Here’s my top 10 prospects for the Padres going into 2010:
1.) Jaff Decker, LF–Decker absolutely destroyed Low-A last year, and he was young for the level. In particular, his .442 OBP stands out, although the stocky Decker also posted a .215 ISO. Decker has a bad body and poor range in the outfield, but has a cannon for an arm. He could be a better version of Matt Stairs.
2.) Logan Forsythe, 3B–Another OBP king, Forsythe hit an otherworldly .322/.472/.504 at Lake Elsinore last year, before coming somewhat down to earth in Double-A with a .279/.384/.377 line. His combination of plate discipline and doubles power should play great in spacious Petco Park. Forsythe is a tick above average at third base, and has the versatility to play almost anywhere on the field. He could come up as the Padres second baseman as early as July.
3.) Simon Castro, RHP–The 21-year-old Castro blew Low-A hitters away last year, posting a 2.80 FIP, 10.07 K/9, and 4.24 K/BB ratio. He’s got mid-90’s heat and a very good slider, and has the makings of a future #2 starter.
4.) Donavan Tate, CF–Tate is very difficult to rank. The #3 pick in last year’s draft, Tate has superstar potential, but has yet to play in pro ball. Like most high school picks, he’s fairly raw and has more bust potential than someone like Forsythe. Skill-wise, imagine Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen with even more power potential, but less plate discipline.
5.) Dexter Carter, RHP–Carter posted similar numbers to Castro and has similar stuff. He’s a year older than Castro, but pitched at the same level, and 22-year-olds in Low-A are expected to dominate. Carter also tired late in the season after being acquired from the White Sox in the Jake Peavy trade. He has #2 starter potential but needs to move fast.
6.) James Darnell, 3B–Darnell followed Forsythe’s excellence one level behind, hitting .329/.468/.518 at Low-A and .294/.377/.553 for Lake Elsinore. He and Forsythe are the same age, but Darnell is a level behind, so he’s knocked down a bit on these rankings. Darnell is also a poor defensive third baseman, and will likely end up in right field long-term, perhaps in an outfield with Decker and Tate.
7.) Edinson Rincon, 3B–Three years Forsythe’s and Darnell’s junior, Rincon gives the Padres organization another top-flight third base prospect. He hit .300/.415/.468 at short-season Eugene last year as an 18-year-old, displaying a plate approach far beyond his years. Like Darnell, Rincon has a strong arm but is an erratic third baseman, so his ultimate position is in doubt. Still, it’s far too early to worry about that; what’s important is that Rincon is a polished hitter way ahead of the curve.
8.) Aaron Poreda, LHP–Poreda should be able to nail down a bullpen spot this year, and could move into the San Diego rotation in the future. Poreda throws a solid low-90’s fastball that occasionally can get close to triple digits (although he loses command at high speeds). Poreda’s got an average slider and usable changeup as well. If he can find consistent mechanics, he’ll be a star; even without them, he should be a solid setup man at least.
9.) Craig Italiano, RHP–Part of the haul received from Oakland, Italiano is a hard-throwing righty who dominated when moved to relief in High-A. How’s a 1.54 FIP work for you? Italiano throws in the 94-99 mph range and has a hard curveball in the low 80’s to back it up. He could rise up to the majors in the second half and succeed Heath Bell as closer–he’s that scary.
10.) Everett Williams, CF–The Padres’ second-rounder last year, Williams is a 19-year-old outfielder who is polished enough to start his first full season in Low-A. He doesn’t have a signature skill, but he’s a playable center fielder who runs fairly well and projects to hit 15-20 homers per season.