what's brewing on the padres farm system

Farm systems are big.

Sometimes we—for good reason—get caught up with established prospects like Manuel Margot and Anderson Espinoza; or intriguing ones like Fernando Tatis Jr.; or enigmatic ones likes Javier Guerra. A good system goes far beyond the headliners, however. There are under-the-radar players all over professional baseball who are going to earn scant notoriety as prospects but turn into productive big-league players (most of them are Cardinals and Giants, probably). The hope is that the Padres will find a few of them.

Under A.J. Preller, the Padres have made great strides in looking everywhere for talented baseball players. They’ve signed gobs of young players from Latin America; they’ve made noise in Asia; they’ve kicked the tires on the shires of Europe; they’ve signed a number of players from indy ball. They’ve also started to corner the market on Division III college players. Last year the Padres signed a league-leading three D-III players, and each of them got off to solid pro debuts in 2016.

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare at my computer and watch my prospect status rise. —Fernando Tatis Jr. (probably)

Fernando Tatis Jr. entered the Padres organization mostly as an unknown. Acquired with Erik Johnson from the White Sox for James Shields, Tatis hadn’t played a single professional game when the Padres got him last June. Despite the household name, Tatis was mostly viewed as a wild card—an international amateur who hadn’t done enough to earn a huge bonus or lots of prospect cred.

In fact, the last time I wrote about him—in August in a WBOTF post—I noted the lack of coverage:

Tatis Jr. is so young and so inexperienced that you have to dig to find anything written about him on the internet . . . I mean, dig, dark web and all.

Fast-forward eight months and the internet is overflowing with words on Tatis, most of them glowing. For one, Tatis played, and played well. Split between rookie ball and low-A Tri City, the 17-year-old right-handed hitting shortstop posted a .273/.311/.432 line with 15 stolen bases and 24 extra-base hits in 55 games. Beyond the numbers, people really liked what they saw.

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Through a winter of despair comes a beacon of hope . . . it’s prospect week here at Padres Public!

Today we’ll have a cumulative top 10 list and some Big Picture discussion. Throughout the rest of the week, we’ll discuss specific players more in-depth, re-heating the cooling winter hot stove with some overdue prospect fodder.

First, the prospect list. As most all reputable prospect outlets have released top prospects lists (we’re still waiting for Keith Law and a few others), we decided to combine them together with a top-secret algorithm and spit out an overall top 10. Without further ado, using the lists from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Chris Crawford, FanGraphs, Mad Friars, and—yes—Padres Public, voila:

1. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
2. Manuel Margot, OF
3. Hunter Renfroe, OF
4. Cal Quantrill, RHP
5. Adrian Morejon, LHP
6. Luis Urias, 2B
7. Jacob Nix, RHP
8. Chris Paddack, RHP
9. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
10. Michael Gettys, OF

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Listen to A.J. Preller talk enough, and you start to realize that he’s not necessarily all there in the moment. I don’t mean that negatively—I just mean that he’s probably thinking about something baseball-related as he finishes each sentence. His mouth is saying one thing, but deep inside his baseball-obsessed mind, synapses are firing at will about Dominican prospects and such.

The Padres had a press conference for Wil Myers earlier this week. Here, I’ve tried to figure out what Preller might have actually been thinking when he said various things.

What he said: Obviously, uh, here today to announce the—you know—to announce the signing of Wil Myers to a six-year contract extension.
What he was thinking: I wonder if there are any flights to Venezuela available tonight.

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It’s old news now, but both Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte were signed to contract extensions recently. By Section 2, Clause 4b of the internet’s manual on baseball writing, we’re still allowed to write about it.

Myers inked the bigger deal: six years and $83 million with an option for a seventh year, a contract which buys out three—and potentially four—of his would-be free agent years.

It’s a good deal in a basic, big picture sense. Myers is fun and young and the Padres have money to spend. The payroll over the next couple of years is going to sink to near-embarrassing levels, and even though this deal won’t technically do much to raise it (for now), it’s still a good way for Padres brass to show that they’ll continue to shell out money when necessary.

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Trevor Hoffman got 74 percent of the vote for the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, which put him one percentage point—or five measly votes—away from getting the Cooperstown call.

Even though I wrote that I wouldn’t have voted for Hoffman if I had a ballot of my own, I can certainly understand the argument that he’s a Hall-of-Fame level player, and I can further understand the disappointment for a city of sports fans looking for something to cling to.

