Matt Eddy is one of the prospect gurus at Baseball America. In addition to compiling the Padres top 30 prospects he is also tasked with compiling the top lists for other teams, helping with the Prospect hot sheets, doing weekly chats, contributing to the yearly Prospect Handbook. Pretty much if it is something BA does there is a good chance Mr. Eddy contributed to it. Matt Eddy was gracious enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about the Padres, trades, and the new draft.
What is BA’s methodology for ranking prospects? How do they view ceiling versus performance?
Matt Eddy: I guess it is more of an art than a hard science. You have plenty of scouts that say “always trust in the grades, you can never go wrong.” Of course health is always a factor, and there is always maturity, both physical and mental. It is definitely tough. Certainly we look at the numbers players put up and factor them in, especially in AA and AAA. Minor league numbers tend to be a better indication of future performance for hitters as a pitcher can always develop a sinker or improve the feel for their changeup.
One of the toughest things about prospect ranking is attempting to rank players who have yet to play in more than a handful of professional games. How does BA rank these players in particular high school players like Joe Ross and Austin Hedges?
Matt Eddy: For all high school players we have a background on them. The grades don’t always translate as good or bad as we thought they would initially, but the scouts are really good at what they do. We also look at signing bonus. If a player was taken in the first 10 picks of the draft or was given WELL above slot money then we tend to give the teams the benefit of the doubt. It is especially useful for someone like me who did not have a chance to see a majority of the players in high school. We also talk to draft experts and talk with the GMs and scouting directors of the teams.
Speaking of the draft do you feel the draft will become a true slotted system even though mlb and the players union is not calling it a slotted system?
Matt Eddy: It will be interesting to see how it pans out. In the past MLB has made minor changes to the draft and we have seen how teams have responded. One of the goals of the draft changes was to get rid of the majority of the players in the first few rounds waiting until the deadline to sign. Hopefully that will change with the new draft. As far as the money issue is concerned it might affect high schoolers outside of the first round or two. There is some wiggle room for them and most of them will still get their money. You can also technically see a team sign a player in the 2nd or 3rd round with huge bonus demands, sign him for well above slot, and then not sign picks 3-10. I don’t know if any team would be willing to do that or not but it is a possibility.
How soon will international players be a part of the draft?
Matt Eddy: I really can’t say as it will be a logistical nightmare. There is a chance it could happen but there is so many issues to work out first that I don’t see it happening within the next 5 years.
In regards to the Latos trade what is your opinion of what the Padres gave up and what they got back?
Matt Eddy: The return was certainly good. They got 4 really good guys from the Reds system. Latos had a lot of value and is a good pitcher but they are getting back 4 players all of which are essentially major league ready. One of the issues for the Padres is that while all the players they got are good, outside of Grandal none are prospects in positions of need. They did not get a prospect to address up the middle nor did they get a top of the rotation type of arm. However Alonso is pretty much perfect, especially for Petco and the style of offense that the Padres seem to be going towards. There are some question marks as to whether Gandal can be a good enough defensive catcher to stay at the position, but there is a good enough chance he can be an elite catcher that the deal is a great one for the Padres.
In your rankings and in your opinion do you have Alonso ranked ahead of Anthony Rizzo?
Matt Eddy: Well first off we did not modify BA’s rankings after the trade as the transaction deadline had already passed and the book (Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook) is already being printed. For me I would put Alonso ahead of Rizzo. If you take them in neutral environments Rizzo might be a little better. He has 60 power, legitimately. But when I look at the reports on Alonso I see almost the exact same reports that I saw on Adrian Gonzalez 6-7 years ago. Not that they will have the same outcomes, but for the Padres Alonso is a better fit.
2 years ago Simon Castro was a top 100 prospect and the starter in the futures game, after the Quentin trade most scouts are saying the Padres didn’t give up much in the trade. What exactly happened to Castro to make him go from top prospect to maybe a #5 starter?
