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February 25, 2010

Future Shock

Padres Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Donavan Tate, OF
2. Simon Castro, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. James Darnell, 3B
4. Jaff Decker, OF
Three-Star Prospects
5. Wynn Pelzer, RHP
6. Lance Zawadzki, SS
7. Adys Portillo, RHP
8. Logan Forsythe, 3B
9. Aaron Poreda, LHP
10. Dexter Carter, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Everett Williams, OF

Four More:
12. Cory Luebke, LHP: A tall left-hander, Luebke combines plus command with average stuff and could fit in the back of the rotation down the road.
13. Rymer Liriano, OF: This power/speed outfielder could rocket up this list, but needs to temper his approach.
14. Edinson Rincon, 3B: Rincon is an intriguing young bat, but he's likely a left fielder in the end, so he needs to keep hitting.
15. Drew Cumberland, SS: He's a plus athlete who still has plenty of potential; he just needs to stay healthy.

1. Donavan Tate, OF
DOB: 9/27/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed:1st round, 2009, Cartersville HS (GA)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Tate had the best tools in the 2009 draft, which earned him a club-record $6.15-million bonus. That was also the highest bonus ever given to a high school player.
The Good: No player in the 2009 draft could match Tate in terms of athleticism. His raw power and speed rate as well above average, giving him true 30/30 potential, and possibly even more. He's a very good center fielder now with the possibility of turning into an impact defender, and his arm is yet another plus tool.
The Bad: There are concerns about Tate's core hitting ability, as his complicated swing could leave him behind good fastballs. It currently gives him easily exploitable holes. The Padres would have loved for Tate to get some playing time last year, but surgery to correct a sports hernia leaves him without a professional at-bat, and he'll need at least 1,500 to develop.
Ephemera: Tate's father, Lars, was the 53rd overall pick in the 1988 NFL draft, and finished his career with 1,061 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
Perfect World Projection: Tate has a rare set of tools, and no other position player in the system is even in the same zip code when it comes to pure ceiling.
Path to the Big Leagues: Tate is not the kind of prospect who rockets through a system; this could take a while.
Timetable: Tate has yet to make his pro debut, and an assignment to Low-A Fort Wayne could be an ugly introduction to pro baseball due to the weather and deflated offensive environment. He'll likely begin the year at extended spring training.

2. Simon Castro, RHP
DOB: 4/9/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2009 Stats: 3.33 ERA (140.1-118-37-157) at Low-A (28 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: With an outstanding showing in his full-season debut, the Padres' breakout player of the year went from a nice arm to the top pitching prospect in the system.
The Good: Castro is a high-upside power pitcher who draws comparisons to a young Jose Contreras in terms of both size and stuff. He's a huge (much more than his listed weight) righty who fills up the strike zone with a 93-94 mph fastball that consistently touches 96. He'll flash a plus power slider with excellent depth and tilt at times, and his pitch efficiency allows him to get deep into games.
The Bad: Castro's changeup is a below-average pitch, and he rarely throws it unless he's well ahead in the count. That is related to his tendency to go the fastball only once runners are on base. He can lose feel on his breaking ball at times, causing it to flatten out.
Ephemera: The first inning was rough for Castro: 40 percent of his wild pitches and 32 percent of his walks came in that inning.
Perfect World Projection: Castro will be an above-average major-league starter, with some scouts projecting him as high as a No. 2.
Path to the Big Leagues: He could reach San Diego as soon as late 2011.
Timetable: Castro will move to High-A Lake Elsinore in 2010, where good pitching numbers are hard to find.

