Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TEAM #8 – San Diego Padres

Tate leads an exceptionally deep Padre prospect list
Our 2010 Prospect eGuide is less than two weeks away. If you have enjoyed this series, then check out the details here: .

Led by the #3 overall pick in last June’s draft, Donovan Tate, the San Diego Padres check in at #8. Tate, along with their second pick Everett Williams, represent significant departure for the Padres, as previous Grady Fusion-led efforts have tended to result in low-ceiling players, predominantly collegians. 2009, however, saw the Padres take athletic, ‘toolsy’ prep players with three of their first four picks. This is an organization that isn’t tremendously strong at the top, but is one of the deeper organizations in baseball—primarily on the strength of what has become a significant effort in signing quality, second-tier Latin American talents. The quality of strikezone management skills that permeate the organization are among the best in baseball, and this is surely a product of their scouting/player development approach. If we are allowed one criticism, it is the passive approach to assigning their college draft picks, that has historically placed them at least one-half season, if not a full-season, behind where we would like them to play. Some of this has been due to a logjam at certain positions, especially third base, but this has not always been the case. Looking over the organization, the biggest weakness that jumps out is a significant dearth of premium arms. This obviously was part of the motivation behind the bevy of pitchers that the Padres received when they traded Jake Peavy. We expect that a move in the direction of bringing in talent from the Red Sox, more performance-oriented, approach to player scouting will significantly change the makeup of the prospects over the next couple of seasons. Still, there is some hope in San Diego, as the Padres have an interesting young nucleus at the Major League level. That, teamed with the overall organizational depth, provides reason for some optimism in a couple of seasons.

Grade A-

1) Donovan Tate, OF -

Tate represents an interesting example of how we differ from many sources, as if you compare him with the Diamondbacks’ Bobby Borchering, you have the ultimate athletic, toolsy, high-ceiling, talent in Tate, with a low-floor vs. a far less athletic, lower-ceiling, Borchering, that has far fewer questions regarding his ability to hit. The scouting community loves Tate, and the Padres selected him with the #3 overall pick. We however had Tate ranked #8 on draft-day and prefer Borchering—even though he may ultimately end up as only a first baseman. In fact, if you read our article on evaluating players with minimal professional experience (, Tate’s projected Washout rate is 45%, with only an 8.3 expected career WAR, while Borchering’s Washout rate is 30%, with an expected career WAR of 10.0. However, none of this diminishes Tate’s upside, which is that of a five-tool future superstar. Tate has tremendous strength that translates into potentially plus power. With plus speed and tremendous athleticism, he is a potential gold glove center fielder. The downside of this is that none of it will matter if he can’t make contact, and there are significant concerns in this regard. Our assessment of Tate’s chances weren’t aided by his relatively inauspicious beginning to his career that included not one, but two, surgeries that forced him to miss the instructionals. Hopefully he is healthy by the Spring, and is able to begin his career in the MWL.

2) Jaff Decker, LF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 79; First Base Rate 79; Discipline 41; Speed 52)

The anti-Tate, Jaff Decker has few tools, and plenty of skills. Built like John Kruk, Decker has done nothing but rake since the Padres drafted him in the sandwich round of the 2008 draft. He entered the draft as the most polished prep hitter, and hasn’t done anything to change that perspective, as he has above average power and plus contact skills. While he strikes out more than we would like (21% in 2009), he is a relatively patient hitter, controlling the strike zone well. His biggest negative is his lack of speed, which he minimizes by solid baserunning instincts, that may challenge him defensively as he matures. After destroying the AZL in his 2008 debut, Decker finished 2009 with the Top Performance Score in the MWL. He will play the entire 2010 season as a 20yo, starting it off in the CAL.

3) Simon Castro, RHP
(2009 – Dominance 71; Stamina 71; HRrate 48; Control 65)

We began taking notice of Castro, when he posted a Top 10 Performance score in the DSL in 2006. He followed that up with another Top 10 Performance in the NWL in 2008. But the rest of the world began to notice this season when he posted the #12 Performance Score in the MWL. A rather large kid at 6’5”, 210lbs, Castro throws all of his pitches with significant late movement. While it makes them tremendously potent, it also makes them a little more difficult to control. His most effective pitch is his low- to mid-90s fastball that has a significant downward plane upon its release. While his secondary offerings show potential—they remain unrefined. With the ceiling of a solid mid-rotation starter, and a floor of an extremely effective late inning guy, the Padres are justifiably excited about Castro. He will face a real test in 2010 in the CAL, where we will be looking for continued improvements with his secondary offerings.

