Evaluating the Prospects: San Diego Padres by Kiley McDaniel December 31, 2014 Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres & Marlins Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6 Amateur Coverage: 2015 Draft Rankings, 2015 July 2 Top Prospects & Latest on Yoan Moncada This list was gutted by five deals over an 12-day period earlier this month by new general manager A.J. Preller. He generally turned minor league pieces into big league pieces and these deals included 11 guys that would’ve been on this list: Trea Turner, Max Fried, Zach Eflin, Joe Ross, Joe Wieland, Mallex Smith, Jace Peterson, R.J. Alvarez, Johnny Barbato, Jake Bauers and Dustin Peterson, in that order. Jesse Hahn would’ve been on the growth assets list and Burch Smith may have snuck on the end of the list but would likely be one of the last cuts, appearing in the others of note section. The lack of depth in the list below is understandable as a slightly above average system became a slightly below average one in the last month or so. Padres sources were quick to point out that only Justin Upton and Shawn Kelley were one-year assets, so this isn’t an all-in sort of move, but more of a reorganizing of the assets. It’s interesting that the Rangers, where Preller worked until recently, have a reputation of not wanting to part with any prospects in trades. Preller came into a situation in San Diego where he didn’t sign any of the players he had and he immediately shipped one-third of the legitimate prospects out within a couple months, with no list-worthy prospects coming back in these deals. That’s somewhat misleading, as Preller’s job is to win big league games and a farm system exists to improve the big league team, but it’s interesting to note the contrast in styles. Another big topic that came up on all my calls for this list was the recent history of Padres pitching prospects getting hurt. There have been somewhat recent Tommy John surgeries for Casey Kelly, Max Fried, Joe Wieland and Cory Luebke (twice) among the legitimate prospects, but the team has no explanation for why they’ve been hit harder than others. Padres execs detailed a study to me that was commissioned to answer this question and there were no common factors across the injuries and there didn’t appear to be problems with their throwing programs. It appears to just be rolling snake eyes a few more times than everyone else did, through random bad luck. Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool. Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number. Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the growth assets that the Padres have in the majors that aren’t eligible for the list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next in the series are the Marlins and Braves. Big League Growth Assets 1. Wil Myers, RF, Age 24, FV: 60 2. Andrew Cashner, RHP, Age 28, FV: 60 3. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Age 24, FV: 55 4. Cory Luebke, LHP, Age 29, FV: 50 5. Yonder Alonso, 1B, Age 27, FV: 50 6. Odrisamer Despaigne, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45 7. Tim Federowicz, C, Age 27, FV: 45 8. Tommy Medica, 1B, Age 26, FV: 45 (Video) Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron No one has had a more surprising winter, and while it’s debatable whether the Padres will be good in 2015, their season should at least be interesting to watch. The moves to improve the team’s short-term outlook depleted a significant amount of organizational depth and some of their financial flexibility, but both tradeoffs can be justified if the team is actually competitive in 2015. If the team’s offense-first approach doesn’t work, though, it’s not entirely clear when the Padres might be good again, because this is no longer a young team on the rise. This is now a team built for the present. 50+ FV Prospects 1. Hunter Renfroe, RF Current Level/Age: AA/22.9, 6’1/210, R/R Drafted: 13th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Mississippi State by SD for $2.678 million bonus Hit: 30/50+, Raw Power: 65/65, Game Power: 30/60, Run: 55/55, Field: 45/50+, Throw: 60/60 Scouting Report: Renfroe has a unique and interesting backstory that seems like it comes from a movie, with a couple scouts mentioning that he’s a Paul Bunyan-type character. Renfroe went to a small school in Mississippi, graduating with about 40 kids in his class and he was predictably the best athlete, playing multiple sports but not really focusing much on baseball specifically. He went to Mississippi State and moved positions while he really struggled to make contact in limited at-bats. Renfroe was a catcher at one point (with pop times in the 1.7s, or easily plus plus) and also was an arm strength reliever that sat 93-96 and hit 98 mph, but with little command. He broke out in the summer after his sophomore year in the largely unscouted Cal Ripken League, then demolished the SEC (.345/.416/.620, 16 homers in 66 games) as a junior en route to going in the middle of the first round. Adding to the legend, there is a persistent story about Renfroe that I first heard when I saw him play in