San Diego Padres 2014 Top 21 Prospects List


The 2013 season didn’t go tremendously well for the San Diego Padres as they finished with a 76-86 record, tied for 3rd place in the National League West.  However, they continue to build a good minor league system that has a nice mix of hitters and pitchers.  That pitching core got a little stronger with the addition of Jesse Hahn from the Tampa Bay Rays in a January trade.  Along with Hahn, the Padres boast an exceptional core of young pitchers in Matt Wisler, Max Fried, Keyvius Sampson, Casey Kelly, Burch Smith, Joe Ross, Zach Eflin, and Walker Weickel.  It should be just a matter of time before the Padres reap the fruits from the farm at the major league level.

So let’s start at the top of that crop and take a look at Matt Wisler and go from there.
matt wisler1. Matt Wisler, RHP 9/12/1992 H:6’3″ W:195 – The 2011 7th rounder went 10-6 2.78 ERA (2.83 FIP) 131/33 K/BB ratio over 136 IP @ High-A/AA. Solid K rate, Excellent 6.2% BB rate. His 41.7% GB rate at High-A served him well enough as he posted a 2.03 ERA in the hitter-friendly CAL league over 6 starts and quickly moved on to AA where he continued to dominate.

He throws a low to mid 90’s fastball with good movement and at times, he’s reached back and dialed it up to 97 mph.  He also adds a slider that flashes plus potential, a curve, and a change up to his repertoire.  He has a free and easy arm action with a clean delivery that allows him to command the lower half of the zone in dominant fashion. 

Our Instinct:  This time last year, I said that Wisler projects as a #3 starter with a possibility of a little more.  After seeing the progress he’s made and the confidence he exudes, I believe that he can become a solid #2 – with the potential yet for a little more.  He should start the season at AAA with an outside chance of cracking the Padres’ rotation this spring.  However, I think it would best for him to head to the minors for a few months and become a more polished pitcher, tightening his secondaries further to combat lefties.  He should be up during the summer sometime.  ETA 2014.


Max Fried chrome 2. Max Fried, LHP 1/18/1994 H:6’4″ W:185 –  The 2012 7th overall pick pitched at Low-A Fort Wayne in 2013, where he  went 6-7 3.49 ERA 100/56 K/BB over 118.2 IP.  Fried needs to improve his BB%, but overall, the Padres have to be pleased with his progress.  Fried possesses a low to mid 90′s fastball with good movement.  His curveball is close to being a plus pitch and his change up, while not as good as the other offerings, is progressing.  All 3 offerings look like they will be at least average major league pitches.

Our Instinct:  We still believe that Fried has #2 upside.  He’s still adding velocity and pounds the lower part of the strike zone.  He should start the season in the High-A California league and move up to AA at some point in 2014.  If he can improve his command and keep forcing ground balls while racking up K’s, he should find the mound at Petco sometime in 2016.  ETA 2016.


Austin Hedges3. Austin Hedges, C 8/18/1992 H:6’1″ W:190 –  The #82 pick in the 2011 draft had an excellent 2013 behind the plate, throwing out nearly 40% of would-be base-stealers.  Offensively, he slashed .260/.333/.390 High-A/AA triple slash w/ 4 HR & 8 SB over 300 AB.

Defense, Defense, Defense. That’s all anyone used to say about Austin Hedges prior to 2013.  No question that he’s the best minor league defensive catcher, but now he’s showing that he’s no slouch with the wood.  He also played very well in the Arizona Fall League.   He made good hard contact throughout the season, however he doesn’t have a lot of power potential.

He has more speed than you would expect from a typical catcher.  Though that does not project as a big part of his game, it speaks to his athleticism.

Our Instinct: As we’ve said before, trying to predict the future of catchers is tricky business. There’s little doubt that Hedge will stick behind the plate.  The question most asked is if he will hit enough to play everyday.  I absolutely think he will.  I don’t expect any batting titles from him, but I think .250-260 will be reasonable. He’s going to start the season back at AA or possibly at AAA. There’s a good chance he will get a look at the major league level before the end of the season and will try to lock down the starting gig next season. ETA 2015.


Jesse Hahn4. Jesse Hahn, RHP 7/30/1989 H:6’5″ W:185 – The 2010 6th round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t make his pro debut until late in 2012 after he had Tommy John surgery late in 2010. The kid gloves were still on Hahn in 2013 as he went 2-1 with a 2.09 ERA and a 67/18 K/BB ratio over 69 IP at High-A.  Since making his professional debut for the Rays in 2012, Hahn has gone 4-3 with a 2.38 ERA (32 ER, 121.0 IP), 122 strikeouts against 33 walks, a .214 (97-for-454) opponent batting average and just one home run allowed over 34 career starts.

