San Diego Padres 2012 Top 10 Prospects List

Welcome back to our journey from Club to Club as we take a look at the Top 10 prospects from each team before opening it up to our Top 21s later in the winter.  This season we’ve been working with other sites that follow their teams of interest extremely close.  In this installment we are going to stay in-house and take a look at the San Diego Padres Top 10.  We’ve decided that since it’s still well before the start of the season to update our original article with the inclusion of the 3 prospects that the Padres acquired in the Mat Latos deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  

San Diego Padres

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B 8/8/1989 H: 6’3″ W: 220 – Acquired as part, but not the centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade prior to the 2011 season, Rizzo is the heir apparent to Gonzalez at first base in Petco park. Talk about huge shoes to fill. The good news for the Padres is that Rizzo had an excellent season in triple A. Hitting for an average of 331 and slugging .652, with 26Hr’s and 101 rbi’s, what is not to like? Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into the Major leagues where he turned into a strikeout machine. However, it is completely reasonable that he needs time to adjust to the major league caliber pitching. While playing a good glove and showing fine plate skills, there is every reason to believe that the best is yet to come for Rizzo. He came in at #46 on last years top 100 prospects and he has done nothing to invalidate that by his 2011 performance.

Our Instinct: Petco will sap some of his power numbers, but he still should exhibit gap power. With his patient approach at the plate and good pitch recognition his on-base ability will translate well in the majors. Look for him to start the season with the big club. Watch the K-rate as it needs to be reduced. Rizzo is likely going to adjust to major league competition and become a productive first baseman.

2. James Darnell, 3B 1/19/1987 H: 6’2″ W: 195 – Since being drafted in 2008, James Darnell has been high on the San Diego prospect list. And with good reason, he has a legit major league bat. In our scouting report Prospect Instinct|James Darnell we noted that his main problem is in his defensive game. The primary concern is fielding errors which have come down quite nicely over the last 2 years from 30 committed in 2009 to 14 in 2011. If he can maintain that kind of level of fielding then he will make a fine major league third basemen. The reason being that he has some serious offensive skills. First he had an excellent 68bb/78k ratio prior to his limited-time only appearance in the majors. This understanding of the strike zone will serve him well when major league pitchers attempt to find holes in his swing. Speaking of his swing, it has a bit of pop to it. In 422 ab’s he had 23 Hr with 79 rbi’s. With a combined .333 ba and .406 obp, there is every reason to believe that he can handle major league pitching.

Our Instinct: Despite the fact that he will be hitting in the cavernous Petco park, I see a very productive future for Darnell. Very good fantasy value can be found with this prospect. I look for a good batting average, with an even better OBP. Combine that with decent power potential and you have yourself a player that would look good on your fantasy squad.

3. Yonder Alonso OF/1B 04/08/87 H:6’2” W:240 –  Drafted as a power hitting first basemen in the 1st round of the 2008 draft as the 7th overall pick, Yonder Alonso has had to learn to play a position in which he does not belong. We detail more of this conundrum here . With a triple-A slash line of .296/.374/.486 in 409 plate appearances, Alonso is a good combination of offensive skills. He brings good contact rates and decent power numbers. In 358 at-bats he hit 12 hr’s, 56 rbi’s and 24 doubles. His power is more of a line-drive and gap power than a home run hitter.

Best of all he has fine strike zone management with bb/k ratio of 46/60. As we noted in his Prospect Instinct, Yonder is a fine defensive first basemen. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help when somebody named Votto is manning that position in Cincinnati already. As a result he was promoted up to the big club as a left fielder. This is not a good fit defensively and is simply the only way that the Reds could get his bat in the lineup. Yonder made 88 at-bats for the Reds in 2011 and had excellent numbers with the ridiculously small data sample. However, minor and major league performance suggest that his bat is major league ready. On the other hand his left fielding skills are not ready and likely never going to be good. Unless traded during the off-season, Alonso will start the season in Cincinnati in 2012 and he should be a very productive bat. He is still adding more power to his advanced swing and solid offensive approach.. Yonders’ game has all of the makings of a productive major league hitter with the potential for a few all-star appearances along the way.