4) James Darnell, 3B (2009 – Power 77; First Base Rate 75; Discipline 64; Speed 41)

Darnell was one of our choices for ‘best pick’ when the Padres tabbed him in the second round in 2008, and remains one of the more underrated prospects in the Minors. Darnell continued to rake in 2009, posting the #11 Performance score in MWL and then the #6 Performance Score in the CAL. His bat is his main tool, as he shows above average power and contact skills, and controls the strike zone well. Defense remains a bigger challenge for Darnell, as he is not exceptionally fleet of foot, doesn’t have tremendously soft-hands, and often has accuracy problems with his throws. It remains to be seen whether or not this will require a move off of third base, as there are plenty of options within the organization. Darnell has the ceiling of an above average offensive Major League third baseman. If he moves, it will diminish his value, but his bat should play at just about any position. Look for Darnell to begin 2010 in AA.

Grade B+

5) Drew Cumberland, SS (2009 – Power 43; First Base Rate 74; Discipline 76; Speed 79)

We likely have Cumberland rated higher than most anyone, but we are very comfortable listing him here, as players with plus offensive potential at premium defensive positions are rare, at the moment, around the Minors. Cumberland’s game starts with his bat, as while he will likely never develop more than line-drive type of power, he has plus contact skills and controls the strike zone as well as most anyone in the Minors. But neither of those is his top skill, as his combination of athleticism and speed out rank them. Additionally, Cumberland has an exceptional baseball IQ. The downside, other than lack of raw power, is that he is a sometimes erratic defender. While he has the quickness, and soft hands to stay at short, he has troubles with rushing his throws. There are some that believe this will eventually precipitate a move to either CF or 2B—both still premium positions. After finishing 2009 with the #7 Performance Score in the MWL, the 21yo Cumberland will take his game to the CAL to begin 2010. From this point forward, he could move rapidly.

6) Edison Rincon, 3B (2009 – Power 70; First Base Rate 73; Discipline 52; Speed 62)

Rincon posted a breakout 2009, finishing with the Top Performance Score in the NWL. With plus power potential, and a build to go along with it, Rincon is the second of what will be many Latin American prospects that dot this Padres’ list. In addition to his power, Rincon possesses above average contact skills and surprising strike zone management skills. He even shows average speed. The downside is where he will play. Not only do the Padres have a bevy of third base prospects, he doesn’t possess the hands or lateral movement that are required to hold down the position—making an OF corner his likely destination. Rincon is a high-upside prospect whose bat should play anywhere. He will get his first look at full-season ball in 2010.

7) Jonathan Galvez, MI (2009 – Power 77; First Base Rate 64; Discipline 59; Speed 66)

Galvez was the Padres top Latin American signing in 2007, agreeing to a $750,000 bonus. Signed as a shortstop, Galvez’s glove fits better at second base, as he is not tremendously consistent on the routine play and lacks true shortstop arm strength. But there are few questions with his bat, that gives him the ceiling of being an above average Major League middle infielder. At a wiry, 6’2”, 175lbs, Galvez shows above average offensive skills—across the board, that enabled him to post the #2 Performance Score in the AZL last season. Despite just turning 19yo, Galvez has a rather advanced offensive approach. While the Padres will evaluate him in the Spring before deciding on his assignment, it would not be a surprise to see him be skipped to full-season A-ball to start the season—likely after a stint in extended Spring Training.

Grade B

8) Logan Forsythe, 3B (2009 – Power 48; First Base Rate 80; Discipline 38; Speed 57)

There isn’t a lot not to like about Forsythe, whom the Padres selected in the sandwich round of the 2008 draft, as he is one of the Minor League’s best ‘on-base’ hitters, plays solid thirdbase defense and finished with the #7 Performance Score in the CAL in 2009. However, he is a great example of where the ‘art’ enters into prospect evaluation. The short compact-swing that he possesses, that allows those lofty on-base rates, isn’t likely to ever generate double digit home run power at the Major League level. This doesn’t project a high certainty factor as a third baseman. Our expectation is that Forsythe eventually moves across the diamond to second base. If he is able to handle the move defensively, he could become an average to above average offensive secondbaseman. We expect that Forsythe will return to AA to open up 2010, with a move to AAA by mid-season.

