Tatis could be in San Diego by the end of 2018. (Photo: San Antonio Missions, 247Sports)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but any top prospect list generally tells you almost as much about the author as it does about the players ranked. Over the years, I’ve been high man on physically-gifted position players with gaps in their on-field games.

I’ve also shied away from trying to rank pure relievers in the context of these lists, so while I think that Trey Wingenter, Jose Galindo, Jose Castillo and Andres Muñoz could all hold down the back end of a big league bullpen in the future, I don’t include them below. Wingenter and Castillo would certainly appear on this list if I changed my approach because they’re both very good and both should see big league time in 2018. But if the club were to decide to shift, for example, Jake Nix, to the bullpen at some point, he’d be the best relief prospect in the system. I’m not sure just how far down the list of starters you’d have to go before I don’t think that’s the case.

From last year’s list, Manuel Margot (2), Hunter Renfroe (4), Dinelson Lamet (9), and Carlos Asuaje (10) have graduated. I was high man on Lamet and low man on Renfroe. Only Enyel De Los Santos (24) is now out of the system, and I would have had him about 10 spots higher this year had the club not opted (inexplicably) for one-year rental for a season in which they won’t – and shouldn’t – be competing.

It is hardly a news flash that the Padres’ system has taken a few giant leaps forward in the last 12 months. The first wave of the club’s 2016 international spending spree has impacted the minors stateside. Number three overall pick MacKenzie Gore debuted as well as could be hoped. Fernando Tatis exploded, and only the injury to Anderson Espinosa and regression by Michael Gettys represented a step back for key prospects.

The coming season should be an exciting one for the organization. By the end of the year, the second wave of young players could begin to join Margot, Renfroe, Hedges, and Lamet in the majors. A number of the younger 2016 international class signees should see time in full-season ball. A few wild cards from the 2017 draft should get some exposure, and two potentially impactful players who missed last year should be back on the field from injuries.

As it stands, the system has some elite upper-end talent and a significant amount of depth which should provide real options at the big league level in the coming years.

1.Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS (11)
A year ago, I wrote that Tatis had “as much upside as any position player in the organization right now, but there are enough red flags and he’s far enough away that it’s best to remain cautious.” The first half of that sentence remains true, and the second part no longer is. He’ll open 2018 in Double-A a few months after his 19th birthday, and has done plenty to answer concerns about his strikeout rate.

Having spent a lifetime around the game, Tatis – who is bilingual and shows strong natural leadership skills on and off the field – was very fast to make adjustments that allowed his talent to translate on the field. After holding his own through the first half of the Midwest League season, he stopped going after pitchers’ pitches, reined in his approach, and destroyed Low-A before finishing his first full season with a .950 OPS in the Texas League playoffs.

While Tatis likely will grow enough that he won’t ever match his 32 stolen bases in a big league season, the .280/.380/.500 line he put up is certainly well within reach for him going forward. Like other big-bodied shortstops who’ve reached the majors in the last decade, the question of whether he’ll have to move over to third base will linger until he’s done growing, but he has the movement, hands, and arm to be more than enough at either position. He is the best all-around prospect the Padres have had in their system in the 12 years I’ve been watching it and can be a cornerstone player for a long time.

2.MacKenzie Gore, LHP (n/a)
When we talked to scouting director Mark Conner, he acknowledged that Gore had not been at the top of the club’s list in their early draft preparations, but increased strength and velocity moved him up the list quickly. Once he was sitting regularly in the 90s with his fastball, Gore truly checked every box you want to see in a potential top-of-the-rotation starter: athleticism; room to grow; command; ability to spin a ball; repeatable mechanics; confidence to work off any pitch in his arsenal.

Having vaulted to the top of draft boards in the spring, his debut more than backed up the accolades. He struck out more than 40% of the batters he faced in Peoria, didn’t allow a homer and put fewer than one runner per inning on base. And it’s easy to see the significant natural ability that contributed to such gaudy numbers.
The lefty will be 19 throughout his first full professional season and will get every opportunity to build on his dominant appearance in the AZL last summer. He’ll likely arrive in Fort Wayne somewhere between when Jake Nix and Logan Allen did in 2016 (opening day) and when Mason Thompson and Reggie Lawson got there last year (late May), and I’m expecting he’ll work around 110-115 innings total.

