Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the San Diego Padres.
That plan didn't work out as Preller hoped, with San Diego winning just 74 games and finishing 18 games back in the National League West. The Padres have taken a different approach this offseason, dealing Kimbrel to the Red Sox for four prospects, including two members of MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 in outfielder Manuel Margot and shortstop Javier Guerra.
While that trade generated the most headlines, it was just one of several ways San Diego gave its system a makeover in 2015. Nine of the first 17 prospects on MLBPipeline's Padres Top 30 list have joined the organization since last June, with Margot, Guerra, left-hander Logan Allen and infielder Carlos Asauje coming in the Kimbrel deal. Right-handers Austin Smith and Jacob Nix arrived via the Draft, righty Luis Perdomo got plucked from the Cardinals in the Rule 5 Draft, righty Enyel De Los Santos was part of the Joaquin Benoit trade with the Mariners and outfielder Jabari Blash was the player to be named in the Yonder Alonso deal with the Athletics.
The Padres system isn't as strong as it was before Preller began reshaping the organization, but it's definitely deeper than it was a year ago.
"We're definitely improved," San Diego farm director Sam Geaney said. "We don't put much in the rankings. We kind of consume ourselves with making all of the guys we have here better. We feel pretty good about the guys we've kept.
"We still have a long way to go, but our amateur guys here have a lot of picks early this year. With A.J.'s background internationally, I assume we'll be active on that front. I hope it's the start of building something pretty cool around here."
The Padres will have ample opportunity to continue adding prospects in 2016. They have three of the first 25 picks in the Draft, their original first-rounder at No. 8 and two more at Nos. 24 and 25 as compensation for free agents Upton and Ian Kennedy, and the third-highest bonus pool, at $12.7 million. San Diego also is expected to be one of the most aggressive clubs in the international market.
The Padres made Margot one of their main targets in the Kimbrel trade because he's a legitimate center fielder with excellent bat-to-ball skills, well above-average speed and surprising pop. He has been exactly that in big league camp, impressing manager Andy Green with his hustle and prompting his skipper to compare his athleticism to that of a young Jose Reyes. Margot collected four hits (including two doubles and at triple) while striking out just once in his first 12 at-bats.
"Margot has made a nice impression in big league camp," Geaney said. "I saw him in the Futures Game last year and he stood out. He can put a charge in the ball, maybe more doubles and leaving the yard occasionally, his legs are real, he can play center field. He has a chance to be a very good player."
The other Top 100 Prospect in the Kimbrel deal isn't a part of big league camp, but Guerra still has attracted attention on the Minor League side. He finished seventh in the Class A South Atlantic League last year with 15 homers as a 19-year-old, and his defense at shortstop is even better than his pop.
"We haven't played a lot of Minor League games but he has looked good," Preller said. "His first game, he made three ridiculous plays. He hits the ball hard. He's impressive."
As a 2015 draftee with just 24 1/3 innings of pro experience, Allen was the least known of the four players Boston packaged for Kimbrel. He should start making a name for himself soon. An eighth-rounder who signed for a well above-slot $725,000, he's a lefty with a low-90s fastball, three interesting secondary pitches and more feel for pitching than the typical 18-year-old.
"He throws a lot of strikes," Geaney said. "He has average to a little better velocity and his changeup has looked pretty good early."
Another Allen from last year's Draft has made a huge impression. Catcher Austin Allen (no relation to Logan) surpassed Tim Wakefield as the highest pick in Florida Tech history when he went in the fourth round last June. Known more for his offense than his defense, he batted .240/.315/.332 and threw out 17 percent of basestealers at Short Season Tri-City in his first taste of pro ball.
"Austin Allen had a tremendous offseason," Geaney said. "The more we get around this guy, the more we see how hard he works. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a big year. He's receiving better and throwing better. I know that was the question surrounding him, but he's improved tremendously from eight, nine months ago."
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.