2014 San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects

Matt Wisler

, Photo Day. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball America just recently came out with their Top 30 Padres Prospects list as seen HERE. Our list varies slightly but, in all honesty, any prospect list that you look at is going to have the same guys in the top 4 spots. There are some clear cut stud prospects in the Padres system. There are also a ton of great arms. Basically, there is a lot to get excited about. If some guys are excluded, it’s probably because I don’t consider them to have prospect status anymore. That’s where BA and I really differ. I don’t consider Tommy Medica to be a prospect anymore. He is 25 years old, which to me is a little old for a prospect. It also appears that he won’t be in San Diego to start the season, which means he could be even older if he makes it there full time. But, I digress. Here’s the list. Feel free to post in the comments and tell me who I left off, over valued or under valued. I look forward to talking with you guys about it!

#1 – Matt Wisler (RHP – Age: 21 – BA Rank: #2)

2013 (Hi-A & AA): 10-6, 2.78 ERA, 1.029 WHIP, 131 K, 33 BB in 136 IP

Projected 2014 Level: AAA – El Paso Chihuahuas

Right now Matt Wisler is in Arizona soaking up the sun and the experience of playing ball with the big leaguers. For a guy whose first full season was 2012, it is very impressive to be in camp, potentially battling for the fifth starter spot. Chances are that Eric Stults will start off in the fifth starter spot but, I would be willing to bet my enormous editor’s salary that Wisler will be starting in San Diego by July. Fans in El Paso (or Tucson for a little while) will want to come out and catch a glimpse of a guy who could be the Padres ace within two years. Wisler features a low-90’s fastball that can get up into the mid-90’s when he needs it. He also has a very slow breaking curveball and a decent slider. His pitches are Major League ready and the only thing that he will continue to work on is his baseball IQ. Learning how to pitch to batters is just as important as having the pitches to get the batters out.Wisler pitched 20 games at AA last season so, I really don’t see him returning to San Antonio if he doesn’t make it onto the Padres Opening Day Roster.

#2 – Austin Hedges (C – Age: 21 – BA Rank: #1)

2013 (Hi-A & AA): .260/.333/.390, 4 HR, 38 RBI in 341 AB – 35% CS%, .979 Fld%

Projected 2014 Level: AA – San Antonio Missions

Austin Hedges is rated as the Padres top prospect by many different websites and publications. His bat is pretty good for a Catcher. His defense is off the charts for a Catcher, or anybody else for that matter. Hedges’ “pop time” (or the time it takes him to throw to second when a runner is stealing) runs in the 1.8 or 1.9 second range. A 2.0 pop time is considered to be great for an MLB Catcher. His defense is ready for the bigs. As you can see by his batting stats, he still has a little work to do. He spent the last part of the season in 2013 in San Antonio and put up a .224/.297/.269 slash line. Despite his batting numbers being down, he still only struck out 9 times in 67 at-bats. So, I don’t think saying he was overmatched would be a true statement. I do think that the Padres would like to see him work on his bat a little bit prior to a call-up. There’s no doubt that he is picking up some good tips and habits while catching with the big leaguers this Spring. He will most likely start out in AA to get some more experience. There is a chance that he could be called up to AAA during the season if the Padres deem his bat to be ready.

#3 – Hunter Renfroe (OF – Age: 22 – BA Rank: #4)

2013 (Lo-A & A): .271/.308/.459, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 49 K, 9 BB in 170 AB

Projected 2014 Level: Hi-A – Lake Elsinore Storm

Yes, Hunter Renfroe is 22; a year older than Wisler and Hedges. But, he also came out of Mississippi State rather than high school and has faced some tremendous pitching in the SEC. He put up pretty good numbers last year, albeit with a very bad strikeout to walk ratio. But, he is a slugger and that is somewhat to be expected. He has a great arm and projects to be a 5-tool outfielder. His power should really show this year if he is able to handle the California League pitching. Jumping to Hi-A is going to be tough but if Renfroe can handle it, he could make it to AA by the end of the season. The Padres are not shy about moving their prospects through the system very quickly. If Renfroe ends up being a 5-tooler, there is no need to keep him in the minors till he is 25 before giving him a shot at the bigs. The Padres would gladly take the strikeouts if there are 40 home runs to come along with it.