Hoffman didn’t get in because he came up five votes short, obviously, and also because he’s something of a borderline candidate (also potentially because of a Boston bias). Nobody really knows how to handle relievers, and Hoffman—much as it pains me to admit—isn’t close to the Mariano Rivera level of relief pitcher dominance. Nobody is, really. So he hovers on the Hall periphery, gaining more support from the old-school voters than from the younger ones, more support from the west coast than from the east coast.

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Tom Verducci, respected baseball writer and talking head, wrote an article earlier this week about why he won’t vote for any known steroid users for the Hall of Fame. That’s a fine premise, really, and even though I clearly disagree, I can’t rail against the mind-set too vigorously. It’s fair, I guess.

What I can rail against are the specifics of Verducci’s article because, you know, I have both the time and awareness for nuance. Without going full FJM-style, here are a few things to chew on:

At one point, Verducci compares Fred McGriff to Barry Bonds, wondering what would have happened if McGriff went to BALCO and Bonds did not, going so far as to jerry-rig a virtual final stat line for each player. Okay, fine. The kicker is that Bonds would have still out-homered the Crime Dog, 599 to 564, and that’s without mentioning the obvious: that Bonds was a world-class outfielder and base runner and that McGriff, despite his full endorsement of Tom Emanski’s fielding videos, was a sub-par defensive first baseman with 72 career stolen bases.

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The Padres don’t need to sign any more free agents. The goal, clearly, isn’t to win in 2017, and the team, as currently constructed, will probably be lucky to sniff 70 wins. Still, undervalued free agents can come in handy for a couple of reasons: 1) the Padres have to finish a 162-game season, and they may need more cavalry just to get there (especially on the pitching side), and 2) free agent rehabilitation projects can turn into valuable trade chips by late July.

It’s hard to oversell just how important the Drew Pomeranz acquisition was. Though not actually a free agent pick-up, Pomeranz was nabbed for close to nothing (Yonder Alonso) and, just a few months later, exchanged for one of the Padres most intriguing prospects, right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Fernando Rodney, an actual free agent signing, was turned into Chris Paddack last June, another interesting (if now injured) pitcher. Are there any free agents left who could be Pomeranz-ed or Rodney-ed into something useful by mid-summer?

First, let’s run down MLB Trade Rumors top remaining FAs, published on Christmas day:

Mark Trumbo—Pass.

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Believe it or not, I don’t have an actual Hall of Fame vote. But if I did, here’s what mine would look like.

On the Ballot

Barry Bonds—In 2004, Bonds’ worst month was May, where he hit .250/.532/.542. He had 29 walks and four strikeouts in 77 plate appearances . . . in his worst month of the season. At one point in 2002, Bonds—the game’s preeminent power hitter—went 20 straight games without striking out, racking up nine home runs, 24 walks, and a 1.622 OPS over the stretch. Warts and all, you can’t have a respectable Hall of Fame without Bonds.

Bonus points for:

  • Posting a .480 on-base percentage in his final season, at age 42.
  • Going 30-for-33 on steal attempts over the last six years of his career.

Roger Clemens—Clemens won at least one Cy Young award on four different teams (he won seven total), spanning three decades. And he should have won more. In 1990, he lost out to Bob Welch, despite racking up over seven bWAR more than Welch (Welch went 27-6 vs. Clemens’ 21-6); that’s like a full Max Scherzer of separation. He also could have/should have won in 1988 (finished 6th), 1992 (3rd), 1996 (no votes), and 2005 (3rd). Sure, there’s a big ol’ elephant in the room here, but like with Bonds, Clemens was too good to keep out.

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Padres sign LHP Clayton Richard to a one-year, $1.75 million deal (plus incentives).

Richard was on the last good Padres team, way back in 2010, three or four regime changes ago. He was in that year—and in his other “good” seasons—very much a not-quite-league-average innings-eater. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, really. Throw together enough Richards and Jon Garlands and Wade LeBlancs and, somehow, you end up with 90 wins.

Richard left San Diego in 2013, spent 2014 in the minors and/or hurt, and resurfaced in 2015 with the Cubs, this time as a (league-averageish) reliever. After a disastrous start to 2016, the Cubs cut ties with the lefty, and the Padres brought him back. In 13 games in San Diego, primarily as a starter, the 32-year-old defied the odds. He posted a 2.52 ERA while balancing on a tight rope and juggling three mint condition Chris Denorfia bobbleheads. In other words, he struck out 34 and walked 24 in 53 2/3s innings, which isn’t supposed to work out to anything close to a sub-3 ERA.

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