Q&A with Baseball America Associate Editor Matt EddyPosted by in AZL Padres | Eugene Emeralds | Fort Wayne Tin Caps | Lake Elsinore Storm | Player Update | Q&A | San Antonio Missions | Trades | Tucson Padres
Matt Eddy is an Associate Editor at Baseball America who has covered the Padres’ minor league system since the 2006 off season. He was kind enough to chat with us about BA’s recently released Padres Top 10 Prospect list. You can also see full writeups on the Padres’ Top 30 prospects in BA’s Prospect Handbook. Be sure to follow Matt on Twitter.
Where would the prospects acquired in the Mat Latos trade rank in the Padres’ farm system?
The Mat Latos trade with the Reds changed the Padres prospect landscape. San Diego can plug in first baseman Yonder Alonso at first base right away, and he fits with the organization’s emphasis on on-base skills and a line-to-line hitting approach—particularly when it comes to lefty bats like Alonso. He would challenge Anthony Rizzo for top prospect in the system honors.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal will spend the bulk of 2012 in Triple-A if all goes according to plan, though he could share time with either Nick Hundley or John Baker in 2013. Catchers who provide offensive value are so rare that Grandal might slot in at No. 5 on our list, after Cory Spangenberg and ahead of Austin Hedges.
Right-handed reliever Brad Boxberger probably would not crack the Top 10, though like Alonso he is big league-ready.
Who are the prospects in your Top 10 who scouts continually gave glowing reviews?
Scouts seemed most unanimous in their praise for Rymer Liriano and the Texas trade acquisitions Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland, but for very different reasons. Liriano has showcased incredible raw tools in the past—power, speed, arm strength—but he really completed the picture in 2011 by improving as a hitter. Midwest League pitches threw him a steady diet of breaking balls, as happens to most righty-swinging three-hole hitters, and that honed Liriano’s pitch recognition skills and discipline.
Erlin and Wieland work quickly and throw strikes, which scouts (and most fans) applaud. Both locate at least two secondary pitches and seem like shoo-ins to have big league careers of some shape so long as they stay healthy.
What was the most difficult name to cut from this list?
Despite Jaff Decker’s unimpressive .236 batting average in Double-A, the Padres believe hitting will be his carrying tool to the big leagues. He sports a career .411 on-base percentage in the minors, which is great, but he falls into the trap of waiting for that perfect pitch. Obviously, he’s seeing fewer and fewer grooved fastballs now that he’s in the high minors. However, the Padres are encouraged by his dedication to staying in shape, and they see him as an on-base and gap-power-oriented hitter, potentially a starter in left field.
The scouting community seems pretty split on Austin Hedges’ hitting ability. What did you hear when putting together this list that slotted him into the projected 2015 lineup?
For second-rounder Austin Hedges, it’s his Gold Glove-caliber defensive skill that could make for a quick ride through the minors. Just as we as fans tend to underestimate the level of offensive skill required for players to hold down a corner position in the big leagues, I think we underestimate the level of defensive acumen that catchers and shortstops require to play every day. That won’t be an issue for Hedges.
Though he’s a rare case, high school catcher Yadier Molina spent just two full seasons in the minors, 2002-03, as he raced through the Cardinals system. Of course, the Padres’ acquisition of Yasmani Grandal in the Mat Latos trade changes the picture and could buy Hedges more development time.
Do you see a big difference stuff-wise between Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin?
Joe Wieland’s supreme fastball command—he got some 70s for overall control—and his velocity spike up to 94-95 mph (on long rest) during the Texas League playoffs gave him the edge. But he and Robbie Erlin do have similar profiles as flyball-oriented, strike-throwing starters whose raw stuff plays up because of command.
Is the projection of Jedd Gyorko as the 2015 left fielder more of a criticism of his defense at third or a belief that Chase Headley will stick around?
Jedd Gyorko will be fine at third base as long as his lower half doesn’t get too thick. Most likely, Headley will be traded at some point in the next two years, and Gyorko ought to be the regular third baseman by the end of 2013. The Padres believe Gyorko’s righty, line-drive bat is perfectly suited for Petco Park. He and Yonder Alonso and Cory Spangenberg are the organization’s new position-player paradigm.
Keyvius Sampson had his first healthy year in 2011. Do you think he can stay healthy and consistent enough to remain a starter?
Continued health will be key for Keyvius Sampson, but so too will the development of his breaking ball, which sits in the low 70s without a lot of power at this stage. The 20-year-old Sampson still has ample time to refine his curve, but if he doesn’t, then the harsh reality is that the majority of fastball/changeup righties make their way to the bullpen—particularly ones like Sampson with effort in their deliveries. We have him listed as the 2015 closer, so obviously we feel he has a high ceiling as a reliever.
There are eight new names on your Padres Top 10 this year. Who are a few low level guys you believe may make the jump into the Top 10 next year?
I believe that lefty starter Juan Oramas and righty reliever Miles Mikolas will have more impact in San Diego than even some Padres fans realize. Oramas throws three pitches, gets swings-and-misses and boasts a strong performance track record. He could spend a decade in a rotation. Mikolas combines premium velocity, a sharp breaking ball and exceptional control for a reliever. He converted 21 of 24 save opportunities during the season and then excelled in Texas League playoffs, converting two more saves and throwing five scoreless innings overall.