Starkville; every scout I’ve asked has heard it as well but Renfroe refuses to confirm it. The story is that on at least one occasion, Renfroe chased down a deer in a meadow on foot, then ate it that night. There’s also a story from Padres people that the Dominican players were marveling at how effectively Renfroe would chase and catch giant spiders at the Padres complex during Dominican instructs. Whether those stories are true or not, his first name appears to be apt, with one scout calling his hitting approach “hunt and hammer.” He has easy plus raw power that has changed from pull-only as an amateur to more of an all-field approach as a pro, though he still gets pull happy at times. One Padres official compared his quick-twitch, late-blooming plus bat speed, plus power profile to Nelson Cruz. One big difference is that Renfroe will turn in plus run times to first base on close plays, to go with his plus arm in right field. He occasionally plays center field in the minors and can fill in there if needed in the majors. Given his short track record of success at the plate and some issues with plate discipline, some scouts are skeptical, with one saying that we aren’t sure that Renfroe isn’t Jeff Francoeur. He’s made adjustments so far at each level, with a half season in Double-A late in 2014 his only pro failure, which was then followed by a scorching-hot Arizona Fall League. On short looks and particularly late last year in Double-A, Renfroe can look bad against advanced pitching, with higher effort swings causing his mechanics to break down at times. The Padres are confident that from seeing all of his at bats and knowing his athleticism and makeup that he will continue to make adjustments at the plate. Summation: With some looseness to his approach and a short track record of success, this gives Renfroe some risk but also more upside, since we don’t really know his limits yet. The Padres are all-in on this kid and suggested that if he keeps hitting like he did in the Fall League that he could be an everyday option late in 2015. With Justin Upton leaving after 2015, Renfroe appears to be the preferred choice to take his spot in 2016. Upside: .275/.345/.475, 25 homers, solid average base running and defense FV/Risk: 55, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale) Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB Video Credit to Scott Lucas 2. Matt Wisler, RHP Current Level/Age: AAA/22.3, 6’3/195, R/R Drafted: 233rd overall (7th round) in 2011 out of Ohio HS by SD for $500,000 bonus, Agency: Sosnick Sports Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 55/60, Curveball: 45/45+, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50 Scouting Report: While Wisler isn’t the tall tale type character that Renfroe is, he has plenty of it factor and makeup to his credit as well. To pitch at the Padres pre-draft workout in San Diego, Wisler flew to the west coast from Ohio and pitched the day after he threw in a playoff game, hitting 91 mph at PETCO Park. Teams were scared by his signability, but the Padres inked him for $500,000 just before the season ended. He threw a few innings, but then came to camp in 2013 looking like a completely different pitcher. Wisler works 91-94, touching 95 mph with sink and commands the pitch to both sides of the plate. His two-plane slider is plus, his changeup is above average at times and he also works in a fringy curveball. Scouts rave about his makeup and strike throwing abilities, though his command isn’t quite big league ready, as he ran into trouble in the hitter-friendly PCL leaving the ball up the zone. Some scouts think his build is too slight and that he won’t be able to hold up for 200 innings, with a couple suggested he may end up as a late-inning reliever. The consensus is that he should be able to handle 180 innings as a third or fourth starter. He hasn’t really hit the bumps in development yet that most young pitchers go through, but he did sulk for a few weeks after not breaking with the big league team in 2014, and carried a bad last spring training appearance with him to Triple-A for a few starts. The Padres think his mental maturity progressed after having to deal with the PCL for a season, and he has a chance to grab an MLB rotation spot to open 2015. Summation: It was a toss-up between Renfroe and Wisler for the #1 spot, with a 50-50 split among scouts I talked to. The consensus is that Renfroe is higher upside and riskier, with one source saying he prefers Wisler by a good margin for that reason. The recently-traded Jesse Hahn was the team’s fourth starter, so now there are two open spots to claim between Despaigne, Erlin, Luebke, Wisler and Kelly, with Luebke and Kelly getting their first action after Tommy John surgery. This could give Wisler a real chance to break with the club, but he’s expected to head back to Triple-A at least initially. FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, Low (2 on 1-5 scale) Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB Trea Turner, SS Current Level/Age: Lo-A/21.5, 6’1/175, R/R Drafted: 13th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of