#4 – Max Fried (LHP – Age: 20 – BA Rank: #3)

2013 (A): 6-7, 3.49 ERA, 1.374 WHIP, 100 K, 56 BB in 118.2 IP

Projected 2014 Level: Hi-A – Lake Elsinore Storm

Fried has a pretty big arsenal of pitches to work with and fairly advanced control to go along with it. Still only 20 years old, he has a lot of time to work on his command and fine tune everything. A left-handed pitcher with a mid-90’s fastball, curve, change and cutter usually doesn’t have to worry about moving to the bullpen like most lefties do. Fried will stick as a starter and should be penciled into the San Diego rotation in a few years. Although young, he could move quickly if his feel for his pitches continues to improve. Working with coaches like Trevor Hoffman at Spring Training could really help kick start the learning process. Lake Elsinore and the California League will give Fried a great chance to prove where he’s at.

#5 – Casey Kelly (RHP – Age: 24 – BA Rank: #5)

2013: Did Not Play – Tommy John Surgery

Projected 2014 Level: Extended Spring Training

Casey Kelly made his Major League debut in 2012 going 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA. Considering that this was just prior to the elbow soreness that would eventually turn into Tommy John surgery, I don’t think we need to read too much into it. His numbers in the Minors prior to his Major League debut were great. That is the main reason that he was a key part of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. Kelly throws everything down in the zone, especially his sinking fastball. If he comes back from surgery and can tighten up his command somewhat, he could very quickly get back to San Diego. He should stay in Arizona for about a month after the teams break camp and then see a few rehab starts in San Antonio or El Paso to get everything loosened up and ready to get back to the Petco mound.

#6 – Rymer Liriano (OF – Age: 22 – BA Rank: #6)

2013: Did Not Play – Tommy John Surgery

Projected 2014 Level: AA – San Antonio Missions

Liriano, just like a lot of the Padres was injured for the 2013 season. Lucky for him, he’s not a pitcher and his recovery should be a little bit easier. He used to have a gun for an arm in Rightfield and hopefully that’s still the case. He hits for average, some power and has a ton of speed to go along with great defense. If his power doesn’t come around, he may be destined to be a fourth outfielder and bench runner but, that could very easily change with just a little work in the cage. It’s hard to say where Liriano will start out but, I would think AA would be a good bet. With a loss of development time, the Padres could be even quicker than usual at pulling the promotion trigger. If he can improve on his .251 AVG and .335 OBP in 53 AA games, the Padres would love to add him into the outfield mix in San Diego as soon as 2015.

#7 – Keyvius Sampson (RHP – Age: 23 – BA Rank: #9)

2013 (AA & AAA): 12-7, 3.57 ERA, 1.274 WHIP, 135 K, 62 BB in 141.1 IP

Projected 2014 Level: AAA – El Paso Chihuahuas

Sampson was added to the 40-man roster this past offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. That alone should tell you how the Padres feel about him. He has progressed very rapidly through the system (apart from a brief demotion back to AA last season to work on his command). Apart from an initial adjustment period at almost every level, his numbers have been very good. Previously a fastball/change-up/curveball pitcher, Sampson has added a slider this offseason. His curveball had been pretty mediocre and he says that he spent the offseason working on it. He is currently in camp with the big leaguers and hopefully picking up tips from some of the veterans like Josh Johnson and Ian Kennedy. If his breaking stuff can be controlled and he hits his spots in El Paso this season, he could avoid what was considered to be a very likely move to the bullpen. He should see some time in San Diego this season, probably in September.

