2017 Prospect Breakout Candidates for the Padres

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Credit: Fox Sports
Credit: Cherished Memories

‘Tis the season to talk about prospects, with various sites like Baseball America and Minor League Ball posting top 10 and top 20 organizational prospect lists leading up to top 100 lists for 2017.

These days, prospect ranking season is a good season for Padres fans, with the “talent overload” in the farm.

Here are some guys that aren’t generating as much hype right now, but are poised for a breakout in 2017.

Phil Maton

Okay, he might already have a pretty big hype train among Friar Faithful, but he’s been so dominant in 2016 that he deserves recognition as a 2017 breakout candidate. He could become a key part of the Padres bullpen next year. Maton’s is an interesting story. He was drafted from Louisiana Tech (by no means a baseball powerhouse) in the 20th round as a starter that had never really put up numbers in college that would have indicated he could be a fast riser in any role. The Padres moved him to the bullpen to reduce his workload and his numbers went from okay to eye-popping.

Without good feel for his changeup, the transition to relief pitcher has allowed him to focus on just being a fastball/slider guy. Which is apparently just fine with him. As a pro, he’s striking out more than 14 per nine innings pitched, and hasn’t been phased by his rapid ascent to the upper minors. He does it by producing a high spin rate, which as this piece on foxsports.com notes, helps make up for the fact that his fastball isn’t a triple digit ball of flames that often is the catalyst to an elite K rate. The thing that sticks out the most to me is that he has good command, as well as an athletic, repeatable delivery. All indications are that he’s the real deal. On a team that will give anyone and everyone an opportunity to make the big league club better, Maton is closing in on a major league breakout.

Hudson “Potts” Sanchez

Remember that guy that confused everyone about the Padres draft strategy? Remember? Well he just might actually be worthy of being a first round pick. At just 17 years old, he held his own playing in rookie ball and earned a promotion to Low-A. While in Low-A, he posted a .352 OBP. Performance relative to age/competition isn’t everything, but his 2016 performance warrants paying attention to him in 2017.

Credit: Padres
Credit: Padres

The Union-Tribune ranked the best tools from the Padres draft class back in July. Potts was determined to have the best bat control and potential for in-game power among the 2016 Padres draftees. Being a young guy with a high ceiling and showing relative polish at the plate at a premium position checks a lot of boxes, and I’m a little surprised he isn’t a Padres top 30 prospect according to mlb.com’s prospect watch. I personally like what I hear about him more than what I’ve seen/heard of Buddy Reed, the 14th ranked Padres prospect. Potts could be a big time sleeper.

Dinelson Lamet

Currently ranked as the 18th best Padres prospect by mlb.com, the scouting report on Lamet prior to the 2016 season was that he needed to develop better control and command as well as work on a reliable third pitch to go along with a plus fastball and above-average slider. Encouragingly, an August article on milb.com starts off by noting “Improved command, an uptick in confidence and the development of a new pitch have Dinelson Lamet reaching new heights.”

He really shined in 74.1 innings in AA, striking out an impressive 91 batters. He also played briefly in AAA and brought his strikeout stuff with him, getting 13 in 10.2 IP. AAA hitters weren’t entirely kind to Lamet though, and he gave up 13 hits and 2 home runs. He still has work to do, but after making gains in 2016 and maintaining his strikeout filth, more growth in 2017 could make him a promotion candidate by the summer.

Jorge Ona

Padres fans will have to wait a while to see the international prospects from AJ Preller’s summer spending spree that has completely revamped the Padres farm system. While most guys sign when they’re 16, Ona is already 19. So “Ona Watch” can begin a little sooner than “Morejon Watch” or “Almanzar Watch”. AJ Preller was quoted in this piece for the Union-Tribune, saying Ona has “now” power and is an “advanced” hitter, so he could theoretically move quickly through the lower minors.

He could also need some time to get caught back up to game speed, having missed out on game action while being in the “tryout scene” for about a year. If his “now” power and relative polish at the plate for a teenager lead to in-game success early in 2017 for Ona, he will garner a lot of interest in southern California, especially if he advances to High A Lake Elsinore.

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