North Carolina State by SD for $2.9 million bonus, Agency: CAA Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 40/40, Game Power: 20/40, Run: 70/70, Field: 50/55, Throw: 55/55 Note: As I tweeted after Turner’s name came up in the rumors around the Myers deal, he became eligible to be traded on December 13th, which was exactly 6 months after he signed his draft contract on June 13th. A player-to-be-named-later can be in question for up to 6 months and a drafted player has to wait until one year after he signs his contract to be traded. Turner will play for the Padres organization until June 13th, 2015, then will be shipped to the Nationals. Since he’s technically Padres property, I’ll list him here, but I won’t rank him since he’s already been traded. Scouting Report: Turner is polarizing but more because he hasn’t played much in pro ball and he had a bad draft year at North Carolina State. Scouts with history back to his underclass years with the Wolfpack (the above video is chronological and starts in his sophomore year and with Team USA later that summer) are more optimistic because they saw the good version of Turner and know that a mechanical adjustment can explain almost all of his offensive struggles. Turner had a couple minor leg injuries and then spread his feet too far apart, probably to generate more power, which caused his base to be weak and collapse at contact, undermining his natural bat control. He made the adjustment weeks before the draft and everything seemed in order in pro ball. Turner taps into his raw power in games when he’s making hard contact and he could be an 8-12 homer guy at maturity, but that isn’t really a big part of his game, more of a perk when he’s making lots of contact. With a full season in 2015 of solid performance, I would likely adjust Turner’s hit grade up at least one notch, as I’m already on the optimistic side right now versus scouts who only saw him struggle with Team USA and early in his draft spring. Turner was a late bloomer that was largely unscouted in high school until very late in his senior spring and he played third base his freshman year in college. He slid over to shortstop as a sophomore and eventually settled in to where his hands, instincts and actions are enough to be average at the position and his 55 arm is enough to make the play in the hole. Due to some of those minor leg injuries, Turner’s 80 speed is now more of a 70 in game situations, but that difference is tough to notice unless you’re using a stopwatch. Summation: The Padres were pleasantly surprised that Turner was on the board for them at 13th overall last summer and worked out an above slot deal to make sure he’d make it though those last couple picks ahead of them. He’ll start in A-Ball next year but could be a quick mover if he reverts to his 2013 form in 2015. Upside: .280/.350/.420, 10-12 homers, plus plus base running, solid average defense FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale) Projected Path: 2015: Hi-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA, 2017: AAA/MLB 3. Austin Hedges, C Current Level/Age: AA/22.4, 6’1/200, R/R Drafted: 82nd overall (2nd round) in 2011 out of California HS by SD for $3 million bonus, Agency: Boras Corp Hit: 20/40, Raw Power: 50/50, Game Power: 20/40, Run: 40/40, Field: 60/65, Throw: 70/70 Scouting Report: Hedges is a polarizing prospect. Some of the comments on his bat from people outside the organization have not been kind. “It could be really light…I started to get nervous about the bat and wondered if he was even a big league backup” and “He’s more like Drew Butera than people want to admit” are not good places to start. But that’s the beautiful thing about about catcher offense. Last year, Welington Castillo hit .237/.296/.389 with 13 homers in 417 PA, good for a 91 wRC+ (meaning that, at the plate, he was 9% below league average, adjusted for park and league) and racked up 2.2 WAR, a solid average regular (2.0 to 2.5 WAR is the range for a 50 FV). This happened because Castillo was +7.4 runs defensively with a +7.9 run positional adjustment because he’s a catcher (the adjustment goes higher the more games you catch). For those new to the WAR calculation, those two defensive numbers combine for 15.3 runs, which converts to about 1.5 wins in the WAR calculation, or about 75% of Castillo’s total value. In scouting terms, this means a 40 hitter with 45 game power and 60 defense/arm is a 50 FV, if he plays anything close to a full season behind the plate. I point all of this out because the logic behind figuring out the FV for a catching prospect with a light bat isn’t easy. Scouts don’t think Hedges will hit much at all and point to his awkward and changing swing, with a leg kick and load that are sometimes slight and sometimes don’t exist. Hedges is one of the best defensive catchers to come through the minors in years, with easy plus defense and a plus plus arm, so scouts are pegging him as one of those +7.5 to +10 run defensive catchers and if he ends up being a framing dynamo as some expect, you will see him compared to Yadier Molina. Scouts that believe in Hedges point