It’s a rite of the baseball offseason when Major League Baseball releases its list of top 100 prospects.
The 2016 version was released just recently, and three Padres, two of whom were acquired in the offseason Craig Kimbrel to Boston trade, made the list: outfielder Manuel Margot (#45), shortstop Javier Guerra (#58), and outfielder Hunter Renfroe (#92).
See the whole list here.
The scouting report on Margot read in part, “Margot is an all-around talent, possessing a high-end blend of athleticism, physical tools and baseball savvy. His quick bat and outstanding hand-eye coordination help him generate hard contact to all fields from the right side of the plate, and his advanced feel for controlling the strike zone suggests he’ll continue to hit for a high average as he progresses…
“Margot’s plus speed makes him a constant threat on the bases, a notion supported by his 81 steals since the start of 2014. It also enables him to cover a ton of ground in center field, and he shouldn’t have trouble remaining at the position. Margot has shown more polish and advanced quicker than expected, putting him on track to reach San Diego at age 22.”
Margot, 21, will probably begin 2016 at AA San Antonio. If he continues to progress as he has already, he could get promoted to AAA El Paso by midseason. A late season call-up is not out of the question, but far a more likely scenario shows him arriving at the big league level some time in 2017.
The report on Guerra read, “[T]here’s a contingent of scouts who view him as a future Gold Glove-caliber shortstop…Guerra made big strides at the plate in 2015 and especially with his power, finishing seventh in the South Atlantic League with 15 home runs.”
Guerra, 19, had his first full professional season last year, playing A-level baseball in the Red Sox system. He will need at least two more years of seasoning, and he should make his major league debut in 2018.
The report on Renfroe stated, “Renfroe has plus-plus raw power to his pull side, a product of his bat speed and physical strength and an upper-cut swing that’s conducive to clearing fences. He strikes out quite a bit because the approach is aggressive and he has some length to his swing that makes him vulnerable to quality secondary pitches on the outer half as well as advanced sequencing. The contact that Renfroe does make is consistently hard and loud, though, and he’s shown the ability to make adjustments at the plate at each level.
“Defensively, Renfroe’s arm strength is nearly as impressive as his power and makes him a clean fit in right field, where he’s notched 25 assists since the start of the 2014 season.”
Unless he hits five or more home runs in spring training, Renfroe, 24, will probably begin the season at AAA El Paso, with his major league debut coming some time this season.
It is important to remember, though, that prospects are just that: prospects. While these top 100 lists are helpful, they are not necessarily determinative.
Take the top 100 list from 2006, for instance. The number one prospect on that list was Delmon Young. While he is a serviceable hitter with over 100 career home runs, he has never taken his game to the next level, and become the All-Star so many thought that he would become.
Number two on that list was Justin Upton, who played for the Padres only last year, and just signed a huge six-year contract with the Detroit Tigers.
Then again, number four on the 2006 Top 100 was Jeremy Hermida of the (then) Florida Marlins. The scouting report on him said that he had “one of the sweetest swings from the left side I’ve ever seen.” However, Hermida only played in parts of eight seasons (including 2012, his last season, in San Diego), and was done by the age of 28.
Other notables: All-Star Cole Hamels was #68, former Padre Edison Volquez was #56, All-Star Pirate Andrew McCutchen was #50, Ryan Braun of Milwaukee was #49, Jonathan Papelbon was #37, Hanley Ramirez was #30, and All-Star Troy Tulowitski was #25.
Meanwhile, also-rans like Andy LaRoche, Conor Jackson, Andy Marte, and Lastings Milledge all ranked higher than 25.
But most notable on that list, at least from the Padres’ perspective, was #96: Matt Kemp, San Diego’s current right fielder.
That year, the only prospect they had was Cesar Carrillo (#88), and he never made it to the big leagues.
In other words, anything can happen. That the Padres have three young men on the list is hopeful, and having Renfroe at #92 does not mean that he has less of a chance to make an impact than the others.
It will be interesting to revisit the 2016 list ten years down the road.
More: The San Diego Union-Tribune offers further assessment on the Padres’ top prospects. Read about it here.