The gloves should come off with his new team in 2014, the San Diego Padres.  Hahn, along with LHP Alex Torres were acquired by the Padres from the Tampa Bay Rays on January 22nd, 2014 for infielders Logan Forsythe and Maxx Tissenbaum and right-handed pitchers Matt Andriese, Brad Boxberger and Matt Lollis.

Hahn has #3 stuff with the possibility of a bit more.  He has a fastball the sits in the mid 90’s with plus command. He complements the fastball with 3 solid secondary pitches: a curve, slider, and change up.  All 3 should be at least major league average pitches.

Our Instinct: Hahn pounds the lower part of the zone with superior command and control and induces a large number of ground balls.  He appears to be close to 100% back from TJ surgery.  His health is the only limiting factor here.  He should start the season at AA and be on a regular work schedule.  He’s one to watch and could be one of many Padres pitchers to get a look in 2014 and fight for a job with the big club next season. ETA 2015.


Hunter Renfroe Bowman Blue5. Hunter Renfroe, OF 1/28/1992 H:6’1″ W:200 –  The 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft slashed .271/.308/.459 with 6 HR and a 49/9 K/BB ratio over 170 AB in his pro debut between Short Season-A and Low-A.  He sports plus bat speed and plus raw power, which should translate into a decent amount of HRs, even though his future home park is death to anything that takes flight.

Defensively, Renfroe has plus arm strength, ranges well, and is very athletic.  He should be at least an average major league defender and quite possibly, a gold glove right fielder down the line.

Our Instinct: I saw Renfroe in the Northwest League a couple of times in 2013, including the 2013 NWL All-Star game and home run derby.  The bat speed and raw power were on display and are for real.  He’s going to work on cutting down on the swing and misses, though he will strikeout his fair share of times.  He’s likely to start 2014 in the High-A California league and it won’t be a shock if he displays big power numbers there.   He should make it to AA before the end of the season. ETA 2015.


Keyvius Sampson Heritage6. Keyvius Sampson, RHP 1/6/1991 H:6’0″ W:185 – The 2013 season started off brutally at AAA for Sampson. Upon being demoted to AA, he added a slider that flashed plus potential to his repertoire and it changed the look of his season.  Sampson has a mid 90’s fastball to go with a change up that flashes as an above average major league pitch. He still throws the curve, but it’s a weak pitch and may abandon it altogether for the new slider.

For the season Sampson went 12-7 with a 3.57 ERA and a 135/62 K/BB ratio over 141.1 IP at AAA and AA.

Our Instinct:  Last season we were against the move to AAA at the beginning of the season and unfortunately proved correct.  The fastball was good enough for advanced batters and the change was good.  However, with the looping fat curveball he was serving up, Sampson was destined to get into trouble. We thought he might have ended up in the pen upon the demotion and not having an adequate 3rd pitch.  He might still head to the pen, but the slider really gives him an opportunity to stay in the rotation.  He’s ready for AAA now and should make his MLB debut this summer.  ETA 2014.


Jace Peterson 2011 Chrome7. Jace Peterson, SS 5/9/1990 H:6’0″ W:205 – The former football standout slashed  .303/382/454 at High-A with 7 HR, 13 Triples, and 42 SB over 423 AB.  Yes, he was 23 years old playing in the hitter-friendly High-A CAL league.  However, considering the late start he got to his baseball career, he’s progressing very well.  He finished the 2013 season on the DL with a strained right foot.

Peterson displays confidence at the plate and on the bases.  He tends to be very aggressive base runner, stealing 42 out of 52 bases despite the lack of plus speed.  His baseball instincts make up for that. Defensively, he should prove to be an average major league infielder.  His arm strength is average, but his range is excellent and as I said before the instincts are impressive.

Our Instinct:  A middle infielder who can hit from the left side of the plate with great plate discipline, great on-base ability, and can play solid defense. What’s not to like?  Age is not on his side. He will be 24 years old right after the season starts and has yet to play above High-A. He will head to AA for 2014 and if all goes well, see AAA this season.  He might get a cup of coffee in September. Keep an eye out for him next season. ETA 2015.


