Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars. Each week, a handful of FanSided’s MLB sites send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as we cover the teams in a regular, recurring cycle.
In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our San Diego Padres site Chicken Friars:
We’ve all seen how the Anthony Rizzo “experiment” panned out in his first stint with the big club. However, I must ask about the other two highly touted prospects that the Padres received as part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, Pitcher Casey Kelly and Outfielder Reymond Fuentes. Do these guys have a shot of at least being September call-ups this season? Or will their impact be felt down the road in 2013-2014?
Padres fans have a tremendous amount to look forward to from their farm system, but overall, I wouldn’t get too excited over either Kelly or Fuentes.
I’ve seen Kelly pitch personally, and he failed to impress me; he’s also now had two rather middling years in Double-A. It’s possible he could reach San Diego in September, but it’s more likely he won’t get an extended look until mid-2013 at the earliest. He should become a major league starting pitcher, but I don’t see him as more than a third starter at best.
Fuentes is trickier, because a lot of his value is tied up in his future projection rather than current abilities. He turns just 21 in February, and he has yet to excel on a statistical level. He’ll need to move slowly from here on, in order to give his skills some time to catch up with those of his competition. That probably means he’ll need to take it at one level per year, which would put him as a September 2013 call-up at the earliest. Fuentes still has considerable upside, but until he shows more polish, he should be regarded with some apprehension.
I’ll come right out and say it, Casey Kelly did himself a huge disservice by insisting on spending parts of his first two professional season as a SS in addition to his work on the mound. Most scouts and talent evaluators saw that his future was clearly as a pitcher, but it’s hard to fault the Red Sox for humoring him since they did have to sign him away from his college commitment to play QB at Tennessee.
2010 was a transition year for Kelly as he not only moved to the mound full time but he was also thrust into the Double-A meat grinder. Not surprisingly he had his share of struggles and the Padres were wise to have him repeat the level in 2011 once they acquired him.
With the San Antonio Missions, he dropped his ERA nearly a run and a half and cut his H/9 from 11.2 in 2010 to 9.7 in 2011, but there wasn’t as much improvement as one would have expected. His BB/9 also improved but his SO/9 – already somewhat borderline – dropped leaving his overall SO/BB very similar between the two seasons (2.31 to 2.28).
He projects to have three plus pitches (fastball, curve, change), plus control, a smooth delivery and an advanced understanding of pitching. But given those tools, he’s shown an alarming inability to put hitters away. In short the parts are far greater than the sum right now and that’s a bit of a concern.
Reymond Fuentes spent the entire 2011 season with the Lake Elsinore Storm (A+) of the California League. He hit 0.275/.342/.369 with 41 SB in 124 G. When combined with his first 2 minor league seasons spent in Boston’s system, his 2011 line is very similar to his overall career numbers of 0.275/.335/.373. He’s swiped over 40 bases each of the last 2 seasons but his success rate dropped from 89% in A ball to 75% for the Storm. Much of his value will be tied to his plus-plus speed so his SB success rate bears watching as he continues to advance through the minors. On top of his speed, his defense in CF will most likely be his other plus tool.
Some scouts believe he will develop power as he adds more weight and bulk to his frame, but I’d bank on him remaining more of a gap-to-gap guy. If he gets too big in an attempt to develop average power, it will detract from his two greatest assets in his speed and defense and lessen the impact he can have. So how he fills out is another aspect to keep tabs on.
At the time of the draft he drew Johnny Damon comparisons due to his speed, line drive swing and below average arm, but when you stack up the early parts of their minor league careers there is a gigantic difference. While Fuentes has put up a fairly “blah” slash line, Damon hit 0.318/.402/.480 over 4 seasons and made his major league debut when he was 21-years old. Fuentes will turn 21 in February and is obviously nowhere near the majors or that level of current production. Damon, in case you’re wondering, never took another at bat in the minors.
As Nathaniel rightly pointed out in his response, Fuentes is much more about projection than about current skill. That puts him on a slower developmental track but it also makes him much less of a sure thing.
He’s already slipped in a number of Padres organizational prospect rankings and I’m sure that trend will continue as more of them are rolled out. He really needs to show more in 2012 than he has so far. Some have started to label Fuentes a disappointment, but that strikes me as a little unfair. While he hasn’t wowed anyone at any of his stops so far, he has managed to hold his own. Treading water isn’t sexy and it’s not going to get people fired up about your future but it’s certainly better than sinking.
Both Kelly and Fuentes badly need to have breakout seasons in 2012 and both will be lucky to earn a dip in the major league waters before 2013. I say earn because I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kelly make his Padres debut in the upcoming season if there is an urgent need for a spot start or if San Diego chooses to randomly promote him as the Detroit Tigers did to Justin Turner this past season.
I do think that both will reach the majors and have some degree of success. However I don’t believe either player’s eventual arrival will have a significant impact. If I had to handicap things I would expect Kelly in 2013 and Fuentes in 2014.
For more on the Padres, check out Chicken Friars