Yonder Alonso has been one of the top prospects in baseball for the last couple of years. So it's not surprising that when he was traded to the Padres in the pre-Christmas blockbuster that sent young ace Mat Latos to Cincinnati for Alonso, pitcher Edinson Volquez and highly touted Minor Leaguers Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger, he immediately became his new team's top prospect.
But the deal didn't just clear first base for Alonso, who had been blocked by Joey Votto in Cincinnati. It also sent a message that the already-stout San Diego farm system has gotten burlier, and is now teeming with talent and players on the cusp of Major League readiness.
"Cincinnati drafted me, and I thank them for that. But I feel like we have elite players in the game, right now, when it comes to prospects in San Diego," Alonso said. "Only positive things are happening for the Padres.
"For myself, it's something I've been waiting for. I feel like I can contribute tremendously, and it's something I'm definitely looking forward to. This team is not only getting ready to win now, but in the future, too."
Just take a look at the top names and it's easy to see why. Alonso has been considered ready for the big leagues for a while, and his five home runs and 15 RBIs in 88 at-bats in the Major Leagues last year indicated that the Padres had good reason to say goodbye to their other first-base prospect, Anthony Rizzo, whom they obtained in the 2010 Adrian Gonzalez deal with Boston and dealt to the Cubs this winter.
Catcher Grandal immediately checks in at No. 4 on the Padres' MLB.com list, and reliever Boxberger, who is at No. 12, has a chance to impact the big club's bullpen at some point in 2012.
"Any time you're building the foundation for sustainable success, it starts with scouting, player development -- and there always seem to be those key trades that are tough to swallow sometimes and difficult to take. But they mean change in the organization," said Padres vice president of professional scouting A.J. Hinch.
"When you do a four-for-one and you're trading a talented pitcher like Latos, you'd hope the return is significant. One thing is that we hope to see the fruits of that trade pretty quickly. If the talent and timing matches up and everybody's happy, it's a pretty good success."