to this comparison and say that Molina and Hedges both didn’t focus on hitting much in the minors and that’s because they were both rushed through the minors due to their precocious defense. Scouts have speculated and other sources have confirmed that Hedges wasn’t focusing much on his hitting this year, since he knows his glove is his meal ticket. If you look at Molina’s minor league stats, he never struggled at the plate, much less anything close to what Hedges just experienced, so the comp is ridiculous if taken completely literally. Those in an out of the organization expect the offensive performance to pick up, but the bat speed isn’t great and he wore down in the Texas heat this year, looking even more sluggish later in the year. Hedges has 50 raw power and could choose to sell out for power, maybe hitting .220 with 15-20 homers and doing a version of what Mike Zunino did in 2014 (.199 AVG, 22 HR), but there are still adjustments that need to be made to do that and maybe he can’t even do that. Summation: It’s hard to bet on a guy “learning” how to hit in the big leagues, but the ceiling is enormous if Hedges can get hit hit tool to creep into the 40-50 range. Even if he never comes close to that, Hedges is likely one of the top 30 catchers in the big leagues at some point in the next couple years without much improvement. Upside: .260/.335/.410, 15 homers, plus plus defense FV/Risk: 50, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale) Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB 45 FV Prospects 4. Rymer Liriano, RF Video: Liriano is 6’0 and around 230 lbs. with a linebacker build and above average to plus raw power, solid average speed and an above average arm, despite a 2013 Tommy John surgery. He got a big league cup of coffee in 2014 and fits best in right field, but can play all three outfield positions if he ends up as a 4th outfielder. That checks all of the boxes except for making contact and that’s where Liriano struggles. The approach isn’t awful; he’s always walked a decent amount and is a late-count guy that strikes out a good bit, but not excessively. Liriano chases spin off the plate a bit too much, can get caught between a power and contact approach, can be passive at times and his indecision can lead to mechanical inconsistency. He’s had adjustment periods at his last few minor league stops, so he may need another year in Triple-A, but he should contribute to the big league team in some way next year. 5. Michael Gettys, CF Video: Gettys is one of the most electrifying prospects in the minors. He has plus plus bat speed, running speed and arm strength to go with above average raw power and defensive ability; he has also hit 95 mph with an above average curveball on the mound. Gettys was very easy to identify as a top prep prospect but he slipped to the 2nd round last summer because of his struggles with the bat. The bat speed gives him big margin for error, but Gettys has had trouble identifying spin at times, though it appears to be influenced by him pressing and guessing from draft year pressure, rather than a struggle with a true vision/identification issue. The finish to his swing is abrupt, which the Padres think they can slowly fix and keep him in the zone longer; this stance is helped by their raves about his makeup. Gettys also appeared to struggle versus poor high school pitching and then things would snowball, all coming from the disrupted timing of his huge bat speed; that’s common for elite prep bats, with recent examples like Clint Frazier and Addison Russell. If Gettys just adopts a contact-only approach and is only a 30 bat, he still may have enough value to be a big league backup due to his speed and defense, but the ceiling is enormous and Gettys draws physical comparisons to Mike Trout. He impressed offensively and defensively after signing and has the tools to shoot up lists next year with a big full season debut. 6. Jose Rondon, SS Video: Rondon was acquired from the Angels in the Huston Street deal and hit better than league average in High-A as a 20-year-old shortstop last year. He’s very thin at 6’1/160, but scouts already see some strength in his wrists and enough width in his frame to add the weight for the necessary power. He’s a slick defender that’s an solid average runner with good range, plus defense and an above average arm. Projections from scouts rely on where they think the body and bat end up, ranging from Cesar Izturis to Edgar Renteria, but Rondon will be in Double-A next year, so we’re getting close to finding out the answer. 