations and has hit double-digits in home runs just once in three full seasons. Liriano currently generates good gap power and could hit 40 doubles at the big league level. He stole 66 bases in 2011 but his body type suggests he won’t maintain his plus speed for long. Defensively, he has a very strong arm and plays excellent defense.

The Year Ahead: After splitting the 2012 season between High-A and Double-A, Liriano could spend the majority of his season back at the latter level. He’ll look to polish his approach at the plate while making up for lost time.

The Career Outlook: Liriano was by no means a polished product prior to the injury and the missed at-bats could definitely hinder his development. If everything clicks, though, he could develop into an all-star caliber big league right-fielder.


#6 Keyvius Sampson | 55/AAA (P)

22 35 28 152.2 126 14 8.55 3.95 3.36 3.89

The Year in Review: Sampson has been teasing the organization with his potential since being selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. He finally reached Triple-A in 2013 after beginning the year back in Double-A for the season straight season. He made 19 appearances at the lower level and struck out 110 batters in 103.1 innings. He also held batters to a .199 average but was bounced around when he reached Triple-A thanks to both his command and control deserting him. Sampson finished up the year with a strong showing out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Sampson has a solid one-two punch with his low-to-mid-90s heater and potentially-plus slider but the lack of consistent command and control could push him to the ‘pen full-time, perhaps in 2014. He has the stuff to be a high-leverage reliever and his changeup is good enough to give him a weapon to combat tough left-handed hitters. Sampson has been extremely durable over the past three seasons and pitched a career high 141.1 innings in 2013 so it’s possible that San Diego could prefer to keep him in the starting rotation and see if he can develop into a No. 3 starter.

The Year Ahead: Sampson’s starting days could be behind him but, either way, he should open 2013 back in Triple-A. There are few sure things in the Padres’ bullpen — and also a couple question marks in the starting rotation — so he could reach the Majors in the second half of the season, if not sooner.

The Career Outlook: Sampson has the raw stuff to be an eighth-inning reliever and the durability to start but his lack of command could hold him back from developing into a closer or reaching his potential as a starter.


#7 Hunter Renfroe | 55/A- (OF)

21 183 46 14 6 9 49 2 .271 .308 .459 .352

The Year in Review: Renfroe was assigned to the short-season Northwest League after turning pro and he had a solid showing through 25 games. That earned him a promotion to Low-A ball where he struggled to get on base and hit the ball with authority in 18 games.

The Scouting Report: Renfroe, 21, is an interesting prospect for the organization to nab with its first pick (13th overall) given that he’s best tool is his plus raw power and the club plays its home games in a very spacious park. He still needs to show his strength more consistently in games but the bat speed is impressive. He swings and misses a lot, and needs to improve his pitch recognition if he’s going to hit for a high average or produce a solid on-base percentage (He doesn’t walk a ton, either). In the field, Renfroe displays solid range, above-average athleticism and a strong arm that is well suited to right field.

The Year Ahead: Renfroe may jump all the way to High-A to open the 2014 season. If he starts tapping into his power more consistently and puts more wood on the ball (The California League certainly won’t hurt his output), he could see Double-A in the second half.

The Career Outlook: We’re only 43 games into his pro career but the Mississippi State alum looks capable of developing into an average or better corner outfielder with 20+ home run potential.


#8 Joe Ross | 55/A- (P)

20 23 23 122.1 124 7 5.81 2.94 3.75 3.76

The Year in Review: After struggling with injuries in 2012, Ross turned in a healthy season and pitched 122.1 innings. He struggled with his command within the strike zone and allowed too many hits. He also struck out just 79 batters. The right-hander noticeably tired in the second half of the season and needs to get stronger.

The Scouting Report: The younger brother of current big leaguer Tyson Ross, Joe has a higher ceiling. He attacks hitters with a low-to-mid-90s fastball that should sit in the higher range more consistently as he matures. His curveball has the chance to develop into a plus offering, while his changeup could become average. If his shoulder holds up, Ross has the body and athleticism to provide a ton of innings.

The Year Ahead: Ross should move up to High-A ball and will be challenged by the California League. His ground-ball tendencies should help him survive the inflated offensive attacks.

The Career Outlook: Ross could be ready to assume a permanent role in the Majors in 2016 but he still needs to add some polish to his secondary offerings.


#9 Zach Eflin | 55/A- (P)

19 22 22 118.2 110 7 6.52 2.35 2.73 3.40

The Year in Review: The 33rd overall selection in the 2012 amateur draft, Eflin rebounded from a rough April to post solid numbers during his first full pro season. The right-hander pitched 118.2 innings and walked just 31 batters.

