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11/16/2007 10:00 AM ET
Prospects could send Pads to playoffs
Plenty of pitching, hitting, defense moving up fast
Chase Headley won a championship and Player of the Year honors in the Texas League. (Shawn E. Davis/MLB.com)

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Before the 2007 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.

Editor's Note: The Padres on Dec. 15 traded third base prospect David Freese to the Cardinals for veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds and cash considerations.

San Diego missed out on making the playoffs by a few pitches in 2007. A different pitch here, another there and perhaps the Padres would have been battling the Red Sox in the World Series instead of the Rockies.

Fans of the Friars, however, have little to worry about. The San Diego system has a bevy of quality players, many of whom could help provide the type of separation needed so the postseason won't come down to one or two pitches in the future. The Padres have pitching, they have hitting and they have defense, all in abundance and moving up fast.

Here's a closer look at why the Padres' future is bright.

Organizational Players of the Year

PRESEASON PREDICTIONS

Cedric Hunter, OF: Bill Bryk, formerly the Padres Minor League field coordinator, said that Hunter was the best all-around position prospect the club has had in the eight years he's been with the franchise. We tended to agree with him in March and we still agree with him now, though Hunter did not have an MVP-type season at Fort Wayne. He was solid, hitting .282 with seven homers and 58 RBIs. He also went 2-for-4 with a homer for Triple-A Portland. While the numbers were comparable to what Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin did during their Midwest League stints, they didn't warrant naming him Organizational Player of the Year.
Audio: Hunter takes one deep

Cesar Carrillo, RHP: The former first-rounder was sidelined for a second consecutive season with elbow problems, and this time they required surgery. He underwent the Tommy John procedure after his season came to an end in April. He was 0-2 with an 8.62 ERA with Portland and is not expected back on the mound in game action until June 2008 at the earliest.
Audio: Carrillo fans his fifth

POSTSEASON SELECTIONS
As chosen by the author, not the organization

Chase Headley, 3B: Headley is steaming toward a career in San Diego, and this season was a perfect example of what the folks in Southern California can expect when he arrives. The former Tennessee star led the Texas League with a .330 batting average, helped the Missions win a league title and even got into eight games as an emergency callup with the Padres. He hit 20 homers, drove in 78 runs and had a .437 OBP. He also topped all full-time third basemen in the Texas League with a .963 fielding percentage.
Audio: A homer for Headley
Audio: Headley talks about the postseason
Audio: Headley heats up in the playoffs

Josh Geer, RHP: This was a much tougher category in which to come out on top because the Padres had so much good pitching talent down below. But Geer tied for the Minor League lead with 17 victories and posted a very strong 3.20 ERA in 27 starts (26 with San Antonio, one with Portland). He was 8-2 with a 2.76 ERA in his last 10 starts for the Missions, helping fuel their drive to a Texas League title.
Audio: Geer gets a complete-game win

Climbed the Ladder

Matthew Buschmann, RHP: The former Commodore, the Vanderbilt kind, not the Lionel Richie kind, may have gotten overshadowed in recent years by some of the higher profile pitchers who have come out of the Nashville-based school. There's no arguing, though, about the kind of season he had in '07. He led the organization with a 2.89 ERA while pitching in the California League. He was 12-6 in 28 games (25 starts) and allowed only nine homers over 149 1/3 innings in the homer-happy circuit.
Audio: Buschmann fans his third

Wade LeBlanc, LHP: The former Alabama hurler split the season between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio, and was marvelous at both stops. He combined to go 13-8 with a 2.95 ERA (third-best in the organization) in 28 games (27 starts). LeBlanc's strikeout-to-walk ratio (145-to-36) was impressive, as was the fact that he limited opponents to a .217 batting average, including a .212 mark in the Cal League. He was 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in the playoffs, striking out 16 over 12 innings against Springfield and Frisco.
Audio: LeBlanc gets his fifth straight K

Matt Antonelli, 2B: The 2006 first-rounder had a splendid sophomore season in the pros, splitting time between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. He combined to hit .307 with 21 homers, 78 RBIs and a .404 OBP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (94-to-83) also was impressive. In fact, he has the same number of walks (131) as strikeouts through two seasons since coming out of Wake Forest.
Video: All-Star Antonelli chats with MLB.TV
Audio: Antonelli makes it a multi-homer game

Kept Their Footing

Kyle Blanks, 1B: The hulking slugger had a big year at Lake Elsinore, hitting .301 with 24 homers and 100 RBIs. He had his 2006 season short-circuited because of an infection in his leg but rebounded in splendid fashion this year. And while some may point to his numbers as Cal League-inflated, they're not. He's a legit bomber with the bat who knows how to get on base. His OBP this season was .380 and for a home run hitter, he fanned fewer than 100 times (98), so that's something. And, despite being 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, he stole 11 bases.
Audio: Blanks blasts one
Audio: Blanks caps a nine-run inning