3. Michel Baez, RHP (n/a)
Perhaps the least heralded – and certainly least known – of the five Cuban pitchers who were part of the Padres’ 2016 class, the gigantic righty put himself on the radar quickly in 2017. He impressed from his first live BP in spring, but a slight shoulder issue slowed him down in camp. By the time I got to see him throw an intrasquad game late in extended, he was healthy and totally overmatched a lineup of the Padres’ most dynamic young position players. He carried that through to his competitive work, posting an absurd 105:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 75.2 innings including the playoffs.

The 22-year-old righty has easy velocity that will likely hold deeper into games as he adds more weight to his frame, and already shows impressive feel for pitch sequencing with his breaking ball and a change-up that drew a number of absurd swings. He’ll need to continue to hone his change-up delivery to keep it consistently difficult to recognize out of his hand, but the big man could easily take the same Elsinore-to-El Paso trajectory this year that Dinelson Lamet had in 2016.

When Morejon was on, he showed a solid four-pitch mix. (Photo: Jeff Nycz, 247Sports)

4. Adrian Morejon, LHP (3)
After signing a franchise-record deal as the keystone of the Padres’ international splurge, the Cuban lefty was ticketed to open his first professional season in Fort Wayne but was slowed down by arm soreness midway through spring training. After a cautious re-entry schedule, the club decided to hold him in the desert until the Northwest League opened, and kept him on a tight workload.

When he was on, he was quite effective using his four-pitch mix with an approach that belies his age. But he had several outings when he got hit as right-handed hitters were able to lay off his pitches out of the zone. While the final numbers were more solid than stellar, his overall performance at such a young age, lively fastballs, knee-bending curve, and advanced approach continue to point toward Morejon emerging as a key rotation piece at the big league level.

Three days younger than Gore, Morejon is likely to open the year along-side him as a daunting one-two punch for the TinCaps after logging only 70 innings last year. When he jumps to Elsinore will depend on his production.

5) Luis Urias, 2B (7)
All the 20-year-old from Sonora, Mexico, has ever done is hit. Consistently among the youngest players at every stop he’s made, Urias has put his exceptional bat-to-ball skills to work. While his frame certainly doesn’t project future growth, he’s consistently added muscle each winter, and he has more than enough strength to lace the ball with authority to all fields.

He’s posted a .398 on-base percentage across 1,000 plate appearances over the last two years, and his strike-zone command and ability to pull velocity should help him continue to post those gaudy numbers at the highest level. Although his straight-line speed isn’t remarkable, he has strong range in both directions defensively, soft hands and an above-average arm for the position. While I still don’t understand the time he spent at shortstop in 2017, he proved he can be adequate over a short time in a pinch.

As he has in the Cal League and Texas Leagues the last two seasons, Urias will open PCL play in 2018 as the circuit’s youngest player, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him post an OPS north of .850 in that environment.

6) Anderson Espinoza, RHP (1)
While losing two entire seasons is extremely disappointing, if the explosive righty returns from his Tommy John surgery healthy, he still has the components to be a top-tier starter. While he’s short for a pitcher, he’s got incredible leg and core strength which helped him dial it up to the upper-90s in his full-season debut in 2016.

Right now, it’s completely a waiting game for the Venezuelan, but he should be in Lake Elsinore as a 21-year-old in 2019. Based on what I’ve seen of his approach and commitment when he was rehabbing before his surgery last summer, I’d expect Espinoza to make good use of his time to improve on the mental aspects of the game.

7) Cal Quantrill, RHP (5)
The seventh overall pick in 2016 had a solid full-season debut as the organization protected his workload two years post-Tommy John Surgery. Quantrill showed glimpses of the combination of stuff and approach that had him on watch lists from the time he was 16 but rarely looked dominant. His velocity doesn’t wow the way the guys above him can, and his pitch selection on the mound wasn’t always as advanced as one might expect given his background.

