2013 San Diego Padres Top Prospects


System Overview: Without question, San Diego has arguably the deepest collection of promising arms in baseball. The problem, however, is that the organization is home to the premier pitcher’s park in the game, essentially negating some of that prospect value.

Several of the team’s top prospects — Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly, and Joe Wieland — all missed significant time last season to arm issues. Outside of those three, left-hander Max Fried, the team’s top pick in last June’s draft, could be a potential ace; right-hander Donn Roach generates an extreme amount of groundballs. And Keyvius Sampson, Matthew Wisler and Joe Ross all should be useful big league arms, at least to some capacity.

The club’s top offensive prospect, Jedd Gyorko, will be an above-average big league regular; catcher Austin Hedges showed a very impressive skill set as a 19-year-old in A-ball; Franmil Reyes flashed five-tool potential; and Rymer Liriano has the potential to be a 20/20 guy at the big league level.




#1. Jedd Gyorko, Age: 24, Position: 2B/3B


A second round pick out of West Virginia University in 2010, Gyorko began the year back in San Antonio, hitting a solid but unimpressive .262/.356/.431 with four doubles and six homeruns in 34games. His production in the Pacific Coast League, an offensive environment, was a lot closer to his career norms.

In 92 games with Tucson, Gyorko hit .325/.377/.585 with 24 doubles and 24 homeruns. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 24% better than the league average.

Defensively, he split time between second and third bases, the latter being occupied by Chase Headley at the big league level. The raw data — archaic, really — looks like he might have a shot to stick at second.

Projection: Historically, Gyorko’s shown solid-average or better power, a strong eye at the plate, good contact skills and a smattering of foot speed. His bat, which has the ceiling of a .270/.340/.440-type hitter with 20+ homeruns, plays far better at second. But there’s no reason to suspect that he can’t develop into an above-average regular, maybe sneaking his way into an All Star game or two.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#2. Robbie Erlin, Age: 22, Position: LHP

Along with right-hander Joe Wieland, Erlin was acquired from the Texas Rangers mid-2011 for what amounted to 70+ innings from setup man Mike Adams. And the young left-hander, who was considered to be the centerpiece of the deal, offered glimpses of his vast potential last season before losing several months to elbow tendonitis.

Erlin, a third round pick in the 2009 draft, dominated during his 11-game stint in San Antonio, averaging 12.4 K/9 to just 2.4 BB/9. His Skill Independent ERA, according to MinorLeagueCentral.com, was an impressive 2.21.

Projection: Erlin likely could have made his big league debut some point late last season had he not missed time due to elbow tendonitis. Throughout his four-year professional career, the young left-hander has mixed elite K-rates with impressive control. The only problem, however, has been his propensity for pitching up in the strike zone, resulting in low groundball rates, though pitching half of his games in Petco Park should help. Not sure if he becomes a legitimate ace, but he’s certainly going to be a very good number two (barring injury).

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#3. Max Fried, Age: 19, Position: LHP

The top high-school arm available in last June’s draft — and arguably the top left-hander as well — Fried tossed just 17.2 innings in the Arizona Summer League, striking out 17 and walking six.

Projection: Per the usual, any long term projections for recent draft picks will be withheld until the following season. But Fried could easily be the top prospect in the system come 2014.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#4. Casey Kelly, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Like Erlin, Kelly lost a portion of his 2012 too, due to elbow inflammation. Acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez deal with Boston in December 2010, Kelly made eight starts between rookie ball, Double-A and Triple-A (9.3 K/9 and 0.7 BB/9) before making his big league debut. With the Padres, he tossed another 29 innings, striking out 26 and walking 10.

