Kyle Glaser is in his third year with Baseball America and his third year of responsibility for the San Diego Padres portion of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, widely regarded as the prospect bible for major league baseball.
Kyle is a graduate of Torrey Pines High School and Arizona State University. He began his career in journalism doing freelance work for the now-defunct North Country Times before moving full-time into sportswriting with the Victorville Daily Press for two years and then the Riverside Press-Enterprise for three more, during which time he covered the Padres in 2015-16.
In mid-2016 he accepted an offer from Baseball America and moved back east to the land of Wil Myers’ “white queso” Mexican food in North Carolina.
[Editor’s note: Kyle has been on record numerous times stating that he does not believe better Mexican food is to be found east of the Mississippi River.]
On the eve of Baseball America’s new San Diego Padres’ Top 10 ranking, Kyle was kind enough to talk about his process of ranking their prospects.
MadFriars: First, how do you balance between ceiling and performance?
Kyle Glaser: I’m a firm believer that you have to produce. With ceiling, you can start to see whatever you want to see. That doesn’t mean that I don’t look at it or factor it into the equation along with other things like their age for their level, but a lack of production, particularly in a strong system like the Padres have will get guys dropped down a bit.
Can you describe the type of process that goes into putting together the lists?How much do you see any of these guys and who do you talk too?
Kyle Glaser: The process for our rankings is a long one. We have years of notes from scouts and front office officials on most of these guys already, and we start making new calls on players every year in spring training in February and go all the way through the end of the Fall League in November. It’s 9-to-10 months of speaking with evaluators both inside and outside the organization, constantly getting updates, as well as seeing a lot of these players ourselves. We try to get eyes on as many of the guys that we can, and if we don’t, we have a lot of video we pour through.
For the Padres, I’ve seen pretty much all of these guys in person multiple times over the years as well as compiled dozens of reports from both Padres officials and opposing teams’ scouts. We put hundreds of man-hours into making sure we have all the latest info on everyone, and by the end of it we have a pretty clear picture of who these guys are, how they’ve progressed or regressed, and where it’s most appropriate to rank them based on their actual likelihood of (a) reaching the majors and; (b) making an impact once they get there. But it’s a years-long process of compiling information and reports and seeing everything we can see for ourselves. It’s not something we just whip up at the end of the year.
Fernando Tatis, Jr. is the consensus top Padres’ prospect for any list. Since you have been doing the write-up for the handbook you have seen him since he first entered the organization.
What area have you seen the most improvement with him?
Kyle Glaser: For me, the biggest thing is just his continuing improvement defensively, particularly on making the routine plays. All of us have always seen highlights of him making Sports Center-type plays, but this season you started to see him making all of the plays he should make as well, which wasn’t always the case in the past.
I always thought it was very clear that he had the skills to stick at shortstop, but as Sam Geaney [the Director of Player Development for the Padres] noted he’s gotten stronger and faster and he’s covering more ground.
Were you surprised at the selection of Ryan Weathers in the first ten picks of the 2018 draft and what do you think of him so far?
Kyle Glaser: It was a little surprising, but it was also clear in pre-draft conversations that the Padres valued him more highly than other clubs. Right now it’s hard to say whether or not they made the right pick or not because it’s still so early in these guys’ careers.
Weathers attacks hitters, he’s very poised on the mound and to get to the [Low-A] Midwest League three months after your high school graduation and hold your own is impressive. He has the ability to throw three pitches for strikes, and he can get to 95, but a lot of times he’s more sitting 90-91.
He was a definite first-rounder, but most teams had him in the middle or late first round in the draft and not in the top ten. We’ll see how it pans out as he moves up the ladder.
Coming into the 2018 season, most rankings had Tatis and MacKenzie Gore as the top two prospects. Do you still see it that way and why?
