Normally, and more than likely, my top 30 will be posted on Mad Friars, where it has been for the past few years.  However, since I made this in October (then updated after the A-Gon trade) and it is now mid-March, I figured I might as well post it here.  Anyway … without further ado, the Friar Forecast top 30 prospects for 2011.

Coming into the 2010 season, Padre fans had a reason to rejoice.  Many of the prospects were coming off great seasons, and it looked like a bright future for the Padres.  Sadly it ended up being a season riddled with injuries as five of the top 10 spent significant time on the DL.  Combine that with the inability to sign 1st round draft pick Karsten Whitson and it was a rough year on the farm.  Despite that there is a lot to look forward to, especially after trading Adrian for three top prospects.  The past few years have seen the Padres shy away from the “safe” picks and go to the more risky high school and JUCO picks.  Sprinkle in a few well scouted Dominican kids and the rankings are increasingly deep.  Will they pan out?  No one will know for a few years, but the farm is ripe with that word that both excites and frustrates us to no end … potential.

***Updated after offseason trades

1)      Casey Kelly: RHP (AA, 3-5, 5.31 ERA, 95 IP, 118 H, 35 BB, 81 K)  The Red Sox challenged the 20 year old pitcher by placing him in AA.  2010 was also his first full year as a pitcher.  The right-hander responded by struggling in AA.  Despite this Kelly has a ton of upside, and is still considered an elite prospect.  Kelly has solid stuff and has the potential to be a solid #2 or 3 pitcher in the big leagues.  Another year in AA should see Kelly put up the numbers that he is capable of.

2)      Simon Castro: RHP (AA, 7-6, 2.92 ERA, 129.2 IP, 36 BB, 107 K)  At 22 years of age the front office took a leap of faith when they had Castro skip Lake Elsinore and go straight to San Antonio.  Castro didn’t disappoint being named a mid and postseason Texas League all-star, as well as the starting pitcher for the World team in the Futures Game.  Some of us were hoping for a better season from the Dominican right-hander, but it’s hard to complain about a guy who is one of the top minor league pitching prospects in all of baseball.  Look for him to be pitching in Petco by the end of the 2011 season.

3)      Jaff Decker: OF (A+, .262/.374/.500 in 79 G)  Despite missing all of April, half of May, and the last 2 weeks of the season, Jaff remains the Padres #3 prospect.   Decker’s post all-star break numbers of .305/.439/.616, with 13 HR, 44 RS, 46 RBI and nearly a 1:1 BB:K ratio shows just how special this 20 year old prospect is.  Decker has lost a lot of the “PMac” weight that had kept many scouts on the fringe.  Decker has the tools and talents to be a mainstay in the majors for years to come.

4)      Drew Cumberland: SS (A+/AA, .350/.385/.505 in 75 G)  For the past two years scouts have been describing Cumberland as “tremendous potential, needs to stay healthy.”  Well after making it into only 56 G in 2008 and 77 G in 2009, Cumberland was once again derailed by injuries as he appeared in only 75 G in 2010.  Despite that, when he was healthy he was incredible.  In just 60 G in the Cal League he scored 63 runs had 91 hits and 20 SB.  Going into 2011 the question will once again be about health, but with Cabrera struggling in San Diego, Drew can make an impact on San Diego IF he can stay healthy.

5)      Anthony Rizzo: 1B (AA, 107 G, .263/.334/.481 30 2B, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 45 BB, 100 K)  Like Kelly, the Red Sox challenged Rizzo by placing him in AA at the tender age of 20.  He responded by putting up extremely solid numbers.  He has plus power that should translate well to Petco.  He currently doesn’t have the patience needed to be a true middle of the order hitter, but being so young, has a lot of time and room to grow.  With Clark/Blanks likely to begin the season as the AAA 1B, he could start the year in San Antonio and then challenge for the starting spot in 2012.

