|EVALUATING THE PROSPECTS 2016
The Padres took something that was a tremendous weakness after last offseason’s trade and spending spree, and turned it into a system that can start feeding the next competitive team in San Diego. There isn’t a ton of depth or more than a few high-probability prospects, but there is some upside to which Padres fans can look forward. The Craig Kimbrel trade was a big win, almost enough to wipe away the flop that was the 2015 season (of course, not really).
Two of the prospects that came over in that trade jump right into the 50+ FV group. Everyone agrees Manuel Margot is a legitimate prospect, but I’m a little lower on Javier Guerra, and Carlos Asuaje for that matter. Logan Allen is actually the prospect I’m picking to be the second-best prospect coming out of that deal. Guerra’s power potential isn’t a sure thing in my view, while Allen has the potential to move very quickly despite having been a prep pick just last June.
After last year’s dramatic improvements, I’m buying high on Colin Rea, believing the pitch mix and excellent command keeps him in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Also on this list, I make the case for why Travis Jankowski shouldn’t be dismissed as a fourth outfielder yet, while also acknowledging how much risk there is in Ruddy Giron’s future.
The depth of this system is really in the Quick Hits group. There were probably another 10-15 names I could justify putting there, but I wanted to stay focused on some of the more interesting ones. Their exclusion was less about not believing in their ceilings and more about an attempt to be concise about the prospects I wanted to highlight. It’s not as exciting of an area in which to possess depth, but there are quite a few players that could step up and appear on this list by midseason.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I communicate scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels. If you prefer the traditional methodologies of other publications, I would suggest averaging the latter two grades together to get a semi-optimistic view of where a player projects.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list.
Video courtesy of Baseball America
1. Manuel Margot, CF
Current Level/Age: Double-A/21.5, 5’11/180, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2011 out of Dominican Republic by BOS for $800,000 bonus, traded to SD in November 2015
Previous Rank: 5 (BOS)
Margot’s speed and glove are his most obvious strengths: he’s a legitimate candidate to be one of the best defensive center fielders in the majors with continued improvement of his jumps. His plus-plus raw speed helps him track down just about everything in the gaps. On the bases, he needs work to maximize his abilities, requiring further practice reading pitchers and picking his spots if he is going to continue posting high stolen-base totals.
Margot has steadily hit for a high average every season in his young career, and I see him continuing to do that as he approaches the highest level. He has a strong contact profile and the swing to square up balls even if his timing is not perfect on a given pitch. He still has some work left to do on his plate discipline. Doubles abounded in Salem and Portland for him this past year, and turning those into home runs will hinge on more efficiently using his legs.
He can look too aggressive trying to go get pitches, letting his body drift out on his front foot and causing his swing path to be more down through the ball. It’s possible he develops some true home-run power with his quickness and strength, though these particular features of his swing have been consistent since signing five years ago. Instead, his extra-base hits will likely come from line drives in the gap and down the lines, with the occasional mistake up in the zone going over the fence.
Hit: 50/60/65 Power: 35/40+/50 Run: 55/60/65 Field: 60/65/70 Throw: 50/50/50
2. Hunter Renfroe, OF
Current Level/Age: Triple-A/24.2, 6’1/220, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 13th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Mississippi State by SD for $2.678 million bonus
Previous Rank: 1
Renfroe has the best swing in the system, using his strong lower half and excellent hand path to easily shoot balls into the gaps and over the fence. The homers in the minors haven’t been anything to write home about, but he has steadily produced a high rate of doubles, which will only turn into more dingers as he matures. For the strength he has, it’s a bit surprising to find out he’s also an average runner with above-average fielding ability, and more than enough arm strength to profile as a typical right fielder.
The only real knock against him could end up being a big one if he can’t adjust, which of course is his hit tool. He has some issues making contact, particularly with offspeed offerings, and he hasn’t found an approach that will let him consistently do damage. As it stands, pitchers are able to get him into unfavorable counts fairly frequently, which he can’t afford to allow against major-league pitching.
So, on the one hand, he still has clear ways for advanced pitchers to get him out on a regular basis. On the other, his swing gives him way more room for error than your average prospect, let alone power-hitting prospect. I don’t see how he won’t get to his plus power at least, and I do think he has the potential for an above-average hit tool. Most likely he settles in just below-average, which is the difference between him being a solid regular and an All-Star. I’m hoping he makes a few adjustments to shore up the deficiencies, because Renfroe has the ability to be an absolute terror at the plate if he does.
