CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 17: Yonder Alonso #23 of the Cincinnati Reds connects for a solo home run during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 17, 2011 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Brewers defeated the Reds 10-1. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
So far, we've looked at 6 of the systems in the Majors, and seen some good and some not-so-good. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:
Keeper Thoughts - Houston Astros
Keeper Thoughts - Minnesota Twins
Keeper Thoughts - Seattle Mariners
Keeper Thoughts - Baltimore Orioles
Keeper Thoughts - Kansas City Royals
Keeper Thoughts - Chicago Cubs
Next up for review is the San Diego Padres system, which has seen definite improvement in the past few seasons.
Despite the loss of Jed Hoyer as the general manager, he has left this organization in very good shape when it comes to the farm system. The trades of Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Adams, and a bunch of other relievers has brought the system back into the higher ranks overall, and has left new general manager Josh Byrnes well stocked with prospects.
Ready in 2012
Alonso was one of the key pieces acquired in the Mat Latos trade this offseason, and Alonso will likely start the season as the first baseman in San Diego. Alonso showed some excellent pop in his brief call up last year, hitting 5 home runs in 88 at bats, and posted the exact same Triple Crown numbers in each of his year's in AAA (.296, 12 HR, 56 RBI). Here's what Nathaniel Stoltz of Seedlings to Stars had to say about Alonso (prior to the trade):
Alonso’s value lies mostly in his bat. He’s got good power, enough to be a 20-HR guy, and his 60/46 K/BB in Triple-A indicates that his approach and contact skills are solid for a slugger. He’s capable of playing both first and the outfield and even spotted at third base this season, so he has some defensive versatility.
It remains to be seen what effect, if any, Petco Park will have on Alonso's bat long term. Realistically, I think the approach is still good, and he could provide a solid batting average and 15-20 home runs this year, with upside for more potentially.
Erlin was one of the two starters acquired in exchange for reliever Mike Adams, and would probably be the top prospect in the system if not for the presence of Rizzo. He started the 2011 season in High-A, and dominated there in 9 starts. He then split the rest of the season between the Rangers' AA affiliate and the Padres' one in the Texas League. Here's a brief part of a scouting report that Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally posted back in 2010 about Erlin:
Yes, Erlin is not the ideal size for a pitcher, but I’d argue it works well for him. He’s small and compact which, combined with his athleticism, makes for easily repeatable mechanics. Erlin’s clean arm action and effortless velocity leads me to believe he could gain an additional tick or two on the radar gun as he continues to mature.
Erlin has shown great control numbers throughout his time in the minors (288 K/34 BB in 266 MILB IP), and Mike also noted how much better Erlin will likely be in San Diego:
Now a member of the San Diego Padres organization, Robbie Erlin takes his 123/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio and heads west to potentially the most pitcher friendly park in the big leagues. Erlin's only weakness, a propensity for fly balls, would have been a difficult fit in Texas. Now, Erlin will spend half his starts attacking opposing hitters without fear of the long ball a 40% ground ball rate would normally cause.
Overall, Erlin is rapidly climbing prospect rankings, and we could see him in San Diego before the end of the season.
The other pitcher acquired for Adams, Wieland is not just a throw in for the trade. While Wieland hasn't been quite as dominant as Erlin, his control numbers have still been excellent as well (397 K/78 BB in 430 MILB IP). That said, he's not quite as highly thought of as Erlin, and here's what Nathaniel Stoltz sees as potential problems for Wieland:
Wieland’s strikeout rates in Double-A were nothing special, and he’s not a huge groundball guy, so it’s tempting to just look at him as more of a Liam Hendriks sort of pitcher than a front-of-the-rotation stud. Certainly, it’s possible that his strikeout rate will jump back up in 2012 when he settles in to the upper minors–see Wily Peralta as a recent example of that phenomenon–but given Wieland’s lack of bigtime stuff, that’s tough to assume.