6)      James Darnell: 3B (AA, .271/.359/.422 in 108 G)  The Padres were expecting big things from Darnell in 2010.  The biggest problem was that, like most of the Mission’s hitters, he had a phobia of hitting at home.  Away from home he had .180 points higher OPS (.849 vs .669).  He did hit better overall in the second half with an .819 OPS.  Darnell has the skills and ability to be a middle of the order bat in the majors, and will have an opportunity to showcase himself next year in the hitter friendly PCL.

7)      Keyvius Sampson: RHP (SS Eugene, 3-3. 3.56 ERA, 43 IP, 17 BB, 58 K).  Sampson got his first real taste of action in Eugene this year and he didn’t disappoint.  In his first seven starts Sampson was 3-0, 1.87 ERA, 33.2 IP, 46 K.  The last three starts were hampered by injuries and Sampson was eventually shut down for the rest of the year.  At only 19, any pitcher who can produce those types of numbers more often than not ends up being something special.  Samspson will be the ace of a very good Fort Wayne pitching staff next year.

8)      Matt Lollis: RHP (SS, A 7-4, 2.12 ERA, 89 IP, 21 BB, 69 K).  No Padre prospect made a name for themselves like Lollis.  He joined an Emerald team loaded with great pitchers (four of the five made the list) and out shined them all.  The then 19 year old had a sub one WHIP after six starts in Eugene.  He then was promoted to Fort Wayne where he was their pitcher of the year.  A behemoth at 6’ 9” 250 LB, Lollis can throw his low to mid 90s FB for strikes to both sides of the plate.  Combine that with a slider, curve and an improving change and Lollis will move through the system fast.  He might not have the “potential” of Sampson or Portillo, but he definitely has the chance to be a #3 MLB starter.  Despite only throwing nine games in Fort Wayne he will start the year in Elsinore with a chance to have a Castro-esque skip.

9)      Jason Hagerty: C (A, .302/.423/.494 35 2B, 14 HR, 74 RBI in 122 G).  In a star studded Tin Cap lineup Hagerty out shined them all.  Over the second half there was no player in the LEAGUE and possibly ALL of minor league baseball more dominant than this 22 year old catcher out of Miami.  He hit .351/.479/.586 with a 1:1 BB:K ratio.  Some had doubted his ability to stay at catcher, but with his offense also came a tremendous improvement behind the plate.  Balls in the dirt, release times, calling a game, all showed improvements from 2009 to 2010.  If Hagerty can put up those types of numbers in the MWL, I fear for pitchers in the Cal League.

10)   Cory Luebke: LHP (AA/AAA 10-1, 2.68 ERA, 114 IP, 29 BB, 88 K.  SD 1-1, 4.08 ERA, 17.2 IP, 6 BB, 18 K).  Normally numbers like these would warrant that Luebke, who came in at 6th last year in my rankings, would stay higher in the rankings after going 10-1 in the second highest minor league level AND striking out 18 in 17.2 big league innings.  More than anything, this just speaks to the depth of the Padres minor league system.  Luebke is a talented lefty with 3 MLB quality pitches.  He doesn’t have that plus pitch to make him stand out, but he mixes up his pitches well, has good control over all of them, and keeps hitters guessing.  He should be a mainstay #3 or #4 starter in the majors within the next two seasons.

11)   Donovan Tate: CF (Rookie, .222/.336/.344 2 HR, 7 SB, 19 RS , 15 BB, 41 K in 25 G).  This ranking is based 100% on potential, as a non-healthy Tate is the only version the Padres have seen since the 2009 draft.  In October he was named the Padres instructional league MVP.  He has the potential to be an all-star MLB OF, but that doesn’t mean anything until he can put up numbers in the minors.  He should be captaining a strong Fort Wayne OF, and if healthy should put up the numbers we know he is capable of.