Hit: 40/45+/55 Power: 50/60/65 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 55/55/55 Throw: 60/60/60
Video courtesy of Major League Baseball
3. Colin Rea, RHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/25.8, 6’5/225, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 383rd overall (12th round) in 2011 out of Indiana State by SD for $65,000 bonus
Previous Rank: Unranked
Rea had some kind of year last season, going from a relative nobody at the start of the year to blowing through Double-A and ending up in the big leagues in August. Despite being a little exposed against big-league hitters, his arsenal held up extremely well, with his three best pitches playing at least average. He has work to do tightening up his secondary pitches, but his command was impressive for a pitcher getting his first taste of major-league lineups.
He knows how to spot his fastball, and showed on numerous occasions last year that he can run his two-seamer back over the plate on his glove side or pound the bottom of the zone for a ground ball. His cutter and curveball both have plus potential, though each requires some TLC to get there. He uses the cutter to keep hitters honest, but if he improves his ability to spot it, a plus grade may be light by a tick. The curve has sharp 12-6 break, though he hasn’t used it to induce swings and misses yet, instead opting for weak contact by dropping it into the zone. Throw in a potential average splitter, and you have an arsenal that can keep any big-league hitter from getting a good piece of the ball.
He’s no super young, hard-throwing hurler who will buckle knees and light up radar guns, but he has advanced pitchability and command of at least his best three pitches. Give him another year and he could be a late-blooming mid-rotation starter with even more upside. He has a clean delivery and great arm action, so despite pushing 26 years old, Rea could end up being the best pitching prospect coming out of the Padres’ system over the next couple years.
Fastball: 50/55/55+ Curveball: 50/55/60 Cutter: 55/55/60 Splitter: 45/45/50 Command: 50/55/60
4. Logan Allen, LHP
Current Level/Age: Low-A/18.8, 6’3/200, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 231st overall (8th round) in 2015 out of IMG Academy by BOS for $725,000 bonus, traded to SD in November 2015
Previous Rank: NA
The Red Sox did well to grab Allen in the eighth round this past June, as a young, relatively polished lefty with good pitchability. His control is ahead of his command, though that control extends to all three pitches for strikes. He has an easy delivery with a consistent release, and his curve in particular shows some promise for the future. His development will hinge on commanding his arsenal to be able to get more advanced hitters out, as he will likely move fast through the lower levels by virtue of his strike-throwing alone. His ability to repeat his delivery at a young age bodes well for his command improvements.
Fastball: 45/50/55 Curveball: 45/55/60 Changeup: 35/45/50 Command: 45/55/60
Lost in the shuffle of Jankowski’s 2015 performance was the best gap-power production of his professional career. He’s never going to be a big home-run hitter, but he has enough bat speed and athleticism in the box to expect some growth in his ability to drive the ball. He is still a contact and speed guy first, and his swing plane for sure is geared toward low line drives rather than getting a lot of carry on the ball, but don’t sleep on his offensive potential.
Even if he comes up short of the power grades I have here, the rest of his kit is balanced enough that a solid to plus outfield profile is not out of his reach. If his skills stay where they’re at, he already has the skills to be an excellent supporting player who fits perfectly in the Padres’ expansive outfield with his plus-plus raw speed.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 35/35-40/40+ Run: 60/60/65 Field: 55/55+/60 Throw: 40/40/45
I wasn’t a huge fan of Gettys coming out of the draft, with his frantic swings and obvious swing-and-miss tendencies. Even though 2015 was a dud season for him, I actually feel a bit more confident in his ability to figure some things out now that a few adjustments have been made. He got rid of the reaching stride and hip slide that made him so off-balance as an amateur against good offspeed pitches. Relatedly, he smoothed out his hand path to now have a consistent line drive/fly ball-oriented approach that will help him tap into his raw power.
With a number of concerns on the physical side having been addressed, it now comes down to how well his vision and pitch-tracking adjust to the better professional pitches he’s facing. He doesn’t have to produce much with the bat to be worth a fortune, with the potential for plus-plus baserunning and fielding tools. It’s too early to give up on him yet, and hopefully 2016 is the year we can start to see the necessary in-game improvements he will need to compete against higher competition.
Hit: 20/35/45 Power: 30/50/55 Run: 60/65/70 Field: 60/60+/65 Throw: 70/70/75
A year after the awkward and confusing draft incident with the Astros, Nix was taken in the third round last June and got his career started with the Padres. He threw very well in the Rookie-level Arizona League, to be expected given his present command and a solid-average fastball with good life. Both his curveball and changeup have above-average potential, though sources are split on which one they think will end up being the better offering.
Though Nix comes in with a pretty high floor for only being two years out of high school, he isn’t without some mechanical and consistency issues. His deliberate timing and below-average rotational sequencing leave his arm having to do more work than it should, resulting in a variable feel for his release. He is athletic enough to put most of his individual pitches where he wants to, but every few he uncorks one that ends up nowhere near its intended target.
