what's brewing on the padres farm system

After starting our What’s Brewing On The Farm series, we thought we would put it all together by publishing our own top Padres prospects list. It’s important to note that while we’ve seen a few of these players in person, we aren’t scouts or experts. We follow the Padres farm and collect as much info as we can from a variety of real experts.

What follows is a list based on mixing those opinions, and our own preferences of the importance of a player’s qualities. It’s also a mixture of each contributor’s thoughts into one final result. So throw on your AJ Preller approved bucket hat, it’s about to get real prospecty in here.

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Series intro and week no. 1week no. 2week no. 3, week no. 4

Eric Lauer, LHP, Low-A Tri-City

Eric Lauer was drafted 25th overall in the first round of this year’s draft. Our buddy Grant Jones covered Lauer in late May at Baseball Prospectus, where he noted the left hander’s fastball wasn’t a true out pitch but it sat at 93 and touched 94. Reports from John Sickels and Chris Crawford provide additional perspectives: the rest of his arsenal of a slider, 11-7 curve, and change up are at least average with the potential for more, and unmistakably major-league starting pitcher material.

John provides video of Lauer courtesy of Jheremy Brown. To my eye, I notice a quirk in Lauer’s delivery where he rotates his body to face first base immediately before getting into the windup. Former Padre Casey Kelly has a similar quirk.

So far this season Lauer’s made two quick starts in the Arizona Rookie League and 6 in short season Tri-City. As one (at least one Padre fan) would hope, he’s dominated as a polished first round pick for the Dust Devils, striking out 10.7 per 9 innings with a 2.17 FIP.

Thanks in part to Lauer’s command and repertoire, he’s seen as a “safe” pick to move quick and has middle-to-back-end rotation potential. While not exactly sexy (prospect-wise; he’s a dashing young man), pitchers today are valuable as they are fragile. In a world where Ian Kennedy is worth $70 million over five years, middle-to-back-end starters might be the new Moneyball. (That joke never gets old. Not to me anyway.) (Sac Bunt Chris)

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Hey, here’s the thing: Nobody really knows nothin’ about these kids.

I don’t mean that literally, of course. There are really, really smart people at places like Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, ESPN, and MLB (et. cetera) who know a ton about these guys—they know home-to-first times and statistics and what the scouts are saying and how many pets each player has had. What they don’t know—and, really, what they can’t know—is how these players are going to develop. Are they going to stay healthy? Are they going to find that third pitch or that perfect swing? Are they going to be the low-ceiling pitcher who turns into Jake Arrieta or the fringy bat who becomes Paul Goldschmidt? Are they going to get sidetracked with fame and money?

Go back to the 2009 draft (or any draft). The Nationals took Stephen Strasburg first overall that year, which was, at the time, a super-obvious pick. And what a pick it was! Strasburg’s been worth 17 WAR, he’s currently one of the best pitchers in the game, and he recently signed a relatively team-friendly contract extension. Whew . . . great pick!

Except it was a terrible pick, because a player named Mike Trout was available. In fact, Trout was available when the Padres took Donavan Tate third overall and when the Orioles took Matt Hobgood fifth overall and when the A’s took Grant Green 13th overall and when the Diamondbacks took Bobby Borchering 16th overall and . . . [insert any team and any pick before No. 25 here]. That year Baseball America’s scouting report compared Trout to Aaron Rowand while mentioning that his bat was “not a sure thing, but he has a chance to be a solid-average hitter with average or better power.” Mike Trout was once just another guy.

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