7. Casey Kelly, RHP Video: Kelly has been famous for awhile, as the Red Sox 1st rounder in 2008 out of powerhouse Sarasota high school that signed for a well over slot $3 million bonus. Kelly’s father is former big league infielder Pat Kelly and his brother Chris reached Double-A with the Reds before becoming an area scout in Florida for the Padres. Kelly was a top level athlete that was a quarterback commit for Tennessee and was a top round prospect as a shortstop, which he played a few years in the Red Sox system before they convinced him to head to the mound full-time. Kelly was traded with Anthony Rizzo in a package for Adrian Gonzalez in December of 2010. Kelly looked ticketed to be in the middle of the Padres rotation before a 2013 Tommy John surgery erased that season and tightness during rehab stints in 2014 shut him shortly after he got back on the mound. His rehab has gone well this off-season and Kelly is expected to go into spring training battling for a rotation spot out of camp. At his best, Kelly had a plus sinker that hit 97 mph and a plus curveball to go with at least an average changeup and command from a sturdy 6’3/210 frame and an athletic delivery. A more physical Matt Wisler is the best case outcome here, but no one knows what to expect. 8. Cory Spangenberg, 2B Video: Spangenberg was a below-slot bonus guy at 10th overall in 2011 in the pick that was compensation for not signing Karsten Whitson the year before. He was a first round talent as a second baseman with an advanced lefty bat with plus bat speed and easy plus running speed. Spangenberg is still that guy, but he hasn’t made much defensive progress, so he’s only fringy at second base and he’s also had trouble integrating power into his all-fields game swings. Those two things combine to make him a likely utility fit in the big leagues, which is tough since he can’t play shortstop, but Spangenberg can play just about everywhere else on the field. He got his first taste of the big leagues late last year and should contribute in a bigger way this season. 40 FV Prospects 9. Taylor Lindsey, 2B Video: Lindsey was acquired from the Angels in a package with Rondon and Morris in the Street trade last summer. He’s similar to Spangenberg and has a good bit more game power, but is a below average runner with a swing that isn’t as smooth. Lindsey is an aggressive early count hitter than can hang with good pitching and is a little better defensively than Spangenberg, grading as average at second base. Lindsey is also in that same weird fit as Spangenberg as a backup second baseman since the bat is a little light, making him a utility fit that doesn’t play shortstop. He’ll head to Triple-A in 2015 and could be a big league option if he hits better in his second shot at the level; one scout said he’s at least former-Padres Eric Sogard, but there’s hope Lindsey can be more. 10. Franchy Cordero, 3B Video: Cordero played shortstop this year as a 6’3/175, lefty hitting 19-year-old in the short season Northwest League. He performed well and was young for the league, but still needs to tighten up his strike zone. As he fills out, Cordero is expected to shift over to third base, with some suggesting he may even still move to right field. Cordero projects for above average raw power, is an average runner and has an above average arm. If he can be more patient at the plate, there’s a chance for an above average regular at third base, but there’s still a long way to go. 11. Travis Jankowski, CF Video: Jankowski won the Cape Cop League batting title the summer before his draft year, throwing him right into the middle of the conversation for the top 50 picks. He ended up going 44th overall after concerns about his swing plane and mechanics continued and those concerns have been well-founded in pro ball. Jankowski can get uphill in his swing at times and his swing is somewhat awkward, but he offers big league value as a 70 runner that plays a nice center field and can steal bases. A unexpected issue he’s had in pro ball is tapping into his 10-12 homer raw power in games, hitting only 2 homers in his pro career so far due to an all field spray approach. Scouts are hoping for a 4th outfielder speed/defense fit as the expectation on the bat potential have lowered. 12. Justin Hancock, RHP Video: Hancock gives scouts two looks, so takes on him vary based on what version scouts saw of him. At his best, Hancock sits 92-94 mph with an above average to plus changeup and an average breaking ball with enough command to project as a back-end starter. On other days, the off-speed and command is more fringy than average and he looks like a Burch Smith-type swing man or middle reliever. He’ll go to Double-A or Triple-A next year and with some consistency could turn into a big league option by the end of the year. 13. Tayron Guerrero, RHP Video: Guerrero is an imposing figure to face late in games, as the 6’7 righty regularly hits 100 mph. As many young pitchers with long frames do, Guerrero has some trouble coordinating his limbs consistently to repeat his delivery and throw strikes, but he flashes a plus slider when it all comes together. He’ll likely get to Double-A at some point next year and if he can throw consistent strikes, he could be a late inning possibility for 2016. 14. Elliot Morris, RHP Video: Morris went in the 4th round in 2013 to the Angels out of a Washington junior college and he was traded to the Padres in the Huston Street last summer. The 6’4/210 righty has moved to High-A at age 22 in his full-season debut and has the stuff to be a big league contributor. Morris had Tommy John surgery in his past and his command limits him the bullpen for most scouts. That said, he has the stuff to start, with a plus fastball up to 96 mph, an above average slider and an average changeup. His ultimate role is likely as a 7th or 8th inning guy with enough stuff to go multiple innings if needed, but some are holding out hope he could be a back-end starter. 