- C – Juan Fernandez – 17 yo
- 2.58/.780 – PAG/APPA – (DSL)
- 2016 stats: .353/.472/.447; .919 OPS; 3 doubles, 1 home run
Unlike any other position on the baseball diamond, catcher is the select few where a hitter can play and his bat doesn’t have to be overly special to do so. And the dedication the San Diego Padres have shown to 2011 – 2nd round draft choice Austin Hedges is proof. In 407 minor league games, the 6’1″- 210 lb. draftee out of JSerra Catholic HS (CA) carried a career .271 batting average, however, if you look closer, Hedges posted a (personal) year for the ages in his 82 games this past season in the Pacific Coast League. In fact, his season was so far from his offensive norm that he hit two less home runs (21) in 2016 than he did the previous five seasons combined (23). However, with kids like Hedges, you take whatever the bat can give you and look right to his defense. He’s an all-world defender. He has great foot work, plus-plus catch and release, a canon arm with minor league career 34 percent caught stealing rate, and is projected to handle even the best pitching staff’ with ease. Plus he’s really learning to hit too. So, what I’m getting at here is the Padres have their catcher of the future poised to take over (in 2017) what has been a patch-work position for the last several seasons. This allows us to dig deep and find the next (wave of) kid(s) in hopes to raise the floor of the position within the organization. Hopefully, 17-year-old Venezuelan Juan Fernandez can help do that. The Padres signed the 5’11”- 180 lb. righty in March 2016 and assigned him directly to the Dominican Summer League. As the third youngest member on the team, Fernandez led the team in batting, on-base percentage and OPS. Now the stats I just listed are the reason why I chose Fernandez as this years OAS. Quite honestly, the Padre minor league catching this season was mediocre-plus at best, however when you have a 17-year-old with a debut like Fernendez’, it perks you up and makes you think of what he could do moving forward. I have a suspicion that Fernandez may begin the season again in the DSL, but a shoot out of the gate could send him right to the AZL. Hedges is the man in San Diego, but keep a peripheral, semi-distant eye on Fernandez.
- 1B – Ty France – 21 yo
- 3.11/.741 combined – PAG/APPA – (LoA Fort Wayne – 2.82/.683; HiA Lake Elsinore – 3.43/.805)
- 2016 stats combined: .271/.387/.420; .807 OPS; 24 doubles, 14 home runs; 6 stolen bases
Back in January inside my Miami Marlins UTR Organizational All-Star post, I pretty much revealed my overt disdain for the Marlins lack of reluctance to deal top first base prospect Josh Naylor to the San Diego Padres in the July 29, 2016 trade that sent several pieces packing for new organizations. We all agree that baseball is a business and deals go down, but this one left me thoroughly scratching my head on the Marlins side. So, what this did was take Naylor from an already bare cupboard and add him to a drawer semi-full with a solid, but not yet spectacular bevy of talent that makes up the Padres minor league first base vector. One question is, “Does Naylor go from being the number one first base prospect for the Marlins to the number one first base prospect for the Padres? The answer is an easy, “Yes.” But this time, Naylor’s got several kids right on his heels. One of which is an unsuspecting 34th round draft choice, this year’s UTR OAS, Ty France. You would think that a kid drafted that late in any draft would make a career carving out a niche as organizational filler, not lead his Short Season (Tri-City) club with 20 doubles, rank second on the team in total bases (92), slugging percentage (.391), and first in OPS (.816) and on-base percentage (.425) in his debut season. But that’s what France did. He came to San Diego (out of San Diego State University) heralded as one of the more underrated bats in the entire 2015 draft, begging scouts to ponder how he fell so far down draft boards. I’m confused too, as France, a three-year starter for the Aztecs, batted a career .337 with 14 home runs, 135 runs scored and 130 RBi’s. This season, France proved once again the confusion of his low draft status this past season leading all organizational first basemen (Triple-A and down) in home runs, and led all HiA and down first baggers in slugging percentage and OPS. I believe Naylor will maintain his standing at the Padres top first base prospect, but France, a “lowly” 34th rounder, needs to be given a bigger look. Especially if he shoots out of the gate with a possible promotion to Double-A San Antonio in 2017.