12)   Adys Portillo: RHP (Eugene, 2-6, 4.79 ERA, 62 IP, 40 BB, 62 K).  While none of those numbers are outstanding, Portillo has improved drastically from 2009-2010.  BAA dropped from .321 in the AZL last year to .241 and K ratio has gone from 7.52 to 9.  At just 18 years of age Portillo has the ability to be something extremely special.  Portillo can sit comfortably in the mid 90’s with his FB and his secondary pitches have gotten better every year.  Right now its just about staying healthy, working on repeating his delivery, and continual improvement with his secondary pitches.  If he does look for him to explode onto the radar of the national media and become a top 10 pitching prospect in all of MiLB.

13)   Reymond Fuentes: CF (A, .270/.328/.377 15 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 42 SB, 25 BB, 87 K)  As soon as the Adrian trade was announced the comparisons immediately began to be made between Fuentes and Tate.  Both play CF, have tremendous speed and ++ defense.  Both also have extremely raw hitting skills.  Fuentes is a little bit further along than Tate, but does not have the same raw power potential that Tate possess.   He will have the opportunity to put on a show in Lake Elsinore in 2011, and the Padres are hoping that his potential and numbers will start to equate.

14)   Blake Tekotte: CF (A+/AA .276/.367/.478 85 RS, 18 HR, 28 SB in 126 G).  Tekotte has always been viewed as a tremendous CF.  He gets great jumps on the ball, has a + arm, and is fairly accurate.  The question would always be can he hit well enough.  After posting a .941 OPS with 22 SB in a half in the Cal League he was promoted to AA.  His numbers were not nearly as good but like most 2010 Missions had a .150+ point difference between H/R splits.  Tekotte has the speed and power to be a force in the majors.  The biggest question will be whether he can cut down on the strikeouts (109 in 126 G) and if he can hit for a high enough average to be a starter at the big league level.

15)   Logan Forsythe: 2B (AA, .253/.377/.337 22 2B, 17 SB, 107 G).  Forsythe was moved to second base this year for different reasons.  The biggest was that with Sogard traded and Antonelli injured, Forsythe has a chance to be the Padres #1 2B prospect.  On the road he was every bit the prospect that the Padres had envisioned hitting .316/.449/.429 and 41 RS in 52 G.  That gave him over a .300 differential between H/R.  Forsythe will get a boost moving to the PCL and his numbers should go up, however he will need to cut down on his 95 K in 107 G in order to be a legitimate 2B prospect.

16)   Jedd Gyorko: 3B (Eugene/ A, .302/.372/.444 7 HR, 41 RBI, 58 K in 68 G).  The 2010 draftee burst on the scene and was the lone bright spot in a horrendous Eugene offense.   Despite being drafted as a second baseman, the front office seems content with Jedd staying at third.  Gyorko has a smooth swing and makes hard contact with the ball.  Given that this was his first soirée into pro ball he made quite an impact.  He still will need to show he can replicate it over an entire season, but so far the Padres are impressed with this infielder from West Virginia.

17)   Zach Cates: RHP (2010 draftee, DNP).  Cates signed right at the deadline last year and didn’t get a chance to pitch in pro ball in 2010. Despite not playing in either Eugene or Peoria it looks like Cates will be starting in Fort Wayne and could very well be the Tin Caps #2 starter. Like Sampson, Cates has an overpowering fastball that consistently sits in the mid 90’s topping out at 98 mph. Cates has a solid change and a breaking ball that is a work in progress. Despite being erratic at times Cates has tremendous upside and has a chance to shoot through the Padres system.

18)   Jonathon Galvez: SS (A, .259/.360/.397 10 HR, 18 SB in 114 G).  Like Portillo, Galvez is another young Dominican who has the potential for greatness.  At just 19 years old he put up a respectable season for any middle infielder in the MWL.  The biggest problem was the 43 errors at short and 121 strikeouts.  Many have questioned whether or not Galvez would be able to stay at short, and if he cannot iron out some of his mechanical flaws in the field that will be the case.  He gets pull happy at times, and needs to focus on playing small ball and using his eye and speed to his advantage.  An encouraging sign saw Galvez hit .309/.377/.518 over his final 31 games.  He still is incredibly young and gifted, but has a long way to go before we hear his name in San Diego.