Matt Eddy: He struggled in the futures game, he barely escaped the first inning. I think that might have had a big effect on his confidence level. He always has had a long arm action which impacted the way he throws the ball. He has really struggled with his release point. He has been getting out of synch and recoiling his arm a bit. He’s just been terrible. He improved at the end of the year in San Antonio, but it still wasn’t consistent enough to make up for what he did the majority of the year. He still has a lot of upside because of his arm strength and has a really good slider. The White Sox think they can turn him around and get really good value. He is tall, physical, and throws hard it is a pretty good building block for becoming a solid MLB pitcher. The Padres were always high on him and praised him for working really hard. Hopefully the change of scenery can help. The White Sox have a history of rebuilding pitchers, look at Phil Humber.
In 2010 you had Cumberland has the Padres 9th ranked prospect. After retiring and now being cleared to play how does BA view him?
Matt Eddy: He is intriguing. He is always someone that you are not sure about. I can see him being a very competent starting 2B on a major league team. Maybe even a starting CF as he runs well, bunts well and can hit at the top of the lineup. Not a starting shortstop though. In the past year we saw the Padres draft Spangenberg who the Padres are really high on as well and the Ems staff has been raving about Peterson, so that might affect Cumberland’s value.
Where do you think Cumberland begins the year? Do you think he would rejoin San Antonio even though Galvez and Valdez make a fairly potent up the middle combination and they are slotted to be there?
Matt Eddy: I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept him in extended ST for a month and then shipped him out to San Antonio. It would be the natural place for him as that is where he left off. He would probably alternate between starting SS and DH for the Missions. I don’t think they view either Galvez or Valdez as SS. Valdez has a big enough arm to stay at short but I don’t think they see him staying there in SD. It’s a great question though. I would think they would have to take it really slowly with him as it is uncharted territory, not just for the player but for the team in general. Not much of a precedence in this regard.
The challenge too, now that I think about it, is will there even be a DH spot open. The Missions will also have Rincon, who will be playing 3rd but is not a 3B, as well as possibly Gyorko all in AA. Combine that with the fact that AA only has the DH about 50% of the time and the Padres will have some interesting decisions to make.
It seems like so many of the Padres top offensive prospects are either at the same position or are not good enough defensively to stay at that position. When you are making your depth chart and preparing your future lineup, how do you slot position players into different positions, for example Gyorko in LF even though he has never played an inning in the OF?
Matt Eddy: More than anything the projected lineup is just an educated guess. It is not like we talk to the front offices and ask who is going to be around in 4 years. The front office wouldn’t want to give away their hands anyway. Mainly you take an establish player, like a Headley, and bet on the upside of the player. You can make a strong argument for Hundley being the catcher in 2015, but we really liked the potential of Hedges. Now with Grandal also in the mix….who knows. More than anything the projected lineup is just something we do for fun. I wouldn’t look too much into them. It is just a way to give the fans a way to assess who are the top players in their prime already on the team, and who are the big up and coming prospects in the system.
So fans shouldn’t be too distraught over Kevius Sampson not being on the list?
Matt Eddy: Haha I think I might have meant to slot him in as the future closer. He is profiling as a starter right now, and he has the ability to better one of the upper echelon prospects, but I need to see that breaking ball come along.
What were your impressions of Adys Portillo?
Matt Eddy: He is someone that we ranked just out of pure stuff. If you saw him when he was signed by the Padres verse now it is clear he has put on a good 40-50 lbs of muscle. Definitely has the potential.
Who are your hitter/pitcher sleeper picks for the upcoming season?
Matt Eddy: There are a lot of interesting arms for the Padres system that might be considered sleepers because of all the talent (Erlin, Wieland, Kelly, Sampson, etc…), but I will go with Miles Mikolas for my pitcher. He might not end up as a closer in the majors, but he has the velocity and pitch combination that he can be a very lethal 7th/8th inning guy. He has a quality breaking ball and surprising control for someone with his velocity.
For hitter I will go with Jace Peterson. He controls the bat well and can run well so he will get more than his fair share of infield hits. He can hit the ball to all fields and has tremendous range. I think the thing for him is just to learn the finer aspects of playing shortstop. If he does that then I think he will be fine.