In reviewing notes and compiling another top-30 prospect list, one word kept coming to mind as I combed through the San Diego system: turnover.
Sure, the organization has as much young talent and depth in the system as they ever have, but many of the names that comprised last year’s list have made their big league debuts and are no longer classified as prospects. Four of my top five last year have graduated to the big leagues and eight of my top 30 overall exhausted their prospect eligibility. The good news? There is more than enough talent to fill in that list.
When you view the organization as a whole, the strengths are starting pitching and up-the-middle position players. The Padres have an embarrassment of riches in talented arms and several players on the dirt who have a clear path to playing in San Diego in the not-too-distant future.
Gone from last year
Graduates: (1) SS Fernando Tatis Jr., (2) RHP Chris Paddack, (4) INF Luis Urías, (5) C Francisco Mejía, (10) RHP Cal Quantrill, (11) OF/1B Josh Naylor, (24) RHP Andres Muñoz, (29) INF Ty France.
No longer in the organization: (7) LHP Logan Allen (traded to Cleveland in the Franmil Reyes deal), (13) Xavier Edwards (traded to Tampa Bay with Hunter Renfroe for Tommy Pham), (18) C Austin Allen and (21) OF Buddy Reed (traded to Oakland for Jurickson Profar).
I don’t have an exact science on how I rank players. I look at performance and stats, I talk to players and managers. I saw a lot of these guys in spring training, I covered games live in Lake Elsinore, I talk edto the guys from our site that have interviewed and seen these guys live, and I watched the system through the MILB app which is definitely worth the money. I think that my knowledge and insight has grown each year and my preferences have also started to become more refined. I like to look at tools and the likelihood that a player develops a plus tool. Starting pitchers are inherently more valuable than relievers and this year I didn’t rank any pure relievers. I also look at positions of value; I’m more inclined to rank shortstops and center fielders higher than other positions.
Top 30 heading into the 2020 season
1) LHP MacKenzie Gore
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore and Amarillo): 9-2, 1.69 ERA in 20 starts. 101 IP, 56 H, 28 BB, 135 K.
As easy as it was to select Fernando Tatis Jr. as the number one prospect in the system a year ago, it was just as easy to choose Gore as the top prospect in one of baseball’s best farm systems. In fact, many national publications will consider Gore as the top prospect in all of baseball.
Gore suffered through an injury-plagued 2018 but was completely healthy in 2019, with his previous blister issues being a thing of the past. The 20-year-old took his game to another level, turning the Cal League into his own personal playground. Gore never allowed more than two runs in any of his 15 starts for Lake Elsinore and didn’t allow any runs in seven. Gore’s 1.02 ERA was the best in the league, among pitchers who threw at least 70 innings. His 38% K-rate also paced the league.
In the handful of looks I had at Gore, it was obvious that he was simply too advanced for the Cal League.
He generally dominated with two pitches, throwing a mid 90s fastball and a very good changeup that might be his best off-speed offering. In other outings, he threw his curve a little more but never really seemed to have all of his offerings working at any time. He didn’t need them in Lake Elsinore but he will definitely need to be a little sharper at the upper levels. Still, Gore is easily the best pitching prospect the Padres have had in many years.
Assuming everything goes well, he has a realistic chance to pitch in the big leagues in 2020. Gore can become the anchor of the Padres pitching staff and a bonafide ace at the big league level.
2020: Gore should open the season in Amarillo, but it would not be a surprise to see him in San Diego next year.
2) RHP Luis Patiño
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore and Amarillo): 6-8, 2.57 ERA in 20 games (19 starts). 94.2 IP, 69 H, 38 BB, 123 K.
Luis Patiño put together a very good 2019 campaign that resulted in his participation in the MLB All-Star Futures Game where he shined on a national stage. Strangely, Patiño was not named to the Cal League All-Star team, despite dominant numbers.
The 20-year-old hurler has a three-pitch mix — using a mid-90s fastball that topped out at 99 mph in the Futures Game, a slider and a changeup. The slider is his best off-speed offering and was a big part of why Patiño was able to punch out 31.6% of batters he faced with the Storm to rank just behind Gore on Cal League leader boards.
The young righty did his best work in July, as he pitched to a 1.19 ERA in four starts, including a game on the road in San Jose in which he threw a career-high 8.1 innings. If Gore’s ceiling is a staff ace, there is no reason to believe that Patiño can’t be a very good number two on the next great Padres club.
2020: Patiño may get an invite to big league camp this spring but should ultimately open up the season in Amarillo.
3) INF CJ Abrams
2019 stats (AZL Padres and Fort Wayne): .393/.436/.647, 13 2B, 8 3B, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 11 BB, 14 K, 15 SB.