He's still one of the top pitching prospects overall to me (I ranked him #22 overall in my long-term dynasty rankings), but I am hoping that he will spend a majority of the 2012 season down at AAA really refining himself.
The other main prospect that came over in the Latos trade, Grandal was effectively blocked in Cincinnati by Devin Mesoraco. The Reds ended up choosing Mesoraco because he is essentially ready to contribute at the Major League level, while Grandal will likely need another season in the minors. Here's what Al Skorupa of Bullpen Banter had to say about him as a part of their top 15 Reds' prospects:
I know everyone throws out Mesoraco as a comp for Grandal... but they really do have similar strengths & weaknesses. Grandal still has a lot of work to do in all aspects of his game, but "switch-hitting, solid glove catcher with patience and power" is a skill set I can really get behind.
Thankfully, the Padres have Nick Hundley as the starter right now, and can allow Grandal to play in Tucson this year, and could possibly start in AA instead. He has played just 49 games above High-A, but has shown decent power for a catcher so far (.500 SLG across all 3 stops in 2011). Long-term, he looks to me like he can be a solid fantasy catcher when he gets to the Majors, with a solid batting average, and at least some power potential regardless of Petco.
Darnell spent most of his time in the minors at 3B, but was also used in the outfield at times. Darnell did get a cup of coffee in the Majors in 2011, but I think unless the Padres trade Chase Headley, Darnell will start the season in AAA for the Padres. Long-term, he looks like he can be a productive fantasy bat, but his value could take a hit if he can't stay at 3B for whatever reason. Here's what Thomas Belmont over at Baseball Instinct had to say about Darnell in his scouting report from August:
He is already 24 years old. So the power is almost fully developed at this point with maybe a touch more on the way. But even so, a minor league career .200+ IsoP is a very good mark. The fact that it comes along with a potential .290+ AVG and career rates of 10%+ walk rate and K rate of only around 15% is something to keep an eye on. Darnell as a right handed bat even in Petco could continue to produce the power numbers needed to be an everyday 3B.
Realistically, the team should allow him to develop in AAA this year, and could put up some absolutely gaudy numbers there if he stays all season. If the team does end up trading Headley at some point, we could see Darnell take over pretty quickly. Even in Petco, a high batting average and 20+ homers seem like a possibility.
Decker was a 1st round pick by the Padres back in 2008, and he spent all of 2011 in AA San Antonio. 2011 was the first season as a professional where he really stayed healthy throughout the year, and I think it's telling that he was able to perform so well at AA despite only playing about half a season at High-A in 2010. Decker profiles as a corner outfielder long term, and has shown both power and speed in recent seasons. Here's what John Sickels had to say about him in his top 20 prospects:
Seems to improve his physical conditioning every year, even stole 15 bases in '11, strong throwing arm. Patient to a fault, needs to find balance between aggression and passivity. Could put up huge numbers at Tucson.
He's not kidding about the patience, as he had 103 walks last year in 133 games. Realistically, Decker should start out 2012 in AAA Tucson, and you'll have to temper the expectations if he starts putting up insane numbers there. Tucson is notorious for being an extreme hitters' park, and the rest of the PCL isn't exactly Petco either. Long term, I think he could be a solid corner outfielder for fantasy, posting decent power and speed (think 15 of each potentially), but the batting average could be a concern if he doesn't show more willingness to swing and not take a walk.
Boxberger was the 3rd prospect acquired for Mat Latos, and he may actually have quite a bit of value as soon as 2012 for fantasy owners. Boxberger was converted to relief pitching part way through the 2010 season, and really flourished in 2011. The strikeout rate is really exciting (13.5 per 9 innings across AA and AAA last year), and he profiles as a future closer in waiting. Here's what Joseph Werner of Seedlings to Stars had to say about him at the time of the trade:
Overall, Brad Boxberger has quietly thrust his name up among the game’s elite relief prospects. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can touch as high 95 mph. He complements that above-average pitch with two others: a promising changeup and slider....