David Freese, 3B: Freese proved that his impressive 2006 debut was no fluke, putting together a big year at Lake Elsinore. He hit .302 with 17 homers and 96 RBIs while finishing the season as the top-rated defensive third baseman in the California League. Whether he ultimately stays at that position seems to be the big question, with Kevin Kouzmanoff starring in San Diego and Chase Headley moving up fast.
Audio: Freese slugs a two-run homer
Audio: Freese knots it with a double

Cesar Ramos, LHP: He helped complete a strong pitching staff at San Antonio by going 13-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 27 starts. Ramos isn't overpowering, striking out only 90 in 163 2/3 innings. And the opposition hit a modest .249 with 15 homers against him. He was 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two playoff starts.
Audio: Ramos shuts 'em out

Slipped a Rung

Cesar Carrillo, RHP: Injuries have limited Carrillo to 27 starts over three seasons since the Padres selected him in the first round in 2005. There's no doubting his ability, but there are now questions about his durability. And until he can stay healthy and be consistent -- he's 6-7 with a 4.68 ERA in those 27 starts -- his only place of residence will be at the bottom of the ladder.

Matt Bush, RHP: The former top pick in the draft was freefalling before the club decided to turn him into a pitcher midway through this season. And, as has been the case throughout his career, it didn't turn out well. Oh, when he was on the mound, things were OK. But he blew out his elbow, needed Tommy John surgery and won't be back in a competitive setting until the 2008 instructional league. He could turn into Rick Ankiel in reverse, or he could just continue to fade away.

Luis Cruz, IF: The Mexico native has always been a slick fielder, but an erratic bat has prevented him from moving up more quickly. It appeared a second consecutive season in Double-A had cured his ills in 2006, but after splitting 2007 between San Antonio and Portland, any progress seems to have gone for naught. Cruz hit .252 in 69 Texas League games, nine points lower than his average the previous year at Mobile. He also struggled mightily at Triple-A Portland, hitting .169 in 155 at-bats.

On the Radar

Manny Ayala, RHP: Ayala split the season between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio, starting out 11-3 with a 2.22 ERA in the California League before going 1-3 with a 5.28 ERA in five starts for the Missions. While his Texas League numbers were a bit unimpressive, the fact that he posted that low an ERA in 101 1/3 Cal League innings is worth noting and will keep him on the radar heading into next year.
Audio: Ayala strikes out his seventh

Yefri Carvajal, OF: Bryk couldn't say enough about the young Dominican -- he won't turn 19 until January -- who split the season between the Arizona and Northwest Leagues. Carvajal combined to hit .297 with three homers and 19 RBIs. He fanned 39 times in 122 at-bats with Eugene and drew only 15 walks overall. But patience will come with experience.
Audio: Carvajal launches one

2007 Draft Recap

1. Nick Schmidt, LHP: The Arkansas product was 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in seven innings at Fort Wayne before developing elbow problems. He underwent Tommy John surgery in October and is expected to miss the entire 2008 season.
Audio: Schmidt's strikeout ends a threat

2. Kellen Kulbacki, OF: The Northwest League didn't present much of a problem for Kulbacki, who batted .301 with eight homers and 39 RBIs in 226 at-bats. He finished particularly strong, hitting .360 with 21 RBIs over his final 28 games. He committed one error and had four assists in 82 chances in right field.
Audio: Kulbacki cranks a two-run homer

3. Drew Cumberland, SS: He appeared in 25 Arizona and Northwest League games, hitting .320 with seven RBIs. The 18-year-old had only 11 strikeouts but managed nine walks in 103 at-bats.
Audio: Cumberland delivers a double

Others of note: C Mitch Canham (sandwich round, Oregon State) spent the bulk of his 30 games at Eugene, getting a two-game taste with Lake Elsinore at the end of the year. He hit .276 with two homers and 19 RBIs. He threw out 10 of 32 runners attempting to steal and had two errors and eight passed balls in 234 chances. ... LHP Cory Luebke (sandwich round, Ohio State) was 5-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 15 games (nine starts) in the Northwest, Midwest and California leagues. His two Cal League appearances resulted in a 1-1 mark and a 7.71 ERA in seven innings. ... OF Danny Payne (sandwich round, Georgia Tech) had 190 at-bats at Eugene and Fort Wayne and combined to hit .268 with 22 RBIs. While he had 59 strikeouts, he also negotiated 55 walks and had an impressive .435 OBP. ... 2B Eric Sogard (second round, Arizona State) saw action on three levels, spending the bulk of his time with Fort Wayne and Eugene. He even got into a game with Portland in the PCL, combining to hit .251 with four homers and 33 RBIs. ... OF Brad Chalk (second round, Clemson) hit .276 with 13 RBIs in the Arizona and Northwest leagues. He had nine extra-base hits, none of which were home runs, in 127 at-bats. ... SS Lance Zawadzki (fourth round, Lee University) combined to hit .305 in the Arizona and Northwest leagues with three homers, 19 RBIs and .372 OBP.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.