Abrams, the Padres’ first-rounder in June’s draft, made quite a first impression on the organization with his superior ability to make consistent contact. He had the lowest K-rate in the Arizona League, striking out in just nine percent of his plate appearances. The infielder hit .401 in 152 plate appearances in the Arizona League, which included a 20-game hitting streak to start his professional career.
The infielder added 23 extra-base hits, including eight triples, which tied for the league lead. With true top-of-the-scale speed, he could be the fastest runner in the organization. Abrams may never be a big home run hitter but he should be a candidate to hit 30 doubles and 10 triples each year.
For now, the organization will let him play shortstop until he proves he can’t but his superior athleticism should make him a candidate to play center field. With the recent trade of Xavier Edwards, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Abrams slide over to second base and gets some reps there. During the Don Welke Classic, Abrams, Edwards and Tucupita Marcano moved all around the infield, so Abrams has at least worked at second base as a professional. His bat is special and it wouldn’t be impossible to see him in Double-A by the end of next season.
2020: Abrams should be in Fort Wayne to open the season.
4) OF Taylor Trammell
2019 stats (Double-A Chattanooga and Amarillo): .234/.340/.349, 102 H, 12 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 57 BB, 122 K, 20 SB.
Trammell, 22, was acquired in July when San Diego sent OF Franmil Reyes, LHP Logan Allen, and INF Victor Nova to the Indians as part of a three-team deal with the Reds. The trade was little controversial among Padres fans, as the popular Reyes was moved for another prospect, albeit one with great potential.
At first glance, Trammell’s numbers are a bit underwhelming but he has a few skills that stand out. He has tremendous speed and should be able to stick defensively in center, although there are some questions about his throwing arm, which is below average. If the Padres choose to move him to left, he could win a Gold Glove there.
At the plate, Trammell has a good eye and has walked in at least 12% of his plate appearances in each of the last three years and his overall offensive production has been above league average in all four of his professional seasons.
Of course, Trammell introduced himself to Padres’ fans by socking a go-ahead grand slam in game five of the Texas League Championship Series. His .310/.356/.643 slash-line in the playoffs gives him something to build on going into 2020.
2020: Trammell could be bumped up to Triple-A, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in Amarillo to open the season.
5) C Luis Campusano
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore): .325/.396/.509, 31 2B, 3B, 15 HR, 81 RBI, 52 BB, 57 K.
2019 was a breakout season for Campusano, who won co-MVP honors in the California League and put up one of the best hitting lines in the entire system. The 21-year-old catcher won the batting title with a .325 average and his 148 wRC+ ranked second on the circuit. Perhaps the most impressive part of Campusano’s offensive game was the power he produced without sacrificing contact; he struck out in just 11.7% of his plate appearances, which was the lowest in the league. Campusano finished in the top-five in most offensive categories and was named co-MVP of the California League.
The backstop is a fierce competitor and can be intense behind the plate. Storm manager Tony Tarasco says that he plays with “mean intentions.” That edge helped him become one of the best players in a loaded farm system.
Behind the plate, he has been lauded by Storm pitchers for his ability to call a game and he should be an above-average defensive catcher. He has a good throwing arm but has a tends, which led to some poor throws. His 23% caught stealing percentage is still passable. There have been some concerns with his durability behind the plate, as he has had a few concussions over the last two seasons.
Campusano’s bat has the potential to be special and he should have a chance to have a very good big-league career.
2020: The Georgia-born backstop should be the starter in Amarillo.
6) LHP Adrian Morejon
2019 Stats (Amarillo): 0-4, 4.25 ERA in 16 starts. 36 IP, 29 H, 17 ER, 15 BB, 44 K. 10.13 ERA in eight innings with the Padres.
The 20-year-old Cuban made his big league in July, capping off a fast rise for the Cuban hurler. Morejon was the recipient of the largest amateur bonus in club history when the organization signed him for $11 million in 2016.
Morejon has battled nagging injuries throughout his career and 2019 was no exception. He hit the injured list early in the season with a vaguely-described shoulder injury and then spent the rest of his minor league tenure as an “opener” for Amarillo, pitching in two-inning spurts.
The southpaw has premium stuff, which includes a mid-90s fastball, a curve and a changeup that is his best offspeed offering. He racked up 44 strikeouts in 36 innings with Amarillo and averaged more than a strikeout per inning in an abbreviated stint with the big league club which ended when he went back on the injured list with a left shoulder impingement.
