In 2018, the Padres will have top prospects at every level of the organization. Here’s Marcus Pond’s take on the top 30 in the system, the fourth of six lists from the MadFriars staff.
Hey MadFriars readers! I’m stoked to join the MF team and am looking forward to an exciting season of Padres prospecting in 2018. Before joining the site, I covered the NL West for RO Baseball, contributed to the Padres Prospects side of Padres Public, and was the co-executive editor of Pads Prospects. Living in Texas, I make it to a few more San Antonio Missions games than the typical Padres fan, usually in the summertime when I get a break from teaching.
Enough about me though, on to the list! Not many prospects are apples-to-apples comparisons, so the task is to weigh scouting reports and projections with the statistical evidence from year to year. I’m not that much of a stat-head, but hopefully, I don’t mention K/9 rates or OBP to the point of annoyance. That being said, I think there’s a fairly decent balance of somewhat-experienced players who performed well last year, with a plenty of teenage upstarts with high ceilings that are fun to follow. Thanks for reading, here we go.
1. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS)
In his 18-year-old season, no Padres prospect experienced as meteoric a rise up national prospect lists as Tatis Jr. did. That’ll happen if you’re the youngest player in the modern era (since 1963) to hit 20+ homers and steal 20+ bases in the Midwest League (he ended the season with 22 dingers and 32 thefts). On top of the power and speed, he saw his strikeout rate drop a few points every month, going from 29.3% in April to 17.1% in August. After some worried that his size (6-foot-3, 200-pounds) might keep him from being a shortstop, the consensus is that he should be able to stick there for at least the first few years of his career. His splits against righties and lefties were fairly close (.278/.377/.512 against RHP, and .278/.384/.465 against LHP). Perhaps the most telling stat of all is that the younger Tatis had two plate appearances the entire season against pitchers younger than him. The late-season promotion to Double-A San Antonio was an aggressive one, but look for the Padres to continue being aggressive with what many consider to be a top-10 prospect in all of baseball.
2. MacKenzie Gore (LHP/SP)
How much stock can you place in 21.1 innings of professional ball, all of which took place at the lowest level of the minors? Well, there are no locks when it comes to prospects, especially pitching ones, but the ceiling for Gore is pretty high. With a fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and good command of all four pitches, he received rave reviews during his stint in the Arizona League. He walked seven and struck out 34 in those 21.1 innings, allowing a .184 batting average against. It will be interesting to see how far the Padres push the number three overall pick in the June draft, but it’s not a stretch to say that the left-hander has ace potential, despite his obvious distance from the majors.
3. Michel Baez (RHP/SP)
The Padres signed Baez out of Cuba in December of 2016 for $3 million – the ninth highest bonus of the signing period. Three other Padre prospects signed for more than him (Adrian Morejon – $11 million, Jorge Oña – $7 million, and Luis Almanzar, $4.05 million), but I have Baez ahead of all of them right now because of how dominant he was in 2017 and the loud tools that he flashed. At 6-foot-8, his mid to high-90s fastball has a steep plane, and he’s comfortable throwing his breaking pitches at any point in the count. As a 21-year-old, he was older than many of his TinCaps teammates in Fort Wayne, but still almost a whole year younger than the league average, which made his eye-popping eight walks and 82 K’s in 58.2 IP even more impressive. The only blemish on his stat line is the eight longballs he gave up in his ten Single-A starts, but for his first season in pro ball, he was quite impressive.
4. Luis Urías (2B/SS)
After winning the Cal League MVP in 2016, Urías’ encore performance in 2017 was off to a hot start, as he put together a .343/.433/.480 hitting line during the first two months (50 games, 234 plate appearances) of the season. The four homers he hit during that stretch, however, would be his only of the year, and after a tough June followed by an ankle injury, he went .258/.370/.299 the rest of the way. Are you getting tired of reading that a good Padres prospect was young for the league? Well, get used to it – he was (at least until Josh Naylor was promoted in the middle of the year). He still has the best hit tool in the system and is a solid bet to make it to the majors, but without elite defense or speed, his floor might just be your basic everyday player – which isn’t a bad thing, per se. Still, there’s a lot to like about a player that walks (12.8% rate) more than he strikes out (12.4% rate), and if the power develops, well… that’d be awesome.
