2/8/2013 11:00 A.M. ET
Gyorko, Liriano lead Padres' list of top prospects
Second baseman, outfielder surrounded by young pitching talent
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.
Rymer Liriano isn't shy about where he thinks he should start the 2013 season.
"My perspective is to make the Major League club," said Liriano, the No. 3 prospect in the Padres system. "I'm physically and mentally prepared, ready for Spring Training."
Liriano has played only 53 games above the Class A level, but a glance at his numbers and his skill set illustrates why the outfielder says he feels "100 percent prepared to be in The Big Show."
The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic batted .280 in 127 games between Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. He tallied 32 doubles, eight homers and 61 RBIs and swiped 32 bases. In 2011, he hit .298 with 66 steals.
Liriano was selected to play in the Futures Game in 2012, and also participated in the Arizona Fall League. He said he learned a lot about how to conduct himself on and off the field.
"[The 2012 season] was very fun and very good for me," Liriano said. "I made a lot of sacrifices to be where I am now. I was also happy when they selected me for the Futures Game. Although I didn't play a lot, I learned that you can do a lot more than you think."
Liriano isn't the only Padres youngster on the cusp of the big leagues. Top prospect Jedd Gyorko is expected to compete for San Diego's starting second-base job. The 24-year-old batted .311 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs in 126 games between San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson last season. No. 4 prospect Casey Kelly made six starts for the Padres last season and is expected to be in the mix for a rotation spot. The right-hander, 21-18 with a 3.77 ERA in 73 Minor League starts, went 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA with San Diego.
"Me and my dad have been going over some film from the starts that I had last year in the big leagues," Kelly said, "trying to get a little step on it to start the season and go into Spring Training and have a good Spring Training and see what happens."
Top 20 prospects
Petco Park is known for its pitcher-friendly features, and the Padres' system is loaded with hurlers who might one day thrive atop the mound in the spacious outfield.
padres' top prospects
Of the top 20 prospects in the organization, 15 are pitchers. Max Fried, the seventh overall selection in the 2012 Draft, checks in as the organization's No. 2 prospect. Strikeout machine Keyvius Sampson, who boasts an average of 10.2 punchouts per nine innings in four Minor League seasons, ranks as the club's No. 15 prospect. Right-handed reliever Kevin Quackenbush, who has allowed only nine earned runs in 99 2/3 innings (0.81 ERA) over two professional seasons, checks in at No. 19.
Joe Wieland, recovering from Tommy John surgery, ranks as the Padres' No. 7 prospect. Wieland appeared on track to potentially contribute to the big league club in '12 before his elbow acted up.
Kelly gained some experience at the Major League level last year, a brief trial he deems invaluable.
"People can tell you, 'This happens. You have to do this, this and this,'" Kelly said. "But until you experience it, you really don't know. So just having the little experience I've had has helped me this offseason and it's just going to grow and grow with the more time I have up there."
Under the Radar
Matt Jackson, RHP: In his first professional season as a full-time starter, Jackson posted a 9-5 record and 4.24 ERA in 25 outings, advancing all the way to Triple-A Tucson after opening the year at Lake Elsinore. A 31st-round Draft choice in 2009, Jackson, who turned 25 in December, pitched better as he climbed the organizational ladder. He logged a 5.08 ERA at Lake Elsinore, a 3.73 ERA in seven starts with Double-A San Antonio, and tossed 12 scoreless innings in two outings for Tucson.
Edinson Rincon, 3B: The native of the Dominican Republic made his debut in the Padres organization as a 16-year-old in 2007. Now, Rincon is 22, and just completed a season at San Antonio in which he batted .291 with 30 doubles, 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 134 games.
Hitter of the Year
Austin Hedges: A second-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, the 20-year-old impressed during his first full professional season. With Class A Fort Wayne last year, Hedges batted .279 with 28 doubles, 10 homers, 56 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 96 contests.
Pitcher of the Year
Robbie Erlin: The southpaw struck out 72 batters in 52 1/3 innings while compiling a 3-1 record and 2.92 ERA in 11 starts with San Antonio last season. The 22-year-old has tallied 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 71 career Minor League appearances and could work his way closer to San Diego with another strong showing in 2013.