Baseball America is one of the few publications or sites that has the ability to scout high school games and many of the showcases. Because of this, you guys are obviously very high on Donavan Tate. How were you able to rank him so high when not only has he never played in a professional game but has also missed all of Instructs due to injury?
Matt Eddy: To us, the biggest concern was the lost development time because of the injury. He was the top position player available and his bonus was commensurate with his level of talent. This organization has drafted conservatively in the past, so you know that they really believe in him to spend the type of money that they did.
When I spoke with people who saw him play in high school and at the showcases, he has two exceptional tools, his range in center field and his raw power. There is a question if he will be able to hit for average, and he’s going to have to prove that in the minors, but his tools will play in the big leagues. It wasn’t a difficult decision for us.
How did you rank the 2009 draft and how many of the players do you expect to see in the Top 30?
Matt Eddy: I think we will probably end up with around five. I don’t cover the amateur side that much with BA, but the guys who do were pretty happy with their picks. Tate, [Everett] Williams and [Keyvius] Sampson were all legitimate high round talents.
How do you see the Latin American program developing?
Matt Eddy: It has been progressing, but I do think it is a bit ironic that their highest risers right now, or the players that the most people are noticing, are [Edinson] Rincon, Simon Castro and [Rymer] Liriano, were all signed before the big push. Some of the other guys are also on our radar, like Jonathan Galvez and Adys Portillo, but they haven’t experienced the same success.
Strictly speaking, Liriano was part of the Padres' big-money approach in Latin America. Signing him and Galvez in '07 for about a combined $1 million really signaled a new direction, especially with the academy set to open a year later. It was a direction that came to fruition in '08 when they dropped $4 million on Portillo, [Luis] Domoromo and [Alvaro] Aristy. But even still, Liriano's bonus ranks fifth out of the five big signings they made in that period.
What player made the biggest strides forward in the organization this year?
Matt Eddy: The first guy that pops into mind is Lance Zawadzki. He was ok in Low-A, but he wasn’t someone that I would peg to go up to Double-A as quickly as he did. He really took some huge strides this year.
Who took the biggest step back?
Matt Eddy: Given where he ranked last year, it would have to be Kellen Kulbacki because of injuries that he went through. He tore his hamstring off of the bone and just didn’t have any base to hit on, which is really too bad considering what he did in the California League in ’08.
Two players who may have a chance to replace David Eckstein in 2011 are Lance Zawadzki and Eric Sogard, neither of whom made your Top 10. How do you rank them?
Matt Eddy: I think Zawadzki really does have a chance. In some ways he resembles Ben Zobrist from Tampa, but I don’t see him hitting 25 to 30 bombs a year. He has two very loud tools, his power and arm; which are separators. Zawadzki may have the most value to the Padres by playing a multi-positional role, filling in at 2B, SS, 3B, while providing above-average power up the middle and more than enough arm for the left side.
Sogard has very competitive at-bats, but there are some questions if he will be able to hit better velocity and if he has the defensive ability at second. If he’s not at second, I’m not sure where he plays.
Jaff Decker is going to be ranked a little lower in your Top 10 list than others. He led the Midwest League in OBP and was second in slugging at 19. What was his biggest drawback?
Matt Eddy: To hear people who watched him play on a daily basis, the biggest drawback is athleticism. Will he be able to maintain his skills as he gets older? Some people in the organization stated that he became much more focused on his conditioning after his back injury, which cost him some time at the beginning of the year. That is really my only concern; the hitting and power will transfer on the way up.
You have Edinson Rincon as a left fielder. Are you pretty sold on the fact that he won’t have the ability to stay at third?
Matt Eddy: We are going to list him as a third baseman, but there are serious reservations about him staying there. He has the arm, but the positioning and footwork are not good. His bat, though, does look legit.
Aaron Poreda has the size and a huge fastball and the chance to be a very good pitcher but had a lot of trouble finding the strike zone in Portland. What do you think his chances are of reaching his potential?
Matt Eddy: Depends how you define his potential. If you see him as being a number one or number two starter, I don’t think he’s going to make it. But if you are talking about a number four starter or a dominant one-inning guy, he has a chance.
To me, the big thing about him is he’s going to need command of a second pitch. He’s a big guy, good size, nice plane and a good fastball, but you need more than that to be effective as a starter in the big leagues. Also, he'll need improved command of all his pitches to be effective as a starter.
This is your fourth year ranking of the Padres’ system. What changes have you seen in the past four years?
Matt Eddy: It’s funny after doing this for four years I really feel like I have some perspective on the organization and how things are done. To me, the biggest change is depth. When I did this list in ’07, the drop off from the top guys was pretty quick. Also, the draft strategy really took a major change this year in the types of players that they selected.
The upcoming issue of Baseball America will feature in addition to their feature on the team’s top ten prospects an interview with new San Diego General Manager Jed Hoyer by former Padres’ beat writer Tom Krasovic.
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