Padres Prospect Mailbag: 2012 Spring Training Part 1Posted by in AZL Padres | Eugene Emeralds | Fort Wayne Tin Caps | Lake Elsinore Storm | Mailbag | Player Update | San Antonio Missions | Tucson Padres
Some questions have been slightly edited to be shorter and more direct. If you have a question for the next Padres Prospect Mailbag that will be posted later in Spring Training, shoot us an email: email@example.com
Do the Padres really expect the hit tool to develop with Austin Hedges? 3MIL even for a Gold Glove-type catcher seems a little excessive given concerns about his hitting – Gabe
In short, yes. Hedges is a great example of a player in the draft who caused many teams to have differing opinions. While there was absolutely no one denying his defensive prowess, the combination of Hedges’ high school team almost never holding batting practice sessions that were open to scouts and media members and opponents constantly pitching around him led to few teams having much experience watching Hedges’ bat in action.
Luckily for the Padres, Jaron Madison and his team were able to get more good looks of Hedges than just about any other team in the league. Like with any player there’s no guarantee that Hedges will mature and progress to the point of reaching the majors, but you can be sure that no team in the league – not just the budget-minded Padres – would be willing to spend $3 million on a player they didn’t feel had a great chance of turning into a star.
It’s also important to remember just how low the hitting bar is at catcher in modern-day baseball. Outside of 2010, MLB catchers have produced the worst offensive output of any position in baseball every year since 2000. The Padres don’t need Hedges to post an .800 OPS to be a star with his defensive tools. Though should he get to that point – which a few key people in the organization believe he can – you’re looking at a perennial All Star.
There’s been a lot of talk about breakout players for 2012, but who do you think is going to slide a bit on lists? – Angel
Apologies Angel, but I’m going to side step your question slightly here to avoid bringing unfair criticism on any players that haven’t done anything wrong. On the other hand you do bring up a good point that I think is important for Padres fans to understand.
Consider this: What top Padres prospects failed in 2011?
Outside of Simon Castro’s continued backslide, more missed time for Donavan Tate and Jaff Decker’s struggles to keep his batting average at expected levels it’s tough to find guys that didn’t either continue to progress or take a giant leap forward in their development.
It’s impossible to know what 2012 will bring no matter how many high-floor prospects are in the organization. A rash of injuries or the stalled development of a guy like Rymer Liriano (*knocks on wood*) would simply be par-for-the-course in the unpredictable world of player development. While the future certainly looks bright, here’s to hoping that 2012 isn’t a rough regression to the mean.
For a team that lacks the truly elite prospects in their system, does it concern you that the Padres cannot acquire elite talent through free agency? – Riley
Riley, I think it’s safe to assume that you’ve stumbled across the question that keeps Josh Byrnes and his team up at night.
In recent years we’ve seen the model most big-budget teams decide to pursue involves developing cheap role players and borderline All Stars while chasing superstars in free agency. Mid-market teams tend have tended to focus more on investing heavily in player development while pursuing middle-of-the-road free agents to help push the franchise over the edge. Finally you arrive at the riskiest approach that small-market teams have found success using, a strategy that involves breaking the bank in the draft and international free agency for potential superstars while taking what scraps are left in January and February on the free agent market.
Changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and overall evolution in front office strategies have led to a blurring of the lines in the previously mentioned categories and the Padres are a prime contributor to this. They’ve elected to spend big in the draft and international free agency but have spread the risk to many talented prospects rather than a few costly studs with high ceilings and even higher bust potential.
Would Byrnes love to have a Bryce Harper or Mike Trout in the system? Sure, but the strategy that has brought in high floor guys like Yasmani Grandal, Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland, Yonder Alonso and others while focusing on keeping talents like Cameron Maybin through their primes at a reasonable price seems to be quite sound in theory.
What does the Cameron Maybin extension mean for guys like Tate and Reymond Fuentes? – Eric
First off, Corey Brock had a great breakdown of Maybin’s new contract and a few interesting tidbits surrounding the situation. I’m a big Maybin fan – while also obsessed with elite defenders – so it was great to see team and player hook up for a mutually beneficial deal that will keep a fan favorite and elite talent in town for the long haul.
Referring to the most recent edition of the Padres’ Top 25 Prospects, you’ll see that we have the ETAs of Tate and Fuentes as Late 2015 and Late 2014, respectively. Before the extension this fit perfectly into the Padres’ plans as Maybin’s most expensive arbitration year would have been 2015 when he reached his walk year.
Now, the Padres are left with two center field prospects whose value is heavily tied to their positional scarcity and nowhere to play them should they force their way to San Diego. Barring injury, it’s all but guaranteed Maybin will perform well enough over the next five seasons to remain the starter.
The best-case scenario for the Padres is that center field depth takes shape similarly to how the organization’s catching glut is being handled. Have a veteran that you truly believe in, keep your top prospects as insurance and then react with a trade to remove logjams and acquire a needed piece.
What a nice problem to have.
If you have a question for the next Padres Prospect Mailbag that will be posted later in Spring Training, shoot us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org