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Well, it finally happened.  The path has been made clear for Austin Hedges to begin the year as the Padres starting catcher with the trade of veteran Derek Norris.  Most would argue that Norris’ horrific year at the plate in 2016 (.186/.255/.328, 56 OPS+) all but guaranteed that Hedges would get the lion’s share of the playing time anyways, but with Norris being shipped off to the Washington Nationals, San Diego will avoid even a shred of catching controversy.

While Norris is a good buy-low/rebound candidate (he had the highest “hard contact” rate and “line drive” rate of his career last year, at 34.4% and 21.9%, respectively), he obviously doesn’t fit in the competitive window the Padres are shooting for.  Hedges doesn’t have much left to learn at Triple-A El Paso (.326/.353/.597 with a career high 21 dingers and 82 RBI), so this afternoon, the time was right for AJ Preller’s first post-suspension trade.

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On November 18th, the Padres added four new players to the 40-man roster: shortstop Javier Guerra, pitcher Walker Lockett, converted pitcher Jose Ruíz, and outfielder Franchy Cordero. While Lockett has the greatest chance of making the big club this year (Ruiz and Guerra ended 2016 in High A Lake Elsinore), Cordero has a lot of potential and ended the year in Triple-A El Paso.

A little background on the newest member of the Padres 40-man: In 2012, the Padres signed 17-year-old Franchy Cordero out of the Dominican Republic for $175,000. Though he was 6’3”, San Diego figured him to play primarily at shortstop, though some scouts saw him as a third base candidate. After spending time with the Dominican Academy and in extended spring training, he broke into A-ball as a 19-year-old. His debut, however, failed to live up to the high praise bestowed upon him by numerous scouts who watched him in the Spring Training backfields in 2014 (notably Jason Parks, formerly of Baseball Prospectus and currently with the Chicago Cubs).

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It’s a great time of year. The MLB season is well underway and the draft is this Thursday. While just a few of the top players selected will ever be significant contributors on the senior circuit, the hope that Thursday brings to organizations is unmatched.

For the second year in a row the Padres possess the 13th overall pick ($2,723,300 bonus allotment), and once again appear primed to select the top player that unexpectedly slides out of the top 10 selections. But who exactly that pick will be still seems to be up in the air based off a lack of expert consensus:

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This is a list of the best prospects in the Padres’ organization.  To be eligible for this list a player must not have appeared in the majors. It’s a weird way to do things, but means more young prospects will appear.  Prospects are ranked both by their ultimate potential and the likelihood that they will reach that potential.  The easiest way to understand the rankings is to consider what order players would be selected in if the entire organization were eligible for a draft.  Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) for each prospect is when they would reach the majors if they were able to reach their potential.

Notes carried over from the 2013 Top 25:

  • Prospects have been split into tiers to help get a better idea of the talent gap between players (i.e. the difference between position 1 and 2 may not be the same as the difference between position 14 and 15). It is safe to assume that all players in a tier could be rearranged without much argument.
  • Risk Factors have been included to help show the largest road block faced in each player’s development

Tier 1

1) Austin HedgesHedges split his age-20 season between High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. While his overall offensive production doesn’t jump out at you, Hedges continues to be a tough out against advanced competition. He will head back to San Antonio to begin 2014, but minimal development is required before Hedges is able to contribute at the big league level. ETA: 2014

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The 2013 Padres surged in the second half through a huge uptick in pitching results. The 2014 Padres should be similarly reliant on strong pitching performances from the likes of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Josh Johnson.

Every pitcher utilizes his arsenal in a unique way, specifically when facing same-side or opposite-handed hitters. Here’s how the Padres pitching staff stacks up.

For this specific exercise we’re only looking at players with a significant data set, so Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland, Burch Smith, etc. were left out.

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Extensions. We love to talk about extensions. Or a lack of extensions. But for now lets focus on a single extension candidate: Jedd Gyorko.