Projection: A longtime favorite of ESPN’s Keith Law, Kelly has typically posted average, at times below-average, strikeout rates throughout his career with impressive walk totals (2.4 BB/9). His combined K-rate last season, 8.77, is the best mark of his career. If he can maintain something remotely close to that, Kelly could develop into a good #2. Otherwise, he’s probably more of #3-type guy. He does generate a ton of groundballs, 51.1% since 2011.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#5. Austin Hedges, Age: 20, Position: C

Despite being quite young for the Midwest League — and practically jumping straight to A-ball from high school — Hedges showed a lot of offensive potential last season, hitting .279/.334/.451 with 28 doubles and 10 homeruns. He also added 14 stolen bases (in 23 attempts). His total offensive production was 19% better than the league average, the second highest mark among Midwest catchers with 300 or more plate appearances.

Defensively, he nabbed 32% of would-be base stealers.

Projection: In what amounts to his debut showing, Hedge showed solid-average power, strong contact skills, and a slightly below-average walk rate, though it should develop into at least league average considering his age and level of competition last season. Fort Wayne tends to inflate offensive numbers as evidenced by his road production (.238/.316/.421). He looks like an above-average regular, capable of hitting .270/.330/.450 with 15 to 20 homeruns.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#6. Donn Roach, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Part of the package that was acquired from the Angels for Ernesto Frieri, Roach blew the California League competition away last season, throwing 88.1 innings with 73 strikeouts (7.4 K/9), just 14 free passes (1.4 BB/9) and a sparkling 1.94 ERA. He capped off his season by throwing another 17 innings in Double-A.

Projection: While Roach won’t miss a lot of bats, maybe not even the league average, he throws a cement-heavy fastball that induced groundballs nearly 70% of the time — an absurdly high rate. Depending upon his defense, Roach could be a serviceable #3/#4-type in two years.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#7. Keyvius Sampson, Age: 22, Position: RHP

Masked by an unsightly ERA, 5.00, Sampson’s underlying skills were far more impressive for a 21-year-old in Double-A. In 122.1 innings with the Missions, the young right-hander struck out 122 (9.0 K/9), walked 57 (4.2 BB/9), and generated a decent amount of worm-burners (40.4%).

Projection: It’s a little troubling, at least for now, that Sampson’s walk rates have slightly worsened at each stop during his career; he averaged 3.6 BB/9 in Low-A in 2010, 3.7 in A-ball the follow season, and 4.2 last year. The ability to miss bats is clearly there — he’s averaged 10.2 K/9 throughout his career — and at least the foundation for average-ish control appears to be there as well — the likely culprit being some unrefined secondary offerings. He’s got a chance to be a mid-rotation guy, but his feel for the zone needs to improve.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#8. Matthew Wisler, Age: 20, Position: RHP

Like fellow top prospect Austin Hedge, Wisler, a seventh round pick in 2011, bypassed both rookie levels and Low-A and jumped straight into A-ball. And in 23 starts (114 IP) with the TinCaps, the 6-foot-3 right-hander struck out 113 (8.9 K/9), walked 28 (2.2 BB/9), and posted a 3.12 SIERA.

Projection: Despite being young for the level and playing half of his games in a hitter-friendly environment, Wisler managed to miss a lot of bats and did an exceptional job of limiting free passes. He also induced a decent amount of groundballs too, at 40.3%. He needs to improve his performance against left-handers, but he looks like a decent bet to develop into a useful arm in the big leagues rotation.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#9. Franmil Reyes, Age: 17, Position: OF

The Dominican bonus baby flashed five-tool potential during his initial showing last season, hitting .267/.360/.416 with 16 doubles, four triples, four homeruns, and 11 stolen bases. His total offensive production was 27% better than the Dominican Summer League average, despite being just 16-years-old at the time.

Projection: Signed for $700,000 in early November 2011, Reyes, who already stands a towering 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, looked impressive against older competition. He displayed an above-average eye at the plate, moderate K-rate, a little bit of speed, and already solid-average in-game power. He’s probably headed stateside in 2013, either to another stop in rookie ball or maybe even to Low-A.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#10. Rymer Liriano, Age: 22, Position: RF

In a pitcher-friendly home ballpark, Rymer showed a promising offensive skill set with Lake Elsinore early in the year. The young right-fielder hit .298/.360/.443 with 22 doubles, two triples, five homeruns and 22 stolen bases. His total offensive production was 9% better than the average. He was then promoted to San Antonio, where his numbers declined a bit, to .251/.335/.377.