- 2B – Eguy Rosario – 16 yo
- 3.63/.879 combined – PAG/APPA – (DSL – 3.72/.912; AZL – 3.00/.656)
- 2016 stats combined: .346/.432/.472; .895 OPS; 22 doubles, 1 home run; 22 stolen bases
I have to say that despite the perpetual attention both Jim and I pay to the inner workings of the fantasy league we compete in, sometimes things take place that even we couldn’t predict; and one of them was the emergence of Padres second baseman Ryan Schimpf. What looked like a career minor league career, the 28-year-old Schimpf signed a minor league free-agent contract with San Diego after seven years with the Blue Jays. Schimpf began 2016 with El Paso of the Pacific Coast League and batted .355, belted 15 home runs and drove in 48. San Diego promoted the 2009 – 5th rounder out of LSU to the major league squad and all he did was crush 20 more homers, collect 51 RBi’s, but he batted an abysmal .217. Still, who’d have predicted this right? But when you look back at Schimpf’s minor league career, he’s always hit for power. Between 2012 and 2015 seasons, the 5’9″-180 lb. lefty slugged 92 home runs. He averaged 23 home runs a year folks. So to that ardent fantasy baseball owner, the doubtless keen observer, Schimpf’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise. And that’s exactly what we try to do here. Ryan Schimpf is the shining example of what following our website can do for your fantasy team. Now, I’m not saying that every single kid we write about here is the next Schimpf. What I am saying, however, is if you’re willing to dig deeper and chart a kids progress, stay on top of the baseball landscape, a kid we talk about just might be that final or extra piece of production you need to put your team over the top. Because that’s all we discuss: player production. And that’s what Padre international signee Eguy Rosario did as this year’s Padres OAS choice at second base. The 5’9″- 150 lb. Dominican debuted in the DSL after the Padres were intrigued by his compact swing, patience inside the batter box and his ability to drive the ball into the gaps with authority, given his small size. What he did as the youngest member of the DSL squad was lead the team in hits (63), runs scored (42), doubles, stolen bases, total bases (87) and rank second in batting and OPS. Again, I’m not saying that Rosario is the next Schimpf. But it’s a great start for what could be a very UTR-like career. What intrigues me, however, is despite Rosario’s (and Schimpf’s) production, caution sits at the forefront of excitement due to the age. Schimpf is 28, Rosario is 16. But please tell me why this matters? It does to ‘expert’ prognosticators whose goal is to find that perfectly slotted hitter, that Stepford Wife-type, who perfectly fits the mold of the perfectly proportioned player who perfectly fits into that perfect ‘age/level’ discussion. Sometimes the best things in fantasy baseball are the imperfect situations. That imperfect cast off (like Schimpf) who immediately adds value to your roster, which can help cap off that perfect fantasy season. Sure we analyze numbers here and bring you the best of the best. But age certainly isn’t one of them. Rosario is 16 year’s old. Schimpf is 28. They are productive on the baseball field; and in fantasy baseball those are the only numbers that matter.
- 3B – Carlos Belen – 20 yo
- 2.86/.681 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Fort Wayne)
- 2016 stats: .222/.278/.394; .672 OPS; 25 doubles, 12 home runs
The definition of mediocrity would be the best way to describe San Diego’s minor league third base lineup. With 29-year-old Yangervis Solarte signed through the 2019 season, this gives San Diego time to sort out the uninspiring clutter they have at the minor league hot corner. However, in the off-season, the rumors swirling that San Diego may move Solarte, whom I feel is slightly underrated, over to second base clearing a much bigger path for those playing behind him came true. This means we could see either a battle for majority playing time between the aforementioned Ryan Schimpf and Cory Spangenberg; or a possible time share, which is the ultimate “baby eating a lemon” situation (which you can see here) for any fantasy goer. Not good. Well, other than this year’s Padres UTR OAS third baseman Carlos Belen, there wasn’t else much to really get excited for. In fact, I take back the mediocrity label. It’s more like “solid, but not spectacular.” Now, I could have chosen 2013 – 5th rounder Josh Van Meter. However, his HiA/Double-A splits were just too much to overlook. Van Meter posted a 3.29/.781 P/A score in 95 games for Lake Elsinore, but when he reached Double-A San Antonio in late July, he hit an absolute wall to the tune of 1.83/.465. Although Belen spent all season in the Midwest League, he posted more “growing third baseman” like numbers like his .454 extra-base percentage. He led the Tin Caps squad in doubles and ranked second in home runs, total bases (172); and strikeouts with 132. He posted very “Chris Carter-like” numbers minus the over-the-fence power. Other than the work needed at the plate (1:4+ BB:K rate) Belen could use work defensively as well committing 21 errors at third for the second year in a row, which is his second lowest total of his career, having committed 28 as a rookie, then 14 in 2014. (Belen must have a thing for multiples of seven). I’m not saying that Belen is a bad prospect. In fact he has a lot to work with. He’s got good size (6’2″- 190 lb.), scouts say he has a simplistic swing with good bat speed and (obvious) raw power. But he has plenty of holes like recognizing breaking pitches and has displayed bad footwork around the bag. I give the Padres another season to sort out third base at the major league level. If they can’t, I believe they will try luring in a free agent. I love the move of Solarte to second. However, I think it left too big a hole for the current minor league talent to overcome in immediate fashion.