Our Instinct – Now with the Padres, Alonso is possibly blocked by Anthony Rizzo. He’s an excellent bat and has a great head for the game, but I just don’t see where he and Rizzo fit on the 2012 Padres. There may be more movement to come from the Padres.

4. Yasmani Grandal C 11/08/88 H:6’2” W:205 – Apparently the Reds have a penchant for drafting very good players to positions where they already have a strong player ahead of them. Exhibit A is Joey Votto manning first base with Yonder Alonso waiting in the wings. Exhibit B is Devin Mesoraco likely taking the catching duties in 2012 with Yasmani Grandal toiling in the minors with no place to go. We break down Grandal’s development path here.

While it is difficult to know how he fits into the future of the organization, we can look at his current production to evaluate his potential. His bat is a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. Last year he slugged a .500 slugging percentage across 3 levels of competition with 14 hr’s and 68 rbi’s in 374 at-bats. That power will likely be his calling card. Posting a batting average of .305 and an OBP of .401, Grandal also knows how to get on base and make the opposing pitcher work. Grandal is a legitimate defensive catcher, who is already close to major league average and still developing. There is a lot to like about Yasmani Grandal and his game could translate to an all-star level major league catcher. But the question remains, where does he fit. Grandal likely starts in triple-A and good numbers are expected. Grandal should be ready for the majors before the end of 2012. Will the Reds be ready for him?

Our Instinct: The Padres have no one in the way for this Hurricanes product. Grandal should make his debut some time in 2012 and be an above average defender and hitter. Not easy to find catcher who can work both sides of the game and handle a pitching staff. Grandal seems to be that type of player.

5. Robbie Erlin, LHP 10/8/1990 H: 6’0″ W: 175 – Robbie Erlin was acquired from the Rangers when the Padres dealt relief pitcher Mike Adams. Drafted in 2008 by the Rangers, Erlin has been a very consistent pitcher across 4 levels of professional ball. He has superior command within the zone of all 3 of his offerings fastball, change and curve. This is reflected in his extremely low walk rate. In 2011 he was stingy in only allowing 16 free passes in 148 innings of work. He has limited velocity on his fastball however, topping out right around 90mph. Despite the lack of dominant stuff, he has consistently been able to maintain a high rate of strikeouts. He had 154 strikeouts in that same 148 innings pitched. This is an absolutely fantastic ratio.

Video from Vimeo user Frisco RoughRiders

Our Instinct: The main question is whether his lack of a premium fastball will prevent him from maintaining similar performance at the major league level. However, his excellent ability to locate the ball within the strike zone bodes well for future success. He is a fly ball pitcher, but Petco is very kind to that type of pitcher. I like Erlin’s chances to succeed and become a solid middle of the rotation starter that can bring good fantasy value with his peripheral stats. Likely to start in AAA ball, but arrival in the majors is not far away.

6. Casey Kelly, RHP 10/4/1989 H: 6’3″ W: 195 – Acquired as a centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade prior to the 2011 season, Casey Kelly is trying to validate the Padres decision to trade-off such an elite player as A-Gon. Unfortunately, the early promise of his first couple of year in pro ball has diminished somewhat. His K and BB rates were simply outstanding during his 2009 season in Single A ball. But both of those rates have been going the wrong way in 2010 and 2011. Our scouting reports, Prospect Instinct|Casey Kelly indicates that he has good command of his fastball and changeup, but is erratic with his curve.

Our Instinct: Without some improved velocity in his fastball or consistency in his curve, he is looking like an innings-eating #3 starter. At 22 years of age there is some time for development, but it had better happen quickly. Kelly will benefit greatly from pitching at Petco park and should have good fantasy value in the future. Excellent chance that he sees time there in 2012.

7. Rymer Liriano, OF 6/20/1991 H: 6’0″ W: 211 - The Padres recently purchased the contract of OF Rymer Liriano from High-A Lake Elsinore.  The move was a no-brainer as it protects Liriano, who was recently hyped as the organization’s top prospect by new general manager Josh Byrnes from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Liriano, a 20-year-old outfielder, batted .298/.365/.465 with 12 home runs, 68 RBI, 66 stolen bases and an .830 OPS over 580 plate appearances this season between Class A Fort Wayne and High-A Lake Elsinore and was the Midwest League’s MVP.