It’s tough putting the former 1st round pick (2016) this low on the list, but 2017 showed that he still has a few things to work out before being back 100% from Tommy John surgery. The hype has cooled a little, as some are seeing Quantrill as more of a middle of the rotation guy than a future ace, but I believe he’s got the head on his shoulders to get where he wants to be. I asked him about some of his struggles in August, and he said “We’re trying to take the route that’s going to lead to long-term success and success at the big leagues, and that means doing some things that I’m uncomfortable with – throwing the breaking ball in counts where I wouldn’t normally throw the breaking ball. Attacking hitters inside when I could just easily go outside. Little things, which long term, if I’m able to master that or become better at it, I think it will lead to better results at each of the following levels. But at times, I’m getting beat right now.” He’s still not 100% back from his surgery, but if/when he does, he will get beat a lot less.
6. Adrian Morejon (LHP/SP)
With an $11 million signing bonus in 2016, expectations for the 18-year-old lefty hurler are understandably high. Though the stat line at the end of the season wasn’t particularly impressive (3.86 ERA, 16 walks and 58 K’s in 63 innings), it’s difficult to overstate the fact that he was almost four whole years younger than the average player in the Midwest League. The 6-foot Cuban was painting in short-season Tri-City, to the tune of a 0.8 BB/9 rate, but ballooned to a 4.2 BB/9 rate in Fort Wayne. While not nearly as physically imposing as Baez, his success at such a young age are tantalizing, even if he’s still a few years away from the majors.
7. Anderson Espinoza (RHP/SP)
Like John Conniff, I toyed with the idea of not even including Espinoza on this list. It certainly would’ve made things easier, since there really are so many worthy guys that ended up on the cutting room floor. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery this past summer (and subsequently not being able to return to pitching until 2019, he’s still an impact arm if healthy. Waiting is the hardest part, and I wish the Padres would stop dragging my heart around with these arm injuries, but there’s no reason to see Espinoza’s stock start freefalling… yet. Here’s hoping that the high 90s heat and an advanced curveball return when he’s ready.
8. Joey Lucchesi (LHP/SP)
Taken in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Lucchesi has been grouped with Quantrill and fellow starting pitcher Eric Lauer since they got their start in short-season Tri-City. Though drafted lower than Quantrill and Lauer, he outperformed them both in 2017, posting a 10.9 K/9 rate in High-A Lake Elsinore before being promoted to Double-A. Leaving the hitter-friendly confines of the Cal League was great for his ERA as well, as it dropped from 2.52 to 1.79. At 24 years of age, he’s the oldest guy on my list, and he may be the next one to make his debut in San Diego. Though some scouts attributed his success in High-A to his deception, his continued success in Double-A is encouraging, even if his ceiling isn’t that of an All-Star caliber pitcher. I interviewed Austin Allen, who caught many of the Padres big prospects who filtered through Lake Elsinore this year, and he said that Lucchesi’s “churve” is “probably one of the best pitches I’ve caught”. If he can fend for himself in the Pacific Coast League, he’ll likely be making starts in Petco Park before too long.
9. Franchy Cordero (OF)
I’ve been accused of being a bit of a homer when it comes to Franchy, so this may be higher than others would put him in their respective Top 30s. For me, a lot of his value comes from his proximity to the majors. He’s able to use his explosive speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths (he had 21 triples last season – three with San Diego, and the rest in Triple-A El Paso), and the converted shortstop was able to put on an impressive display in the outfield. According to Baseball Savant, had 4 OAA (outs above average) in his limited time in San Diego, which placed him above the likes of A.J. Pollock and Cam Maybin. He’s got some pop in his bat as well, but the big question will be if he can limit his strikeouts. He kept them at manageable levels in 2015 and 2016 (23.1% and 25.6%, respectively). It bumped up again to 28.1% in Triple-A last year, which paled in comparison to the gruesome 44.4% K rate he posted with the Friars. He’ll still be 22 when the season starts, and there’s still time for him to improve his contact rate. If he can, he has a floor of a fourth outfielder but could compete for playing time as a starter.
