Top 10 Prospects: The San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres
2010 MLB Record: 90-72 (2nd in the NL West)
Minor League Power Ranking: 26th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Simon Castro, RHP
Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Castro reached triple-A in 2010 at the age of 22. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched the majority of the season in double-A and posted a 3.32 FIP in 129.2 innings of work. He showed respectable control with a walk rate of 2.50 BB/9, but his strikeout rate dropped from 10.07 K/9 at high-A in ’09 to 7.43 K/9. As he continues to face more advanced hitters, Castro will need to improve his slider and changeup to go along with his 90-95 mph fastball. The young pitcher has nice balance on the mound and stays tall through his delivery. He does land on a stiff leg at times and there is a little effort in his delivery, which puts some strain on his shoulder. He throws with a low-three-quarter arm angle and does not have a ton of deception. Despite the mildly alarming drop in strikeouts, Castro is by far the team’s best prospect, but he likely still needs another half year of seasoning in the minors.

2. Donavan Tate, OF
Acquired: 2009 1st round (Georgia HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie ball
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: I’m a little less excited about Tate than some prospect watchers. The former No. 1 draft pick has had just 90 at-bats since signing in ’09, thanks to a wide assortment of injuries and set-backs. When he was on the field in ’10, Tate hit just .222/.336/.344 with a strikeout rate of 45.6%. On the plus side, the 20-year-prospect showed some patience with a walk rate of 14.0% and seven steals in eight tries in 25 games. It’s easy to see why San Diego has a lot of enthusiasm for Tate. He has a quick bat and looks good when he incorporates a line-drive approach. He struggles when he drops the head of the bat, though. He hits with a wide stance and doesn’t have much of a stride; he uses his bat speed and quick wrists to generate power in his swing. Defensively, his speed allows him to cover a lot of ground and he has a strong, accurate throwing arm from the outfield. Tate is a long-term project that needs lots of fine tuning.

3. Cory Luebke, LHP
Acquired: 2007 supplemental 1st round (Ohio State)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 26
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Luebke has the potential to be a solid No. 3 starter in the National League but he fought his delivery in his brief MLB trial in 2010. He has a fairly fluid delivery but he has a habit of flying open with his throwing shoulder, which causes the ball to stay up in the zone. He shows a nice slider against same-handed batters and his changeup is good enough to keep right-handed hitters honest, but he needs to show better fastball command. His control is better against left-handed hitters. Luebke played at three levels in ’10, including double-A (2.84 FIP in 56.1 IP), triple-A (3.91 FIP in 57.2 IP), and the Majors (4.44 FIP in 17.2 IP). If he can recapture the ground ball tendencies he showed early in his career, Luebke could have a lot of success in San Diego.

4. Jaff Decker, OF
Acquired: 2008 supplemental 1st round (Arizona HS)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Decker has produced some solid minor league statistics, especially when you consider that he’s still just 20 years old. The stocky outfielder saw his batting average take a hit in 2010 with a triple-slash line of .262/.374/.500 in 290 high-A at-bats. That particular statistic was bloated in previous years, thanks to BABIPs of .360+, which are unsustainable in the long-term, especially for someone with modest foot speed. Decker should, though, continue to post solid on-base numbers. He had a walk rate of 13.5% in ’10, which was a career low. His strikeout numbers are a little worrisome, especially if Petco Park saps his power output (.238 ISO in ’10). Decker utilizes a narrow stance at the plate, but he takes a large stride. He has nice balance and keeps his head down on the ball. He has a noticeable bat waggle, which he uses as a timing mechanism, and he looks focused and comfortable at the plate. If he shows adequate hands, a move to first base will likely be in order as he ages; his defense in left field will never be more than fringe average – although he has some arm strength.

5. Jedd Gyorko, SS/3B
Acquired: 2010 2nd round (West Virginia U)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: The organization nabbed Gyorko in the second round of the 2010 draft, adding to the organization’s infield depth. The college shortstop could be headed for another position down the road, though, as he has thick thighs and his range is already average at best. In fact, he played third base in his pro debut, but his power projects as average-at-best for the position. He does show quick hands, both on defense and at the plate. His offense needs some work, as he leads with his hips, which could be robbing him of some power. Gyorko also flies open early, which leaves him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half of the plate. In his debut, the 22-year-old infielder hit .330/.383/.528 in 106 at-bats in short-season ball before moving up to low-A where he hit .284/.366/.389 in 162 at-bats. His batting average was aided by high BABIPs but he made a reasonable amount of contact in low-A. If he makes some mechanical adjustments, Gyorko could move quickly, but he has a limited ceiling.

6. Matt Lollis, RHP
Acquired: 2009 15th round (Riverside CC)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Lollis posted some solid minor league numbers in 2010 but his overall ceiling is that of a durable, innings-eater. The right-hander stands 6’7” and is 230 lbs but he’s not a hard thrower. His fastball sits in the low-90s but can touch 94-95 mph. He also throws a slider, curveball, and changeup but nothing stands out as an electric pitch. Lollis has a low-effort delivery and a slight stride. He’s soft around the middle and is not overly athletic. In 2010, he threw 34.2 innings in short-season ball and posted a 2.59 FIP. He also had a 3.09 FIP in 54.1 innings in low-A ball. Lollis also showed above-average control at both levels. Just 20, he could move up to high-A ball in 2011.

7. Adys Portillo, RHP
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: The organization made a number of investments on international free agents in 2008 and Portillo was considered by many to be the top signee. The right-hander had a solid 2010 season in short-season ball by posting a 3.80 FIP in 62.0 innings as an 18 year old. He also had a strikeout rate of 9.00 K/9 but his control needs to improve (5.81 BB/9). Portillo currently shows an 89-93 mph fastball and could add more velocity down the road. He also shows the potential for above-average ground-ball numbers. He also throws a curveball and changeup. Portillo has one of the higher ceilings in the system but he’s also quite raw and should spend all of 2011 in low-A ball.