15. Fernando Perez, 3B Video: Perez was a 3rd rounder in 2012 out of an Arizona JC and has a broad set of solid tools, but some questions about his positional fit. He started at second base, where he’s fringy at best and Perez is slightly better at third base, but not a lock to stick there in pro ball, with first base possibly the eventual fit. Perez has solid average raw power from the left side with some feel to hit and he performed surprisingly well as a 20-year-old in Low-A last year. There’s a chance he’s an everyday player, with one scout saying there’s a little bit of Rio Ruiz to him (but with much less conviction about the bat), with a better chance he’s more of a corner utility type. 16. Zech Lemond, RHP Video: Lemond is another talented arm to come from Rice, but as expected comes with concerns about injuries. He was totally clean coming into 2014 as he had been a reliever until then, but then missed time with arm soreness in the middle of the spring. It came out later that Lemond had been telling his skipper about soreness for weeks until he was finally shelved when his stuff backed up. Every team I’ve talked to knew this story, which explains why a sandwich round talent slipped to the 3rd round. Lemond has been up to 98 mph late in games with a slider and changeup that both flash above average at times, but they’re both inconsistent and he’s more of a control over command guy right now. He’ll go out this year as a starter and if he puts up a full healthy season with his best stuff, he’ll rocket up this list. 17. Gabriel Quintana, 3B Video: Quintana strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk much, but has otherwise performed pretty well while being young for his league. He has an advanced feel for the barrel from the right side with average bat speed and power potential, but above average hitting ability. Quintana is a fringy runner with fringy defense at third base that could push him to a corner outfield spot, but the bat is the carrying tool here. 18. Ryan Butler, RHP Video: Butler is a 6’4/230 workhorse but was 22 all of last season and already has a Tommy John surgery behind him. There’s plenty to like, though, as he throws a lot of strikes, have a solid average changeup and regularly sat 93-97 as a starter, hitting 100 mph multiple times in short stints after signing. His slider is below average, so he’s likely a late inning reliever that could be fast-tracked due to his stuff, TJ history, control and age, but he wants to start and will be developed in the rotation for now. 19. Matt Shepherd, RHP: Shepherd was a near anonymous 31st rounder out of Tennessee Tech in 2012 that’s slowly improved his stuff and command since signing. He works in the mid-90’s with an above average to plus changeup and a solid average breaking ball, but fringy at best command and a true reliever’s approach to pitching. He’ll be 25 in 2015 so he could move through Double-A and Triple-A if he keeps pitching like he did in High-A in 2014. 20. Rafael De Paula, RHP Video: De Paula was a high profile July 2nd prospect that looked ticketed for seven figures before at age 16 before his age was adjusted up, he was suspended for a year, then had trouble getting a visa after signing for $500,000. De Paula is playing catchup as he didn’t get to the states until age 22, but unfortunately didn’t bring the signature curveball he had early in his career. It’s been a below average pitch for his two years in the U.S., but he has enough stuff in a 92-94 mph fastball, above average changeup and at least average command to contribute in a middle relief role. 21. Alex Dickerson, 1B Video: Dickerson was a 3rd rounder out of Indiana in 2011 that looked like he may go in the 1st rounder entering his draft spring. He had some trouble making contact against top pitching and that concern has been borne out in pro ball. Dickerson has above average to plus power and is a below average runner and defender, so he needs to make enough contact to get to his power in games. The hitting tools are a bit short, as it’s average bat speed and that limits Dickerson so that he can’t cover the entire plate against big league caliber pitching. This causes him to guess at pitches and locations to tap into his power, which will work less often at the highest levels, with most scouts calling him something from a bench bat to a platoon first baseman that you’re always looking to upgrade over. Cistulli’s Guy Kyle Lloyd, RHP The numbers reveal that the right-handed Lloyd was dominant in the Midwest League last year — leading all qualified pitchers across Class-A, actually, by strikeout- and walk-rate differential. That he’s a former collegiate pitcher, however — one drafted in the 29th round, no less — and profiled as old for the level goes some way towards mitigating the enthusiasm produced by his stats. While his fastball does only