I thought about how I would lead into this, the ranking of teams’ farm systems, but don’t have a good way to do it, other than say it is something that I like to tackle every year. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things my rankings aren’t going to make waves with Keith Law, John Sickels, or the staff at Baseball America. However, these rankings by any outlet are rather arbitrary in nature, and I like any of them, will try to give everybody some reasoning behind them. Scouting and prospects are a big part of the game. We can see that by how teams are clinging onto them in a lot of cases this year, instead of dealing them away for proven players. A lower ranked system doesn’t necessarily correlate to a bad team, and a highly ranked system doesn’t mean it’s a good major league team. It just gives us all a look at organizations who might get healthy in a few years, and which ones are going to have to find other means.
Anyway, this is supposed to be fun, so if you want to discuss, let’s do so….
San Diego’s farm system was pretty healthy heading into the 2011 season. One good draft, and a couple of trades later, and it’s now one of the best in baseball. The big club is going to need the help soon, and on this year’s list there are several guys that should be in the big leagues before too long. Let’s start by getting into the top 20….
Top 20 Prospects:
1. Yasmani Grandal (C)- Grandal is a plus hitting catcher that should hit for a high average and provide at least moderate pop at the big league level. He also has on-base ability, but will have to learn how to hit the breaking ball a bit better. Defensively he still has a bit to go, but he is pretty athletic, and has the tools to be at least a solid catcher.
2. Yonder Alonso (1B)- Alonso, along with Grandal, was acquired in the Mat Latos trade. He projects as a plus hitter for average, and like Grandal should provide moderate power. Alonso also has a very good idea of the strike zone, and should take advantage of the spacious home ball park. Defensively, he is pedestrian at first.
3. Rymer Liriano (OF)- Liriano has always been a tool shed. However, 2011 he began to translate them into results on the field. Liriano possesses the power/speed combo you look for, and with the improvement in his plate discipline, there is much to be excited about. If he continues on this path, Liriano could become a big time player.
4. Keyvius Sampson (SP)- Some guys you see and they just stand out. Sampson for me is one of those. His negatives are that he is smallish for a righty, and he needs to sharpen his curve. The positives are his fastball works low to mid 90’s, with real good life, and he has a real good change up that could be plus down the road.
5. Robert Erlin (SP)- Erlin is a left hander that was acquired by the Padres at the trade deadline in 2011 for Mike Adams. He isn’t impressive in stature or stuff, but what Erlin does well is command all of his pitches, and mixes them well. The command plays up all of his pitches, and his deception and approach lead to tremendous K/BB ratios.
6. Cory Spangenberg (2B)- Spangenberg was a pretty safe first round pick for the Padres in 2011, which they got for not signing their pick the year previous. However, Spangenberg can hit, and also owns plus speed. Defensively he is nothing special, but should be able to handle 2nd. Lack of power fits the 2B profile.
7. Joseph Ross (SP)- Ross was a first round pick of the Padres in 2011. The younger brother of A’s pitcher Tyson Ross, Joe might have a little better upside. His fastball is low to mid 90’s presently, and has the chance to possibly get more as he gets older. His change up is considered above average for his developmental stage, and his curve has a chance as well.
8. Jedd Gyorko (3B)- Gyorko had a real good 2011 for the Padres, and has become the top 3rd baseman in the system at this point. Offensively, he isn’t going to hit for much more than moderate power, but has the ability to be above average overall in the batters box. Defensively, he could be solid, but will be limited by range.
9. Joseph Wieland (SP)- Wieland was the other piece along with Erlin acquired in the Mike Adams trade. There really isn’t much separation between the two, because they are almost mirror images. Wieland, a righty, has a low 90’s fastball, an above average curve and change, and commands them all exceptionally. Probably a #4 starter type.
10. Casey Kelly (SP)- I know Padres fans will question this ranking, but what can I say. I’m not as high on him as others. I see Kelly as a back of the rotation guy. He doesn’t strike out enough guys with his low 90’s fastball, sometimes above average curve, and fringe average change. He does keep the ball down well, and improved in his second AA go around.