The Scouting Report: Elfin has a strong, durable frame that should allow him to provide a plethora of innings. He has yet to take advantage of his height (6’4”) and needs to create a better downward plane on his heater because he puts a lot of balls in play right now. His lack of a consistent breaking ball negatively impacts his ability to miss bats on a consistent basis but both his fastball and changeup are solid offerings — especially when paired with his good control.

The Year Ahead: Eflin, 19, will move up to High-A ball and could potentially taste Double-A action by the end of the season. He’ll look to induce more ground-ball outs although his fly-ball tendencies will be less of an issue thanks to the spacious outfield in his future home park.

The Career Outlook: Eflin has a chance to develop into an innings-eating No. 3 or 4 starter assuming he can polish his breaking ball. If not, he could end up in the bullpen.


#10 Jace Peterson | 50/A+ (SS)

23 496 128 17 7 54 58 42 .303 .382 .454 .371

The Year in Review: Peterson enjoyed his time in the California League by hitting more than .300 with 40 steals and almost as many walks as strikeouts. The former 58th overall draft pick (2010) handled both left- and right-handed pitchers equally well and was fairly consistent through the system. It will be interesting to see if the modest power spike was the result of his maturation as a hitter or a product of his environment.

The Scouting Report: Peterson’s stolen base totals stand out but he’s an average runner with above-average instincts. He’s a good hitter who understands his strengths (and weaknesses). He makes above-average contact, uses the whole field and holds his own against southpaw hurlers. In the field, he’s not flashy but Peterson could stick at shortstop because of his solid range, good actions and average throwing arm.

The Year Ahead: Peterson could be a useful cog for the Padres if third baseman Chase Headley eventually gets traded and an infield shuffle has to take place (with Jedd Gyorko possibly moving over to allow the rookie infielder a spot). Before that happens, though, Peterson will have to prove himself in Double-A and/or Triple-A.

The Career Outlook: Peterson will probably never be a star but he should develop into a solid regular because he can do a little bit of everything despite the lack of a standout tool.

The Next Five:

11. Burch Smith, RHP: Smith dominated the upper levels of the minors but melted down in the Majors due to a lack of command. The right-hander has a chance to be a solid innings-eating No. 4 starter in the Majors but he could be more valuable as a high-leverage reliever. He sits in the low-90s with his heater and flashes a good changeup but the breaking ball is still raw and needs work to become an average offering. He should return to Triple-A to begin the 2014 season but should be one of the first pitchers recalled in the event of an injury or demotion.

12. Dustin Peterson, 3B: Drafted with the 50th pick of the 2013 amateur draft, Peterson’s older brother D.J. was also selected and went to the Mariners with the 12th pick. The Padres’ selection has a chance to develop into a very good hitter, especially if he can tap into average or better power, but like his brother, defense is not the strongest aspect of his game. The Arizona native may eventually move from the hot corner due to a modest arm. A strong spring could vault him to full-season ball and he’s probably about four years away from the Majors.

13. Walker Weickel, RHP: Like Max Friend and Zach Eflin, Weickel was a talented arm acquired by the organization out of the prep ranks during the 2012 amateur draft. The right-hander is not as polished as the two arms that were selected ahead of him but he has a chance to develop into a very talented starting pitcher. Standing 6’6” he can leverage is height to create a downward plane on his heater and, once he commands the ball more consistently, he could get a lot of ground-ball outs. Both his curveball and changeup need polishing and the development of those two offerings could cause a spike in his strikeout rate.

14. Reymond Fuentes, OF: Fuentes entered the 2013 season looking like a shell of his former self but he rekindled the magic while playing at three levels: Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors. He also saw time in the Puerto Rico Winter League during the off-season. The 22-year-old outfielder is a strong defensive player with plus speed and he hits from the left side of the plate. I’m not sold on the fact that he’s a future big league regular but he could develop into a very useful platoon or fourth outfielder.

15. Cory Spangenberg, IF: Like Reymond Fuentes, the jury is still out on Spangenberg’s ability to be a big league regular. Shifted from third to second base, he’s still learning the nuances of the position and could end up as a super-sub capable of playing both the infield and the outfield. His best tool is his plus speed and he has a chance to hit for average, although it will likely be a very hollow average due to his below-average power tool.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Dave S
10 years ago

re: Hedges. Have the Padres given up on Grandal?

RA Rowe
10 years ago
Reply to  Dave S

no, mark just forgot about him