by Ben Davey
So Baseball America’s Matt Eddy sat down for an interview with Madfriars’ John Coniff. John asked some good questions and helped show some flaws:
The big question that so many of our fans have is that many Padres’ fans believed the team was starting to turn the corner under the Grady Fuson, Baseball America had them ranked #12 last year, but this year they are #29. Has the system really taken a step that far back?
Matt Eddy: Yes, the biggest difference is the graduation of Chase Headley. Mainly just a few bad drafts combined with this year’s first-round draft pick getting his bonus reduced because of injury concerns, and it’s not good. Throw that in with a few guys that struggled in Triple-A, Matt Antonelli and Wade LeBlanc, and it was a tough year. Although there were some highlights at the upper levels, such as solid years by Will Venable and Josh Geer, all and all just not enough of the top prospects put together good years. The organizational rankings are difficult and to some extent are reflective of how the big club performs.
My Response: This isn’t a surprise, we knew the ranking would go down. Headley was one of the top 30 prospects in baseball last year so losing him was going to be a hit. Combine that with Antonelli and Leblanc struggling and Latos and Cumberland missing half the year and it did not help the rankings. The thing that I keep on seeing is that they lowered their rankings of the Padres because Dykstra signed for less money because of his back. All medical reports said he was perfectly fine (there was not one conflicting medical report), the Padres are just cheap. The Padres had a bad 2004 draft, but have been solid since then. I figured we would have gotten credit for a good 08′ draft and would end up 18-22 in the rankings.
What do you see the Padres organizations greatest strength and weakness is?
Matt Eddy: They have built a lot of depth with mid-range ceiling college prospects and I think they have some strength up the middle with prospects such as [Cedric] Hunter, Antonelli, [Eric] Sogard and [Drew] Cumberland. Beyond Mat Latos there is a pretty significant drop-off in power arms. Maybe you could make an argument for Wynn Pelzer and Simon Castro, but it’s tough.
Ben: This just conforms to the popular opinion (which I can’t argue with), that the Padres have a lot of depth, and a lot of players who “could” become major league players, BUT not much in the upper echelon of prospects.
You have both James Darnell and Logan Forsythe ticketed to Lake Elsinore, but both are playing third base. Do you see one of them moving?
Matt Eddy: Good question. They drafted Forsythe higher so he could be in High A – but you know it is tough to say.
Ben: Every report I have read is higher on Darnell. Darnell is also the most likely to change positions if need be. I think at least for the 09′ season you will see both at 3B. My thought would be Darnell would be in Lake Elsinore and Forsythe in Fort Wayne (at least to start the year).
On your CF depth chart you had Brad Chalk and Danny Payne listed above Drew Macias. After the season the first two had, especially Payne who was injured for most of the year, you really liked both of them more?
Matt Eddy: With Payne and Chalk, a lot of it was where they were drafted and some of the guys around the office were big Payne fans and there is always kind of a luster with some of the new guys. Macias repeating a league a few times didn’t help either.
Ben: Macias was also voted as the top defensive prospect. Is it just me or does it seem like Eddy looks at what round they were drafted in and that determines where they rank. While I disagree that Payne/Chalk should be higher then Macias, I understand that he is “the expert.” What I do disagree with his HOW he did it: “a lot of it was where they were drafted and that people were big Payne fans…” Ummmm….. so you are telling me that your rankings have little to do with how they play, stats, or D; but rather a look at when they were drafted and how big of fans your friends are of them? Nice way to show you are the “expert.”
If the Padres minor league system ranked first in on-base percentage, second in runs scored and fourth in slugging percentage, how do it rank 29th out of 30 teams?
Matt Eddy: [laughs] Good question. Part of it is the friendly hitting environments in Eugene and Lake Elsinore. The reason is they have drafted so many college guys they tend to be a little older than the competition. They were ranked near the top in many leagues by player’s ages.
Ben: Here is Lake Elsinore, Fort Wayne, and Eugene’s average age compared to the team that won the league. High A: Storm’s average age was 22.8. San Jose won and was 23.5, Lancaster was 23.0 (min 12 G (batters) or 10 IP). So the Storm were younger than the first or second team (and both the Red Sox and Giants have one of the top systems). Fort Wayne was at 22, Clinton was at 21.5. Salem-Keizer averaged 22.1 years old Eugene Ems averaged 21.3 years old. So I don’t think “age” is really a factor. What exactly is wrong with a hitter friendly park? Yes, it might mean that the hitting stats are not as great, but it also means the pitching isn’t as bad, so I think they off set. Again, they might not be youngest team, but they clearly aren’t the oldest, and thus this argument can’t really be used against the Padres.
Could you clarify if Baseball America uses a five tool approach or a 1 (hitting) + four approach. I could be wrong, but I think they equate “tools” speed and throwing, with hitting. That is why so many of our prospects are underrated by them.
Matt Eddy: We do weigh tools higher, but we don’t negate performance. What we may be guilty is of overrating younger guys and underrating older guys that repeat, such as Drew Macias.
Ben: Well, I guess that answers that. It’s interesting though that most of the “top” Padre prospects were drafted in the last few drafts. People like Kulbacki, Decker, Portillo, Antonelli, Sogard, etc… all drafted (signed) in the past couple drafts. I know he means that they tend to give more credit/hype to “toolsy” high school players, but the funny thing is a lot of them don’t pan out.
Has the Padres drafting of “pitchability” pitchers hurt San Diego in developing top of the rotation pitchers?