The mechanical issue is likely to stay the same, but improving his timing and tempo could allow him the upside to stay in the rotation. Because of how it affects his feel for his secondary pitches, I’m more inclined to project him as a solid reliever or fifth starter in the big leagues. With the right alterations, however, he has mid-rotation upside.
Fastball: 50+/55/60 Curveball: 45/50/50+ Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/45/50
Giron followed up a rough debut season with an excellent second year. He batted .285 with a .122 ISO and 15 steals, all while playing against much older competition in the Single-A Midwest League as an 18-year-old. His defense and base-stealing both need a lot of work to reach their potential, as evidenced by the 24 errors and 14 times caught stealing in 96 games. Long term, he likely ends up at second or third, where his fringy footwork and hands have less ground to make up over the next couple years to be proficient.
On the offensive side, the fact that he held his own against a league that was on average three-and-a-half years older is impressive in its own right. Most importantly for his future production was the excellent contact rate and the early signs of good plate discipline for a young hitter. Though he’s projected to fill out physically, he loses a lot of power he could have with his great bat speed due to a level to downward path and swinging across the ball. His power is and will be limited to the pull side on pitches in and/or up unless he’s able to make sizable adjustments.
Similar to Guerra below, Giron’s bat may not be good enough to carry him into a starting role, especially since he doesn’t have the defensive skill to make up for it like Guerra does. Even still, the extra value he can create with his legs and the better projection of his hit tool get him to be a likely platoon mate or solid bench guy, with similar upside to Guerra if things click.
Hit: 30/50/55 Power: 25/40/45 Run: 45/50/50 Field: 45/50/50+ Throw: 60/60/60
9. Enyel De Los Santos, RHP, Low-A
The Padres were ecstatic to receive an arm with De Los Santos’ upside in the Joaquin Benoit deal, and will now hope he can turn his raw stuff and strike-throwing ability into some polish and true command. He is a few years away from even sniffing his ceiling, but a mid-90s fastball and two potential above-average secondary pitches is a fantastic place to start.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 40/45/50+ Changeup: 40/50/55 Command: 40/45/45-50
Lamet has the raw stuff to blow away inexperienced hitters, so him carving through A-ball in 2015 may not have been a huge developmental step for him, but at least it was proof of concept. He throws in the mid-90s with what some grade as a future plus slider. The lack of a projectable third pitch, poor command and some effort and direction issues in his delivery scream reliever, and he turns 24 in July. He did manage to throw 105.1 innings last year, so there’s no reason to move him off the starter path until you have to. Even future relievers can use the extra reps.
Fastball: 55/60/65+ Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 35/40/40+ Command: 40/40/45
Blash’s strengths and weaknesses are pretty apparent at this point. High strikeouts, high walks and a lot of power with a left-field defensive profile. If his walk rate gets him to a league-average on-base percentage, he’s easily a regular outfielder. If not, he’s a valuable bench bat who can kill lefties. A fine gamble for the Padres to make.
Hit: 45/45/50 Power: 60/60/60 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 45/45/45 Throw: 55/55/55
Despite Guerra’s below-average running speed, he has exceptional range that is amplified by his ability to stay fluid and under control at the far reaches of his range. His soft hands and quick release will allow him to play up the middle even if he loses a step as he matures. One source with whom I spoke has him higher than a 60 fielder right now. His present grade here is limited by my desire to see more of him defensively, but the actions he demonstrates lead me to believe there’s room to go up a tick or two.
On offense, Guerra had a breakout season last year in the South Atlantic League, showing off respectable power and a solid average. The strikeouts may only be a yellow flag at this juncture, but it does keep me from being comfortable giving him higher than a below-average hit tool for his likely grade. His swing is short to the ball, which may help him hone his contact profile, but it does not lend itself to generating much power except for on mistakes up in the zone. He has the bat speed but lacks the consistent use of his legs to drive the ball.
He looked more in control of his at-bats later in the season than previous years, but there is still a sizable chance his hitting will not develop enough for him to be a starting-caliber middle infielder. I will bank on his defense carrying him much further than his offense, resulting in a possible utility role or platoon starter.
Hit: 35/45/50 Power: 35/40/40+ Run: 45/40/45 Field: 60/60+/65 Throw: 60/60/60
Defensively, Rondon is legit. After seeing a decent amount of his work at short, he strikes me as a defender who makes things look easy because he’s never in a rush. Quick feet and transfers make difficult plays more routine, and a slightly limited range is maximized by his technique and excellent movement before and after a catch. Put him on a big-league field for a season and I think he proves he’s right there with the guys who have flashier kits.
Double-A pitching really overmatched Rondon over a meager 107 plate appearances, which isn’t enough to really draw many conclusions in itself. However, combined with his tendency to spin out with his hips and expose himself to weak contact against even average offspeed pitches, and now you have something to temper expectations. Therein also lies the biggest limiting factor for future power development. His hit tool still could scale well regardless because of his excellent hands and great contact skills.