Our Instinct:  He is what I wish we would see in Blue Jays’ OF prospect Anthony Gose.  A kid that’s learning how to read pitches, cutting down on chasing breaking stuff, and increasing his walk totals.  GM Josh Barnes is extremely excited about what he has in Liriano, and while we don’t share his sentiments at the moment about him being the best prospect in the Padres organization, he damn well could turn out to be if he keeps on this path set in 2012.  I agree with S2S Nate Stoltz on a point that he made about Rymer Liriano, it will be a boost to his rankings if he handles his next promotion better than his previous ones.  Watch-him-closely.

8. Keyvius Sampson, RHP 1/6/1991 H: 6’0″ W: 185 – While there’s still concerns about his durability after a shoulder injury that cost him all but 43 innings in 2010, He did come back with a monster 12-3 mark with a 2.90 ERA with an eye popping 10.91 K/9 and a respectable 3.74 BB/9 rate over 118 innings in the Midwest League as a 20-year-old.  He has 3 out pitches and if he can get his command tighter he will be devastating at Petco.

Our Instinct:  This a pitcher we really like.  He’s got front line starter potential despite concerns of his health and frame size.  As I mentioned, if he can fine tune his command he’s got 3 pitches with great movement.  With that said, he may never reach his true potential and there isn’t any hidden velocity left to gain and may settle in for a career as a #3 or #4 starter.  Keep an eye on his development, he could actually be the best pitcher on this list.

9. Jedd Gyorko, 3B 9/23/1988 H: 5’10” W: 195 – Jedd Gyorko was drafted out of West Virginia Univ. in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, Gyorko seems to have to answer the same questions everywhere he goes. He lacks the ideal body physique for a ballplayer. He is a short and squatty and lacks the length and range to excel at a defensive position. He has spent most of his time playing 3b and seems to show the ability to play an adequate level of defense for the major league level. And then we come to the offense. He is known for excellent bat speed, which allows him to hit the ball well to all parts of the field. His .388 batting average in High A ball carried him quickly to Double AA where he regressed somewhat to .288. However, the developmental path was quick and I fully expect to see his batting average climb again. This last year he carried a very respectable 64/104 k/bb ratio and this will help him immensely. With his discerning eye and good bat speed’ he has the tools to prosper as a major league bat.

Our Instinct: The biggest question with Gyorko is how much power does his bat have. Since he lacks premium defensive value and is below average in speed and base running, his bat (and more particularly) his power needs to carry him. In 2011 Gyorko has 74 rbi’s and 18 hr’s in 340 ab’s, but the California league is notorious for inflating power numbers. When Gyorko was promoted to AA his numbers regressed to 40 rbi and 7 hr in 236 abs. He is expected start at AA in 2012 and he will have to prove whether his bat has the power needed to succeed at Double AA level. Come to think of it, he will have to prove that every level he goes, just like he has always done.

10. Cory Spangenberg, 2B 3/16/1991 H: 6’0″ W: 185  – The Padres drafted Spangenberg as the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft and was considered an overdraft by nearly everyone. However, Spangenberg did a lot to justify the pick in his short time in professional ball. The Padres drafted Spangenberg to play 2nd base and there is still question as to whether he can remain in the position. He is a good enough athlete to move into the outfield, but his offensive skill set would be perfect for a major league second baseman. He shows good on base skills with combine .316 batting average and .419 obp across in 275 ab’s across 2 levels of ball in 2011. Coupled with 25 stolen bases in that same time frame, the on-base skills translate into an excellent table-setting type player. Obviously, this sample size is small and Spangenberg has a ways to go to reach the majors, but it is very impressive how he adjusted so quickly to professional ball.

Our Instinct: I look for Spangenberg to start 2012 in A ball, but I don’t expect him to stay there long. He looks to be a great pick by the Padres with a fairly high ceiling skill set.

Baseball Instinct’s Top 21 “Freeview”

Throughout our Top 10’s series we’ve been giving you a player or 2 that will appear later this winter in our Top 21’s.  We originally didn’t include any in our Padres article, however with the Mat Latos trade, a couple worthy players dropped out of the top 10.  In addition, the 3rd prospect in the deal was originally in Reds top 10, so we went ahead and included him as well.

