Kevin Padlo's 2015 was truly a tale of two seasons: Full season Asheville and short season Boise.
The 6'2" third baseman, who signed for an overslot bonus $650,000 out of high school as Colorado's fifth round pick in 2014, had a wildly successful professional debut in Grand Junction last season as a player who didn't turn 18 until he'd already had a few weeks as a pro under his belt. In 198 plate appearances for the GJ Rockies against pitchers who were on average three and a half years older than him, the righty hit .300/.421/.594 (155 wRC+) with 27 extra-base hits and almost as many walks (31) as strikeouts (38).
As such, it was only natural that Padlo be given the opportunity to experience full-season ball at the beginning of 2015 with the Low-A Asheville Tourists. Unfortunately, it didn't go well; Padlo hit an anemic .145/.273/.277 (64 wRC+) in 99 plate appearances for the Tourists before being sent back to extended spring training until the start of short-season ball. The encouraging sign in all of that was that Padlo kept up the high walk rate (14.1 percent), but he ultimately looked like a player who was overmatched by the level of competition.
The Rockies then assigned Padlo to Boise for short season play, where he once again became an offensive terror. In 308 plate appearances with the Hawks, Padlo hit for a .294/.404/.502 (159 wRC+) line against pitchers who were still almost three years older than him, on average, in a notoriously difficult pitcher's league. All the while, he maintained a walk rate over 14 percent (14.6). It's an offensive line that's arguably even more impressive than the one he posted in Grand Junction last year.
Although he's racked up some errors in his professional career (13 in 74 games at third this year), according to scouts, the 19-year-old Padlo has regularly shown off high-end athleticism and a strong arm at third base. He has the raw skills but will need to make some adjustments a la Nolan Arenado (he is similarly built) in order to turn that side of his game into a true weapon. Coaches speak highly of his makeup and, despite his struggles in Low-A this year, he could be a fast riser in the system if he's able to maintain that offensive profile when he returns to full-season ball.
Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus had Padlo as one of the three Rockies prospects on the rise at the end of last year:
The 2014 fifth rounder utilizes a high-effort swing that generates above-average pop, but has also limited his ability to handle quality secondary offerings. Fortunately for Padlo, quality secondary offerings were in short supply in the Pioneer League, and the former San Diego commit capitalized on that fact, slashing .300/.420/.594 over his 48-game professional debut. Because Padlo's game comes with effort across the board, there is an extreme amount of risk tied to the profile.
As Faleris notes (and as his struggles with the Tourists show), there's quite a bit of risk with a player like Padlo at this point, especially given his struggles with off-speed stuff. And while short-season stats are tough to take at face value, it's easier to get excited about them when the player putting up good stats is so much younger than the average player in the league. If Padlo can in fact hit the stuff that doesn't go straight, and if he can make the most of his currently raw defensive tools at third, he's a player with everyday third base upside.
I'm a little more cautious about the profile due to the risk described above, ranking Padlo 24th in the system. I hope this time next year that kind of ranking seems low after Padlo re-enters full season ball. It will be interesting to see where the Rockies do end up placing Padlo, as both he and 2015 draftee Tyler Nevin would seem to be on a similar timeline. Will the Rockies place both in Low-A Asheville, will one of them make the jump to High A Modesto, or will the Rockies keep Nevin in extended spring training until moving him up to short season Boise? Regardless, having multiple high upside third baseman in the lower reaches of a system is a good problem to have.