Top 100 Prospects
Kevin previously wrote for Baseball America and was a featured commentator on MLB.com’s first extended coverage of the 2007 amateur draft. His ‘Future Shock’ column combines traditional scouting reports with sabermetic analysis to provide some of the better prospect development commentary and rankings found on any news source.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with him for a preview of his Padres Top 11 prospects along with comments on Chase Headley (#23), Matt Antonelli (#39) and Mat Latos (#61) – all of whom made “Baseball’s Top 100 Prospects”, as well as others in the San Diego system.
The Padres’ system has gotten better in recent years. Where have you seen the biggest improvement, and where do you think it still needs the most work?
Kevin Goldstein: They had so many picks this year so it’s hard not to improve. One of the Padres weaknesses has historically been international; they have never produced a Latin pitcher or player. They still don’t have a whole lot of power arms, but Latos can obviously change that. He’s the first high ceiling power arm that they have. With hitting prospects, there are some power issues. Obviously, Headley went up, but they don’t have a whole lot of guys that project in the #4 or #5 slot.
What were you more surprised by this year, Chase Headley’s power production or the development of Matt Antonelli?
Kevin Goldstein: I was pretty surprised by both of them, but Antonelli’s overall game was more surprising. Before, I thought he kind of looked like a one-trick pony, you know someone that could just get on base, but this year he took a huge jump to a guy that could play second, get on base, run and smack the ball around the park.
There are people out there that will tell you they always thought Headley would start to hit for power but I don’t think anyone thought he would put together the season that he did.
Do you think Antonelli can play second base and what about all of the rumors that he may be moving to center field?
Kevin Goldstein: I think he can play second. I don’t think he’s going to be a gold glover, but with his offensive profile an average second baseman is all he needs to be.
As for centerfield – his speed will play, some converted infielders such as Adam Jones who was just moved to Baltimore, converted very easily – but I think he will be the everyday second baseman in Portland this year.
You were one of the first to really write about Mat Latos. What did you think of his debut and do you agree with Baseball America that he could eventually be moved to a relief pitcher?
Kevin Goldstein: I understand the reasons behind the fear, his third pitch [straight changeup] still lags behind, and his mechanics aren’t the cleanest. On the other side, he is a big-body pitcher and the last thing you want to do is give up on him as a starter. The Padres are not going to take him out of the rotation until he shows that he absolutely can’t cut it as a starter. Put it this way, his changeup is not going to improve throwing sixty-eight innings out of the bullpen.
We thought Cedric Hunter had a much better year than his numbers indicate at Fort Wayne. What are your thoughts on him?
Kevin Goldstein: I thought he was disappointing, but I don’t have some of the advantages you guys do. I went to a few games with scouts in the Midwest League this year, and I just don’t know how much there is there. I just didn’t see a ton of upside, he’s not really that big, and not a lot of power and his swing are designed for straight contact.
He does have some ability but is very much a tweener, not a power hitter but not a slap hitter either. He’s kind of fringy in center field. He does a lot of things pretty well, there is some gap power, decent approach, decent runner - I just don’t know what he does that blows anyone away. He doesn’t have any single tool that “wows” you.
Two players that are different from the typical college Padres’ prospects are Yefri Carvajal and Drew Cumberland. Do you think Yefri will be able to hit with power and Drew will be able to stay at shortstop?
Kevin Goldstein: Carvajal is a pretty decent hitter, but I’m not sure how much power he has. One guy the Padres compared him too when they signed him was Bill Matlock, same body type, - tons of bat speed but more of a guy that hits 15 to 20 home runs with a high average.
Cumberland can be frustrating. He has outstanding speed, very good quickness, but is not especially instinctive at shortstop. He doesn’t really break on the ball very well and has an average arm. He profiles more as a second baseman. Offensively, I do like him; he can hit, has some gap power and will run.
Chad Huffman had a great first half but tailed off in the second half in San Antonio because of some nagging injuries. Can you see him as a MLB outfielder?
Kevin Goldstein: I do like Huffman, he can hit and has some power, but I think he has some positional problems. If he’s limited to left field he’s going to have to have an elite level bat, and I’m not sure that he has that. He could become a solid player; I’m just not sure he’s going to be a star.
Wade LeBlanc – the real thing or a 4A pitcher?
Kevin Goldstein: Neither – how is that for an answer [laughs]. He’s a solid back of the rotation starter, left-hander with some size, very good changeup, fastball in the upper-80s with command. His command is much better than someone like Brad Baker, who was a prospect in the Padres organization a few years ago, but he can’t be the real deal when he throws in the upper-80s.
What did you think of the Padres draft this year?
Kevin Goldstein: I really liked it; they had a lot of picks. I think they went a little college heavy but did a ton to increase the depth – Kulbacki and Cumberland are two that jump out, and Schmidt got hurt. I also like Danny Payne, Eric Sogard and Brad Chalk; they really did a truckload to increase the system. I thought there were also some interesting late round picks such as [Wynn] Pelzer. It’s hard to not do well when you had so many picks.
Madfriars.com Readers’ Questions
Who do you think is the most under rated prospect in the Padres farm system, and what players in the 2007 draft do you think might have a breakout year?
Kevin Goldstein: Mitch Canham who is in my top 10. He’s another guy that is not a good defender, but has the athleticism to be a good catcher. He has a good bat and is someone that could put up some big numbers. I think he will be much more highly thought of next year.
Also Carvajal is poised for a breakout year.
Is the Padres farm system underrated as a whole, because it's the PADRES Farm system? For instance, if the same players were in big markets system, would it be rated better overall right now? Does even our farm system get overlooked, much like the parent club?
Kevin Goldstein: Right now, I think the best farm system is Tampa, so what does that say for small market vs. big market? When I think of the other nationally known guys who do this, such as Jim Calis of Baseball America and Keith Law of ESPN I don’t really see them as having any bias either.
When might the Padres see their first "return on their investment" in the Dominican Republic (i.e. a player signed and started in DSL who makes the Padres roster and/or is included in a trade which results in a player making the Padres roster)?
Kevin Goldstein: Probably not until the end of the decade. The camp is nice, but, at the same time, you need to sign players. The really big names, the ones that are getting some heat and lot of press, you don’t hear about the Padres being involved.
Do you think the Padres lack power starting pitchers?
Kevin Goldstein: Yes, after Latos and Drew Miller, who has a good, but not monster arm, there are not a whole lot of guys. Miller is more of someone with a plus fastball as compared to Latos with a plus-plus fastball.
Where do you rank Carrillo if he was healthy? Do you project him as#2 or #3 starter?
Kevin Goldstein: Probably #3 and there is still a chance he could end up in the Top 11.
What is your long term projection for Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc and Cory Luebke? Also, how do you think Kyle Blanks projects in the majors?
Kevin Goldstein: With Latos it’s still too early to tell. I think he could be a successful power pitcher. He has a huge fastball and locates it well. His breaking ball shows promise; he just has a huge ceiling.
Leblanc I think profiles as a #4 starter. Luebke is a finesse pitcher in a power pitcher’s body, he profiles as someone in the middle to a back of the rotation starter.
As for Blanks, there are really an incredible amount of varied opinions on him, so it’s difficult to get a great read on him. He’s a big guy with monster power potential and a good hitter. A decent first baseman and athlete for his size. I know guys who think he’s going to become a good first baseman in the big leagues and others who see him as a “4A” player.
MadFriars.com subscribers were given the opportunity to ask Kevin Goldstein questions on our subscriber-only message boards