I think there’s more in there than we saw in 2017, but some of the optimism from national writers may come from his history more than what he has actually showed as a professional. His breaking ball will need to take a step forward, and it will be worth watching what happens as he’s asked to face a lineup three times on a regular basis in San Antonio this spring.

8) Jake Nix, RHP (6)
After missing the first eight weeks of the season with a hip flexor/groin issue which was a holdover from 2016, the Southern California native had an up-and-down season that finished with a playoff victory in his Triple-A debut. When he was on early in the summer, his easy velocity and nasty downer curveball made him nearly unhittable.  His masterpiece complete game two-hitter against Rancho Cucamonga was among the best single-game performances in the system all year. But other times, hitters were able to key in on the fastball and get to Nix easily.

Nix will open the 2018 season as a 22-year-old in Double-A with the size, repertoire, and makeup to become a workhorse big league starter. But he’ll need the sum of the pieces to add up in a way they haven’t so far if he’s going to reach that potential.

Logan Allen is another one of the Padres’ talented young pitchers. (Photo: Cherished Memories, 247Sports)

9) Logan Allen, LHP (13)
Because of his mound presence, physicality, and young age when the Red Sox drafted him in 2015, it’s easy to forget that Allen will have logged 20 Cal League starts before he turns 21 in late May. But the lefty’s youth hasn’t kept him from overmatching opposing hitters. Allen has racked up well over a strikeout per inning, and only a brutal final outing of the year pushed his ERA for the Storm over 3.00.

Allen’s fastball has good life and above-average velocity and his change-up was much more of a weapon in 2017 than in his first campaign in the organization. His intensity on the mound rivals that of Dinelson Lamet, and like the big Dominican, he seems to take it personally when an opponent does damage. If he can continue to refine his breaking ball, that may not be an experience he has to put up with very often.

Even if none of the players above him on this list graduate before next year’s rankings, I wouldn’t be surprised to have Allen in my top five next winter.

Can Cordero get his strikeout rate down in 2018? (Photo: Ivan Pierre Aguirre, 247Sports)

10) Franchy Cordero, OF (27)
Franchy Cordero personifies my constant refrain that player development is not a linear process. A gifted athlete, Cordero dominated the AZL in 2013 and then fell flat on his face for two years in Fort Wayne. But things started to come together for him in 2016, and after an aggressive assignment at Triple-A to open the year, the then-22-year-old got an even more aggressive promotion to the big leagues for a month.

His overly-aggressive approach at the plate was exposed in the Majors, where he whiffed at an astounding 44% clip, but he consolidated his progress impressively when he returned to El Paso, posting an OPS north of 1.000 in the season’s second half.

His free-swinging ways and inability to hit lefties may keep him from locking down an every-day role at the big league level, but with his power/speed combo and ability to provide coverage at all three outfield spots, he would be quite valuable as the heavy part of a platoon split. If he can get his K rate down to the 25% rate where it hovered in 2016, he could be even more than that.

11) Joey Lucchesi, LHP (21)
Lucchesi’s first full professional season was an unqualified success. The 24-year-old lefty, a fourth-round pick after leading the NCAA in strikeouts in 2016, posted a 2.10 ERA across 146 innings for Elsinore and San Antonio, struck out more than a batter an inning, and held opponents to a .200 average. While his funky delivery is part of his success, it’s certainly not the full story. He has more than enough velocity and a devastating change that would stand out even with the over-the-top arm slot and herky-jerky movements.

Lucchesi could be the rare example of a player who went undrafted until his senior year yet succeeds at the big league level. His production thus far has outpaced his higher-profile draft classmates, and there’s really no reason he couldn’t open the 2018 season in El Paso and, with continued performance, be the first starting pitcher from the 2016 draft to reach the big leagues.

Kennedy’s ability to consistently locate his four-seam fastball has been a big reason for his success. (Photo: San Antonio Missions, 247Sports)

12) Brett Kennedy, RHP (20)
Short righthanded pitchers have a tough road to plow to make it to the big leagues, but the 23-year-old from New Jersey has positioned himself well to overcome the odds. Barely scraping his listed six feet, Kennedy nonetheless works primarily off a four-seam fastball that can be effective at both the top and bottom of the strike zone. He’s mixed in a sinker a bit more often in the last year to pair with his slider and will have to do the same with his change.

