Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball America released it’s 2013 Farm System Strength rankings yesterday and once again the Padres are in the top five. In fact, the Padres rank third, behind only the Red Sox and Astros. In the last few years, the farm system really made a leap forward following the trades of players such as Jake Peavy, Adrian Gonzalez and Mat Latos. The question remains, will the Padres go the way of the Red Sox or the Astros in terms of utilizing their prospects.
He may not win the NL Rookie of the Year, but in 2013 Jedd Gyorko showed every one what the guys down on the farm are capable of. Gyorko became only the third Padre to be named to Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team following a season where he batted .249 with 23 Home Runs and 63 RBI. Tommy Medica and Burch Smith are a few more of the young guys who made their debut this year. The Padres have shown a willingness to use their young guys and when deserving throw them into the starting lineup. Who could we see playing their home games at Petco in the near future?
In Baseball America’s rankings, a few of the top prospects are singled out. Matt Wisler (RHP) is the first on the list. Wisler had an outstanding season in 2013 with a sub-3.00 ERA and 131 strikeouts between Class-A Lake Elsinore and Class-AA San Antonio. Wisler has been mentioned as a possibility to fight for the fifth starter spot during Spring Training this year. In my opinion, he will start the year off as an El Paso Chihuahua and make a start in San Diego by the end of the season. Right-Handed Pitcher Keyvius Sampson is second on the list. After dominating Class-AA with a 2.26 ERA and 110 Strikeouts in 103 innings, Sampson made the jump to Class-AAA. He did not enjoy nearly as much success there and may have been out of the running for the fifth starter lottery if it weren’t for his stats so far in the Arizona Fall League. So far in the AFL, Sampson has pitched only 7 innings but has a 1.29 ERA and 6 strikeouts. Even if given a shot at the job in Spring Training, I think that the Padres depth at Starting Pitcher means Sampson will be teaming up with Wisler and the rest of the Chihuahuas.
The rest of the list includes Max Fried (LHP), Austin Hedges (C), Zach Eflin (RHP), Jace Peterson (SS) and Joe Ross (RHP). Casey Kelly (RHP) and Rymer Liriano (OF) would easily have been at the top of the list had they both not missed all of 2013 after surgery. There is a decent chance that one or two of these players could be included in a trade to bring in a Corner Outfielder or possibly a First Baseman. The Padres would remain one of the top Farm Systems even if a few players were to be traded. Chances are that more than one player from this list will make an impact in San Diego this coming year. With a large amount of the top prospects being pitchers, I would put my money on a pitcher coming up to help the club down the stretch. Earl Weaver was a firm believer in having rookie pitchers start off in the bullpen. This could be a good spot for a young pitcher such as Matt Wisler or Max Fried. No word yet on how Earl Weaver felt about dressing up rookies in skimpy clothes. I’m sure that these prospects would have no problem dressing however they need to, for a taste of the big leagues.