10. Hudson Potts (3B)
Reports on draft day in 2016 said that Potts (then going by the name of Hudson Sanchez) was a bit of a stretch with the 24th overall pick. The Padres were able to save some money and sign Reggie Lawson and Mason Thompson to over-slot deals, but in 2017, Potts proved that anyone sleeping on him needed to wake up. He slashed .347/.391/.661 the last 30 games of the season, and crushed nine of his 20 homers during that stretch. He has some swing and miss in his game, but more concerning is his 4.4% walk rate. If he can draw more free passes and keep up his power, he could be a big threat at the plate, and his defense at third is pretty solid, too. It’s also worth noting that as an 18-year-old, he had a grand total of three plate appearances against pitchers younger than him.
11. Josh Naylor (1B)
Things I like about Josh Naylor’s game: he has a plus hit tool, he can draw walks (8.8% walk rate), and he is a lot faster on the basepaths than you’d think for a guy his size. He also plays a pretty good first base, although, at 6-feet, it’d be nice if he was a few inches taller. The biggest issue that I (and others) have is that the in-game power hasn’t really shown up yet. He flashes it in abundance in batting practice (as well as during the first edition of the Padres Futures Game last year), but you typically want your slugging first basemen to be slugging more than .415, which he did between High-A and Double-A last year. He had 25 doubles against 10 homers, which sounds more like Yonder Alonso than it does Anthony Rizzo, and from what I saw in San Antonio, he seemed content to spray the ball to all fields rather than wait out a pitch he could drive. Still, keep in mind that the 20-year-old had (*highlight, edit, copy, paste*) a grand total of five plate appearances against pitchers younger than him. The power needs to manifest itself more for him to climb the ranks, and eventually make it to the majors.
12. Logan Allen (LHP/SP)
Few players were as consistent as Logan Allen was in 2017. In 13 starts in Single-A, he went five innings or more in all but two of them, he never struck out less than five hitters, and he only gave up more than two runs once. After posting a 2.11 ERA and an 11.2 K/9 rate, the 20-year-old was promoted to the more hitter-friendly Cal League. While his ERA jumped to 3.97, opponents slugged just .367 against him, and he still struck out more than a batter an inning. The lefty has a fastball with good sinking movement that can touch 94 MPH, and he very well could turn out to be the steal of the Craig Kimbrel trade.
13. Jacob Nix (RHP/SP)
Nix is the owner of some of the best outings in the system this past year (including a complete game two-hitter in High-A), as well as some of the worst (allowing eight earned runs in two-thirds of an inning in Double-A). He’s got one of the better fastballs in the organization, and he’s a strike thrower, allowing just 1.8 BB/9 over two levels. He did well for El Paso in the Pacific Coast League playoffs, and I know a lot of my compadres at MadFriars are high on him, but I’d like to see him be more consistent before moving him into my top 10. Opposing batters hit .281/.339/.325 off him in Double-A last year, but he’s still 21 and could be a solid middle of the rotation horse.
14. Eric Lauer (LHP/SP)
After breezing through the Cal League with a 2.79 ERA and an 11.2 K/9 rate, Lauer stumbled a bit in Double-A, including a rough three-game stretch where he allowed 19 runs in 15.1 innings. That definitely impacted his stat line at the level, but he finished strong, posting a 1.00 ERA in his final five outings of the regular season, striking out 26 and walking nine in 27 innings. The former first-round pick seems more like a back-end starter at this point, with four solid enough pitches, though none would be considered elite.
