While many who read this site are intimately familiar with the Padres’ system – I’m looking at you Padres Prospects readers – we at Padres Public don’t like anyone to feel left out. What follows is a high-level view of sorts of the topics and players you need to be ready to discuss when you and your buddies are sitting around a table enjoying one of San Diego’s finest beverages after Fan Fest.

Austin Hedges is good, and he could be really, really good

It’s easy to get excited about prospects in the low minors. Typically they have shown enough production to believe that their physical tools just may mature into something wonderful, but aren’t quite old enough to expect immediate success.

Hedges is a 2011 draftee that signed for a then second-round record $3 million bonus. He was heralded as the best defensive player in the entire draft by Baseball America and just about everyone else who had either gotten to see him in person or had heard the now urban-legend level stories of his sub-2.0 second pop times.

2012 was Hedges’ first full season of games at the professional level and he more than held his own offensively – .275/.341/.446 – while successfully leading an extremely wild pitching staff.

This offseason Hedges’ name has been bandied about by a few outlets as San Diego’s best overall prospect, and for good reason. He has the potential to be a perennial Gold Glove catcher while putting up above average numbers offensively.  The production bar for catchers has fallen so far that even if Hedges fails to progress, he still has a better than even shot at an MLB career by playing well above average defense.

That being said 2013 will provide an interesting perspective on the Padres’ 20-year-old backstop as he heads to the hitter-friendly California League on his way through the system. Josh Byrnes and Co. have already shown a willingness to push players through the system, so be sure to get out to Lake Elsinore before it’s too late.

2012 was full of injuries – so, so many injuries

No matter the level. No matter the position. Wherever you looked in 2012 it seemed like guys were going down faster than a replacement could be found.

The list of players who missed significant time reads like a top prospect list: Hedges, Joe Ross, Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland, Juan Oramas and Cory Spangenberg among others.

2011 was close to a landmark season of health and overall progression as it felt like the entire system took a giant leap towards their baseball futures. And 2012 was…something else.

A lot was made this offseason organization wide that the Padres were going to take a hard look at their training and in-game routines. While nothing has been made public to this point, it will definitely be an interesting story line to follow throughout the season as guys fight to stay on the field and off the trainer’s table.

Expect to see the first fruits show up in 2013

Fans were able to catch a glimpse of the organizational future when Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger, Kelly and others descended on Petco last season and the debuts should come in bunches this year.

Everyone’s favorite blocked prospect Jedd Gyorko has a legitimate shot at making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training as the team’s starting second baseman, while Kelly and Erlin will fit somewhere in the pitching staff sooner rather than later. Rymer Liriano could be an injury away from an everyday job if he is able to answer questions about his hit tool during the first few months of the season, and right-handers Keyvius Sampson and Donn Roach figure to be in prime position for late-season call-ups.

While 2013 may not be a ton of fun when looking through the prism of the NL West standings, the next several months of baseball should paint a clear picture of the building blocks of a promising future in San Diego.

The next prospect wave is coming…can you see it?

Before names like Liriano and Kelly littered San Diego top prospect lists they were but lowly minor leaguers trying to find a way to turn their raw abilities into something special. Here are a few names to keep an eye on in 2013 – some better known than others:

Zach Eflin and Walker Weickel – both of these young right-handers hold upper-rotation upside while having just 21 professional innings between them. Eflin is an athletic flamethrower with an inconsistent delivery and Weickel features smooth mechanics and polish beyond his years.

Rodney Daal – Daal will enter full-season ball as a true 18 year old. He should have more than enough time to develop behind the plate with the organization’s current depth and could turn into something special if his production starts to match his ability.

Henry Charles – Charles just completed his first season stateside after a strong professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. He has shown a rare blend of patience and contact ability that gives him the potential for a few above average tools. If you’re looking for the next Rymer Liriano-type breakout, Charles is a solid candidate.

Matt Stites and Kevin Quackenbush – Stites and Quackenbush aren’t just two guys with really fun names to say. They also happened to be the two most dominant relievers in all the minors over the last two seasons. Stites has allowed 11 earned runs in 83.1 innings while striking out 99 hopeless opponents and Quackenbush has bested those marks with just nine earned runs allowed in 99.2 innings while striking out 141 batters. Expect both Stites and Quackenbush to be challenged this season with aggressive assignments and quick promotions if their production levels stay anywhere near consistent.

You are encouraged to comment using an exisitng Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. Upvote comments you find helpful, and only downvote comments that do not belong. The downvote is not a 'disagree' button.