Top Ten Prospects: San Diego Padres
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Jim Callis
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2004.
2. Khalil Greene, ss
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 210.
Background: Undrafted out of high school and a 14th-round pick as a college junior, Greene became a first-round pick as well as BA’s College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes Award winner in 2002. He breezed through the minors and became the first position player from his draft class to reach the majors.
Strengths: Greene has more ability to hit for average with gap power than most middle infielders. He doesn’t have the speed or arm strength of a classic shortstop, but he has enough to handle the position. Add in his tremendous hands, quick first step and uncanny instincts, and he’s the system’s best defensive infielder.
Weaknesses: During his September callup, Greene showed that he still faces several offensive adjustments. He must make more contact and draw more walks to realize his potential as a No. 2 hitter.
The Future: The Padres are comfortable making Greene their starting shortstop in 2004. He will have growing pains, and the Padres will protect him by batting him low in the order.
3. Freddy Guzman, of
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 165.
Background: Guzman, previously known as Pedro de los Santos and thought to be 2½ years younger, was the most significant player uncovered in an organizational crackdown on falsified identities last offseason. But his prospect status soared after he moved from high Class A Lake Elsinore to Triple-A, leading the minors with 90 steals while getting caught just 17 times.
Strengths: Not the fastest of the organization’s crop of speedsters, Guzman is the best player among them. He has a nice stroke from both sides of the plate and the patience required of a leadoff man. No one on the big league club can chase balls down in center field like him.
Weaknesses: Guzman chases pitches in the dirt and at times tries to drive the ball, which isn’t his game. His arm is well below-average. He’s not lazy but must learn the importance of playing hard every day.
The Future: The Padres don’t have a true leadoff man or center fielder in their lineup. Though Guzman isn’t ready to fill those voids, he should be by 2005, if not earlier.
4. Tim Stauffer, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205.
Background: A two-time All-American at Richmond, Stauffer was considered the player closest to the big leagues in the 2003 draft crop. After the Padres took him fourth overall, an MRI revealed weakness in his shoulder. He admitted his condition to his team, which reduced its initial $2.6 million offer to $750,000.
Strengths: Stauffer’s fastball usually sits no higher than 91-92 mph, but it’s an out pitch because of its outstanding life. His curveball and changeup are plus pitches, and his cutter gives him another solid option. He commands all four offerings for strikes. His honesty reinforced the Padres’ belief that he has special makeup.
Weaknesses: Stauffer’s shoulder obviously is worrisome. The good news is that he hasn’t required surgery and San Diego hopes to have him ready for spring training. But until he gets on a mound, shows his former stuff and proves he can stay healthy, he’s a question mark.
The Future: Before his shoulder problems, Stauffer might have gone from the draft to San Diego as quickly as Khalil Greene. Now it’s impossible to set any kind of timetable. The Padres will monitor him closely this spring before determining a game plan for 2004.
5. Ben Howard, rhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190.
Background: Howard was the lone survivor of a February 2002 car crash that killed Padres outfielder Mike Darr and another passenger. He missed a month in 2003 after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee before pitching creditably after a late-August callup.
Strengths: Before he hurt his elbow in June 2002, Howard could touch 99 mph with his fastball. He now sits in the low 90s and tops out around 95. His slider has improved, and at times it’s an out pitch. His changeup looked better than ever in the majors. He trusted it more under the guidance of pitching coach Darren Balsley, who turned his career around when they were in the minors together.
Weaknesses: Howard has trouble repeating his delivery, so his command fluctuates. He has dialed down his velocity to throw more strikes, but gives up too many walks and homers when he’s off. In the minors, he threw his changeup too hard and didn’t use it enough.
The Future: Howard could make the Padres out of spring training as either a starter or middle reliever. If he regains his power fastball and never masters the changeup, he eventually could become a closer.
6. Jon Knott, of/1b
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220.
Background: Undrafted after he strained a tendon in his right leg late as a senior at Mississippi State, Knott won the Cal League batting title (.341) in his 2002 pro debut. Shifting his focus to hitting for more power in 2003, he increased his homer output from 11 to 28 (tops in the organization) and led the Double-A Southern League with 59 extra-base hits.
Strengths: Knott has the most usable game power in the system. He also has the potential to hit for average and draws lots of walks. He runs well and plays decent defense for a man his size, and he has enough arm to handle right field. He’s an overachiever whose makeup can take him far.