15. Enyel De Los Santos (RHP/SP)
Pitching in Double-A for all of 2017, De Los Santos was the youngest member of San Antonio’s starting rotation until Jacob Nix (15 days younger) came along. Solid but not overly spectacular, the 6-foot-3 Dominican wields a powerful mid-90s fastball to pair with a curve and a change, but command issues have led to some inflated numbers. Strangely, De Los Santos’ splits against the Midland RockHounds (Texas League champs for 2017) and the rest of the league were quite stark. In eight starts against Midland, he threw 38.1 innings, posting a 7.51 ERA and a 4.5 BB/9. In his 18 appearances against the rest of the league (111.2 innings), he boasted a 2.50 ERA and limited his walks to 2.3 BB/9. A lot of attention will be given to starters in the upper minors like Jacob Nix, Cal Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi, and Eric Lauer, but De Los Santos could turn some heads with a hot start in 2018.
16. Austin Allen (C)
The biggest knocks on Allen’s game are his receiving skills and his ability to control the running game. The latter is definitely a concern (Lake Elsinore put together an 18% Caught Stealing percentage, good for dead last in the Cal League, and 20 points behind first-place Visalia), but I believe in Allen’s other abilities behind the dish. At 6-feet-4, he’s definitely on the tall side for a catcher, but I think the bat will play well enough to cover up any minor defensive deficiencies. Replicating his Cal League slash line of .283/.353/.497 will be tough to do in Double-A San Antonio, but for a power guy, he doesn’t strike out too much (21.1% K rate) and can draw a walk now and then.
17. Franmil Reyes (OF)
Left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft, the Padres are betting that his age and a broken hamate bone will keep Reyes in the organization. If a tanking team like, oh, the Padres were to nab him in the Rule 5 Draft, I’d be interested, but there’s not too many of those, and it’d still be hard to keep a 21-year-old who batted .258 in Double-A on a major league roster for the whole season. The main attraction here is Reyes’ power, as he led the organization with 25 round-trippers in 2017. A National League scout that I talked to said he wasn’t impressed with how he moved in the outfield, which is understandable for someone who is 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, but man, I’d love to see how that power plays in a few years at the big league level. He doesn’t strike out too much (23.7% K rate), and his walk rate is a steady 8.5%, but he pops it up more than you’d like, and sometimes tries to pull it too much. I mean, when he gets ahold of it, it goes really far, but hopefully, an adjustment in his approach can help him reach base a little more often while maintaining the pop.
18. Esteury Ruiz (2B)
Based on pure ceiling, Ruiz should probably be a few spots higher on this one, but there’s plenty of time for that once the 18-year-old is playing above the Arizona Rookie League. Acquired from Kansas City in July, he lit it up in Arizona, slashing .419/.440/.779 in his first 21 professional games with the Royals. He couldn’t quite maintain that level of domination (or that .516 BABIP) once he was dealt to San Diego, but a .300/.364/.475 hitting line is nothing to sniff at. More than the numbers, he’s a player that A.J. Preller described as a power-speed combination, as evidenced by his 26 stolen bases (was caught five times) and 34 extra base hits in 52 games. Wait, I guess those are more numbers. Seeing him and Gabriel Arias together in Fort Wayne this season will be a treat for TinCaps fans.
19. Gabriel Arias (SS)
Speaking of Arias, here’s another guy that smarter people than me are really high on. As of right now, his defense is his loudest tool, and like fellow shortstop Javier Guerra, his offense isn’t on par with his defense. A .524 OPS in Single-A isn’t much to write home about, but it’s telling that the organization thought enough of him to jump from the Arizona League to the Midwest League, especially considering the shortstops that stayed put in Low-A Tri-City. If he can handle the stick, he’ll be much higher the next go-around, and he’s still just 17- years old.
20. Chris Paddack (RHP/SP)
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in July of 2016, Paddack missed all of 2017, but threw some bullpen sessions over the summer, and could be ready to go by spring training. Before his injury, he made nine Single-A starts (six in the Sally League with the Marlins organization, and three with Fort Wayne), and he put together an impressive 0.85 ERA in 42.1 innings, including a whopping 15.1 K/9 and a minuscule 1.1 BB/9. Time will tell how well he recovers and whether or not he’s still able to miss bats at a similar rate. I toyed with the idea of leaving him off since all bets are off once a pitcher goes under the knife, but he’s definitely an arm to watch for in 2018.