Kennedy’s most impressive development in 2017 was shaving more than a walk per nine innings off his ratios, leading to a strong 16.3 K-BB% that essentially matched Lucchesi’s. He’ll open 2018 in El Paso and, with no restrictions on innings and a need to be on the 40-man roster next offseason, should get a look at some point in the summer. He won’t ever front a rotation, but he could easily carve out a spot for himself before the next wave of higher-profile arms reach the Majors.

Arias could force Tatis to move to third base down the road. (Photo: Jeff Nycz, 247Sports)

13) Gabriel Arias, SS (n/a)

It didn’t occur to me that a mid-August trip to Peoria would be too late to see the precocious shortstop in game action in the desert. Yet, despite some red flags in his satisfactory, but not stellar, offensive production in the AZL, the organization sent the 17-year-old to Fort Wayne when Tatis moved up to San Antonio for the final few weeks.

His offensive upside isn’t quite the same as Luis Almanzar’s, and he’s not quite the athlete Jordy Barley is, but Arias may be the most complete package. While some early reports on the 2016 J2 class had Almanzar as the biggest lock at shortstop, by the time I saw them late in extended, it was Arias who had clearly emerged as a true up-the-middle defender.

The K rate, the low walk numbers, and the minimal in-game power are all reasons I would move him forward slower than the organization appears ready to do, but Arias appears like a lock to get everyday action in full-season ball after spending this winter with AZL manager Michael Collins in Australia.

14) Eric Lauer, LHP (14)
Typically, the phrase “fifth-best left-handed starter in the system” would be the faintest of praise with which to be damned. In this case, while I have Lauer a clear tier below the southpaws above him on the list, he has a good chance to start in the big leagues.

After a solid initial full season in which he reached, but was challenged at, Double-A, we know the exact same things we thought we knew about Lauer 12 months ago. A pitchability lefty, his fastball is not on par with the guys above, but he’s not Wade LeBlanc either. His four-pitch mix was more than enough to baffle Cal League hitters, but he struggled to get the ball past Double-A batters as frequently, and they did significant damage when they made contact against him. Lauer will probably continue a quick ascent in 2018, beginning the year back in San Antonio. If he can continue to refine how he uses his repertoire to keep hitters off-balance, he could be at Petco by early 2019.

Injuries cut into Thompson’s playing time in 2017. (Photo: Jeff Nycz, 247Sports)

15) Mason Thompson, RHP (12)

Elbow and shoulder issues limited Thompson to just 27 innings in 2017, a fact that’s concerning for a pitcher whose first Tommy John surgery came well before his 18th birthday. But if injuries don’t derail the big Texan, he could really vault in the next year. With an ideal frame, strong pitching instincts, and the makings of a devastating fastball/change mix, it’s not hard to understand why the Padres’ scouting group was willing to gamble on Thompson in 2016, and why the player development group is glad to have him.

With as many arms as there are ahead of him, the organization has no reason to rush Thompson, so he could get a slower progression back in Fort Wayne for the 2018 campaign. Given a full in the Midwest League, Thompson could put up some eye-popping numbers. He’s also the most likely guy in the top 20 to completely disappear from the list next year.

16) Hudson Potts, 3B (16)
Through the first three months of the season, the organization’s decision to push Potts, who played the entire campaign at 18 years old, seemed not to be working out. But after strikeout rates well north of 30 percent in the first two months, Potts started making more consistent contact right after the all-star break. While the results didn’t really spike for another month, the underlying skills were beginning to emerge.

The Texan had a monster August and ultimately finished with the second-highest home run total in franchise history without having to sell-out for pull power to get there. The right-handed hitter should continue to add strength and could outpace the 50 future power numbers that were thrown around when he was drafted. If he can keep the strikeout rates down in the low 20s, where they were through the late summer, he could be an offensive force at third base.

Potts will open 2018 as the every-day third baseman in Elsinore, but if he can show the same pop we saw through the second half last year, could well be back in his home state during the season.