His ultimate role is all about where his hit tool ends up. I’m hedging a bit to see if he shows some improvement against Double-A pitching this season.
Hit: 35/45+/55 Power: 25/30/35+ Run: 50/50/55 Field: 55/60/60+ Throw: 55/55/55
Dickerson comes up just short projecting as a regular given his defensive skill set, even though I think his bat is solid. When he times up the pitch, he has a great entry deep in the zone, giving him a lot of room for error to hit the ball hard. He never quite takes the next step to create any lift from such a good start, instead finishing level through the ball.
Though it’s much improved in the last year, but he still has the tendency to go out and get the ball, which basically ensures his hit tool won’t play at the same level as during the last couple years in the minors. To be starter quality, he needs more of his plate discipline to translate than expected or to create more lift with his swing.
Hit: 50/50/55 Power: 45/45/45-50 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 45/45/45 Throw: 50/50/50
Smith has big potential with his fastball, having the chance to sit in the mid-90s with hard-boring run. He has a thick core without much flexibility, which affects everything from his command to the potential for secondary offering consistency. To make up for the tight kink in the delivery chain, he sometimes overrotates his hips to get to release, and almost always stiff-arms the ball with a lot of recoil in his follow through.
His changeup and curve show flashes of being above-average, but the current state of his physique and the potential for more clunkiness as his body matures cap the realistic ceiling on each pitch. His fastball gives him a possible future as a high-leverage reliever, but he’s a long ways away from even that.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Curveball: 40/45/45-50 Changeup: 35/40/45 Command: 40/40/45
16. Jose Torres, LHP, High-A
Torres came over as part of the Yonder Alonso deal with the A’s. He has a strong low- to mid-90s fastball from the left side to go with a fringy breaking ball and below-average changeup. He threw more strikes and saw an uptick in his strikeout rate last year, and he could be a decent bullpen option for the big-league club as soon as this year.
Fastball: 55/55/60 Slider: 45/50/50 Changeup: 35/40/40 Command: 40/45/45
Lloyd appeared as Cistulli’s Guy on the Padres list last season, as well, when said list was the province of human reggaeton horn Kiley McDaniel. At that point, Lloyd was a pitcher who lacked both (a) raw arm speed and (b) youth relative to his level, but who had nevertheless recorded impressive strikeout rates as a professional. He appears here again for almost precisely the same reasons.
Recording the majority of his appearances as a starter, a 24-year-old Lloyd produced strikeout and walk rates of 23.8% and 7.0%, respectively, in the High-A California League last season. The velocity appears to have remained the same, high-80s and low-90s, as does the presence of a splitter that serves as very, very, very definitely his best pitch.
Here’s footage, courtesy handsome matador Steve Fiorindo, of Lloyd using that same split-finger fastball to strike out five consecutive batters (and then a sixth batter with some manner of 87 mph pitch that ideally isn’t a fastball but might be a fastball) this past year:
Lower-level hitters: C Austin Allen was the top pick out of the Division II college ranks with some projection in his bat but is a work in progress behind the plate. His power is well ahead of his hit tool. One to keep an eye on, but nothing to get excited about yet. OF Franmil Reyes (VIDEO) has some raw power and overall athletic ability, but his power is only good for doubles right now and his hit tool is very raw.
Upper-level pitchers: RHP Cory Mazzoni (VIDEO) has had some success coming out of the bullpen since joining the Padres’ minor-league ranks. He has a hard fastball and middling secondary stuff, but he throws enough strikes to hopefully get a shot. RHP Tayron Guerrero (VIDEO) is a monster on the mound standing at 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds with the high-90s fastball to match. The problem is a lack of a reliable second pitch and any semblance of command, owing to poor body control of his large frame. RHP Luis Perdomo put together a nice season in the Cardinals org before being plucked by the Rockies in the Rule 5 draft and sent to the Padres. He has a good fastball and average-ish curve and change; could throw some meaningful innings in the bullpen. In the middle of his third year in High-A, RHP Rafael De Paula (VIDEO) finally made the switch to the bullpen. He still has a good fastball and above-average changeup, but his command will need to improve or his stuff play up out of the pen to be a reliable option there.
Lower-level pitchers: RHP Jean Cosme is a young kid with a loose arm and a fastball at 92-95, combined with a good changeup and breaking ball. He’s raw and undeveloped, with just OK control and command that lags behind. RHP Yimmi Brasoban struck out over a batter per inning after converting fully to the bullpen in A-ball. He could have a future in the big-league pen if he can continue missing bats. As college pitchers are wont to do, RHP Phil Maton dominated Low-A out of the bullpen with a fringy four-pitch mix, and should get a look in a rotation this year.