21. Trey Wingenter (RHP/RP)
Spoiler alert – I have three relievers in my top 30. This seems high, and I totally understand why someone would be reluctant to have any relievers at all. Many relievers are failed starters, so those who start out in the bullpen from the get-go might be drowned out by arms that are moved to the bullpen later in their careers. That being said, Wingenter is the closest to the majors and is fresh off a 20-save campaign in Double-A. The 6’7” righty sports a blazing fastball that can touch triple digits and pairs it with a slider that allowed him to post a 12.1 K/9 rate in 2017. After not allowing a homer in his first two years as a pro, he allowed six in the Texas League (in 47.2 innings), and that kept me from ranking him higher here. Assuming he starts 2018 in the Pacific Coast League, his ability to keep the ball in the park will be tested.
22. Luis Campusano (C)
The first catcher taken in the 2017 draft (39th overall pick/2nd round), reports on Campusano rated him as a hitter with lots of raw power and a strong arm, with some work to do with blocking and receiving. In 37 games with the AZL Padres, the Georgia prep product hit .269/.344/.388 with four dingers. He also showed good plate discipline, striking out just 16.6% of the time and posting a 9.9 BB/9 rate. Yes, yes, a small sample size (151 plate appearances) at the lowest level of pro ball, but still, there’s lots to be interested in, even if the thought of a Padres catcher besides Austin Hedges gets you feeling emotional.
23. Jorge Oña (OF)
Signed out of Cuba for $7 million by A.J. Preller, Oña got off to a cold start in Single-A Fort Wayne. Heralded as a slugging corner outfielder, he hit a solid .277 in the Midwest League, but only mustered hit just 11 dingers and hit for a .405 slugging percentage. It’s a little too early for me to bail on his potential, which the Padres scouting department obviously saw, but if he isn’t able to put up some bigger numbers in the Cal League, then I’ll start getting worried. At the very least, he seems able to get on base at a decent enough clip (.351 OBP, 8.6% walk rate).
24. Mason House (OF)
The Padres 3rd round pick in the June draft got off to a hot start in the AZL, hitting eight triples and a pair of homers in 39 games en route to a .293/.354/.463 slash line. After getting some playing time in center, the 18-year-old prep product out of Texas was moved to right field, where he’s a solid defender with a decent enough arm. He has quick hands at the plate and could climb this list with a solid start in 2018.
25. Hansel Rodriguez (RHP/RP)
I mentioned in Trey Wingenter’s piece that lots of times guys that start out as relievers have to compete for playing time with starters that get moved to the bullpen. Rodriguez is one of those. After coming over from Toronto in the Melvin Upton Jr. trade, he struggled at Low-A Tri-City, to the tune of a 6.97 ERA in six starts (20+ innings). After ten starts at Single-A Fort Wayne this year (5.62 ERA), they decided that they’d seen enough and moved him to the bullpen, where he became dominant. In 25 relief appearances, he had a 1.56 ERA and struck out 56 hitters in 40.1 innings (12.5 K/9). He has a high-90s fastball and a slider that completely overmatched most of the Midwest League. As a recently-reformed starter, he also had no problem going multiple innings in his appearances, and on more than one occasion I audibly chuckled to myself seeing him dominate on a fuzzy MiLB.tv feed. Fun guy to watch.
26. Pedro Avila (RHP/SP)
After an aggressive beginning-of-the-year placement in High-A Lake Elsinore didn’t go so well, Avila repeated Single-A, having spent all of 2016 there as a 19-year-old in the Nationals system. Despite his struggles (4.98 ERA, .357 OBP against), he still managed to strike out 11 batters per nine innings – what hurt him was his 3.7 BB/9 rate. The trip east to Fort Wayne seemed to soothe his control issues, as he increased his K/9 rate to 12.3, and shrunk his BB/9 rate to 1.6. Among his 14 outings for the TinCaps was a 17-strikeout performance, and altogether, he had four double-digit strikeout appearances. He’ll get another shot at the Cal League in 2018.