3. James Darnell, 3B
DOB: 1/19/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, University of South Carolina
2009 Stats: .329/.468/.518 at Low-A (66 G); .294/.377/.553 at High-A (60 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: The Padres' second-round pick performed more like a first-rounder in his full-season debut.
The Good: Darnell has an impressive combination of tools and real-world baseball skills. His plate discipline is big-league ready, and he's an adept hitter with above-average power and a feel for contact rarely found in a slugger. He's a solid runner who moves well once he gets going, and his arm is another plus tool.
The Bad: Darnell frustrates scouts defensively. He has all of the necessary athleticism to be not only a solid, but an above-average third baseman, yet he has bad hands, and makes poor transfers, and inaccurate throws. Most scouts believe he'll need to move to the outfield, as the bat will be ready far before the glove.
Ephemera: Darnell is an accomplished trumpet player who has played in several jazz bands.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be an above-average offensive producer, but more likely as a corner outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: His offensive game is very polished, and he could be ready in 150-200 minor-league games.
Timetable: Darnell will begin 2010 at Double-A San Antonio, where another good season could get him a serious look next spring.

4. Jaff Decker, OF
DOB: 2/23/90
Height/Weight: 5-10/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Sunrise Mountain HS (AZ)
2009 Stats: .299/.442/.514 at Low-A (104 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: Decker, a supplemental first-round pick, just kept on hitting, leading the Midwest League in on-base percentage while finishing second in slugging.
The Good: While nothing about his game is pretty, few have any major complaints about Decker's offensive abilities. He employs an awkward open stance and has multiple trigger mechanisms in his swing. Yet it just works for him, as he has arguably the best plate discipline in the minors to go with a quick, compact swing and above-average power. He has an above-average arm.
The Bad: It's impossible to discuss Decker without bringing up his body, which is short and pudgy, leaving many scouts very concerned as to what a 19-year-old is build like Matt Stairs will look when he's 25. He's a slow runner and a poor defensive outfielder. He already might be best suited to an American League team. Left-handers give him some trouble, despite his open stance, as he hit just .219/.429/.342 against them last year.
Ephemera: Decker loved the fifth inning in 2009, going a remarkable 24-for-43 with 12 extra-base hits and 10 walks for a batting line of .558/.636/1.000.
Perfect World Projection: Decker will be an offensive producer, but where will he play?
Path to the Big Leagues: The bat could come very quickly.
Timetable: Nobody will be surprised to see Decker put up some massive numbers in 2010 for Lake Elsinore in the California League, but nobody thinks that will necessarily turn him into a great prospect, either. He's one of the more unique players around, with a bizarre combination of huge strengths and massive weaknesses.

5. Wynn Pelzer, RHP
DOB: 6/23/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 9th round, 2007, University of South Carolina
2009 Stats: 3.94 ERA (150.2-134-59-147) at High-A (27 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: An athletic righty, Pelzer took a massive step forward by not only holding his own in the California League, but by dominating at times.
The Good: Pelzer has two plus power pitches, with a 91-93 mph fastball that gets up to 95 and features heavy sink, as well as a low-to-mid 80s slider with strong two-plane break. His command and control is solid. He's an intense, highly focused pitcher who is very aggressive, and his mechanics are clean.
The Bad: Pelzer has yet to show much of a changeup, as he telegraphs the pitch with visually slower arm action. His high-strung nature gets the better of him at times, as he'll overthrow his pitches and lose the strike zone.
Ephemera: While a consistent college powerhouse, South Carolina has produced very few big-league pitchers, with former Cubs GM Ed Lynch the all-time leader in wins for players drafted out of the school with just 47.
Perfect World Projection: Pelzer will be a good third starter, with some late-inning relief possibilities as a back-up plan.
Path to the Big Leagues: A late 2011 ETA is the baseline projection at this point.
Timetable: Pelzer will move up to San Antonio is 2011.

6. Lance Zawadzki, SS
DOB: 5/26/85
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2007, Lee University
2009 Stats: .276/.360/.552 at High-A (36 G); .289/.372/.416 at Double-A (92 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: This middle infielder showed a potent bat at both High- and Double-A.
The Good: Zawadzski bring a lot of offensive skills to the table for a middle infielder, as he has a good approach, plus bat speed, and surprising power for the position, projecting to hit 12-16 home runs annually in the big leagues. He'll never win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he's solid enough, and his arm is well above average.
The Bad: Zawadzki will never blow anyone away with his athleticism; he's more of a grinder who gets a maximum return on his tools. There are scouts who question his range at shortstop, thinking he'd fit better at second or third. He doesn't offer much in the way of projection.
Ephemera: Zawadzki is the highest drafted player ever out of Lee University in Tennessee, but he was also a 15th-round pick in 2006 out of San Diego State University.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid but unspectacular everyday middle infielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: Zawakzski shouldn't need much more than another year in the minors.
Timetable: Depending on how the numbers game works out this spring, Zawadzski will begin the year at either Double- or Triple-A.