Matt Eddy: Yes, and you really need to look no further than Jake Peavy and then compare him to more polished college guys like Wade LeBlanc and Josh Geer. Throw in the fact that many of their top minor league guys like Justin Germano and Dennis Tankersly flamed out.
Ben: Can’t argue that it has hurt the Padres. Leblanc, Geer, and Ramos were all “safe picks” — they weren’t bad and they will all probably end up helping the MLB team, but no “ace” material. I agree on Tank, but was Germano ever a “top minor league prospect?”
Matt, have you seen Kyle Blanks swing the bat? If so, what are you impressed with and what can he work on? Keith Law mentioned that Blanks doesn’t put his lower body into his swing. How many home runs would he have if he did that consistently?
Matt Eddy: No, I haven’t seen him in person. If you read the scouting report that is really what we ding him on too, a hands hitter. He’s somewhat resistant to pulling the ball and changing his approach, but I think if he could adapt he is capable of hitting around 30 home runs a year.
Ben: How do you cover the Padres and NOT see their top (or top 3) prospect play? In my lifetime I have seen three minor league games in person and I have seen Blanks play (Lake Elsinore two years ago). How do you make the scouting report if you haven’t seen him hit?
How much has stock fallen on Antonelli? And do they think that Anton can still get back up to his former elite status?
Matt Eddy: There is a good chance he will approach that status because he is smart and athletic, and will be able to maintain a consistency of performance. It’s hard to say why he struggled, the problem was never really diagnosed, and he did break out a little in August. If he sticks with the same approach, I think he could become an average MLB player.
Ben: So, basically he expects Antonelli to regain his status and at the very least be a solid MLB player…Ahhh, I see why they are so down on Antonelli now (sarcasm). By the way, he just singled on a full count, eight pitch AB, as I am writing this.
What about Kellen Kulbacki do you not like? I understand that his defense is a bit of a question, but was surprised that his hitting ability alone didn’t have him ranked higher.
Matt Eddy: We had him #4 and you can make a case for Blanks, Decker or him as the top hitter. Kulbacki had three good months, but I would have liked to have seen it for a little longer.
Ben: Thanks for NOT answering my question (I asked John to ask this; this one about Anton and the next two). You would have liked him to stay healthy…ok, but it didn’t seem like injury concerns were the big problem for the ranking. No addressing of his defense or anything else.. GRRRR
What did you think about the Padres 2008 draft? Of the draft picks who do you think has the best chance of being a big contributor at the big league level? Was Robertson a flash in the pan, or is he for real?
Matt Eddy: It’s hard to argue with the pick of Dykstra because of his power numbers, but where do you play him? You have Blanks and Gonzalez already there. Decker is a fantastic pick, first round talent; he just doesn’t look like it. With regards to Robertson he is someone that could make us look bad. He’s just someone that is an all out player that has shown he could do it, a very unconventional player that is very tough to evaluate against future and better competition. [Cole] Figueroa was a good pick and even [Beamer] Weems and Adam Zornes helps the team’s defense.
Ben: Okay, now you are just contradicting yourself. Earlier you mentioned one of the reason that the Padres were ranked 29th is because of the 1st round of the 2008 draft. The reason was the “injury.” Now you are praising Dykstra, but wondering about where he will fit in in San Diego. I didn’t know MLB players blocking a prospect has an impact on rankings. Wait, you love the Decker pick? I love it too, but why doesn’t that have an effect on the rankings. I’ll give you a pass on Robertson, I have no idea what he will end up being either. It seems to me that you really liked the Padres 2008 draft… Did I miss something or doesn’t that mean that the Padres don’t have the 29th best farm system?
Hunter led ALL of MiLB in hits last year, Robertson broke a league record in hits, three of the Storm were named to Topps All High-A team, Decker and Robertson were named league MVP, Blanks was on the All Double-A team, and that’s not even factoring in a lot of other prospects….why were they 29th out of 30 teams? (This was the last one)
Matt Eddy: What is interesting with Hunter, when the minor league season ended, he had more hits than anyone, including those on the major level. As I said earlier, there were just too many prime guys that took a step backward combined with too many old guys; but Hunter is the exception to that.
Ben: You liked Hunter for how well he did, shouldn’t that partially make up for maybe a struggling Antonelli? Especially considering that he was a HS draftee (so age helps), was a top prospect the year before (before his bad Fort Wayne season), and led ALL of minor leagues in an offensive category.
Feel free to disagree with me, but it looks like he contradicts himself. When a team is ranked next to last in terms of minor league farm systems you would expect more negatives then positives about the system. However, the only negative things that I saw where: 1) Headley (#1 prospect in 08′) graduated, 2) Anton and Leblanc had a bad year, Latos was injured, 3) Dykstra signed for less money, 4) Low Ceiling talent. However, he expects 1) Anton to rebound (and when they expect someone to rebound they don’t mark them down as much), 2) said that Dykstra and Decker were great picks by the Padres, 3) was high on last years top five prospect Cedric Hunter, 4) said that Decker, Kulbacki and Blanks can all be considered the best hitter in the system (and since Blanks is basically proven, this shows that they must be high on Kulbacki and Decker), tried to use age as an issue for ranking them low, but he was wrong, 6) admits to not seeing one of the Padres top prospects playing. I am by no indication saying that the Padres should be top 5, top 10, heck not even top 15. I figured they would slot in somewhere between 18-22. So seeing a ranking of 29, followed by the inability to back up the ranking (without looking foolish), and you have an agitated blogger hoping that the Padres farm system makes Matt Eddy eat his crow.