If you follow the Padres minor league system at all, now is an exciting time. You could ask six different fans who they think the top prospect is, and you could get six different answers. There are players who are outside the organization’s Top 20 that could be in the Top 10 in other systems. The farm is deep, and full of exciting players.
But they’re not without their flaws – hence the difficulty with having a more consensus ranking. While “X” tool is promising, “X” result is very concerning. Until they can do that more consistently, they won’t be more than this. Which got me thinking:
What if we could combine Padres prospects? What if, instead of choosing between two different players, we could fit them together to make a superior prospect? I know that A.J. Preller has been referred to as a “mad scientist”, and while it’s unlikely that he’s been working on this kind of technology, it’s hard to put anything past him.
So, that being said, in this hypothetical situation, which players could receive the Frankenstein treatment with the hopes of terrorizing the rest of MLB? Let’s get to it.
By combining the skills of Michael Gettys and Luis Urías, the Padres could have a legit Top 20 in all MLB-type prospect. Getty’s Achilles heel is his atrocious strikeout rate (currently at 35.7% in the High-A California League), which will likely limit his ceiling moving forward. When he does make contact, he punishes the ball, and combined with his speed and arm strength, he’s one of the toolsiest prospects in the system. Urías, in contrast, is an on-base machine that walks more than he strikes out, but hasn’t yet developed consistent power (.400 OBP, .402 SLG). Together, you’d have an up-the-middle fielder with all five tools.
I’ve heard a few different ways to pronounce Phil Maton’s name, but for this fictional player, it’d be the version that sounds similar to “Ramone”, as in the influential punk band. Maton was stellar in his brief minor league career (he was drafted in 2015) and has been even more impressive in his 12-game stint in San Diego thus far. His high-spin fastball has been difficult for hitters to catch up to, but the Padres pessimist in me can’t help but wait for the other shoe to drop. When speaking with Lake Elsinore Storm catcher Austin Allen last week, I asked which specific pitch of all the ones he’d caught this year was the most difficult to hit, and after giving credit to Jacob Nix, Cal Quantrill, and Eric Lauer, he said that Joey Lucchesi’s changeup was nasty. You could slice this creation a number of ways – maybe adding Maton’s fastball to Lucchesi’s repertoire makes him a Top 10 prospect in the Padres organization, and maybe adding a changeup to Maton’s arsenal makes him an elite-ish closing/high leverage option. Either way, it’d be fun.
Alright, so Jabari Blash just turned 28 and isn’t really a prospect, and Christian Villanueva is 26 and no spring chicken either. Why combine them? Well, Villanueva is having the kind of year in El Paso that Blash enthusiasts can get behind. With a .297/.360/.584 hitting line, while playing a position (third base) that the Padres aren’t loaded with (Blash plays corner outfield), he’s an under the radar candidate for a late season call up if a few players ahead of him are dealt at the trade deadline. While Blash is OPSing 81 points higher, his K rate at Triple-A is 30.6%, while Villanueva’s is almost half that at 16.5%. Maybe the latter is just a fun-to-say name away from getting on more Padre fans radars. Then again, if you just added his power to Blash’s, maybe you could create an older prospect with Aaron Judge-like power. I’m still not sure how this process would hypothetically work.
While Fernando Tatis Jr. continues to hold the torch as the Padres hopeful shortstop of the future, it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup plan. Since the position has been so difficult, we’ve combined two of the top shortstops in the organization together: Luis Almanzar and Javier Guerra. While both are still young (Almanzar is 17 and Guerra is 21), early returns show that Almanzar can hit pretty well and get on base (in a short 19-game sample, he has six extra base hits and ten walks – albeit an alarming 24 K’s), and Guerra has flashed a glove that is major league ready. Almanzar, however, is averaging an error every other game, and Guerra is riding a recent hot streak to bump his hitting line up to .232/.269/.363. With Guerra’s defense and Almanzar’s offensive potential (again, he is still just 17 and in Low-A), you’d have a shortstop that could be really interesting – although probably still inferior to Tatis.
Austin J. Kendall:
While it’s almost blasphemous to think of anyone ever playing catcher besides Austin Charles Hedges, the Padres boast some interesting catching prospects. It’s probably a little too early to know all the strengths and weaknesses of Luis Campusano and Blake Hunt, who were acquired during last month’s draft, but Austin Allen is the most advanced catcher in the minors. Classified by many as a “bat first” catcher, he got off to a slow start, but has hit .258/.346/.538 since June. He’s no slouch behind the plate, and aside from handling the potent Storm rotation, he has a decent 23% caught stealing rate for the year (25% for his career). I don’t want to sound like a homer, but after talking to Allen last week, I’m a believer in his drive and ability to continue to hone his craft. That being said, A.J. Kennedy is a great defensive catcher, and really fun to watch in San Antonio. Not quite Hedges-level, but just a step down. Kennedy has an impressive 45% caught stealing rate, but was relegated to Single-A Fort Wayne after hitting .069/.136/.139 in Double-A. With Allen’s bat and Kennedy’s prowess behind the plate, you’d have a really good option to back up Hedges in a year or two.
If you’ve ever seen Josh Naylor run, you’ve probably been surprised by the speed that the 6’0″, 225 lb first baseman can produce. Still, even though he’s nabbed a few bases, it’d be fun to give him the speed of Buddy Reed, a outfield burner down in Fort Wayne. Reed has had difficulties stealing bases lately because he hasn’t reached base very often (.222/.300/.241 in the first month of the season), though he has been improving as of late. Naylor, on the other hand, can hit to all fields, but is stuck at a position (first base) where power is expected. While he’s still young and is likely to improve his power numbers as he advances, it’d be fun to have a centerfielder with Reed’s speed and Naylor’s body and hit tool.
I don’t mean to take anything away from any of these prospects, who all have legit chances to make it and succeed in the majors on their own (9/12 of them are Top 50 prospects). Still, it was an interesting exercise to see which prospects had a lot going for them, but still lacking a little in a specific area or two.
If you have any ideas for other potential mash-ups, let us know in the comments.