11. Jaff Decker, OF 2/23/1990 H: 5’10” W: 190 Jaff Decker was drafted in the 1st round of 2008 draft, there has been a lot of attention paid to career of Jaff Decker. He has consistently had to defy his critics who point to his physique, which isn’t very fast nor athletic. He lacks range, quickness and strong throwing ability, and would never make it to the majors on his defensive game. However, he can hit, well enough to eventually carry him to the show. He is one of the most disciplined hitters in the minor leagues sporting 103 free passes 613 plate appearances during 2011 season. He is able to hit for a decent average having a .273 batting average over 4 minor league seasons. However, there is a noticeable downward trend occurring with him. His batting average has moved from .343 to .299 to .262 to .236 over those 4 years of professional ball. Additionally, he has a pretty high k-ratio, coming in at 23.7% netting 145 strikeouts during 2011 season. However, with his low average and high strikeouts he still managed to be very productive. He scored 90 runs, batted in 92 runs and hit 19 hrs with 29 doubles. This is a guy that can be a productive at the plate. Interestingly, he swiped 15 bases which is noteworthy for a guy who is known for his “non-athletic and non-speedy” physique. This may be evidence that Decker is starting to take conditioning very seriously, as he needs to work hard to remain in playing shape.

Our Instinct: I definitely want to see his average come up from his 2011 level and it will likely be the difference between Decker being a below average outfielder and a very good outfielder. Since he was young for his competition, it is entirely reasonable to believe he will adapt and become a major force at the plate as he develops his game.

12. Joe Wieland, RHP 1/21/1990 H: 6’3″ W: 175 – Drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 draft by the Rangers; Joe Wieland, was acquired by the Padres in a trade late in 2011 season. Wieland has a similar profile to Robbie Erlin who was also a player moved to the Padres in that same deal. Wieland has a fastball that touches the low 90’s in velocity and has very good curveball and an inconsistent changeup which can flash as an average offering. None of his pitches are dominating, but he exhibits fantastic control. In the 2011 season combined across 3 teams he pitched 155.2 innings and only issued a miniscule 21 free passes. This combined 152 k’s during that same season demonstrates a pitcher that can succeed at higher levels. His stuff is not good enough for him to ever become dominate. But who needs to be dominant when you pitch at the friendly confines of Petco park? Wieland is a flyball pitcher in one of the most pitcher forgiving ballparks in all of the major leagues. And he will pitch in and around the strike zone; thus never beating himself.

Our Instinct: He has all the makings of a productive number 3 – 4 in the Padres rotation. The Padres did a great job of finding and acquiring prospects in Wieland and Erlin that would profile very well in their ballpark. It is easy to underestimate Wieland because he doesn’t have dominate stuff, but he fits so well in this organization. Good markers for success along with a great situation for this player.

13. Brad Boxberger RP 05/27/88 H:6’2” W:200 – Drafted in the 1st round as the 43rd overall pick of the 2009 draft, Brad Boxberger is a relief pitcher that gets high marks from us. Originally drafted as a starter, he converted to relief role after 13 starts in 2010. Since the move to reliever, he has been lights out. He carries a nice pitching arsenal of a low to mid 90’s FB, a low 80’s slider and a low 70’s changeup. It is this differentiation of speeds that seems to be the key for his effectiveness. And Boxberger was very effective in 2011. He carried a shiny 2.03 era and 11 saves in 34.1 innings pitched across 2 levels of competition. No smoke and mirrors here, he had a dominating 93 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched in the 2011 season. His control isn’t outstanding with 28 free passes in those same 62 ip’s, but it is more than adequate in the context of all those strikeouts. Boxberger has a legitimate chance to make it in the Reds bullpen coming out of spring training. If not, we will see him very soon thereafter. Good stuff and the great stats to back it up. We like his chances to be successful as big league, high leverage reliever. He has the markings of a top flight closer in the big leagues, if he pitches up to his potential.

Our Instinct: The Padres add another dominant arm to their bullpen and Boxberger could eventually close for the Padres. He has the K numbers to be dominant and handled the AFL well this year. He’s ready to make the Padres out of Spring Training.

Check back soon as we profile more Top 10 Lists for each MLB team and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at a recent article in this series:Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 List  and be a step ahead of the game.  Also, check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs.  Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource.   Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at



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