Weaknesses: Knott ran hot and cold in 2003, sometimes falling into extended slumps when pitchers wouldn’t challenge him. That tendency continued in the Arizona Fall League. There’s still a question about whether he’s a long-term outfielder or merely a first baseman.
The Future: Knott needs a full year in Triple-A before trying to break through a logjam of similar players in San Diego. Brian Giles, Ryan Klesko, Xavier Nady and Phil Nevin are entrenched ahead of him.
7. David Pauley, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170.
Background: The Padres have been patient with Pauley, keeping him in short-season leagues for his first two years of pro ball. He held his own at low Class A Fort Wayne in 2003, with the only setback a month’s stay on the disabled list with tendinitis. He went 4-2, 2.48 after he returned in July.
Strengths: Pauley’s best offering is a curveball that can become a plus pitch. His fastball has solid-average velocity, sitting at 88-91 mph and reaching 94, and has good life. Though he’s not big, he has a quick arm and throws hard without effort. His changeup is progressing nicely.
Weaknesses: Pauley has a good feel for pitching but is still learning to use all of his pitches in tandem. He tends to fall in love with his curveball, and he’ll have to mix his stuff to keep more advanced hitters off balance. He showed signs of doing that in instructional league. Added strength would help him hold up better and could make his fastball quicker.
The Future: San Diego will keep moving Pauley one step at a time, sending him to high Class A Lake Elsinore this year. He could reach the majors in the second half of 2006.
8. Kennard Jones, of
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180.
Background: Ignored in the draft for three straight years in high school and junior college, Jones went in the third round after one season at Indiana. An all-star in the low Class A Midwest League in his first full year, he was promoted to high Class A but missed August after breaking his left hand in an off-field incident.
Strengths: Jones’ trademark is his speed, just as it was for his cousin, basketball Hall of Famer Sam Jones. He should become an above-average center fielder and basestealer. He has a good offensive approach, with a short stroke designed for contact and an eye for walks. He has some strength and could develop power down the road.
Weaknesses: Jones plays out of control too often. He was caught stealing 21 times in 44 tries last year because he doesn’t know how to read pitchers. He must improve his breaks and routes in center field.
The Future: Jones is destined for a full season in high Class A. If he can develop better instincts, he’ll challenge Freddy Guzman to be San Diego’s center fielder of the future.
9. Tagg Bozied, 1b
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210.
Background: Bozied led the system with 24 homers and 92 RBIs in his 2002 pro debut, then set an Arizona Fall League record with 12 homers. He had trouble unleashing that power in Triple-A, where he received more attention for going after a Las Vegas fan who taunted him and threw a soft souvenir ball at him. Nineteen of his teammates followed him into the stands and all were suspended, including Bozied for eight games.
Strengths: Bozied is stronger and has more pure power than Jon Knott. He raised his batting average 13 points from 2002 by making adjustments to fight breaking balls and pitches on the outer half of the plate. He projects as a .260 hitter with 25-plus homers, along the lines of Eric Karros.
Weaknesses: His new approach cost him pop, and Bozied needs to regain aggressiveness at the plate. He probably won’t ever hit for a high average or draw many walks. Though he has decent arm strength, his lack of speed likely relegates him to first base, where he’s adequate.
The Future: He’ll return to Triple-A in 2004 and try to recapture his power. As with Knott, there are several players in Bozied’s path to the major leagues.
10. Chris Oxspring, rhp
Age: 26. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180.
Background: The Padres have a knack for uncovering talent in independent leagues, and Oxspring has been one of their better finds since signing out of a rain-soaked tryout for Frontier Leaguers in 2000. An Australian who pitched in the 2001 World Cup, he took off after moving into Mobile’s rotation in late May. He went 10-4, 2.47 and didn’t give up more than three runs in an outing until his final start of 2003.
Strengths: Oxspring has the best slider in the system and a 91-93 mph fastball. He also throws a curveball and changeup, though those pitches aren’t as advanced. After lacking confidence in the past—he preferred pitching in middle relief—he took to starting and began to believe in himself.
Weaknesses: Oxspring has to trust his stuff. He still needs to go after hitters more aggressively. His curveball, changeup and command all can improve. He made three trips to the disabled list with shoulder problems in 2002, but held up throughout last season.
The Future: Added to the 40-man roster for the first time, Oxspring is headed for Triple-A. If he can maintain his confidence, he could be pitching for the Padres by the end of the season.