Preller enthusiastic about San Diego's future

Improved days around the corner with Padres' stacked farm system

Preller enthusiastic about San Diego's future

MINNEAPOLIS -- During his two interviews for the Padres' general manager job, A.J. Preller was asked to give his opinions on a variety of aspects of the organization.

Now that he's been hired, Preller is in a position to put his plan into place. Finding a starting point certainly won't be too difficult -- procuring more talent.

"In general, you never can have enough talent," Preller said during his introductory news conference. "… Talent wins games. I think it's going to be a mantra throughout [the organization]. We're going to look to find more."

But what kind of organization did Preller inherit?

What we know is this is a team that's 52-61 and in third place in the National League West heading into the start of a three-game series on Friday in Pittsburgh.

But what about the state of the 25-man roster, the 40-man roster, the Minor League system in general?

Preller inherits a team that will have close to $41 million in guaranteed contracts in 2015, with outfielder Carlos Quentin and reliever Joaquin Benoit each set to make a team-high $8 million.

LOOKING AHEAD
New GM A.J. Preller inherits a team with roughly $41 million in guaranteed money on the books for 2015, not to mention several players due for healthy arbitration raises.
Player 2015 salary
OF Carlos Quentin $8 million
RP Joaquin Benoit $8 million
OF Cameron Maybin $7 million
OF Seth Smith $6 million
LHP Cory Luebke $5.375 million
OF Will Venable $4.25 million
2B Jedd Gyorko $2 million

That figure doesn't account for what figures to be substantial raises in store for two arbitration-eligible players, pitcher Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. Ross, an All-Star, could see his salary grow from the $1.98 million it is this season to as much as $6 million.

Kennedy, who is making $6.1 million, could make close to $10 million. Will one of Preller's first orders of business be to get an extension done with Kennedy? Or what about Andrew Cashner, whom the team made an unsuccessful run at in terms of an extension?

What does the team do with outfielder Cameron Maybin, who will make $7 million next season, and is currently serving a 25-game suspension for a positive amphetamine test in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program? He's still owed $16 million on his deal.

There are some notable pieces to build around, such as rookie pitcher Jesse Hahn, who opened the year with Double-A San Antonio, but who has won seven games and has shown he belongs in the rotation in 2015. Ross' continued development has impressed those in the organization. There's a belief internally that second-year second baseman Jedd Gyorko will be fine, even after his early struggles.

Preller was asked if the Padres are close to being able to make a run at the top of the division.

"The biggest thing is to assess accurately is where your window is … where you're at on the competitive spectrum of winning, and I never really want to misevaluate that," Preller said.

Preller has been watching the Padres of late, even while tending to his work with the Rangers. Especially during the stretch when they went 11-7 since the All-Star break and averaged 4.67 runs a game.

"From a pitching standpoint, it's impressive," Preller said of the 25-man roster that he's inherited. "The starting pitching, the guys that take the mound every day, they give the team a chance to win on a day-to-day basis.

"From an offensive perspective, the last few weeks, the team has played more energetic, they've swung the bats a little better."

In terms of the Padres' Minor League system, the July trades of Huston Street, Chase Headley and Chris Denorfia brought a total of eight players to the organization, many of whom are now in the team's farm system.

MLB.com's Jim Callis is impressed by the Padres' Minor League.

"The Padres have a better farm system than most," Callis said. "I wouldn't put them up in the top tier of Minor League talent, but they have a deep system and have some potential cornerstone players, though those guys come with some caveats.

"Austin Hedges may be the best catching prospect in baseball, though his offensive ceiling isn't huge. [2012 first-round Draft pick] Max Fried could be in the discussion of best lefty pitching prospects, but his health has been an issue. Matt Wisler has been knocked around in Triple-A more than expected.[2013 first-round] Hunter Renfroe has loud tools but strikes out lot, too, and [2014 first-round] Trea Turner is one of the better shortstops around but will probably have to adjust his offensive approach."

Preller also inherits one of the most respected managers in the game in Bud Black, in his eighth season, and possibly one of the most underrated pitching coaches in the game in Darren Balsley. There's talent in the front office as well: assistant general managers Josh Stein and Fred Uhlman Jr., vice president of player development Randy Smith, a former general manager, and a rising star in scouting director Billy Gasparino.

How will it all fit together moving forward? That's the challenge that awaits Preller.

"I want Padres fans to understand that it's not going to be smooth sailing from Day 1," Preller said. "But I can promise you we're going to have the hungriest, hard-working group of employees in the game. I feel pretty confident that once we get going in that direction, we're going to be doing some pretty special things here."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.