sit in the low-90s, perhaps what sets Lloyd apart from other older pitchers who succeed largely on polish and command is that he possesses a legitimately excellent outpitch — in this case, his split-finger fastball. The quality of the offering is cited frequently across the vast expanse of the information superhighway. Here’s an example of it from July of this past year: And that same example, except slower for some reason: Others of Note The last cuts from the list are Sampson and Paroubeck, with the list of others opening up beyond that. From the upper levels, there’s four pitchers to keep an eye on: RHP Keyvius Sampson (Video is in DFA purgatory at the moment but the former 4th rounder could be claimed/traded as some teams see bullpen value in 55-60 fastball/changeup combo, though command and below average slider are still bugaboos that chased him from the rotation), RHP Adys Portillo (Video was the #2 pitcher bonus in the same July 2 class with Michael Ynoa, getting $2 million; velo spiked as expected but command/secondaries still inconsistent and injury history have moved him to arm strength reliever that flashes a 55-60 curveball but some scouts put a 20 on his command), RHP Aaron Northcraft (Video recently acquired with Upton from Atlanta and is inventory upper level starter, throwing 90-93, touching 94 mph with sink from a low slot with fringy to average stuff) and RHP Seth Streich (toss-in from Derek Norris deal also is pitchability guy with fringy to average stuff as starter, flashing solid average changeup and hitting 96 mph in short stints). Three lower lever arms are worth keeping an eye on are LHP Thomas Dorminy (small school 10th rounder this summer surprised by flashing three above average pitches after signing, with his skinny build making him a relief fit that could move quickly), RHP Ronald Herrera (acquired this year from Oakland in Kyle Blanks deal; is only 5’11/185 with three average to solid average pitches, so he’ll need to keep commanding hist stuff with limited plane to stick as a #5 starter), RHP Walker Weickel (Video high profile amateur arm was high school teammates with 1st rounders Jesse Winker and Nick Gordon and went in the sandwich round himself; 55s across the board with projection backed up since signing, with his lanky frame creating command/delivery issues). Two more arms from the Latin program have a high upside, with one of them a recent trade acquisition: LHP Jose Castillo (recently acquired from Tampa Bay in the Myers deal; Venezuelan got $1.55 million in 2012, hits 95 mph with projection and fringy slurve/changeup/command; his 2014 was also lost, due to arm tenderness, but he’s healthy now and threw about 20 solid innings recently in Venezuela’s parallel league) and RHP Mayky Perez (Video heavily scouted 2013 July 2nd arm got $634,800; he’s 6’5/235 and will sit low 90’s with at least average changeup and slider but is a little stiff athletically and velo has jumped as some expected, sitting high-80’s at times). Four position players could impact full season ball next year and jump onto this list: LF Jeremy Baltz (Video 2012 2nd rounder out of St. John’s has plus raw power but amateur plate discipline/contact issues have remained and he looks more like a potential part-time player now), RF Yeison Asencio (he’s been promoted with Liriano but doesn’t have quite the same tools; Asencio has a similar frame, above average raw power and a better, plus arm but is corner only and has much more serious plate discipline issues), SS Josh VanMeter (2013 5th rounder was under-the-radar gamer type that fits in middle infield and has fringy tools with advanced feel to hit from the left side, likely a utility fit) and CF Auston Bousfield (2014 5th rounder from Ole Miss is above average runner with instincts to play center field and drew Chris Denorfia comps for his surprising raw power and feel for the bat head, as a potential 4th outfielder). Two domestic position players at the lower levels may take a little longer to move the prospect needle, either due to a lower upside or some rawness to their game: RF Jordan Paroubeck (2013 2nd rounder out of NorCal high school that also produced Barry Bonds also gets hitting lessons from the HR king; he has above average run/power/throw tools with looseness and bat speed but is still raw in his approach at the plate), LF Nick Torres (2014 4th rounder from Cal Poly doesn’t have huge tools but they’re all around average and he looks like a potential platoon guy for now) Three international position players fit into the same category: 3B Carlos Belen (he got $1 million in 2012 and has easy plus raw power and arm strength; he probably slides from third to first eventually and has contact issues, but should be a decent conversion candidate if the bat doesn’t play), C Ricardo Rodriguez (Video Venezuelan backstop got $800,000 last July 2nd and is stout at 5’10/180 with a chance for four average or better tools) and LF Franmil Reyes (huge 6’5/240 teenager has plus raw power but expected rawness and plate discipline issues to solve; his little brother Franklin should get over $2 million this July 2nd ).