11. James Darnell (3B)- Darnell is another guy that can hit, however, there are questions about his defense. Gyorko is better at 3B, so that may force Darnell to the outfield. If he can play LF, I think the bat would fit nicely in the 6th hole in a lineup and be able to drive in some runs with some solid power.
12. Austin Hedges (C)- Hedges, another 2011 draftee has vast potential. I’m reading enough concern about the bat right now to drop his ranking lower than most. Defensively, Hedges looks like he could be superb, and at the very least could progress on that alone.
13. Juan Oramas (SP)- Oramas is a lefty that has good numbers the past couple of seasons, and owns quality stuff. He can get in trouble with his mechanics and getting the ball up, as he needs to work on tightening his body up. Despite this, he does bring a low 90’s fastball to the table, and a quality breaking ball.
14. Brad Boxberger (RP)- Boxberger has a quality mid-90’s fastball that explodes out of his hands and gets on hitters quick. It also has good movement, and he couples that with a solid slider that at times acts as a swing and miss pitch.
15. Donavan Tate (OF)- Tate, when he is actually on the field, has shown quality all around tools. At this point it’s difficult to count on him staying healthy and out of trouble, but if he does, he could display a quality hitter, who can run as well, and be able to defend.
16. Jonathan Galvez (2B)- Good power and speed combo for the 20 year old in high A last year. Needs to improve his zone discipline, but there is quality tools here.
17. Jaff Decker (OF)- Decker is a high OBP guy with power. He also whiffs quite a bit as well. He is on the short and pudgy side, but he is a better athlete than he is given credit for.
18. Michael Kelly (SP)- Kelly is a right handed pitcher drafted out of high school in 2011. He has an excellent pitchers frame that offers a lot of projection, and has a fastball that has been in the low 90’s. Will have to improve secondaries, and might take a while.
19. Luis Domoromo (OF)- I’m really quite surprised we don’t hear more about Domoromo. He isn’t a finished product yet, but he has an athletic frame, runs well, has some pop, and while his strike zone discipline isn’t great, it’s not bad for a 19 year old who played in low A ball.
20. Vincent Belnome (2B)- Another guy with a less than ideal body, but Belnome rakes, and I don’t think people give guys like this enough credit. Sometimes what you see on a baseball field is good enough, not what you don’t see.
Just Missed The List: Jace Peterson (SS), Burch Smith (SP), Matthew Andriese (SP), Reymond Fuentes (OF), Brett Brach (RP), Anthony Bass (SP), Blake Tekotte (OF), Edinson Rincon (DH), Drew Cumberland (2B), John Barbato (SP), Matthew Stites (P), Adys Portillo (SP), Kevin Quackenbush (RP), Alberth Martinez (OF), Duanel Jones (3B), Yoan Alcantra (OF), and a host of others.
Sleepers: Miles Mikolas (RP) and Jose Dore (OF). Mikolas is a relief pitcher that could get a call in 2012. He owns a plus fastball and hammer curve. Dore is a long ways away, and his performance has been rough, however, there is a good frame there, and some power potential. He is a pretty good athlete as well.
Rebound Candidate: Everett Williams (OF). Williams collided with Donavan Tate in Fort Wayne and ended his season with injury. Williams is a good athlete with power potential, but still needs developmental time.
Verdict: Obviously, as the 3rd ranked farm system on my list, this is a deep system. They have some quality at the top, but some of it like Grandal and Alonso don’t have premium power, so I wouldn’t rate them tremendously high in a top 50. I chose Grandal over Alonso because I felt that they were similar offensively, and while Alonso is probably a slightly better hitter, I gave Grandal the nod because he plays a premium position. Liriano could easily end up the best out of all them. Watch out for Donavan Tate in 2012. He just needs health in my opinion, and he could vault into the Padres top 10 easily. There isn’t much difference in this system 5-10, or 11-30 really. There are guys I really like littered all over their top 30 and beyond. Guys like Cody Hebner and Colin Rea didn’t even get mentioned, and they have quality arms. Position guys like Jeudy Valdez and Jason Hagerty didn’t even get mentioned until now either, and they would be top 20 in some systems.
There is a nice mix of pitching and position guys, and there isn’t any glaring weakness that I can see. The only quibble I might have here is they lack a little bit of a true top of the rotation guy for sure, but Ross and Sampson could get there.