When I talk about minor leaguers here or anywhere else, one of the factors I tend to mention first is a player’s age. The older the player is for his level, the worse of a prospect he’s considered to be, generally.
I thought I’d take a quick look at the oldest hitter and pitcher for each Padres minor league team, with the exception of the Triple-A Portland Beavers (Triple-A is weird because you have a lot of big league veterans and fringe players there; Eric Munson, for example).
Are any of them decent prospects?
At Low-A Fort Wayne, the oldest pitcher is 25-year-old Hayden Beard and the oldest position player is 24-year-old outfielder Bo Davis.
Beard is an Australian righthander who pitched for the Rookie-level Mets a few years ago, disappeared, and resurfaced this year in Fort Wayne. He’s thrown three solid innings thus far.
A short righthander, Beard is a complete unknown at this point, and barring a huge breakout, he’s likely not on the prospect radar.
Davis was a 24th round pick last year who is just in his first full year of pro ball; you can’t really blame him for that.
He hit .329/.468/.473 in 20 games at short-season Eugene last year, and even stole 11 bases, although he’s off to just a .160/.222/.240 start in Fort Wayne this year.
His numbers last year give some cause for optimism, but like Beard, Davis needs to continue to dazzle to have an upper-minors future, let alone one in the majors.
The oldest pitcher at High-A Lake Elsinore is 24-year-old Nick Schumacher, who is actually younger than Beard. The oldest position player is soon-to-be-26-year-old catcher Michael Collins.
Schumacher has some promise, as he throws a plus cut fastball and has a playable four-seamer, slider, and changeup. He also posted a 1.11 ERA at Fort Wayne last year, and when a guy throughly dominates a level, you can’t write him off no matter the age.
Collins posted a .375 OBP in Double-A last year, so he doesn’t really belong in A-ball. He’s only there due to a roster crunch. Collins impressed in big league camp, and could make for a solid backup catcher at the major league level.
In Double-A, the oldest pitcher is soon-to-be-27-year-old Mike DeMark and the oldest position player is 25-year-old catcher Mitch Canham.
DeMark is a definite prospect, as he features two solid pitches and a deceptive delivery. The righty is only in Double-A because of the extreme bullpen depth of the organization. He could be a solid middle reliever.
Canham isn’t really a prospect, although he hit a respectable .263/.339/.371 in Double-A last year, and is repeating the level. He’s a below-average defensive catcher, however, and doesn’t have quite enough bat to make for more than a Triple-A mainstay down the line. The Padres have toyed with the idea of making him a Jamie Burke-style corner utility player, and he’s even got some reps at second base; he’ll need to master just about every position to have value.
So, in conclusion, some of the older guys in the system, like Collins, DeMark, and Schumacher, really have some promise despite their advanced age. They’ve produced well statistically, and it’s not their fault the Padres system has a lot of depth at their positions. Where they’re sent by the organization is also out of their hands.
Don’t count a prospect out just because of his age. It can be a big warning sign, sure, and it likely precludes guys from top prospect status, but even a 27-year-old Double-A guy like DeMark can easily carve out a nice major league career if things break right.