Projection: Not quite a four-tool offensive player yet (hit for power, hit for average, get on-base, and run), Liriano has a chance to become a 20/20 player at the big league level, capable of hitting .280/.340/.460. There is a certain amount of risk involved at this point, however, because despite being close to an age-appropriate in High-A, he failed to really separate himself statistically.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#11. Joe Wieland, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Not as fortunate as Erlin and Kelly, Wieland lost the majority of last season and presumably some of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery. Prior to his elbow flaring up, the right-hander made two brief appearances in Tucson before making his big league debut, which lasted another five starts.

With the Padres, Wieland struck out 24 (7.8 K/9), walked nine (2.9 BB/9), and generated a decent amount of action on the ground (41% GB-rate).

Projection: Assuming he makes a full recovery from Tommy John, Wieland should slide nicely into the middle to backend of the Padres rotation for the better part of decade. And his underlying numbers — K- and BB-rates — in the brief audition are actually pretty close to where his ceiling should reside.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#12. Joe Ross, Age: 20, Position: RHP

A first round pick out of Bishop O’Dowd High School (Oakland, CA) two years ago, Ross, unlike other teenagers nabbed in the same draft class, didn’t jump straight into A-ball. Instead, he headed to the Northwest League (Low-A), dominating the competition in his eight starts (26.2 IP, 9.45 K/9 and 3.04 BB/9).

The organization then bumped to Fort Wayne for his final six starts where his horrific ERA, 6.26, masked some strong underlying numbers (8.89 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) for a 19-year-old.

Projection: Bad luck aside, Ross has the potential to move fairly quickly through the minor leagues. If the smaller sample size is indicative of his overall talents, he showed a good ability to miss bats and average-ish control/command. He won’t be a star. But he could settle into the middle to backend of the Padres rotation in four or so years.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#13. Jonathan Galvez, Age: 22, Position: 2B

Quite young for the Texas League last season, Galvez more than held his own, hitting .292/.364/.426 with a solid-average eye at the plate, some speed, and a little bit of pop. His total offensive contributions were 22% better than the league average.

Projection: Galvez won’t be a star by any stretch of the means, but he could carve out a nice little career as a solid-average regular. His best weapon is his speed, which was on full display two years ago when he swiped 37 bags in 46 attempts, but his other tools simply grade out as average. He looks like a .280/.340/.410 hitter, capable of adding 12 or so homeruns and 25 stolen bases.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#14. Burch Smith, Age: 23, Position: RHP

The thrice drafted Smith was most recently nabbed in the 14th round in the 2011 draft out of the University of Oklahoma. And after making a brief two-inning appearance in rookie ball two years ago, the 6-foot-4 right-hander headed straight to High-A last season.

In 26 starts (128.2 IP) with the Storm, Smith struck out 137 (9.6 K/9), walked just 27 (1.9 BB/9), and posted an impressive 2.86 SIERA.

Projection: Smith’s overall numbers need to be looked at with a certain level of skepticism. It was an age-appropriate level of competition. Plus, he’s a polished collegiate player. He could peak as a decent number four.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#15. Zach Eflin, Age: 19, Position: RHP

The 33rd overall pick in last June’s draft, Eflin threw just seven innings in the Arizona Summer League, striking out four and walking three.

Projection: There’s absolutely nothing to go on other than his lofty draft status.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#16. Walker Weickel, Age: 19, Position: RHP

Nabbed 22 picks after Eflin, Weickel, who stands a towering 6-foot-6, tossed 14 innings in the Arizona Summer League last season, striking out 12 and walking six.

Projection: Similar with Eflin, there’s nothing to go on.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


Photo of Robbie Erlin Courtesy of James Garner/MiLB.com


After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.