17) Esteury Ruiz, 2B (n/a)
With 6.2 fewer big league innings in his pocket, Matt Strahm would be above Ruiz on this list. But even without the lefty, the impact on the Padres’ system for three pitchers who combined to throw 58 negative-value innings for the Royals looks pretty appealing. Ruiz, a 2015 signee who the Royals put on a much more conventional trajectory than the Padres’ approach of late, posted a .350/.395/.602 line as an 18-year-old in the AZL. That slugging percentage was driven by 10 triples, which often turn into doubles in full-season ball, but the list of teenaged middle infielders who’ve even topped .500 in the AZL over last decade is very short. He has an easy swing that already generates impressive bat speed, and he should grow into more strength that won’t require selling out to pull the ball.

Defensively, Ruiz will probably be limited to second base if he stays on the dirt, but he’s athletic enough that if the bat continues to play and others are pushing him at the position, he could conceivably provide value in a corner outfield slot. While the competition to make the TinCaps opening day infield will be intense, I’d expect Ruiz will draw one of the spots and collect 450 or more plate appearances in 2018.

18) Chris Paddack, RHP (17)
Paddack made a push to get back from his Tommy John surgery prior to the end of the 2017 season, but the organization ultimately decided to err on the side of caution. As a result, he’ll open the 2018 season as a 22-year-old with all of 42 full-season innings on his résumé. But all of his results – including absurd 46% strikeout and 3% walk rates – compare favorably to Baez’s production at the same level. While fastball/change-up guys tend to fair better in the low minors than against more advanced hitters, that’s some impressive company to keep.

Assuming the big Texan is at full strength from the outset of spring training, we’ll get our first in-person looks at him as he works toward a spot in a Single-A rotation. He’s going to be one of the most interesting storylines to watch in 2018. If he can work in a breaking ball to complement his two outstanding pitches, he could be special.

19) Josh Naylor, 1B (15)
Early in the 2017 campaign, I considered a drinking game for any time someone in the organization used the phrase “surprisingly athletic,” but ultimately, my liver couldn’t handle it. Politely listed at 225, the 20-year-old Canadian has true light-tower raw power that very few hitters can match. But Naylor’s swing doesn’t get to that power in game action very easily, and I’m not convinced he’ll be able to make necessary adjustments. And without big-time offensive production, Naylor’s never going to provide value.

The organization has pushed Naylor very fast despite only moderate levels of success at any level so far, but you’d have to think they’ll want to see concrete and sustained improvement from a guy who posted an isolated power mark almost 50 points lower than Jose Rondon’s in San Antonio last year. Development is non-linear, and it’s certainly possible he’ll make a big stride forward. But with ongoing questions about make-up, his uninspiring physique, and thus-far middling performance, I’m less optimistic about it than many in the organization are.

20) Pedro Avila, RHP (n/a)
Rather than simply non-tendering Derek Norris last December, the Padres opted for a wild-card in Avila. A year later, Norris has been released twice, while Avila remains an interesting upside arm for San Diego.

Avila opened the year showing impressive strikeout stuff in Elsinore, but with spotty command and feel for his breaking ball, he also got knocked around to the tune of 50 hits in 43 innings. But when he stepped back to Fort Wayne – hardly an unreasonable level for a guy was 20 all season – his big downer curve really advanced, and his production leapt forward. In August, he turned in 17- and 13-strikeout games and he posted a 2.08 ERA down the stretch.
He’s undersized as a starter, but if he continues to use his fastball/curve combo as effectively in his return to the Cal League, he’ll project as at least an interesting big league bullpen arm, with the chance to stay in the rotation.

21) Jordy Barley, SS* (n/a)
I’ve taken grief from John “I’m all-in on 14 middle relievers” Conniff for a long time because of my preference for toolsy projects. Most of them flame out. But Barley was, quite simply, the most exciting athlete on the field in Peoria last summer. He has lightning-fast whippy strength, he has a higher gear running the bases, and he can make any throw on the field.