Gyorko came into the 2013 season as the Padres third best prospect per a handsome blogger and managed to lead San Diego’s offense in a disappointing season. Early in the season we examined giving Gyorko the Evan Longoria extension, and recently we asked ourselves why in the world they haven’t given Gyorko that extension.

Last week in a contract extension guide Dustin estimated that extending Gyorko would cost the Padres approximately $50 million over seven years, akin to what the Braves gave Andrelton Simmons. Contracts are all about comparable players. In this case Simmons profiles as the greatest defensive player in generations coming off a 4.7-win season, while Gyorko profiles as a potentially above average offensive-minded second baseman coming off a 2.5-win year.

Looking at contracts given to second basemen over the last few years we find a group of Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla, Howard Kendrick and Marco Scutaro that provide a mix of contract extensions and free agent deals. This group averages out to an approximate average annual value (AAV) of $12 million, which will be our baseline for looking at a Gyorko contract. Read More…

It’s been a rough few seasons for Padres fans. Since Cinderella’s shoe slipped off late in 2010 San Diego has posted win totals of 71, 76 and 76 to retain their position in the meaty part of the league’s bell curve. Away from contention, but too respectable to be called a rebuilding effort.

Another stronger-than-expected finish to the season isn’t fooling most Padres fans who see more mediocrity ahead. But funny thing about that, the 2014 team is projecting to be pretty good.

Pitching

The Padres’ 2013 pitching performance can best be described as “ughhhhhhh.” Through the first few months of the season there wasn’t a single bright spot until the incredible second halves of Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross.

The likes of Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, Anthony Bass, Burch Smith and Jason Marquis combined to pitch a whopping 391 innings while posting a debilitating 155 ERA-.* That’s bad. That’s historically bad.  To put it in a more tangible way, Joe Blanton – who couldn’t even stick on the pitching starved Angels – posted a 155 ERA- in his 132.2 innings of work in 2013. Read More…

Base stealing is an art. The greats like Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Vince Coleman created beauty when they ran the bases and caused havoc on opposing pitchers, catchers and managers.

A successful stolen base requires three things: a good jump, all-out commitment to the steal and a crafty slide. On the other end of things, catching a runner on the base paths requires constant focus from the pitcher and a catcher armed with the physical gifts to erase the base runner seeking a competitive advantage.

The 2013 Padres finished 14th in Major League Baseball in caught stealing percentage at 29%, but their 25th place finish in total stolen bases allowed (107) shows opponents ran without much concern. The 2012 Padres finished 21st in the league in CS% (24%) and ranked 29th in baseball with 152 steals allowed. Read More…

After grabbing Hunter Renfroe in the first round, the Padres continued their assumed strategy of aggressively pursuing hitting talent in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Dustin Peterson:

With their second pick of Day 1, the Padres selected Dustin Peterson – brother of 12th overall pick DJ Peterson – a high school shortstop out of Gilbert, Arizona. Peterson features a well-rounded skillset that projects him to have at least average physical tools across the board. He was always a known commodity but seemed to have carved his way into elite status later into his high school season.

Peterson’s simple swing should translate very well to professional ball as he features an extremely quiet lower half that lets his strong wrists whip the bat through the zone at an incredible rate. While Peterson has struggled with off-speed stuff to this point – like most players his age – his tools suggest a quick learning curve. Read More…

With the 13th pick in the 2013 MLB Draft the Padres selected Hunter Renfroe out of Mississippi State – just as a few lucky PP writers predicted. High fives all around!

Renfroe offers as extremely diverse skillset that – pardon the cliché – projects him a true five-tool talent. Originally selected in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, Renfroe was seen as a raw athlete (playing catcher at the time) with tools you could dream on.

It wasn’t until 2013 during Renfroe’s junior season that he began to scratch the surface of his massive talent, posting an SEC-dominating line of .345/.435/.632 with a conference-leading 15 home runs and 58 RBI. His offensive output was so prodigious in a tough conference that he actually out homered the rest of his teammates…combined. This turn around came after Renfroe began to lay off pitches in the dirt more often while gaining needed consistency in his approach. Read More…