9) Adys Portillo, RHP (2009 – Dominance 29; Stamina 62; HRrate 49; Control 30)

The consensus top Latin American pitcher, not named Ynoa, to sign in 2008, Portillo had what must be considered, by many, a disappointing professional debut in 2009—leading the AZL in losses, while posting a 5.13 ERA. We will cut him some slack though, as the assignment was aggressive for a 17yo, and he still managed to nail down a Top 10 Performance Score. While we were disappointed by his control issues, and even somewhat surprised by his 7.5 batters per 9IP strikeout rates, his tremendous upside was evident. Portillo has a highly projectable frame, that is already allowing him to throw low-90s fastballs that could be mid-90s offerings by the time he matures. While his secondary offerings remain raw, they show Major League potential. Don’t be fooled by his 2009 numbers, as no pitcher in the organization has a higher ceiling. Our expectation is that Padres will hold him back in extended Spring Training in 2010, before sending him to the NWL.

10) Rymer Liriano, OF (2009 – Power 76; First Base Rate 74; Discipline 49; Speed 69)

The 5th Latin American prospect among the Top Ten, Liriano made as big of splash as any of them with his 2009 U.S. debut, that rated as the Top Performance Score in the AZL. A strong kid, with plus power potential, above average contact skills and solid speed, Liriano is a high-ceiling outfield prospect, who likely best profiles in RF. If there is a drawback, it is his strike zone management and pitch recognition skills, that remain very much a work-in-process. The Padres are likely going to keep Liriano in extended Spring Training before determining his assignment, likely sending the 19yo to Everett when the NWL season opens…but we think he may be capable of handling the MWL.

11) Everett Williams, CF -

Like Tate, Williams is a highly athletic, very toolsy, high-ceiling, project—with less tools, and more innate hitting ability. As we have pointed out many times though, until the tools translate into production, the track record isn’t that good for these type of players. While not quite as strong as Tate, Williams has the potential for above average power, above average contact skills, and above average speed. Defensively, he could be a plus centerfielder, but will compete with Tate for a few years to find a defensive position—if he has to move from CF, left is likely the only option. While scouts have less concerns about his eventually hitting than they do Tate, Williams can look lost at times against better breaking balls, and has difficulty with pitch recognition. Williams should make his pro debut in full-season A-ball in 2010.

12) Aaron Poreda, LHP (2009 – Dominance 68; Stamina 70; HRrate 50; Control 20)

They key player obtained from the White Sox in the Peavy deal, Poreda was the last in a long-line of low-ceiling college pitchers selected by the White Sox in the first round. While Poreda probably has the upside of a mid-rotation starter, with his mid-90s fastball and potentially plus slider, he is essentially a two-pitch pitcher that is most likely destined for a back of the bullpen role. A big note of concern however, was his abysmal command this past season. He will have no success unless he gets this figured out. Poreda appeared in 14 games in the Majors last season, so he will have a shot to win a bullpen role this spring. The guess here is that the Padres start him back in AAA—as part of the rotation.

Grade B-

13) Wynn Pelzer, RHP (2009 – Dominance 58; Stamina 72; HRrate 49; Control 46)

Still being developed as a starter, Pelzer is another college pitcher that possesses only two Major League caliber offerings—a mid-90s fastball and a potentially plus slider. He rode them to a Top 25 Performance Score in the CAL in 2009. His aggressive approach would suit him well as a future closer—the role he appears best suited for. On the downside, Pelzer can get into ‘ruts’ where he overthrows, and didn’t command his secondary offerings well in 2009. The Padres will advance him to AA, in the rotation, to open up 2010.

14) Keyvius Sampson, RHP –

Sampson was considered a potential second round pick, this past June, but the Padres were able to snare him in round four, signing him to second round money. A very raw talent with a live arm, that fires low- to mid-90s fastballs, possesses solid athleticism, shows the potential for three Major League pitches, and possesses reasonable command. There is a lot to like here, and Sampson should have been drafted earlier. Sampson has an outside shot at debuting at Fort Wayne in 2010—although a short season league is more probable.

15) Cedric Hunter, CF (2009 – Power 28; First Base Rate 39; Discipline 78; Speed 73)

Hunter has been considered a top prospect in the Padre organization since he was named the AZL MVP in his 2006 debut. Unfortunately, the outlook for him continues to dim with each passing season, as he shows virtually no power and limited on-base skills. Hunter does have exceptional strike zone management skills, and plus raw speed. Defensively, he has the range to stay in CF, but projects to be only an average defender. Hunter is likely to start 2010 in AAA, as a 22yo, so there is still time to develop, we just don’t see where there will be development that will change our perception.

