Matt Fazio's weekly look at a team's weaknesses at the major league level, and their lack of internal solutions. This week, Matt looks at the Padres draft history, and it's role in their struggles.
The San Diego Padres are one of the most enigmatic teams in all of baseball. USA Today currently has them as the lowest payroll in 2012, they do not have a World Series title in franchise history (1969-present), and they have the worst record in all of baseball at 24-46. That said, they have made the playoffs twice in the last ten years (2005-2006). Like most small market teams, they must win from homegrown talent. Ranking in the bottom 3 in the National League in runs, hits, home runs, RBIs, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS, it is easy to see that the San Diego offense is in much need of help.
Outside of Carlos Quentin, who was sidelined due to injury for the beginning of the season, the Padres have no player batting over .300. Chase Headley leads the team in doubles (17), HR (7), and RBIs (32). The meek numbers of the Padres team leader is a microcosm of the team’s major issue: it is hard to win without a true impact player.
It will be necessary to see what the San Diego Padres have done in recent years of drafting to see what their goals have been and if any of their young talent has emerged. While it is not always a sure thing that first round picks become the best players (remember Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round), it is still the organizations best effort to improve their franchise with a strong first round draft choice.
From 2004 (when the Padres had the first overall pick) to 2011, the franchise only has one of their last eight top draft picks in their current top ten prospects, as ranked on MLB.com. In most instances, that would be because many of those players would already be producing at the major league level. However, for the Padres, this is not the case. Five of their eight first overall picks are currently on other teams, one player did not sign and is playing college ball, and the two players they still have control over have not moved past A+.
The 2004 first overall choice for the San Diego Padres was Matt Bush. Drafted as a shortstop, the Padres had high hopes for this high school phenom. Unfortunately, Bush hit a total of 3 home runs and hit just .219 over the course of four minor league seasons where he bounced around from Rk to A- to A and to A+. Bush was picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 and has been converted to a pitcher. Bush was arrested after a motor cycle accident in which Bush was allegedly drinking. This is Bush’s third offense, being arrested in 2004 and 2009 as well. It is a foregone conclusion that Bush will never live up to a number one draft pick’s ceiling.
Mediocre numbers for 18th overall pick in the 2005 drafted caused Cesar Carrillo, pitcher, to be released in 2010. Carrillo started three games in the majors in 2009 and logged just 10.1 innings with a 13.06 ERA. The following year, 2006, the Padres took Matt Antonelli with the 17th overall pick. Antonelli put up encouraging numbers in 2007 smashing 25 doubles, 21 home runs, 78 RBIs, stealing 28 stolen bases, scoring 123 runs, and hitting .307. Finally, it seemed that the organization had picked a true impact player to add to their big league ball club, yet Antonelli was unable to duplicate those numbers. Hitting only 21 more home runs in the minors over his next five seasons, it seems Antonelli’s 2007 numbers were just a mirage. Getting a shot in the bigs in 2008, Antonelli was under the Mendoza line in his 21-game stint and has not been back up since. Granted free agency in 2010, Antonelli is currently in the New York Yankees system.
In 2007 the Padres selected Nick Schmidt. The lefty pitcher was the 23rd overall pick and was projected to bolster the Padre rotation. Though again there were high hopes, Schmidt spent nearly two years on the disabled list after having reconstructive elbow surgery. Though his SO/9 were over 8 in multiple seasons, Schmidt has had his innings limited ever since his surgery. As the “player to be named later” to finish the deal to get Houston Street, Schmidt was sent to the Colorado Rockies in 2011. This seemed like four consecutive first over-all choice for the Padres that they did not receive any real return on their investment.
The Padres went with a hitter in the 2008 draft in Allan Dykstra. The first baseman provided little pop hitting 11 and 16 home runs respectively in his first two full seasons in the minors prompting the Padres to once again trade first round talent. The Padres traded busted prospect for busted prospect to the New York Mets for pitchers Eddie Kunz. Kunz has not made the majors since the trade and Dykstra has yet to make the majors in his career.
The Padres had the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 draft and took Donavan Tate, a high school super star from Cartersville, GA. Baseball America’s 53rd overall prospect going in to the 2010 season, Tate, like so many other Padres before him, seems to be another draft bust. Though he is only now 21 years old, Tate has not lived up to his expectations: with three minor league seasons under his belt, Tate has a total of 3 home runs, 69 runs, and 33 stolen bases. His .234 batting average and the fact that he is only now in A ball, it would seem that Tate has much progress to make just to make any impact on the organization.
Karsten Whitson must have heard what had happened to the first round draft selections by the San Diego Padres before him, because he turned down the Padres offer after they drafted him 9th overall in the 2010 draft. Whitson currently plays for the Florida Gators and will likely be a high draft choice in next year’s draft.
With the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, the San Diego Padres selected Cory Spangenberg. Ranked as the 78th overall prospect by Baseball America before the 2012 season, Spangenberg is a second baseman with a number of good tools. He can hit for average, steal bases, and fields the position well. Signing with the Padres immediately after being drafted in 2011 gave Spangenberg the chance to play in 72 games in 2011, so perhaps he is on the fast track. Beginning the 2012 season in A+, Spangenberg has put up good numbers this season. In just 66 games, he has 40 runs, 11 doubles, 6 triples, 1 home run, 33 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, and a .291 batting average. The 21-year old does lack power, but in the pitcher friendly confines of Petco Park, speed plays better than power.
While the Padres haven’t drafted a true impact player with their first overall pick since they drafted Derrek Lee 14th in the 1993 draft, perhaps Spangenberg can turn that around. Also, in another positive note for the Padres, not all prospects are homegrown nor are they drafted in the team’s first pick. The Padres drafted Mat Latos in the 11th round of the 2006 draft and he was their bona fide ace in 2010 and 2011. The Padres traded Latos to the Reds and got a great haul in return: Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal and Edinson Volquez. They received Alonso, an everyday first baseman who has gap shot power, Boxberger, a strikeout pitcher out of the bull pen, Grandal, one of the best hitting prospect in the Padres organization, and Volquez, a seasoned veteran who is very effective when healthy. Three of the four men are already on the Padres 25-man roster and Grandal, the coveted piece of the trade, is knocking on the door. Grandal has 6 home runs, 30 RBIs, and is hitting .308 in Triple A as a catcher. It won’t be long until Grandal becomes a fixture in the Padres lineup card.
While it is obvious that first round picks are not the only place a team can look to develop talent, the Padres must begin to find a way to make sure that their top tier draft choices are going to help the big league ball club before long. Drafting is essential for small market teams, and the Padres must make sure their choices are in the best interest of the franchise. The Padres 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Max Fried, will hopefully join Spangenberg as being part of the solution.
Matt Fazio is a life-long baseball fan who has recently begun writing for MLB Prospect Watch. Residing in Pittsburgh, Matt is a die-hard Pirates fan. All questions and comments can be directed straight to Matt’s twitter handle: @1stTo3rd
Previous Entries in the Series:
Minnesota Twins Pitching - 6/1/12
Los Angeles Dodgers Power Hitters - 6/8/12
Detroit Tigers Pitching - 6/15/12