The San Diego Padres spent last winter trading many of their top prospects to acquire Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel. This offseason, the club focused on building up the minor league system while putting complementary pieces next to Myers, Kemp and Norris.
The biggest infusion of talent came from trading Kimbrel to Boston. A.J. Preller netted one of the biggest prospect hauls of the winter in the deal. Three of the four prospects acquired make our Top 20 and the fourth just missed. The club also added more depth by dealing Joaquin Benoit as well.
Despite not picking until the middle of the second round last year, the Padres had a productive draft, nabbing young pitchers Austin Smith and Jacob Nix and 20th-round sleeper prospect Phil Maton, who had one of the better years in the Northwest League in 2015.
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The departures of Upton and fellow free agent Ian Kennedy netted the club two compensation picks in the upcoming draft, giving them a chance to significantly impact the top end of the system with six of the first 85 selections in the amateur draft and a plan to be aggressive on the international market.
Consensus evaluations of the system next fall will likely depend on the performance of the pitching staff at Single-A this year. Five of our Top 20 prospects could be in the Fort Wayne rotation with several other young arms, and strong production will gain plenty of national attention. The organization also has several talented outfielders near big-league ready.
1) Javier Guerra (SS)
The key player the Padres wanted from Boston in the Craig Kimbrel trade in the off-season, Guerra is a left-handed hitting defensive whiz with some pop. He was named the Red Sox minor league Defensive Player of the Year and was fifth in the Low-A Sally League in slugging percentage.
To max out his upside, he'll need to stop selling out for power, work the ball the other way some more, and cut his alarming strikeout totals from last season. If he can do that, he could become the Padres' everyday shortstop for a long time.
2) Manuel Margot (CF)
Guerra edged out Margot by a whisker, mainly because an elite shortstop has more value than an elite centerfielder. Margot has the ability to play a strong defensive centerfield and, despite plenty of raw power, projects as more of a gap-power hitter with an ability to steal some bags.
If he can build his patience a bit and make sure he hits his pitch hard rather than the pitcher's pitch weakly, he could provide league-average offense, which would make him a very valuable big leaguer.
3) Hunter Renfroe (OF)
Renfroe was one of only two hitters in the system to finish with 20 home runs last year. He can play all three outfield positions, but fits best as an above-average rightfielder. Like many players, Renfroe took advantage of the friendly hitting conditions in the Pacific Coast League and slammed six homers in 21 Triple-A games.
He should start the year back in El Paso, where a second trip around the PCL may be more revealing than the first. If he can get off to a quick start in the first two months there will be a lot of calls to bring his right-handed power to PETCO.
4) Travis Jankowski (CF)
Jankowski came back from a serious 2014 arm injury to put together his best year professionally last season. The big changes were his ability to turn on the inside pitch and an improved two-strike approach which significantly raised his on-base percentage. Defensively he was the organization's best outfielder, and he also may be the best leadoff prospect in the system. He stole 71 bases in Lake Elsinore in 2013 and 34 this past season.
His role in 2016 will depend on how thing shake out with John Jay and Melvin Upton Jr. in the big league outfield. Jankowski will have to convince the Padres that he has value in a platoon role, but he may be back to El Paso for a little more seasoning.
5) Colin Rea (RHP)
Rea was MadFriars''Pitcher of the Year, and it wasn't even close. He dominated the competition in Texas League, where he was nothing short of remarkable. He relies more on movement than velocity with his fastball, so he must continue to throw to the inside part of the plate to prevent batters from selling out to the outside. His breaking pitches still require more consistency.
Of all the prospects, Rea should have the most impact on the major league team in 2016. If he can establish his change (a split-finger) as a consistent strike-getter, Rea will be a valuable addition to the big league rotation for the foreseeable future.
6) Ruddy Giron (SS/2B/3B)
Giron had the game of the year in the Padres' system last year when he went 6-for-6, with a home run in his debut with Fort Wayne. From there, he established himself as one of the most exciting players in the Padres' organization -- and then faded with a .233/.277/.304 slash-line in his final 62 games with the TinCaps.
Despite the swoon in the second half, Giron is a prospect who will get people excited. His early power numbers in the first half may have gotten him away from his line drive approach. When he's on, he is gap-to-gap. Look for a big year from him in Lake Elsinore, where Guerra's arrival means he will see some more time at second and third base.
7) Ryan Butler (RHP)
After dominating as the Fort Wayne closer in his 2014 professional debut, Butler moved into the rotation last year, where he also dominated in Lake Elsinore. Mid-season shoulder soreness cut down his season after his promotion to San Antonio, but still a six-foot-five pitcher who can consistently throw in the mid-90s nearly defines the term prospect.
However, a 50 game suspension for recreational drugs is certainly not anyone's idea of a good start to the season; but limiting the innings of a former Tommy John recipient who experienced shoulder soreness last year might not be the worst thing. If he can use the first half of the season to continue to refine his secondary options, he will be a rotation piece to watch. If not, the organization may just decide to send him back to the bullpen full-time.
8) Jacob Nix (RHP)
The Padres felt they got a steal when Nix came to them in the third round. Nix spent a full season with the IMG Academy prior to the draft after his 2014 draft deal with the Astros went south.
He's got a strong pedigree, ideal pitcher's frame, and all the building blocks to eventually become a major league starter. He features a low 90s fastball, but he should gain more velocity as he matures. Nix needs to improve his secondary stuff, but he has the talent to become a top prospect in the system.
9) Austin Smith (RHP)
After making him their first overall pick, the Padres limited Smith to two inning stints in the Arizona League, where he made nine appearances. He twice gave up five earned runs, heavily skewing his abbreviated season stats.
His size, velocity and athleticism are great things to dream on. Smith can top out in the mid 90's with his heater, and should only get stronger. Right now, he is primarily fastball with a developing curve and change-up. As a guy who was older for his draft class, San Diego will throw him into the mix in Fort Wayne to start the year.
10) Michael Gettys (CF)
Gettys has as much raw talent as anyone in the organization, and at times last year in the Midwest League we caught some glimpses of it. The question about the phenomenal athlete remains whether he'll ever make enough contact to capitalize on his immense talent. His 162 strikeouts in 522 plate appearances didn't do much to inspire hope on that front, but it is still entirely reasonable to expect a step forward in that regard.
Whether he ends up in Lake Elsinore or back in Fort Wayne will be determined by whether he shows better bat-to-ball skills in Spring Training. Even a moderate hit tool would ultimately be enough to make Gettys a valuable big-leaguer, and a success story for the player development group.
11) Alex Dickerson (OF); 12) Dinelson Lamet (RHP); 13) Nick Torres (OF); 14) Luis Urias (INF); 15) Logan Allen (LHP); 16) Enyel de los Santos (RHP); 17) Jose Rondon (SS); 18) Jose Castillo (LHP); 19) Phil Maton (RHP) and 20) Jabari Blash.
For capsules on all the Top 20 prospects and more information on the top ten, please visit MadFriars.com.
These rankings compiled and written by John Conniff, David Jay, Ben Davey and Kevin Charity.