Casey Kelly 2013 Topps Emerald8. Casey Kelly, RHP 10/4/1989 H:6’3″ W:195 – Not much has changed since last time we updated on Casey Kelly.  He missed all of 2013 after having Tommy John surgery.  When on the mound he throw’s from a 3/4 arm slot, and at 6’3″ he throws on a nice downhill plane which leads to a lot of ground ball outs.   He works most effectively with his fastball sitting around 90-92 mph, though he can touch 95.  His curveball has some bite to it with a nice late break, while his change up is average at best, but developing.

Our Instinct:  Recently, Kelly had a 65 pitch session from the bullpen mound.  He threw 35 pitches at 50 percent, followed by 30 more at 70 percent.  Kelly is pleased with the progress so far.  He’s about a month or so behind the other pitchers.  There’s little doubt that he will spend most, if not all of 2014 in the minors.  If and when he can regain the stuff he had before, he’ll be brought back to the big club.  He projects as a #4 or #5 starter now but past upside had him as a mid-rotation starter. We won’t take that potential away from him, though it will only happen if he can harness the changeup during this recovery period. ETA 2014.


Burch Smith 9. Burch Smith, RHP 4/12/1990 H:6’4″ W:215The 2011 14th round draft pick went 6-3 with a 2.63 ERA and had a 102/23 K/BB ratio over 92.1 IP between AA and AAA in 2013.  He also pitched in the majors, going 1-3 with a 6.44 ERA and had a 46/21 over 36.1 IP in his big league debut.  Not keeping the ball down hurt Smith at times at the major league level, serving up 9 long balls in his limited time.

Smith has a plus low to mid 90’s fastball that he can dial up to 97 mph.  He flashes an above average change up, however his breaking pitch is below average.  His command is his biggest issue at this point, especially on the breaking stuff.

Our Instinct:  If he can make his curve an average offering or possibly develop a slider and can keep the same arm speed on the change up, Smith stands to be a solid #4 starter with that big fastball.  He should start out at AAA and if all goes well will be one of the first arms summoned to the majors. ETA 2014.


Joe Ross Platinum

10. Joe Ross, RHP 5/21/1993 H:6’3″ W:185 –  Ross throws a low to mid 90’s fastball with a little more projection left in it.  He flashes a plus slider and has a change up that is a work in progress.  He went 5-8 with a 3.75 ERA and had a 79/40 K/BB ratio over 122.1 innings in the Low-A Midwest League.  His raw upside isn’t showing up in the stat line yet. 

Ross pitched pretty well in the first half of the season, but fell off in the second half.  His K-rate started out at 22.5% in the month of April.  For August, it diminished down to 9.7%.  He pitched 54.2 innings in 2012 and jumped to 122.1 innings in 2013.  Looks like he just ran out of gas.

Our Instinct:  The season ahead will be one to monitor for Ross.  He will jump to the always dangerous High-A California League.  However, if he keeps the ball down and gets ground balls like he has done in the past, he should be fine.  Even if his ERA looks a little bloated, his FIP should tell the true story.  This should be the season we see the spike in strikeouts from Ross.   ETA 2016.


Rymer Liriano Sterling REF11. Rymer Liriano, OF 6/20/1991 H:6’0″ W:220 –  Liriano missed all of 2013 after requiring Tommy John surgery.  He just started a throwing program in December, but since he’s a position player, he won’t need as much time to get back into the groove.  Assuming that Liriano regains his old form and shakes off the rust, he has all the tools that you look for in an outfielder.  Liriano’s raw power doesn’t look like it’s going to translate into too many HRs, but with his speed and ability to drive the ball into the gaps, he’s going to have a ton of XBH.  He has excellent bat speed and good plate discipline.  He’s also a terror on the bases.  Defensively, he does it all.  Great arm, excellent range, great routes, and gets great reads.

Our Instinct: Where Liriano starts in 2014 depends a lot on the progress he makes this spring.  If the Padres don’t see enough, he could stick around for extended spring training and then feast on Rookie ball for a few weeks.  Ultimately, he should be able to work his way back up to AA at some point sometime this season.  The earlier that that happens, the better his chances of seeing AAA.  It’s unlikely that he will see the majors this year. ETA 2014.


12. Franchy Cordero, SS 9/2/1994 H:6’3″ W:175 – Signed out of the Dominican Republic on November 1st, 2011.  Cordero slashed .333/.381/.511 in his debut state side (AZL) after spending 2012 in the Dominican Summer League. He may eventually move off of SSto 3B if he fills out too much, but will clearly be able to stick their defensively with above average actions, range and arm. Power potential, speed, defense and a well advanced hit tool for his age at this point.