- SS – Fernando Tatis Jr. – 17 yo
- 3.40/.789 combined – PAG/APPA – (AZL – 3.58/.819; Short Season Tri-City – 2.75/.673)
- 2016 stats combined: .273/.311/.432; .742 OPS; 17 doubles, 4 home runs; 15 stolen bases
Now this is more like it. A solid group of position prospects one can sink their teeth into. Notice I didn’t say “great group”, because despite Padre shortstops making up 20 percent of Baseball America’s San Diego Padres Top 30 in this year’s Prospect Handbook, five of them sit within the 20-30 range. Which means one sits above the rest. And that player is also this year’s Padres UTR OAS shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr. Already 6’3″- 185 pounds, the righty swinging son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis was signed by the Chicago White Sox during the July 2015 international free agent signing period. He never got the chance to take the field for the White Sox in 2015, and was sent packing to San Diego in the early June 2016 trade that sent starting pitcher James Shields to the south side of Chicago. Tatis saw his first pro action as a member of the Padres and had a stellar debut, leading all Padre shortstops in not only PAG and APPA score, but also extra base percentage. What was incredibly impressive as well were Tatis’ level splits. Despite the (more than expected) drop in P/A score, Tatis batting average in Short Season ball was identical to that of the AZL and his remaining slash line was at or above his AZL levels. As much as I love Tatis moving forward, as I said before, there is a lot of depth at shortstop and obviously plenty of that is currently playing above Tatis. This type of situation helps give credence to the idea that P/A is a well working outlier due to the fact that I compare short season players to their full-season counterparts. It’s all in the averages and you see how stats could translate to higher levels. Tatis more than won out the OAS race using this theory, which he helped turn into a reality. I expect Tatis to take his strong arm, solid instincts, elite potential and power bat back to the Northwest League to start 2017, but he could be in for a quick hook and promotion to LoA Fort Wayne if everything clicks early in the season. Tatis Jr. should be on every single one of your fantasy baseball prospect watch lists.
- LF – Edwin Moreno – 22 yo
- 3.40/.789 combined – PAG/APPA – (HiA Lake Elsinore)
- 2016 stats combined: .273/.311/.432; .742 OPS; 17 doubles, 4 home runs; 15 stolen bases
The first thought that came to mind after assessing the Padres minor league left field vector (in UTR speak) was the term “blank canvas.” Now, I’m near positive had top 2016 international signee from Cuba Jorge Ona played, he may have easily topped the Padre left field list this season. He can do it all. A newly turned 20-year-old, Ona is described as a “muscular specimen” at “6’0”- 220 lb. and carries immense power, the ability to hit for average with great hand-eye coordination. So, if Ona projects, readers may be seeing his name quite often during the regular season and maybe again during next off-season. But this time with a nice fat stat line to boast about. However, back to the reality that was the 2016 Padres UTR left fielders, and other than 2011 free-agent signee Edwin Moreno, there wasn’t much else to discuss. The native Dominican began his pro career back in 2011 in the Dominican Summer League and posted a 49-game P/A score of 2.98/.756. The following four seasons saw a roller coaster of production, yet until this past season, Moreno never played more than 89 games in a season, which was in 2015 wth LoA Fort Wayne where he hit a career high .308 with 15 doubles, eight triples and 13 stolen bases. This past season in the High A California League, Moreno topped all previous season high production numbers, but one constant in his overall line since his pro debut is the strikeouts. He whiffed 126 times this season while drawing only 15 walks. Despite a career 2.68/.703 P/A score, Moreno averages less than 10 walks a year (9.83 to be exact) yet can be counted on to strikeout at least once per game (.88 K/g percent). This is the best of what Padre left fielders had to offer this season. Which means I’m pretty anxious to see what Ona can do. I’m all about the UTR folks. Don’t get me wrong, but I’ll always be the first to point out that certain kids just aren’t getting the job done nor project (or have proven) to be more than organizational filler.