19)   Edinson Rincon: 3B (A, .250/.315/.399 13 HR, 69 RBI in 132 G)  Rounding out the trio of talented Dominican players is Edinson Rincon.  Few young prospects have the pure swing and ability of Rincon.  He struggled early in the MWL and it seemed to affect him throughout most of the year.  There is no doubting that he can be a force in the middle of any lineup, the key will be where will he play.  He has currently played at 3B, but 36 errors later and many scouts are hoping for a position change to the OF sooner rather than later.  Rincon should rejoice in the warm air of the Cal League, but will need to improve at third if he has any hope of staying there.

20)   Cedric Hunter: LF/CF (AA/AAA .287/.342/.397 40 xbh, 14 SB, 47 BB, 44 K in 136 G).  Two years ago Cedric Hunter was a consensus top five Padre prospect.  At just 20 years of age he had more hits (186) than anyone in all of the minors.  Most people thought of him as a speedy contact hitter who could play CF and hit .300+ in the majors for a long time.  A year later those hopes were dashed.  After a strong but not up to expectations 2010, Hunter has regained some of his former elite status. Being just 22 years of age those 2010 numbers are fairly impressive.  Hunter has a sweat stroke and rarely strikes out.  Going forward the goal for Hunter is to just build off a solid 2010 and continue to grow and improve.  Being just 23 he will still be young for the PCL and might have a shot as a late season call up in September.

21)   Rymer Liriano: CF/RF (Eugene/Low A .231/.288/.342 36 xbh, 31 SB, 119 K, in 117 G).  Being only 18 when the season started the front office decided to challenge him by skipping Eugene and having him start in Fort Wayne.  Unfortunately, he didn’t respond as well as they hoped and when camp in Eugene opened up he went down a level.  Liriano is a truly gifted fielder with a tremendous arm, great routes and a strong first step.  Like most young Dominican hitters Liriano will swing at anything that doesn’t hit him.  Unlike most hitters though he can hit a ball at his feet 400 feet in the air.  The Padres have been working with him extensively at becoming more selective at the plate, but so far few improvements have been made.  He will still be extremely young next year when he gets another crack at the MWL and with any luck will have a chance to outshine Tate in Fort Wayne.

22)   Everett Williams: OF (A, .244/.333/.372 35 xbh, 10 SB, 131 K in 107 G).  Great potential, needs to improve on his work ethic.  Williams battled illness and a few minor injuries over the year, but did not have the year that everyone knows he is capable of.  He has a loop in his swing which didn’t improve over the year and kept his strike out numbers high and his average low.  Williams has decent power for a fist year HS prospect, but could see a bigger jump if he uses his speed to his advantage.  He is still young and has a lot of time to make improvements.

23)   Juan Oramas: LHP (A/A+  7-4, 2.73 ERA, 99 IP, 29 BB, 115 K).  Oramas came over from the Mexican league as a relative unknown, but that is no longer the case.  After breezing through the MWL, Oramas quickly found himself within two outs of a perfect game in Lake Elsinore.  Oramas received some of the best praise a pitcher can get when then Fort Wayne manager Jesus Flores said “He is not afraid, he challenges, and he shows no fear out there.”  Pitching inside and pounding the strike zone made Oramas one of the more dominant pitchers in the Cal League.  He has two plus pitches but will need to continue improving his secondary stuff he wants to remain a starter through AAA.

24)   Dan Robertson: OF (A+, .300/.375/.418 9 3B, 30 SB, 59 BB, 52 K in 135 G).  It’s hard to not be a Dan Robertson fan.  Every time the critics question whether he can hit at higher levels he does just that.  After shattering the hit record (114 in 73 G) in the NWL in 2008, he has followed it up with back to back great seasons in the MWL and Cal League.  At only 5’8” 175 lb, Robertson isn’t your typical baseball player.  Despite that, no one plays the game harder or with more energy than Robertson.  He doesn’t have the ceiling of a lot of the other younger prospects, but gets every bit of ceiling out of his frame.  Call him an Eric Owens or David Eckstein clone, it doesn’t matter as long as hopefully we can call him a Padre someday.