Kyle Glaser: That is how I have it. With MacKenzie, you can see that all of the things to be a top of the rotation starter are there. The blisters affected his ability to snap off his breaking pitches, but he was still flashing you some quality ones. The fastball and change are there and even though he wasn’t great in Fort Wayne, he didn’t embarrass himself and you could see all the stuff in flashes. If he can get past his blisters and stay healthy, there is a chance to see something special.
Do you see the blisters being a problem for him in the future?
Kyle Glaser: They came back three times for him last year, so that’s obviously problematic. It’s kind of wait-and-see at this point.
Which Padres prospect surprised you the most this year?
Kyle Glaser: Josh NaylorI wasn’t 100 percent convinced he would have as much success as he did this year in the [Double-A] Texas League. In previous years, his body composition really affected his swing and didn’t allow him to drive anything below his knees. He wasn’t that productive with Greensboro [the Miami Marlins’ Low-A affiliate] and he was good but not great in [High-A] Lake Elsinore last year. This year he did a lot better job of picking out the right pitches to hit and getting to his power. He still has some things to work on, but he clicked a lot more than a lot of people, myself included, expected.
Which player went down the most?
Kyle Glaser: How much Cal Quantrill struggled, and the length of how long he struggled in San Antonio, surprised me. He rebounded well in Triple-A and I think that’s more indicative of the pitcher he can be, but the inconsistency with his stuff was a lot more prevalent than expected. Gabriel Arias is another guy. I thought he would be a better player offensively than what he showed this year. You still see the potential and all the things to fall in love with, but it was a disappointing year any way you cut it.
What are the greatest strengths and weakness of the system?
Kyle Glaser: The pitching depth, particularly from the left side. They have everything; guys with big velocity, pitchability types, starters, relievers, guys from El Paso all the way to the Dominican Summer League. There are a lot of really promising lefthanded pitchers everywhere in the system, and then the righthanded complement is strong as well.
To me, the biggest weakness in the system is that I am not sure there are enough impact bats. Yes, I see it with Tatis and I think Luis Urias has a chance to be really good once he stops trying to become something he’s not and just focuses on contact. But those two alone aren’t going to elevate the Padres from bottom three in the majors in every offensive category into the top half of MLB. They need more. I think Naylor can also contribute, but I’m not sure where he’s going to play. They need more and I’m not sure it’s all there internally.
Any news on Anderson Espinoza?
Kyle Glaser: He was throwing bullpens around Thanksgiving and should be ready for Spring Training. However, they have missed some recovery targets with him in the past so we need to be cautious. The plan for his workload, if he’s healthy, will look a lot like Chris Paddack year. They will try to keep him to around 85 pitches per start and try to get him 90 to 100 innings.
Biggest sleeper in the system and maybe a really deep one.
Kyle Glaser: I’m not sure Owen Miller is a sleeper, but I think he will have a better big league career than some of the more high profile international signings. He can flat out hit and he’s moving fast.
For a really deep pick, I would keep an eye on left-handed pitcher Manny Partida, a Mexican native, that was in the Dominican Summer League this year.
Were you surprised at the relative inactivity of the Padres on the trade market so far this offseason?
Kyle Glaser: I mean they tried, so I wouldn’t say they were inactive. They made calls on a lot of top players and it was a sign they recognize they have to go out of house to truly get enough guys to contend for the playoffs by 2020. But what we’ve also seen from past rebuilds is the best time to make these type of trades is after the homegrown core has come up and started to win, which obviously hasn’t happened yet with the Padres. In that sense, it was smart of the club to do their due diligence but not give up the house for anyone just yet. There’s still a lot of holes for the Padres to fill, they’re not one player away, and their best bet is to get as many homegrown guys up as they can to fill those holes and then make moves after they are all up and producing.
Where does the system rank in terms of all of major league baseball?
Kyle Glaser: This is the best system in baseball by a good margin. The top seven guys might be the No. 1 prospect in a lot of systems in baseball and the depth is more impressive than any other organization. It’s the best system in baseball with room to spare.