- CF – Michael Gettys – 20 yo
- 3.34/.763 combined – PAG/APPA – (LoA Fort Wayne – 3.13/.737; HiA Lake Elsinore – 3.58/.790)
- 2016 stats combined: .305/.363/.442; .804 OPS; 23 doubles, 12 home runs; 33 stolen bases
Very much unlike the Padres 2016 minor league left field vector, the centerfield portion is extremely prospect rich. I’m not necessarily talking about the depth of the position, but more so the supremely high ceiling of top prospects at the position. Personally I thought with kids like Franchy Cordero and this year’s UTR OAS selection Michael Gettys at the top of the heap, it couldn’t get better. That was until the Padres received Boston Red Sox top centerfield prospect Manny Margot in the late November 2015 trade that sent All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to Boston for lefty pitcher Logan Allen, infielders Carlos Asuaje, Javier Guerra and Margot. So, the deal placed Margot at the top which slid both Cordero and Gettys down a few pegs. But make no mistake, despite the projection that Margot is most likely the center fielder of the now/future in Petco Park, that doesn’t mean Gettys didn’t have himself another stellar season. The 2014 – 2nd rounder was assigned to the Arizona League to begin his career after being drafted out of Gainesville HS (GA). The 6’1″- 200 lb. righty shot out of the gate leading the AZL club in hits (66), runs scored (29), RBi’s (38), stolen bases (14), batting (.310 – amongst regulars) and total bases (92). The following season Gettys skipped right over Short Season Tri-City and headed straight to LoA Fort Wayne. Although his batting average plummeted, the loud tools that San Diego fell in love with (power, speed and a plus-plus outfield arm) arrived, as Gettys slugged 27 doubles, six home runs and 20 stolen bases. This past season, Gettys posted a complete season posting leading all Padre farmhands Triple-A down in steals and triples (with 16). I love Gettys. However, with Manny Margot ahead of him on the depth chart, it will be interesting to see how the outfield sorts itself out. If I was a GM, I’d look at Gettys and see a prospect that could succeed at all three OF positions. He possesses the speed and defense to play center. He has the batting average and power to play both corners and the canon arm to handle right field. I think San Diego will promote him to Double-A San Antonio where he’ll be tested to another degree. If he passes, he could fine himself in Petco Park as soon as 2018.
- RF – Franmil Reyes – 20 yo
- 3.22/.764 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Lake Elsinore)
- 2016 stats: .278/.340/.452; .792 OPS; 32 doubles, 16 home runs
For any of our longtime readers, the selection of Franmil Reyes as this year’s UTR OAS possibly garnered this un-inspired, mundane chant-like response of, “Hey look, it’s Franmil again.” Trust me, I’m as much for all the other guys as any UTR fan would be. However, you know the drill. Jim and I are champions for production-based accolades and once again, the 19-time UTR Hitter of the Day recipient earned yet another All-Star nod. First, let me just get this out there. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, fellow Padre right fielder Hunter Renfroe is an absolute beast. Renfroe is on the verge of playing his first full-season in the major leagues and has been loosely discussed as a possible 2017 Rookie of the Year candidate. I could see it happening. In four minor league season’s, Renfroe averaged a 3.48/.814 P/A score, batted .281 and averaged 20 home runs, 63 runs scored and 71 RBi’s a season. I’ll take that eight days a week from my right fielder. However, this doesn’t diminish the fact that Reyes has been steadily improving over his five year career. He was a UTR Breakout prospect selection in 2012 and posted a 3.16/.763 P/A score and the following season showed consistency, steadily improving, becoming a hitter. In 2014, Reyes got his first taste of full-season ball with LoA Fort Wayne, and suffered his first true regression (2.75/.638), but earned another UTR OAS nod. The following year saw Reyes repeat LoA Fort Wayne, and he saw marked improvement, but I believe 2015 is where any shine that may have been on Reyes went away. He didn’t produce the results I believe the organization was hoping they’d see from a hulking 19-year old repeating a level. My gut tells me that had Reyes been shipped to HiA in 2015 rather than 2016 and displayed the results then that he did this past season, Reyes might be in a bigger spotlight. Reyes isn’t the sexiest prospect, and I think because of that, and the slow, but steady improvement instead of that true breakout performance he hasn’t quite had yet keeps him in the shadow of what truly is the sleeping giant of an outfield in the National League West with Renfroe, Margot and possibly Michael Gettys. I love Reyes. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Padres deal Reyes to a club with a wider more clear path to the majors. However, with Reyes poised to see a promotion to Double-A San Antonio in 2017, I think the organization still wants to see what they may have in him. As they should. Because you just can’t discard a 6’4″- 250 lb. 20-year-old power prospect who has yet to have that true breakout season.