He also struck out in a third of his AZL plate appearances and posted defensive stats that would make Edinson Rincon cringe. Because he’s so raw, Barley could easily spend the 2018 campaign in extended and then the Northwest League. He could also show up in camp with 15 more pounds of muscle than when we last saw him and a slightly refined approach at the plate that would demand a spot in Fort Wayne at some point in the spring. He’s the least likely player on this list to log a single at-bat in Double-A, but he could also put things together to become a player few can match.

22) Michael Gettys, CF (8)
Gettys took a bigger step backward than any significant player in the system last year. After making significant improvements in his approach that led to stronger production in 2016, the former second-rounder flailed his way through April and then struggled again late in the season after coming back from a three-week disabled list stint. His strikeout rate raced up to an untenable 37% on the year, so even though his isolated power numbers went up, his overall performance in his second stint with the Storm was markedly lower.

While his speed would seem to make sense at the top of the lineup (even if he doesn’t like it), he both disliked and struggled in the leadoff role for Elsinore. He provides plus center field defense, is a dynamic and improving baserunner, and hits the ball hard when he makes contact, so he doesn’t even need an average hit tool to become a valuable big league bench player. But even with that low threshold, it’s not clear he’ll make enough adjustments to reach it.
If he opens the 2018 campaign for the Missions convinced he doesn’t have to sell out with every swing, and trusting that his back will be okay, he could easily put himself back on track. But if he continues to take poor swings at bad pitches, it’s going to be a long year at the Wolff.

23) Reggie Lawson, RHP (n/a)
A rib cage injury cost Lawson most of his senior year of high school, but the Padres still went in above slot to get the righty from the High Desert in the compensation round in 2016. After working only 8.2 innings following the draft, Lawson arrived in Fort Wayne late last May with Thompson. Lawson stayed healthy all year, but his production was quite inconsistent.

When he was on, his fastball sat mid-90s, he kept his mechanics together, and he yielded results like his six inning, two-hit, eight-strikeout game against the Dante Bichette/Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lineup of Lansing. When he was off, he spun off pitches, lost velocity, flattened out his curve and got shelled by a Western Michigan club with no likely big league starters.

The long-limbed righty obviously has the ability in there, but he’ll need to harness it more consistently and be able to bounce back from mistakes more quickly. At 20 years old, he’ll likely head back to Fort Wayne to open the year, but should get a chance to pitch close to home in the Cal League before the season is over.

24) Henry Henry, RHP (29)
Henry has grown on me with more input from scouts and opposing coaching staffs. I’ve been underwhelmed by the two in-game settings I’ve seen (the AZL in 2016 and spring training last year), and his demeanor on the field isn’t my thing. But talent evaluators like the Dominican’s projectable frame and athleticism, keep talking about velocity I have yet to witness in person and see loose confidence in his approach.

Henry, who only turned 19 in December, logged 52 innings in the Northwest League (he also had one start in the AZL). He wasn’t getting the swings-and-misses you’d like to see consistently, but they were there at times. While I’d guess the organization wants to feed his competitive streak by getting him out to full-season ball soon, he will probably spend a third and final extended spring training in Peoria before get that opportunity. Even if he doesn’t get to the Midwest League until 2020, he’ll still be on track developmentally.

Almanzar received one of the highest bonuses the Padres ever gave out in 2016. (Photo: Tri-City Dust Devils, 247Sports)

25) Luis Almanzar, SS (28)
One of the defining traits of the Rangers, when AJ Preller was with the organization, was the accelerated timelines and aggressive placements of prospects in their systems. Almanzar, who didn’t turn 18 until after he finished his instructional league program this winter, was younger than everyone in the Northwest League except fellow Dust Devil middle infielder Justin Lopez (who became the first player born in the 2000s to appear in an MLB affiliated game outside the complexes). Almanzar got off to a solid start against that older competition but wasn’t able to make adjustments when they did and the bottom dropped out of his numbers after Mid-July.

The Dominican is part of the crush of middle infielders in the mix to open the year in Fort Wayne, and he continues to flash all the building blocks that made him the highest-priced of the club’s traditional July 2 guys in 2016. His effort and coachability earned praise in the organization, and it’s not hard to see how he could convert his impressive raw skills into impact contributions on both sides of the game.