16) Lance Zawadzki, MI (2009 – Power 68; First Base Rate 61; Discipline 49; Speed 71)

A 4th round pick out of NAIA Lee University in 2007, Zawadzki had put together two solid seasons before having somewhat of a breakout 2009. Zawadzki is a typical low-ceiling college player that had become so much of their pre-2009 drafts, that does little poorly, but nothing exceptionally well. He has been playing mostly shortstop, but likely profiles best as a second baseman, where he could become a starter for a second division team, but likely is more of a utility player, that could play three infield positions. With nearly 350 ABs at AA in 2009, we expect that he will open the 2010 season in AAA.

17) Vincent Belnome, 2B (2009 – Power 78; First Base Rate 77; Discipline 49; Speed 28)

Belnome was a 28th round draft pick, that we must admit, didn’t make our list of Top 300 draft picks on draft day. That didn’t stop him from making a phenomenal professional debut in the NWL, where he posted the League’s #6 Performance Score. A converted thirdbaseman, Belnome showed corner infield power, and above average contact skills. He hits to all fields, is selective in his approach, and didn’t miss a beat after a late season promotion to the MWL. On the downside, Belnome possesses little in the way of speed, and while he improved his range this summer, he lacks middle infield range. One of the more difficult rankings that we had all year, Belnome’s production portends success as he moves up the ladder. Where he will play defensively is a huge question, but his bat has shown to not be a limiting factor. The odds for a 28th round pick are long, but Belnome has an excellent work ethic and and a solid baseball IQ—so we won’t bet against him. Look for Belnome to return to Fort Wayne to begin 2010.

18) Cory Luebke, LHP (2009 – Dominance 57; Stamina 71; HRrate 49; Control 68)

Luebke is another example of where we tend to differ from conventional approaches, as Luebke posted a solid season in the CAL and TXL, and was a former sandwich round pick in 2007, which gives traditional prospect evaluation methods the liberty to suddenly elevate him to prime prospect status. But Luebke turns 25yo before the season starts and has yet to pitch above AA. The track record for players with that profile is not good. Luebke has some raw stuff. With a low 90s fastball, and an at least average slider, he can make a contribution at the Major League level, but his upside is that of a back of the rotation starter—or more likely that of a middle reliever. Luebke will start 2010 in AAA.

19) Kellen Kulbacki, RF (2009 – Power 26; First Base Rate 27; Discipline 57; Speed 39)

Kulbacki finished his junior year with the #4 Performance Score in all of the NCAA. The Padres were sold on his stick and drafted him in the second round. In 2008 the Padres sent him to the CAL, where he posted the #10 Performance Score. He was poised to take a major step forward entering the 2009 season when disaster struck. First he injured his shoulder, significantly impacting his power. Then, with only 134 ABs under his belt, he tore his hamstring, ending his season before the all-star break. When he is healthy, Kulbacki can flat out rake, showing above average power and contact skills and excellent plate discipline. Speed, nor defense, have ever been his calling card, but his bat could play at any position. His biggest downside is that time is running out. We have written many times about the poor track record of position players that don’t make their Major League debut before their 25th birthday. Kulbacki will open the season as a 24yo in AA. It’s now or never.

Grade C+ Prospects –

20) Dusty Ryan, C; 21) Juan Ormas, LHP; 22) Jeremy McBryde, RHP; 23) Jerry Sullivan, RHP; 24) Yefri Carvajal, RF; 25) Sawyer Carroll, RF; 26) Luis Durango, LF; 27) Chad Huffman, LF; 28) Allan Dykstra, 1B; 29) Blake Tekotte, CF; 30) Dexter Carter, RHP; 31) Jorge Reyes, RHP; 32) Beamer Weems, SS.

Grade C Prospects –

Dean Anna; Matt Antonelli; Alvaro Aristy; Anthony Bass; Mike Baxter; Jacob Beltre; Brad Brach; Aaron Breit; Mitch Canham; Cesar Carrillo; Brad Chalk; Matt Clark; Bo Davis; Cody Decker; Luis Domoromo; Chris Fetter; Cole Figueroa; Nathan Freiman; Ernesto Frieri; Brandon Gomes; Nick Greenwood; Jason Hagerty; Jeremy Hefner; Will Inman; Craig Italiano; Corey Kluber; Matt Lollis; Yair Lopez; Jorge Minyeti; James Needy; Emmanuel Quiles; Cesar Ramos; Nick Schmidt; Evan Scribner; Adan Velazquez; Michael Watt; Chris Wilkes.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.

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