This offseason, MiLB.com is honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Today, continuing with the San Diego Padres, we're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball.
At first glance, the success of San Diego's farm system in 2014 might not be readily apparent.
Though the Padres are fortunate to have five prospects ranked in MLB.com's Top 100, catcher Austin Hedges (No. 22), right-hander Matthew Wisler (No. 61) and outfielder Hunter Renfroe (No. 71) each dealt with his fair share of challenges this season, while left-hander Max Fried (No. 68) made only five starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Of that distinguished bunch, only first-round pick Trea Turner (No. 96) turned in a truly exceptional year, although he certainly wasn't the only prospect in the system to stand out.
"Some guys touched the big leagues," Padres vice president of player development Randy Smith said. "Guys improved. Guys that were supposed to have good years did. Couple playoff teams [-- Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Class A Fort Wayne --] and we had a couple teams that struggled.
"But we were young. Our philosophy is to be age-appropriate, to put players in the right spot to where we challenge them. And I think that was accomplished."
Padres Organization All-Stars
Catcher -- Dane Phillips, Fort Wayne (40 games), Lake Elsinore (68 games): Phillips struggled in 14 games in the California League in 2013 but looked awfully comfortable there during an extended stay this season. His combined numbers included a .285/.340/.477 slash line with 12 homers and 76 RBIs -- the RBI total ranked fifth in the system.
"Very good offensive year," Smith said. "Started at Fort Wayne and continued that at Elsinore. Drove in runs, swung the bat pretty effectively the entire season. Improved defensively. Really, overall, he probably had the best year, certainly offensively, of any of our catchers."
First baseman -- Cody Decker, El Paso (134 games): Decker led all Padres Minor Leaguers with 27 homers while tying for third with 79 RBIs, a mark also reached by Dustin Peterson. The 2010 Organization All-Star posted a .261/.337/.514 slash line, in addition to his, ahem, extracurricular activities.
"Every year, he puts up good numbers, and the last two years he did it at the Triple-A level," Smith said. "I think he's a very popular player with the fans and certainly he gets a lot of attention with his social media and his movies -- but his bat speaks pretty loudly also. We're pleased for it and hopefully, he gets an opportunity to perform at the next level here in the near future."
Second baseman -- Fernando Perez, Fort Wayne (116 games): Perez piled up 95 RBIs this season, leading the organization as well as the Midwest League. He also topped the circuit by receiving four intentional walks while tying with Brewers prospect Michael Ratterree for third with 18 homers. His final line was .284/.322/.454.
"He had a tremendous offensive year," Smith said. "Great RBI numbers, good power numbers for that ballpark in Fort Wayne. Really just a solid -- I mean better than solid -- very good offensive year. The fact that he was able to stay healthy and play pretty much all year, I think that was a big stride for him and I can see him continuing to put up big offensive numbers going forward."
Third baseman -- Gabriel Quintana, Lake Elsinore (130 games): An Organization All-Star for the second straight year, Quintana finished second among Padres Minor Leaguers with 84 RBIs and tied for third with Perez and Conrad Brooks with 18 homers. In the California League, the Padres' No. 20 prospect tied with D-backs prospects Rudy Flores and Brandon Drury for third in doubles with 35 en route to a .263/.302/.431 slash line.
"I think he's got a chance to hit for average and hit for power as he continues to mature and grow," Smith said. "I think he's a guy that's kind of growing into his own right now. We're excited to see what he'll do next year at the Double-A level."
Shortstop -- Trea Turner, Eugene (23 games), Fort Wayne (46 games): Selected 13th overall in the 2014 Draft, Turner turned in a performance befitting a first-round pick in his introduction to pro ball, assembling a .323/.406/.448 slash line with five homers and 24 RBIs across two levels. Ranked fifth among Padres prospects, the 21-year-old North Carolina State product also stole 23 bases in 27 tries.
"I think this kid's got a chance to be a frontline shortstop and probably do it fairly quickly," Smith said. "I think he exceeded everybody's expectations. We had high expectations, but he went out and exceeded them. Played tremendous shortstop, very good defensively. And then offensively, he's deceptively strong, can really run. Just an exciting player with a very bright future."
• Padres VP on up-and-down seasons for top prospects Hedges, Wisler, Renfroe »
Rymer Liriano, San Antonio (99 games), El Paso (16 games), San Diego (38 games): After sitting out 2013 following Tommy John surgery, Liriano batted .264/.335/.442 with 14 homers, 53 RBIs and 17 steals at Double-A before posting a .452/.521/.661 slash line with 13 RBIs and three thefts with the Chihuahuas. The Texas League midseason All-Star debuted with San Diego on Aug. 11 and hit .220/.289/.266 with a homer and six RBIs.
"Everybody feels pretty good about where he's sitting right now," Smith said of the No. 6 Padres prospect, a 2012 Futures Game participant and Organization All-Star in 2011 and 2012. "I think he continued to mature, learned how to handle the breaking ball, was pretty adept at hitting that hard the other way. He's got some adjustments to make at the next level, and I think he'll do that.
