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Padres Prospect Primer: Renfroe stands out

Catching stud Hedges, polished Wisler also among San Diego's stars
March 29, 2015

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2015 season approaching, takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.

Shining star: Hunter Renfroe, RF

Renfroe, the top prospect in the San Diego organization and No. 49 in baseball, can do it all, though 2014 posed a challenge for the 2013 first-rounder. He excelled at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore early on before being humbled a bit at Double-A San Antonio. Still, in 502 at-bats, Renfroe hit a combined .267/.342/.470 with 21 home runs and 75 RBIs.

After the regular season, Renfroe showed his form in the Arizona Fall League, setting the tone among baseball's brightest young talents by batting .284/.345/.569 with six homers and 20 RBIs over 26 games. This year was the second in a row that he received an invitation to Major League Spring Training.

"It's a pretty athletic package," said Sam Geaney, the Padres' director of player development. "He has the ability to play all three outfield positions. Currently, we ultimately see him on a corner. But he has big power.

"We still think there's a lot of offensive upside, as far as the overall projection with his bat goes. ... He's a good athlete; he's physical. We're excited for him going into '15."

Major League-ready: Matt Wisler, RHP

Like Renfroe, Wisler has also seen time with the Padres in consecutive springs, though the two aren't necessarily at the same stage of development.'s No. 70 prospect, the righty spent most of last year at Triple-A El Paso after coasting through six starts with San Antonio at season's start.

Despite putting up both good numbers (9-5 record, 101-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and not-so-good numbers (5.01 ERA, .279 opponents' average) in the Pacific Coast League, Wisler showed the Padres he deserves a shot in the big leagues, and soon. According to, the 2011 seventh-rounder's best pitches are his fastball and changeup, both of which rate as above average.

"He's an advanced strike-thrower with a very, very good arm and a good breaking ball," Geaney said. "Very, very smart, intelligent pitcher who I think definitely fits the mold of a Major League starter."

Full-season debutant: Michael Gettys, CF

San Diego selected Gettys in the second round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, and he quickly validated the club's decision. The 19-year-old earned his status as the Padres' No. 7 prospect by hitting .310/.353/.437 with three homers, 38 RBIs and 14 steals in 16 tries across 52 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. However, Gettys -- whose speed and arm tools both received 70 grades (well above average) -- did strike out 66 times while taking only 15 walks. 

"He's a guy who can do things that very, very few people in our organization -- and frankly any organization -- can do, just because he is physically gifted at a level that most other guys aren't," Geaney said. "He does have all the tools.

"I know going into this year it's going to be a focus for him to continue to refine his approach at the plate and his plate discipline. But the physicality to him and the strength he brings, the power-speed combo, it's something that's always attractive. We're excited to see how he handles the long grind that is professional baseball."

Back and healthy: Alex Dickerson, RF

The Padres' No. 17 prospect, Dickerson played in just 34 games at Double-A San Antonio in 2014 as he sustained an ankle injury that led to the discovery of a cyst that required surgery. When he was on the field, however, Dickerson demonstrated the sort of production he can bring to a lineup.

A 2011 third-round selection by the Pirates who was acquired by the Padres for righty Miles Mikolas and outfielder Jaff Decker after the 2013 season, Dickerson batted .321/.367/.496 with three homers and 24 RBIs over 137 at-bats for the Missions.

"I don't want to say it was a lost year for him," Geaney said. "I think it was a time for him to really focus himself and be ready for when he's fully healthy. ... The hope is that he proves more than capable at [first base and in the outfield]. But, yeah, I think a fully healthy Alex Dickerson is going to be a really, really good player this year." 

Loudest tool: Austin Hedges, C's No. 52 prospect, Hedges is sure to be at the center of any conversation involving the top defensive catchers in the Minors. With an arm that ranks above average (65) and fielding ability regarded as well above average (70), Hedges squatted behind the dish for 106 games at San Antonio last year, throwing out 50 of 131 would-be base stealers (38 percent) and compiling a .985 fielding percentage.

The 22-year-old's bat didn't light up the Texas League -- he hit .225/.268/.321 with six homers and 44 RBIs over 427 at-bats -- but the organization is confident that the offensive side of his game will develop to a point where it isn't so easily overshadowed by his defensive prowess.

"He's very, very accomplished," Geaney said. "He receives tremendously, blocks outstandingly, has got arm strength. It's the makings of an entire defensive player. ... We're excited about what his offseason has looked like and what we've seen from him at the plate as well as behind the plate going into this year."

Prospect Primer

More to keep an eye on: After holding his own in 20 Major League games last season, Cory Spangenberg -- the club's No. 8 prospect -- has thrived with the Padres this spring, putting himself in a position for an early callup, if not a spot on the Opening Day roster. ... Fernando Perez -- San Diego's No. 10 prospect -- was one of the organization's top producers in 2014 as the middle infielder posted a .284 average with 18 dingers and 95 RBIs, the latter total being tops in the system. ... Padres No. 11 prospect Casey Kelly's return from Tommy John surgery has taken longer than expected, but the 25-year-old righty could very well be positioned for starts in the Majors at some point this season. ... San Diego was happy to acquire Taylor Lindsey in the Huston Street trade last year, and while the club's No. 14 prospect continued struggling at Triple-A during the second half, the Padres feel confident he can return to posting the high numbers he once put up at lower levels.

Mark Emery is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Emery.