Boxberger could begin the season back in Triple-A for added seasoning – and also to see if he can improve on the lackluster walk rate – but he isn’t far from becoming a regular in the Padres’ bullpen rotation.
Long term, he could step into the closer's job in San Diego as soon as mid-2012, and could be in line to take over for current closer Huston Street when he becomes a free agent after the season.
Could be Ready by 2014
Gyorko is another 3B prospect for the Padres, and he may be an even better one than James Darnell. Gyorko has been following closely behind Darnell, being promoted usually right after Darnell is. He split his time in 2011 between High-A and AA, and didn't really miss a beat with the transition. Gyorko showed excellent power (25 HR, 47 2B), but those numbers could suffer some when he reaches the Majors. Here's what Copicetic over at Baseball Instinct wrote about Gyorko after the season:
Overall, there is a lot to like with Gyorko including good bat speed, advanced pitch recognition, solid strike zone management and good contact skills. Because of his questionable power and unclear path to the majors, Gyorko needs to continue to develop those tools and push his way up the development ladder. My belief is that Jedd Gyorko can become a productive hitter in the major leagues and has just enough of a defensive game to get him there.
The thing to remember with Gyorko is that he is nearly 2 years younger than Darnell, but only about a level behind him. I agree with Copicetic that he'll likely start back at AA this year, but could be in AAA before too long.
Spangenberg was the Pads' top draft pick in 2011, and was viewed as a bit of a reach at the time. However, the pick at #10 was an unprotected pick, so if they failed to sign Spangenberg they would have received nothing in 2012. Spangenberg signed quickly, and went right to work showing that he wasn't as much of a reach as was believed. Here's what Gobroks over at MLB Bonus Baby had to say about him as a part of the Padres' draft recap:
Spangenberg is a pure hitter who has questions about his ultimate defensive position. He played 3B and Indian River CC but he did not look good there. The Padres are trying him at 2B and if he cannot make it there he has the speed to warrant giving CF a try.
Spangenberg showed both an excellent hit tool and excellent speed this season (.316, 25 SB), and should start the season in High-A for the Padres. If he can stay at 2B, I think he could end up a top 15 2B once he gets to the bigs.
Long-Term Prospects (Won't Be Ready Until at Least 2015)
Sampson was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 amateur draft, but 2011 was the first year he made a full compliment of starts. Here's what Peter Friberg over at Friarhood had to say about Sampson:
There really isn’t anything bad to say about Sampson’s 2011 performance. If we’re picking nits, he walked too many (3.66 BB/9) but he was so unhittable that it countered some wildness.
Sampson was nearly unhittable, allowing just 81 hits and striking out 143 in 118 innings last year, and if he can keep the walks down just a bit more, he could vault to the top of a lot of prospect lists. I think he will begin 2012 at High-A, and will likely spend the full season there unless he shows more than he already has.
Liriano has really emerged this year after having a great season down in the Midwest League (Low-A). He started the season in High-A, and was sent back to Low-A shortly after the season started, and really took off. Here's what Nathaniel Stoltz of Seedlings to Stars said about him when he ranked him #48 overall among all prospects:
Long considered an overly aggressive hitter, he managed to get his K/BB ratio up above 2/1, which opened up room for the rest of his skills to flourish. Liriano makes a lot of hard contact, which already translates into gap power and could make him a high-average 20-HR hitter if everything goes right.
Once he’s on the bases, Liriano can wreak havoc due to his plus speed, as evidenced by his 65 steals in 116 games in Fort Wayne. His athleticism translates well to his defense, where he covers a lot of ground.
The numbers were excellent, but it concerns me that this was the second season in a row that Liriano was forced to drop down a level after a short amount of time in the season. That said, I am a big believer, and am really looking forward to seeing if he can keep up the performance in High-A. He will be just 21 years old during the 2012 season, and remains right on track to be in the Majors in around 3 years.