Minor League Keeper Thoughts: San Diego Padres

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Jason Hunt takes a look at some of the top fantasy prospects in the San Diego Padres organization.

Over the coming weeks, Craig and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.

Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.

System Overview

Every year, it seems like the Padres manage to find a few more interesting prospects, and this year is no different. Despite graduating nine different players to the Majors in 2012, there remains a ton of top prospects in the minor leagues for them. While they may not have a lot of elite level or even top 100 prospects right now, there are quite a few who could jump onto those lists with a good season in 2013. The system is also fairly balanced, with a number of solid prospects across the field while also including some high ceiling pitching talents also. Overall, the system is in very good shape, and could allow the Padres to make some acquisitions if they find themselves in need of a specific piece down the stretch.

Previous Reviews

NL West: Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh
NL East: Atlanta, Miami, New York, Philadelphia
AL East: Baltimore, Boston, New York Yankees
AL Central: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota
AL West: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle

Graduates

Yasmani Grandal (C), Yonder Alonso (1B), Andy Parrino (IF), Alexi Amarista (IF), Dale Thayer (RP), Anthony Bass (SP), Brad Brach (SP), Andrew Werner (SP), Joe Wieland (SP)

AAA or Higher in 2012

These are players who reached the Padres' Pacific Coast League affiliate in Tucson in 2012. They will likely see time in the Majors in 2013, and could be a significant contributor there.

Jedd Gyorko (Profile during 2B Week, Profile from May, BBRef Statistics)

I wrote about Gyorko back during Second Base week, and will just add that we haven't really received any clarity as to whether he could play at second base or return to his natural position, third base. His bat is likely ready for the Majors right now, and we should have a better idea in March whether he will be going with the team to San Diego.

Robbie Erlin (BBRef Statistics)

Erlin was one of the two pitchers acquired from the Rangers back in 2011 for Mike Adams, and appeared on track last season to appear in the Majors before the end of the year. However, he ended up missing most of the season last year due to an elbow injury, but was able to return at the end of the season and even pitched in the Arizona Fall League.

I don't think his status as a prospect as changed particularly in a year, as he remains a pitcher with excellent control and a propensity for fly balls which should still play well in San Diego despite the fences being moved in.

Casey Kelly (BBRef Statistics)

Kelly was the top player acquired by the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez trade before the 2011 season, and missed substantial time during the 2012 season due to an elbow injury. However, he pitched well in his 8 starts in the minor leagues, well enough in fact to earn a call up to the Majors in late August.

Kelly is not guaranteed a spot in the Padres' rotation to start 2013, but will likely compete for one of the open spots instead. If Kelly wins the spot, I could very easily see him being a #5 or #6 fantasy starter, given his high strikeout rate, low walk totals, and home park.

AA in 2012

These are players who reached the Padres' Texas League affiliate in San Antonio in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.

Rymer Liriano (Profile from January, BBRef Statistics)

After winning the Midwest League MVP award in 2011, the Padres moved Liriano up to High-A for the second time to start the 2012 season. This stint went substantially better, as he hit .298/.360/.443 with 5 home runs and 22 stolen bases in just 74 games. He was promoted to AA for the rest of the year, and finished with a .280/.350/.417 slash line, 8 home runs, and 32 stolen bases in 40 attempts.

Liriano was our #9 outfield prospect this year, and the scariest part with Liriano is that there still is room for growth. He has shown above average power at times, but it sounds like he has not been able to consistently use it in games. He has already shown excellent speed, stealing 32 bases this year and 66 in 2011, and is expected to hit for average in the Majors as well. A five-tool right field prospect, Liriano could reach the majors as soon as the end of this season.

High-A in 2012

These are prospects who reached the Padres' California League affiliate in Lake Elsinore. These players are most likely at least 2 full seasons from reaching the Majors.

Cory Spangenberg (BBRef Statistics)

Spangenberg was the Padres' top pick back in the 2011 draft, and after a solid debut that season was sent to the California League for the 2012 season. Spangenberg missed time during time during the season due to the effects of a concussion, but still posted 27 stolen bases in just 98 games for Lake Elsinore.

Spangenberg was ranked as our #8 fantasy second base prospect this year, and it appears as of now that he could provide a high stolen base total to go along with a decent batting average and possibly a solid amount of runs scored. To me, he doesn't seem likely to slot into the top 15 among second basemen in the Majors when he gets there based on the profile he has shown so far.

Low-A in 2012

These are prospects who reached the Padres' Midwest League affiliate in Fort Wayne. These players could be at least 3 full seasons from reaching the Majors.