#8 – Cory Spangenberg (2B – Age: 22 – BA Rank: #11)

2013 (Hi-A & AA): .292/.346/.407, 6 HR, 51 RBI, 112 K, 40 BB and 36 SB in 513 AB

Projected 2014 Level: AA – San Antonio Missions

Spangenberg is going to be a great number 2 or 8 hitter for the Padres one of these days. He has hit at every level. You would like his OBP to be a little better and his K’s to come down a bit but, patience can be taught. His speed and the ability to put the bat on the ball can not be taught and that is what is going to get him to the big leagues. As we’ve mentioned before, the Padres are very aggressive with their promotions so saying that Spangenberg will start off in AA could be completely wrong. The Chihuahuas already look to have a pretty full infield though and a half-season back in the Texas League could help Cory work on his patience. He has made great strides on defense to go along with his great bat. He can’t be held in the Minors too much longer. If Chase Headley was to be traded during the season and Jedd Gyorko moved to Third Base, there is a slight chance that Spangenberg could get the Second Base job this year. If not, he will be with the Padres sometime in 2015.

#9 – Alex Dickerson (OF – Age: 23 – BA Rank: #25)

2013 (AA): .288/.337/.494, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 89 K, 27 BB in 451 AB

Projected 2014 Level: AAA – El Paso Chihuahuas

Going into this past offseason, the Padres had a few targets that they really wanted to bring into the system. A left-handed, power hitting outfielder was a big need for them. Eventually they would acquire Seth Smith from the A’s to fill that role but for a while it looked as if Alex Dickerson would be making the jump to the Majors. Dickerson was acquired from the Pirates in November for Miles Mikolas and Jaff Decker, who had both been designated for assignment. Although he played First Base primarily for most of his career, GM Josh Byrnes indicated on the day of the trade that he was going to be an Outfielder going forward. In Dickerson’s first full season in professional ball, he was named the Florida State League’s Player of the Year. In his second season he was named an Eastern League (AA) All-Star. His plate patience is pretty good for a power hitter, although you may like to see a few more walks. If his power continues to develop, he could be in the Padres outfield discussion very soon.

#10 – Jace Peterson (SS – Age: 23 – BA Rank: #7)

2013 (Hi-A): .303/.382/.454, 7 HR, 66 RBI, 58 K, 54 BB and 42 SB in 423 AB

Projected 2014 Level: AA – San Antonio Missions

Let me just start by saying, folks if you are trying to get a glimpse at the Padres future, you need to see the San Antonio Missions sometime this season. In fact, you better make it early in the season because Spangenberg, Hedges, Liriano and Peterson may not be there come August. Peterson is an outstanding lead-off man. His defense is above average as well. Coming out of McNeese State in the 2011 Draft, he is a little bit older than the other prospects at his level. Honestly, that is the only reason that he is down here at 10 and not at 4 or 5. Peterson is a left-handed batter, which allows him to get down the line even quicker on infield singles or bunts. His OBP is close to .400 which is a phenomenal number. Everything about Peterson says that he will be the Padres lead-off man very soon, except for Everth Cabrera being in the way. He has only played Shortstop as a professional and I don’t see that changing. If he keeps putting up numbers like he did in 2013, he will force the Padres to make a very tough decision come mid-2015.

Alright, I know I said it was our Top 10 but, here’s 20 more for you (in order): Robbie Erlin, Yeison Asencio, Franmil Reyes, Juan Oramas, Travis Jankowski, Burch Smith, Reymond Fuentes, Donn Roach, Franchy Cordero, Dustin Peterson, Corey Adamson, Gabriel Quintana, Jordan Paroubeck, Ruben Mejia, Jeremy Baltz, Joe Ross, Alberth Martinez, Adys Portillo, Carlos Belen and Walker Weickel. Feel free to use this as a list of guys that you think should have been included in the Top 10. Let’s talk about it!