26) Tirso Ornelas, OF (n/a)
A Tijuana native, Ornelas’ future is tied to his already-impressive offensive abilities. As a young 17-year-old in the AZL, Ornelas rode a surprisingly mature approach and a quick bat to a .276/.399/.408 line while proving more athletic than we’d seen in a brief look in the fall of 2016. He’s already got playable pull power and the ability to hit the ball hard the other way, and will most certainly grow into more strength in the coming years. Despite the 25% K rate, I didn’t see him expanding the zone very much in limited action.

While it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever again log 280 innings in center field, he wound up on the position because, as one member of the staff said, he was simply the best outfielder they had on the roster. The organization will need to consider just how much youth they are comfortable putting on the TinCaps roster to open the year, but Ornelas could easily be a contributor in the middle of the lineup from day one in 2018.

27) Franmil Reyes, OF (19)
It’s hard to remember that Reyes is still just 22 given how long he’s been on my personal favorites list and how man. y teenagers have flooded the system. But the big man from the Dominican was a force in his first full year in the upper minors, launching 23 homers in a home park that’s tough on power hitters and improving his production for the third straight year.

While he’s only barely passable in right field and he made a third of his starts in the DH slot, the organization has steadfastly not experimented with him at first base, which I find surprising. But if Reyes can overcome the broken hamate bone that took him off of Rule 5 watch lists this winter, he could put up some ridiculous numbers in the PCL in 2018 and try to carve out a pathway in the big leagues.

28) Luis Patino, RHP (n/a)
Yet another piece from the 2016 international class, Patino wasn’t part of the group that came over for instructs that fall and he spent spring training in the Dominican. But his performance there inspired the club to bring him stateside just after the AZL season opened. The Columbian certainly rewarded them for their confidence, posting a 2.48 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning over 40 frames – all before turning 18 in October.

Chris Kemp’s international scouting group has done a remarkable job of finding shorter-stature, strong-bodied hurlers who can dial up velocity, and Patino is yet another example of that. While public batted ball data from the complexes certainly should not be taken as gospel, he got a lot of weak contact while inducing a .213 average.

Where Patino opens in 2018 is likely driven more by the guys ahead of him on the progression chart than his own timeline, but he’s already forced the organization’s hand once in his brief career.

29) Osvaldo Hernandez, LHP (n/a)
Hernandez had an odd system debut after signing for $2.5M just as minor league spring training ramped up. The Cuban, who turned 19 before the short-season clubs got going, is yet another lefty with both velocity and the feel to spin a breaking ball. All of his components were well above average – he struck out well over a batter per inning, walked only about six percent of opposing hitters, suppressed homers well, limited the running game – but opponents in Arizona, the Northwest League, and Fort Wayne all put up a lot of runs against him.

At these lowest levels of the game, that sort of dissonance between rate stats and actual performance can either be indicators of a pitcher who’s about to see a significant spike in results, or a sign that despite individual quality pitches, he lacks enough movement and pitch variability to keep more advanced hitters off balance. So far, I don’t have a strong sense of which is the case for Hernandez.

The 2018 season, after a full year of instruction and getting familiar with the US game will be telling for Hernandez, who will most likely spend the full year in a Single-A rotation.

30) Austin Allen, C (26)
While Allen’s home run total spiked to 22 to power a .214 ISO mark in the Cal League in 2017, Allen’s overall offensive output actually dropped a bit from his debut season for the TinCaps because of an increased strikeout count and BABIP-fueled drop in batting average. Allen’s powerful left-handed swing could be his meal ticket as, despite impressive gains defensively since he was the club’s 4th-round pick in 2015, I still have trouble seeing him developing enough receiving or throwing skills to catch regularly at the big-league level.

Allen is 18 months older that Reyes, who already had the season at Double-A that we hope to see from Allen in 2018, so his window is narrow. But if he continues to hit the ball with authority, he could wind up earning a spot as a bat-first backup catcher.

Posted by David Jay

David has written for MadFriars since 2005, has published articles in Baseball America, written a monthly column for FoxSports San Diego and appeared on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He may be best known on the island of Guam for his photos of Trae Santos that appeared in the Pacific Daily News.