Joe Ross (BBRef Statistics)

Ross was the Padres' top draft pick in the 2011 draft, taken 25th overall. The brother of current Padres' pitcher Tyson Ross, Joe is considered to have the higher ceiling in the long term. He was sent to Low-A to start his season, but struggled pretty mightily there before missing time due to a shoulder injury. He was sent to the Padres' short season affiliate in the Northwest League after he recovered, and was much better there.

Long term, Ross has a ton of upside, as he has already shown a plus fastball, and also has a changeup and slider which are both promising pitches. He struck out over a batter per inning across the whole of the season, and will likely return to Low-A to start the 2013 season. He showed solid control (right at 3 BB/9) in his stint in the NWL, and will hopefully be able to carry that forward. He could be a #3/#4 fantasy starter in the Majors if everything breaks right for Ross.

Matthew Wisler (BBRef Statistics)

Wisler was a 7th round draft pick by the Padres in the 2011 draft, and emerged this year as one of the top pitching prospects in their system. He was given a full season assignment in Low-A, and struck out 113 against just 28 walks in 114 innings pitched there.

Wisler fell in the draft due to velocity concerns in high school and signability issues, and it appears that the Padres are going to be the beneficiaries here. John Sickels wrote him up briefly back in August, and it sounds like the reports on Wisler match up fairly well with the performance. Based on what we have seen from the Padres in the past, we could see Wisler move straight to AA from Low-A, which it appears he may be able to handle.

Austin Hedges (Profile during Catcher Week, BBRef Statistics)

Craig wrote about Hedges during catcher week, and I think it bears reminding that Hedges is known more for his defensive prowess. We may not learn a ton about him from his performance in the offensive haven of the California League though.

Short Season in 2012

The prospects in this group reached one of the short season leagues as their final stop of the season. For the Padres, this could mean the Arizona League or Northwest League.

Max Fried (BBRef Statistics)

Fried was expected to be the second player worth seeing at Harvard-Westlake HS last year, behind potential #1 overall pick Lucas Giolito. With Giolito out due to elbow concerns, Fried led their rotation, and ended up as the #7 overall pick in this year's draft. He signed for a $3 million signing bonus, and was able to throw 17 innings for the Padres' Arizona League affiliate before the end of the year.

Fried is viewed as having top of the rotation potential, although it may not be as a true #1 starting pitcher. He has a deep arsenal already, with a solid fastball, excellent curveball, and solid changeup despite being a high school draftee, and is considered extremely projectable at this point. He could see a full season assignment to Low-A to start his 2013 season, which based on the scouting reports seems he may be able to handle quickly.

(Doug Thornburn wrote ($) about Fried's delivery in his Raising Aces column over at Baseball Prospectus shortly after the draft)

Others of Note

Keyvius Sampson (SP) - Sampson was skipped straight from Low-A to AA last year, and the performance was a bit hit or miss. He still struck out over a batter per inning, but also saw his walk rate rise to 4.2 per 9 innings, and his ERA balloon to an even 5.00. He will still be just 22 years old in 2013, and if he were to repeat AA would still be well on track in the age-to-development curve.

Walker Weickel (SP) - Weickel was a supplemental first-round pick for the Padres this year, and he threw just 14 innings in the Arizona rookie league after signing. At this point, Weickel is viewed as having a very projectable frame, with the potential to be a mid-rotation starting pitcher. It seems to me that he would be most likely sent to a short season league next year, with the Northwest League being a possibility.

Travis Jankowski (CF) - Jankowski was another supplemental first round pick this year, drafted out of Stony Brook University. He finished his season in Low-A with Fort Wayne, stealing 17 bases and hitting .282 in 59 games. He is expected to be a leadoff hitter as he progresses through the minors, providing speed and on-base skills.

Adys Portillo (SP) - Portillo split his season between Low-A and AA, striking out 107 and walking 70 in 126 innings pitched. The scouting reports on Portillo point to a pitcher who has some absolutely filthy stuff, but not necessarily the ability to command or control it so far. He is worth watching, but at this point I wonder if he may end up in the back end of the bullpen instead.

Donavan Tate (OF) - Who honestly know what could have been at this point with Tate? The third overall pick back in 2009, Tate struggled at Low-A this year (.209/.294/.254) before struggling at High-A as well (.247/.391/.303). 2013 will be a huge year for Tate, as he will need to be protected on the 40-man roster at season's end.

Statistics from Baseball Reference, Minor League Central, and Fangraphs
Other research from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com

You can follow me on Twitter @jasonsbaseball

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