"He's so used to getting sliders at the Minor League level that he became a little vulnerable to a fastball at the big league level, but I think in the long run that probably plays to his strength because he's a good fastball hitter with tremendous raw power. He's a five-tool guy that's an exciting player."
Mallex Smith, Fort Wayne (65 games), Lake Elsinore (55 games): Smith swiped 88 bags in 2014, leading all of affiliated ball. His .310 batting average tied him with Michael Gettys and Luis Urias atop the system. The Midwest League midseason All-Star also scored 99 runs and posted an .834 OPS.
"He's a guy that's always been able to run and likes to run," Smith said. "I think that he figured some things out. He understood what type of game he has to play, improved his bunting, his base-hit bunting, improved his on-base skills, kept the ball out of the air more and got on more to give himself a chance to run.
"He has a chance to really create some havoc on the bases. I think as he continues to mature he'll learn more about when to run and reading pitchers better and that type of stuff. But he's an exciting player -- a great personality, a lot of energy. I think, as a leadoff hitter, he does everything he's supposed to do."
Yeison Asencio, San Antonio (117 games), El Paso (21 games): An Organization All-Star for the third year in a row, Asencio compiled a .291/.330/.433 slash line with 15 homers and 59 RBIs. The 2013 Futures Game participant also was named a Texas League postseason All-Star.
"He started off real slow in April, finished very strong in the Texas League and then the Pacific Coast League, finished well there, too," Smith said. "Made some adjustments with his approach -- walks went up, strikeouts went down, particularly in the second half of the year.
"He's always going to be a guy that puts the ball in play, but I thought he showed some good strides and some progress during the year. There's power there. He's a former batting champion. And, hopefully, he continues to make progress."
Utility player -- Diego Goris, Lake Elsinore (89 games), San Antonio (37 games): The California League midseason All-Star hit .324 -- second-best in the circuit -- with an .860 OPS before getting promoted to Double-A, where he dealt with some growing pains as evidenced by a .247 average and .623 OPS. Still, in 126 games across the two levels, the 23-year-old infielder assembled a .302/.323/.471 slash line with 17 homers, two triples, 32 doubles, 71 RBIs and six steals in eight tries.
"Kind of a breakthrough year," Smith said. "Great start in the Cal League with RBIs and power and just a more consistent approach. Hit the ball hard, stayed in the middle of the field. Had some hot and cold moments in Double-A, but I think he's a guy that made progress, certainly put himself squarely on the map. Anxious to see what happens next year."
Right-handed starter -- James Needy, San Antonio (26 games): With a 2.90 ERA, Needy led all qualifying Padres Minor Leaguers while ranking fourth in the Texas League. The mid- and postseason All-Star also built a 10-5 record while recording 113 strikeouts -- good enough for fifth in the organization -- and issuing 50 walks over 145 2/3 innings.
"He had a great year," Smith said. "Pretty consistent from the start of the year to the end. Big guy with a good downhill plane to his fastball. Gets a lot of ground balls. The slider improved over the course of the year. Really just is a guy that attacks, attacks the strike zone and gets ground balls and has been pretty efficient."
Left-handed starter -- Jason Lane, El Paso (24 games), San Diego (three games): Before the season, Lane had not appeared in a big league game since 2007, back when he used to be an outfielder. Now a pitcher, he found himself on the mound for the Padres three times in 2014. And over 10 1/3 innings, he allowed one run -- a homer by Atlanta's Evan Gattis -- while striking out six without issing a walk.
At Triple-A, the 37-year-old went 9-9 with a 4.51 ERA across 24 starts, ringing up 77 strikeouts against 26 walks over 149 2/3 innings. He also excelled at the plate, where he posted a .362/.444/.580 slash line with three homers and 12 RBIs in 69 at-bats.
"It's amazing," Smith said. "I think the fact that he had experience as a hitter has made him a better pitcher. He realizes how tough it is to hit and exploits that. Excellent command of his fastball, very good changeup and a curveball that's effective. But really, he gets by on know-how and superior location and the changeup."
Reliever -- Frank Garces, San Antonio (51 games), San Diego (15 games): The starter-turned-reliever pitched his way to the Majors after earning Texas League midseason All-Star honors. He converted eight of nine save opportunities while compiling a 1.93 ERA and ringing up 74 strikeouts against 24 walks across 65 1/3 innings with the Missions.
The 2012 Organization All-Star made his big league debut on Aug. 19 and pitched to a 2.00 ERA with 10 strikeouts, a walk and a blown save over nine innings.
"He really took off in the reliever role," Smith said. "I think he liked the challenge of being in the game on a regular basis instead of once every five days. I think he liked being in with the game on the line. His stuff played up out of the 'pen. Fastball was a tick better -- he's always had the good curveball, changeup to go with it."