7. Adys Portillo, RHP
DOB: 12/20/91
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2008
2009 Stats: 5.13 ERA (52.2-67-28-44) at Rookie-level (13 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: Among the top international pitchers on the 2008 market, Portillo scuffled in his stateside debut.
The Good: Portillo remains loaded with projection, as he was already missing bats as a 17-year-old with a low-90s fastball that gets up to 94 mph, and his frame still has plenty of room for growth. He'll flash a good power breaking ball, and he has some feel for a change.
The Bad: Portillo's rawness was exposed in the complex league. His command can get messy due to inconsistent release points, and all of his secondary pitches come and go, not only from game to game, but from inning to inning. More than anything else, he just needs work.
Ephemera: Portillo allowed fewer hits than innings in just three of his 13 appearances in 2009.
Perfect World Projection: Despite the early struggles, Portillo's ceiling remains that of a star-level starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: This one is going to take a while.
Timetable: Portillo is probably not ready for a full-season assignment, so he'll likely begin the year in extended spring training, waiting until the short-season leagues fire up.

8. Logan Forsythe, 3B
DOB: 1/14/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of Arkansas
2009 Stats: .322/.472/.504 at High-A (66 G); .279/.384/.377 at Double-A (66 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed

Year in Review: A polished college bat, Forsythe reached Double-A in his full-season debut, but he left plenty of questions about his ultimate upside.
The Good: Like many Padres prospects, Forsythe has a fantastic approach, rivaling Decker for the best in the organization. He employs a line-drive stroke that sprays balls to all fields while occasionally stinging one into the gap. He's a good defender at the hot corner with excellent reactions and a solid arm.
The Bad: Forsythe just doesn't profile well for third base due to his lack of power, as nearly 80 percent of his Double-A hits were singles. He doesn't have the athleticism to play up the middle, so he might only work on a team that gets power from non-standard positions.
Ephemera: Forsythe was undrafted out of Christian Brothers High in Memphis, Tenn., whose most famous baseball alum is Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver.
Perfect World Projection: The next Bill Mueller?
Path to the Big Leagues: Forsythe doesn't have a huge ceiling, but he's close to the majors.
Timetable: Like Zawadzki, Forsythe will begin 2010 at either San Antonio or Triple-A Portland.

9. Aaron Poreda, LHP
DOB: 10/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-6/240
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, University of San Francisco (White Sox)
2009 Stats: 2.38 ERA (64.1-47-35-69) at Double-A (11 G) with White Sox; 3.60 ERA (10.0-8-3-9) at Triple-A (2 G) with White Sox; 7.16 ERA (32.2-38-37-30) at Triple-A (7 G) with Padres
Last Year's Ranking: 2 (White Sox)

Year in Review: The top prospect going to San Diego in the Jake Peavy trade struggled mightily following the deal.
The Good: Poreda has the kind of power arsenal rarely found in a southpaw. He's a big, physical lefty who pumps 92-95 mph gas and can touch 97 at times. He also flashes a solid slider.
The Bad: Poreda's control has been an issue throughout his career, but it completely disappeared following the trade, as his mechanics got completely out of whack. His slider is highly inconsistent, and his changeup is nearly a non-factor, leaving most scouts to project him as a reliever.
Ephemera: Poreda's final start of the year for Portland was straight out of Bull Durham, as he walked eight while also striking out eight over 5 1/3 innings and giving up only one hit.
Perfect World Projection: Poreda is a late-inning power reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: It all depends on the command.
Timetable: If Poreda throws strikes this spring, he'll open the season in the big leagues. If not, he'll head back to Portland.