8. Drew Cumberland, SS
Acquired: 2007 supplemental 1st round (Florida HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: In 2010, Cumberland built upon his breakout 2009 season, taking advantage of a favorable hitting environment and a lofty BABIP of .398. Overall, the infielder hit .365/.404/.542 in 249 high-A at-bats and missed time thanks to injuries. Cumberland utilizes a simple load, balanced stride, and level swing but he doesn’t generate much power. Even as he matures, he projects to be a line-drive hitter. He reportedly has plus speed, but he appeared to have a slow first step when I saw him – but he may have been nursing an injury. Cumberland has struggled to stay healthy in his career and has yet to play a full season. He will likely move to second base on a full-time basis down the road, or he could end up in a utility role at the MLB level.

9. Edinson Rincon, 3B
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A ball
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Rincon had pretty modest numbers in 2010 in low-A – .250/.315/.399 – but there is a lot to like with this prospect. His power output has been below-average in his career for the hot corner, but he projects to have at least average power down the road. He’s also shown a good eye at the plate, although his walk rate dropped from 14.2% in ’09 to 7.8% in 2010. Rincon has a nice, controlled approach at the plate. He has a balanced stance and shows a nice, level swing that occasionally gets long. His bat speed is average. Defensively, he doesn’t look comfortable at third base and should move to right field down the road where his plus arm strength will be an asset. Rincon is known as a coachable player who isn’t afraid to work hard.

10. James Darnell, 3B
Acquired: 2008 2nd round (South Carolina)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A/AA
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Darnell had a bit of a disappointing season in double-A in 2010. After showing .300+ batting average potential with the bat, the third baseman hit just .265/.348/.408 in 373 double-A at-bats. He also saw his power dip to an .142 ISO. He was especially lethal against southpaws, compared to right-handers, in 2010 (.836 vs .708 OPS). Darnell spreads out at the plate and does a nice job of staying staying back most of the time. He lacks premium bat speed and struggles with fastballs up in the zone, as well as good breaking balls. Overall, he shows a good eye at the plate with a career walk rate of more than 12.0% and his strikeout rate was just 17.2% in 2010. Darnell shows a strong arm on defense, but his feet and hands don’t play well at the hot corner. Like Rincon, this prospect could be headed to the outfield. He could surface at the MLB level in 2011.

* * *

EDIT: After the recent trade with Boston, which say veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez leave town, San Diego added three Top 10 prospects in the deal. Below are the scouting reports for each.

Casey Kelly, RHP
Acquired: 2008 1st round (Florida HS)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: Kelly posted a 5.31 ERA in double-A but his 4.03 FIP is a better indicator of his potential. His 2010 season was definitely not as bad as it might appear on first glance (high ERA, high hit rate) when you consider that Kelly was pitching in double-A at the age of 20 – and it was just his first season as a full-time pitcher; he spent his prep career and first pro season as a two-way player. Kelly throws with a low three-quarter arm slot with a smooth motion that lacks effort. It looks like the organization has raised his arm slot a little bit since signing. His delivery allows him to display above-average control. Kelly gave up a lot of hits in 2010 so he needs better fastball command and also needs to make sure he’s making quality strikes. When he’s on, he gets a lot of ground balls but his ground-ball rate has dropped each time he’s been promoted. His repertoire includes an 88-93 mph fastball, curveball and good changeup.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Acquired: 2007 6th round (Florida HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: Rizzo hits with an open stance but does a nice job of handling pitches out over the plate and isn’t afraid to hit the other way. He does have a lot of movement in his hands and his feet, so there are a number of things going on that could cause him to lose his timing. Rizzo’s swing has an upper cut to it and he might want to level it out and focus more on hard line drives. He doesn’t have electric bat speed but he shows plus power potential due to raw strength and solid hitting mechanics. Rizzo began the 2010 season in high-A but quickly moved up to double-A where he hit .263/.334/.481 in 414 at-bats. The left-handed hitter has shown good patience at the plate and had a walk rate at 9.6 BB%. His ISO rate of .217 was impressive for the Eastern League. There aren’t many 20 year olds that can hit 25 homers and drive in 100 runs. His strikeout rate was high at 24.2 K% and he could trim that by quieting his stance and ironing out the upper cut, which would allow the head of the bat to stay through the hitting zone for a longer period of time. Defensively, Rizzo could develop into a plus defensive first baseman with solid hands and OK foot work.

Reymond Fuentes, OF
Acquired: 2009 1st round (Puerto Rico HS)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: A lot of people probably prefer Tate to Fuentes when it comes to ranking the Top 10 but Fuentes is a little younger and more advanced. He’s also proven to be much more durable and has a greater chance of reaching his ceiling than Tate. Fuentes has plus-plus speed and he nabbed 42 bases in 47 tries in 2010. He does need to show more patience at the plate (.328 OBP) if he’s going to be a No. 1 or 2 hole hitter. Overall, he hit .270/.328/.377 in 374 at-bats. Fuentes projects to be a plus defensive player in center field. He’s still learning to read and track fly balls (He’s already made big strides in that area) and his arm strength is average. Fuentes has a wide, well-balanced stance at the plate and he gets out of the left side of the batter’s box quickly. He’s at his best when he utilizes a compact ling-drive swing. His swing does get long and loopy at times, which leads to lazy fly balls.

We hoped you liked reading Top 10 Prospects: The San Diego Padres by Marc Hulet!

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Mike Savino
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Mike Savino

there have been rumors of the Padres trading for the Milwaukee prospect at second base in AA…Lawrie I think is his name. Bandied about has been Luebke and Castro–which is ludicrous.