27. Andres Muñoz (RHP/RP)
The outpouring of love for Muñoz during the Arizona Fall League games that were televised was impressive, but I suppose it’s easy to fall in love with easy triple-digit heat and a nearly-unhittable slider. He was (*highlight, copy, edit, paste*) the youngest player in the AFL, and struck out 11 hitters in 8.2 innings, allowing just four hits. As an 18-year-old who threw less than three innings of Single-A ball, he still has a ways to go before he’s ready for the Show, but his stuff should play at most levels, and it will be interesting to see how aggressive the Padres are in promoting the young Mexican righty.
28. Justin Lopez (SS)
Hey, guess what? You’re not going to believe it, but there’s another player who was the youngest player in his league! Crazy, right? Yep, Justin Lopez, born in May of 2000, was the youngest player at the start of the short-season Northwest League. Tri-City was an interesting team to follow, as they had lots of young talent on the field, particularly up the middle. Shortstop was an interesting carousel, as Lopez shared time with Luis Almanzar (17 years old) and Kelvin Melean (18 years old). All struggled offensively, with Lopez having a slightly higher OPS than either of them (.615), but in limited exposure (only one team in the Northwest League broadcasts their games on MiLB.tv), I liked what I saw from Lopez the most. He is a far superior fielder than Almanzar (Baseball America rated him as the best defensive infielder in the Padres system), and though he lacks Almanzar’s power, I still liked his approach and swing.
29. Tirso Ornelas (OF)
I’m a sucker for a great baseball name, and Tirso Ornelas has one of those. More than a unique moniker, he has what is lacking with many hitters in the Padres system – plate discipline. In an admittedly small sample size (238 plate appearances in the Arizona Rookie League), he produced a 16.8% walk rate and a .399 OBP. As a 17-year-old in his first year of pro ball, that is very impressive. Though he spent most of his time in centerfield, the 6-foot-4Tijuana native profiles more as a corner outfielder. He has some pop in his bat, swatting 17 extra-base hits (including three taters) in 53 AZL games, though he didn’t attempt a single steal.
30. Jordy Barley (SS)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for a cool million dollars, Barley is a strong, athletic infielder that carries a big stick. The soon-to-be 18-year-old has plenty to figure out, as evidenced by his .292 OBP, but there’s plenty of in-game power on display (21 extra base hits in 49 games). His 30 errors at shortstop are very Franchy Cordero-esque (before he made his transition to the outfield), but it’s too soon to make any snap decisions on where he plays defense in the future – if he makes it, it’s because his bat will carry him.
There are a few notable names I left off my list, including Michael Gettys, Reggie Lawson, and Jeisson Rosario, who I fully expect to make me look like a fool come spring time. However, there is a quartet of starting pitchers that it pained me to leave off, so I’ll highlight them briefly here:
Luis Patino – I started following Patino once I saw that the AZL Padres had a pitcher I’d never heard of striking out more than a batter an inning as a 17-year-old. He allowed more than one run in just two of his nine appearances, but not being physically in Arizona, I don’t know much about him. According to John Conniff’s blurb about him, the Padres brass are high on him, and that’s good enough for me.
Brett Kennedy – Overshadowed by the rest of the big names in the San Antonio rotation, Kennedy (who turned 23 in August) is a solid innings eater who throws strikes and can miss a few bats.
Nick Margevicius – San Diego’s 7th round pick in 2017 out of Rider University in New Jersey, Margevicius had a 1.24 ERA for Tri-City, to go along with a 9.9 K/9 and a 1.2 BB/9. He’s a 6-foot-5 lefty with a low-90s fastball and a decent curve, and I think he’d get a lot more attention in an organization with less pitching depth.
Henry Henry – I already mentioned that I’m a sucker for good baseball names, and Henry Henry is probably my favorite (now that Archi Cianfrocco has retired). The 18-year-old Dominican righty didn’t allow a homer in 51 Northwest League innings, and at 6-foot-4, has the size you’d like to see on the mound.