25)   Jeremy McBryde: RHP (A+, 4-4, 4.38 ERA, 63.2 IP, 17 BB, 49 K).  McBryde was a top 10 prospect for me and was my pick for sleeper of the year.  Sadly injuries had a different idea.  McBryde missed the entire second half of 2009 and the first half of 2010 with injuries.  When he finally came back he wasn’t at 100% (or at least not the same pitcher from before the injury).  McBryde has one of the best sinking fastballs in the organization and can run it up there in the low 90’s, making it nearly impossible to do anything more than ground out.  He also has an above average slider and an improving change which can make him dominant when healthy.  Of course health and his work ethic will be the difference between a successful big league career and flailing out in AA

26)   Luis Durango: OF (AAA .300/.378/.325 7 xbh 35 SB, in 106 G, .250/.308/.250 5 SB in 28 G in SD).  By now most Padres fans know that Durango has some of the best wheels in the baseball.  He would probably also lose an extra base hit contest going up against 15 year olds.  Durango didn’t get his first xbh until after the all-star break.  Durango is a gifted hitter with tremendous speed, but if he can’t hit for enough power to at least keep the OF honest a lot of the bleeders that were singles this year will be outs next year.  Without that Durango is nothing more than a PR/forth OF extraordinaire.

27)   Duanel Jones: 3B (DSL, .211/.384/.246 15 BB, 16 K in 20 G) Jones was signed by the Padres for $900,000 in April after his contract with the Giants was voided after failing a drug test and was suspended for 50 games.  Jones has + tools and a great eye at the plate.  At 6’3”, 195 lb Jones  has a big athletic frame for a kid.  This is an all potential selection, but he has the natural ability to hit and make his way up this list.

28)   Nate Freiman: 1B (A, .294/.369/.457 43 2B, 14 HR, 84 RBI in 138 G).  It is hard to leave off a prospect that led the league in doubles, finished fourth in RBI, and sixth in TB.  Freiman was the most consistent player in a Tin Cap lineup full of potential but lacking in numbers.  Freiman became a leader at first and anchored the club.  He fixed a lot of the problems in his swing, and despite being a little old for the league (23), was one of the best all around players.  He is solid defensively and going into the Cal league should see his power numbers increase.

29)   James Needy: RHP (DNP)  Needy is someone who was probably left off most lists after missing the entire season with knee problems.  Despite that he has a ton of potential.  He has an above average fastball that tops out at 93 but has great movement.  He could possibly add a few mph as continues to grow.  His slider is strong and can be a + pitch if he can consistently locate it.  If his knee problems are a thing of the past he should start the year with fellow 2009 draftee Sampson in Fort Wayne.

30)   Matt Branham: RHP (Eugene, 6-3, 2.97 ERA, 60.2 IP, 15 BB, 56 K).  Being in a rotation that featured three top 12 prospects, the consensus Ems pitcher of the year was Matt Branham.  Branham was Mr. Consistency in the Ems rotation as he allowed two runs or less in all but two of his starts.  Branham might not have the upside of the others but has good command of all his pitchers and is able to stay low in the strike zone.

Bonus prospect

31)   Matt Clark: 1B (AA, .269/.339/.485 28 HR, 97 RBI, 146 K in 129 G).  Clark tied with Cody Decker for the Padre system home run crown.  More impressively though was that he did it in the horrendous Texas League.  Clark has tremendous power and never gets cheated at the plate.  Unfortunately, Clark was not able to fix his enormous swing as much as hoped.  As a result a lot of the time he either struck out or hit it a mile in the Texas air.  Clark’s power alone makes him a top 30 prospect, but if he is going to get more than a cup of coffee in the majors he will need to shorten up his swing and cut down on the K numbers.

So there you have it.  The Padres have the prospects in their system to go from an average farm system to one of the best in baseball.  The deciding factor will  whether many of these young, extremely talented prospects ever get close to the talent/potential we know they possess?

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