Our InstinctCordero has plus raw power.  As he fills into his frame, that power should be on display.  He also has good speed, plays good defense, and has more awareness at the plate than most players his age.  The 19 year old could very well be pushed to full season Low-A ball in 2014, but will likely start the season in the NWL. ETA 2017.


13. Alex Dickerson, 1B 5/26/1990 H:6’3″ W:235 – A November 2013 trade sent Dickerson from Pittsburgh to San Diego for OF Jaff Decker and RP Miles Mikolas.  Dickerson won the FSL League MVP in 2012 while he was with the Pirates.  He has a solid left-handed swing and projected for more power than the 13 HR he actually hit.  This past season, Dickerson moved away from the FSL and it allowed for a modest bump in production.  He slashed  .288/.337/.494 with 17 HR  and 10 SB over 451 AB at AA.

Our Instinct: Dickerson is a big kid and has handled the transition from the outfield to 1B well.  The power is still developing and we think it will show itself in 2014.  He has an excellent awareness of the strike zone and handles himself well on the bases.  He should be an average defender at 1B.  AAA is where he’s headed for most of this season, but if things go well, he could see Petco this summer. ETA 2014


14. Walker Weickel, RHP 11/14/1993 H:6’6″ W:195 – After just 14 IP in 2012, Weickel pitched 110.2 innings @ Low-A in 2013.  He went 3-6 with a 5.04 ERA (4.01 FIP) 82/43 K/BB.  His BABIP of .331 was pretty unlucky and he didn’t strike out enough batters.  The good news is that his 8.6% BB rate wasn’t terrible.  Weickel is a tall lanky kid who throws 92-93 mph from a 3/4 arm slot, that at times looks like a high arm slot.

Our Instinct:  Weickel needs to improve his secondary pitches to be effective at the next level.  The curveball has the makings of an average major league pitch, but the change up is certainly a work in progress.  He’s headed for the horror show for pitchers that’s known as the California League in 2014.  ETA 2016


15. Zach Eflin, RHP 4/8/1994 H:6’4″ W:200 – Eflin was one of the better pitchers at Fort Wayne in 2013.  He went 7-6 2.73 ERA (3.35 FIP) 86/31 K/BB over 118.2 IP.  Eflin’s fastball sits in the 91-92 mph range with some bite to it, but he doesn’t take full advantage of the downhill plane yet.  He also throws a change that flashes plus potential when his command is there.  His breaking stuff is a work in progress.  There isn’t much consistency to it at the moment and he really needs one to be an out pitch to have any shot at starting at the next level.  The skills are there and he will only be 20 years old in May, so there’s plenty of time for everything to come together.

Our Instinct: After spending a full season in the Midwest League, Eflin will move on to the High-A California League.  Eflin tends to be a flyball pitcher and I wouldn’t freak out if he serves up a few longballs in the CAL.  He should continue to develop and find his way to AA before the season is over.  He’s still a couple years from getting a good look at Petco. ETA 2016.


16. Travis Jankowski, OF 6/15/1991 H:6’2″ W:190 – The 44th pick by the Padres in 2012 posted a .286/.356/.355 triple slash w/ 71 SB in 493 AB @ High-A.  Jankowski doesn’t offer much power, but he should be able to hit for a good average with a high contact rate and steal a ton of bases.  He has good plate discipline and excellent bat speed.  Defensively, he has an average arm, but excellent range.

Our Instinct: I still believe he will hit for a little more power than we saw in 2013, but that’s not going to be his game.  Jankowski is an on-base machine.  He’s everything you’d look for in a leadoff hitter.  It will be interesting to see who wins out as the Padres’ future lead off hitter between Jace Peterson and Jankowski.  AA is where Jankowski will start in 2014. ETA: 2015


17. Reymond Fuentes, OF 6/15/1991 H:6’0″ W:160 – After a lack luster 2012 season, Fuentes came back strong in 2013.  He slashed .330/.413/.448 with 6 HR and 35 SB over 400 AB between AA and AAA.  His play earned him some time in the majors.  Fuentes is an athletic outfielder with above average speed, which works well for him both offensively and defensively.

Our Instinct: Fuentes is another potential lead off hitter, but he may be a little over matched at the big league level.  He projects more as a 4th outfielder than a starter, but will be given a chance this spring to prove otherwise.  He could use a little more time at AAA. ETA 2014.