10. Dexter Carter, RHP
DOB: 2/5/87
Height/Weight: 6-6/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 13th round, 2008, Old Dominion University (White Sox)
2009 Stats: 3.13 ERA (118.0-103-32-143) at Low-A (19 G) with White Sox; 12.86 ERA (21.0-34-15-23) at Low-A (6 G) with Padres
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed (White Sox)

Year in Review: Among the top performers in the Sally League, this tall, lanky righty struggled following the Peavy deal.
The Good: Carter has an effective three-pitch mix, beginning with a low-90s fastball that touches 94 mph. His best pitch is a classic 12-to-6 curveball that is a true plus offering, while his changeup has made progress and projects as a big-league average offering. Despite his length, he tends to throw plenty of strikes with a simple, easily repeatable delivery.
The Bad: Carter's fastball is a bit too true, and he tends to work the pitch in the upper half of the strike zone. His changeup can still come and go. He falls in love with his curveball too often. He needs to fill out his skinny frame, as he was clearly out of gas by the end of the year.
Ephemera: Carter did little to impress the home fans at Fort Wayne following the trade, giving up 14 runs over just 3 2/3 innings in two home outings for the TinCaps.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a third starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Carter needs to prove he can handle a full workload while competing in a system that is suddenly somewhat deep in pitching.
Timetable: Despite his late-season struggles, Carter's 2009 was, all-in-all, a rousing success. He'll move up to Lake Elsinore in 2010.

11. Everett Williams, OF
DOB: 10/1/90
Height/Weight: 5-10/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, McCallum HS (TX)
2009 Stats: .389/.421/.611 at Rookie-level (4 G); .200/.310/.400 at Short-season (6 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Among the top high school outfielders in the 2009 draft, many were surprised to see Williams fall out of the first round, dropping to 52nd overall.
The Good: Williams is an explosive, compact player. His bat speed ranked with any high school hitter in the draft, and he'll surprise with above-average power as well. He's a plus runner, and a good defensive outfielder with a solid arm.
The Bad: Williams' offensive game is quite raw. He has a nose-to-toes strike zone and can look foolish at times with bad swings when he chases outside pitches. Because of his build, some wonder if he'll lose his speed down the road and project better in a corner outfield slot.
Ephemera: Small sample size alert: During Williams' brief pro debut, he went 1-for-9 with six whiffs against left-handers.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a dynamic power/speed outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: Like Tate, Williams is more tools than skills for now, and it could take some time.
Timetable: Williams will make his full-season debut in 2010 at Low-A Fort Wayne.

The Sleeper: Outfielder Sawyer Carroll hit .317/.413/.489 across three levels in 2009 and projects as a solid second-division starter or good fourth outfielder.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Mat Latos, RHP
2. Kyle Blanks, OF/1B
3. Donavan Tate, OF
4. Simon Castro, RHP
5. Everth Cabrera, SS
6. Luke Gregerson, RHP
7. Chase Headley, 3B
8. James Darnell, 3B
9. Jaff Decker, OF
10. Aaron Cunningham, OF

The Padres are unlikely to compete in 2010, but they do have youth on their side. Early readings from those playing fantasy baseball, Latos almost seems to be a forgotten man, and that's silly. He's a future ace and will be the Padres' best pitcher this year. Blanks is reportedly in great shape this year, and is ready for the outfield. The Padres have always dreamed on him as a Dave Parker-type, and while he's not that good, he's still quite valuable. Cabrera was a shockingly successful Rule 5 pick who had a better year than Rangers star Elvis Andrus in a much tougher home park. Gregerson is another great find as a plus sinker/plus slider reliever who should be a good set-up man for the next decade. I still have some faith in Headley taking a step forward with the bat, although most now see Cunningham, the former A's outfielder, as more of a bench player at this point.

Summary: The Padres have a young big-league team and more high-upside talent in their system than they've had for nearly a decade. If things break right, they could be two to three years away from adding themselves to the always-competitive mix in the National League West.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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