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Rumors & Ramblings on Anthony Rizzo & The NL Central

It all started with a Tweet on a quiet Sunday December morning.  Jim Bowden of ESPN , Twitter / @JimBowdenESPNxm – “Padres have interest in a package deal with the primary trade pieces being Anthony Rizzo and Matt Garza…should be interesting in Cubs view”.
Now the reasons to believe in this rumor which is all it is at this point is that The Padres don’t really have depth on the mound with the recent departure of Matt Latos.  The prospects that have been swapped for Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Adams won’t likely be ready to start at the big league level for two years.

Here’s a look at the top two pitching prospects from Baseball Instincts, San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects List.

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.

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.

Our InstinctThe 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.

With the wild NL West being the way it is the only real way the Padres can compete is to out pitch the rest of the division. Despite what the rest of the country thinks, the Padres do like to compete. While they are in a big small market they do have new ownership, The Jeff Moorad Group and a new GM, Josh Byrnes that want to make their marks.

It’s been proven that San Diego fans will not show up and see a young and exciting team, without also being winners.  The front office has to at least offer a ray of hope at winning and also rely on transplanted fans of teams in the visiting dugout to sell tickets.

Plus the Padres have a lot of options at first. They acquired Yonder Alonso but also have two other players already on the payroll, Kyle Blanks who is better first baseman than left fielder. You also can throw into the mix Jesus Guzman who came out of nowhere to win the job at first when the first Anthony Rizzo experiment failed.

So you’re wondering why would Chicago be interested in Anthony Rizzo, he was called up last season and didn’t live up to the hype? Okay, well the former GM of the Padres is Jed Hoyer he acquired him for Adrian Gonzalez and is now GM for The Chicago Cubs. Hoyer knows the potential that Rizzo’s left-handed bat could show in a more hitter friendly Wrigley Field than the caverns of Petco Park. While Chicago is in a rebuild mode they want to build a winner and Rizzo would be a worthwhile power option.

The NL Central has lost two powerhouse bats at first base with Albert Pujols landing a 10 year deal for The Angels and Prince Fielder still shopping his services to help out a winning team. That division is much more competitive with the monster bat of Albert no longer haunting division rivals in St. Louis. The other possible loss of Ryan Braun for 50 games also put a world of hurt on Milwaukee. The Reds clearly understand that with the acquisition of Mat Latos for very good young players. If the rumors fizzle out and slowly drift up the chimney, at least it heated up a stove that has been fairly cool this off-season. Perhaps once the Holidays are over we’ll see more from General Managers and Free Agents. Throw in a mega-deal or two to get us ready for February and 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: Los Angeles Angels 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 mailbag@baseballinstinct.com.


I was born in Maine and now live in San Diego, California. Such a deal!

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