18. Gabriel Quintana, 3B 9/7/1992 H:6’2″ W:190 – Quintana broke out in 2013 by slashing .307/.339/.446 with 9 HR and 6 SB over 368 AB at Low-A.  He has a quick twitch action to his swing and produces loud contact. His walk rate is nearly non-existent and his K rate is near dangerous levels. So there is a lot to work on to see continued success as he moves up levels.

Defensively, he profiles as a 3B, but he needs to work on his fundamentals.

Our Instinct: While 2013 was a breakout, there’s a good chance he could become a bigger breakout in 2014 if he matures as a hitter.  He should spend most of the season at High-A where the power should remain on high display.  He’s one to watch. ETA 2016.


19. Dustin Peterson, 3B 9/10/1994 H:6’2″ W:180 – The 2013 50th overall pick slashed .293/.337/.344 over 157 at bats in the Rookie Arizona League in his 2013 pro debut.  Peterson has good bat speed and offers above average raw power, however his overall hit tool is average at best.  Defensively, I don’t see him him sticking at the hot corner.  He doesn’t have great range and his arm isn’t very strong. A move to the other side of the diamond is likely.

Our Instinct: Peterson should hit for a decent average and provide enough pop to make the transition to first base, but yet could also adjust to second base as well. The Padres have already moved him off of SS to 3B. I think they will give him a little more time there but will discover he just lacks the arm for it. He should start the season at Low-A in 2014. ETA 2017


20. Jordan Paroubeck, OF 11/2/1994 H:6’2″ W:190 – From our 2013 Draft Review: Paroubeck doesn’t get nearly enough press. He is a switch hitter with excellent bat speed from both sides. He projects to have above average or better power with an above average or better bat. He’s a plus runner but his frame will continue to fill out. So while he could handle CF, if he slows too much he will shift to RF where his arm will play just fine.

Our Instinct: Paroubeck had the tools across the board to light up the boards on draft day, but he’s not being spoken of as an inside the first round talent often.  He could be one of the best all around players drafted outside the first round when all is said and done.  His upside is a .300 hitter with 20/20 ability and above average OF defense. He will make his pro debut in 2014. ETA 2017


21. Carlos Belen, 3B 2/28/1996 H:6’1″ W:215The young Dominican made his profession debut in 2013 by slashing  .247/.336/.411 with 7 HR and 5 SB over 231 AB as a 17 year old in the Dominican Summer League.  It was a good enough performance to prompt the Padres to bring him state-side for the last 5 games of the Arizona League Season.

Aaron Bentley wrote about Belen in our International Prospect report:

Belen’s big red flag is that he may not be able to stay at third base.  He’s slow and doesn’t have great footwork.  He’s currently 6’2”, 190, and his defensive ceiling is an average third baseman.  And to that, I say:  so what?  Because I think he has a special bat.  He already has a good approach and hits well in games.  That is an important thing to look at with these players because so many scouting reports are based on batting practice hitting.  But Belen has hit in games.  He will likely hit for average and his hitting mechanics tell me he will generate serious power as he develops.  If that’s true and he’s an average defensive third baseman, he’s a star.  If he has to move to the outfield, he has a plus arm that will fit in RF and his bat will play in a corner OF spot.

Our Instinct: He should start the 2014 season in the Short Season Northwest league.  However, there is a chance that he could be pushed right into full season low-A ball from the start. ETA 2017


Players to watch :

Cory Spangenberg 2B 3/16/1991

Adys Portillo RHP 12/20/1991
Leonel Campos RHP 7/17/1987
Jose Urena OF 1/14/1995
Mallex Smith OF 5/6/1993
Juan Oramas LHP 5/11/1990
Tommy Medica 1B 4/9/1988
Rod Boykin OF 4/17/1995
Adrian De Horta RHP 3/13/1995
Jeremy Baltz OF 9/17/1990
Franmil Reyes OF 7/5/1995
Rodney Daal C 3/23/1994
Matt Andriese RHP 8/28/1989
Mayky Perez RHP 9/26/1996
Luis Asuncion OF 2/27/1997
Josh VanMeter SS 3/10/1995
Jake Bauers 1B 10/6/1995


biballblackno360Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon as we release our top 21 prospects for each organization. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our in-season top 360 prospects, and we will be updating it throughout the season. 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.comAnd while you’re at it head over to Facebook and join the Instinct page You can also follow us on twitter: @BaseballInstinc.



Closing in on 25 years of following the greatest game in the world very closely. I can remember as a kid how excited I was when a player that I had watched in the minors make his major league debut. The same holds true today. We designed Baseball Instinct with that in mind; getting you the fan excited to get out and see the see the stars of tomorrow - today!


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