There is no doubt that Morejon possesses the stuff of a top-tier starter, although the injuries are a major concern. Morejon has never thrown more than 65 innings in any of his three professional seasons and should be on an innings count in 2020, which will limit his ability to make the big league rotation out of spring. The obvious concern with Morejon is that he might not be durable enough to be a full-time starter in the big leagues. However, his stuff is good enough that you can dream about him being part of the next great Padres rotation.
2020: Morejon should open the season back with Amarillo.
7) SS Gabriel Arias
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore): .302/.339/.470, 62 R, 144 H, 21 2B, 4 3B, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 25 BB, 128 K.
Arias had a tremendous year for Lake Elsinore and perhaps improved his prospect stock more than anyone in the entire system. The shortstop belted 17 homers and produced a .809 OPS while flashing the tools to be an elite defender. The 19-year-old improved as the season went along and he produced a .909 OPS in the second half.
While Arias’ offensive production is encouraging, there are still some signs of concern. Arias’ swinging-strike percentage was 21.5%, which led the California League, although he did make some strides in the second half. His 4.9% walk rate was the second-lowest in the league and his BABIP of .379 was the third-highest in the league.
Arias probably won’t hit .300 in the upper levels of the minors, but he should be a guy with double-digit homers and above-average defense. He will need to find a way to be more selective at the plate but there’s little doubt that Arias will be a big leaguer in the not-too-distant future.
2020: Arias should be in Amarillo to start next season
8) LHP Joey Cantillo
2019 stats (Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore): 10-4. 2.26 ERA in 22 games. 111.2 IP, 70 H, 28 ER, 34 BB, 144 K.
19-year-old Joey Cantillo was a revelation this season and appears to be another late-round find for the Padres in the A.J. Preller era. The former 16th-rounder pitched to a 1.93 ERA in 98 innings with the TinCaps and was fourth in the league (minimum of 90 innings) in K’s per nine innings (11.76) and his 34% K-rate was the highest in the Midwest League.
Cantillo doesn’t throw particularly hard but he has added some velocity to his heater. In most of the looks I had at him, he sat 87-90 mph with his fastball but he did hit 94 mph in a game while with the TinCaps. He still has room to grow and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him add 2-3 mph over the next few years. He also has a changeup that he throws with a Vulcan grip and a curveball.
Cantillo is on the rise and he should firmly be a top-five prospect in the system by the end of 2020 season with another year of production. He should also get some top-100 consideration from the big baseball publications.
2020: Cantillo should be in the Lake Elsinore rotation to start next year.
9) RHP Michel Baez
2019 stats (Amarillo): 3-2, 2.00 ERA. 27 IP, 22 H, 6 ER, 14 BB, 28 K. 1-1, 3.03 ERA in 24 games with San Diego.
Baez, 23, started the year on the injured list before being activated during the final week of May. After starting in the first 32 appearances of his professional career, Baez pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for Amarillo, generally pitching two innings at a time. Baez had his contract purchased by the Padres on July 21st and spent the rest of the year pitching out of the Padres’ bullpen.
The Cuban-born hurler pitched fairly well out of the ‘pen for the Padres but struggled with his command at times. When Baez is on, he has a mid-90s fastball with a changeup and a curve. He averaged 96 mph on his heater out of the bullpen for the Padres this year and sat 93-95 mph as a starter in 2018 while with Lake Elsinore.
When Baez is healthy, he has the stuff to be a dominant starter. Much like Morejon, the reliever risk with Baez is real, although I place him in the top-ten because I still have faith he can start. If he can’t start, Baez should function as a potentially dominant reliever who should see plenty of action in high leverage situations.
2020: Baez should challenge for a spot in the San Diego bullpen. However, he should also function as a dark-horse candidate for the starting rotation.
10) LHP Ryan Weathers
2019 stats (Fort Wayne): 3-7, 3.84 ERA in 22 starts. 96 IP, 101 H, 41 ER, 18 BB, 90 K.
Weathers, 19, dominated in the first two months of the season with the TinCaps before going on the injured list with what was described a dead arm. Before the injury, Weathers had an ERA under two while averaging well over a strikeout per inning. After returning from the injured list, Weathers’ fastball velocity was down a few ticks from the 93-94 mph he displayed early in the season.
Weathers was a little more hittable in the second half, although he did fall victim to some bad luck with balls in play. Still, when all is going right, Weathers locates his fastball well while throwing a slider that functions as a strikeout pitch. He also has a changeup but he didn’t need it too often in the Midwest League. It will be interesting to see if he throws it more as he faces more advanced hitters.
Weathers will inevitably be compared to MacKenzie Gore because they were both high school lefties who were drafted in the first round. Weathers repertoire isn’t as dominant as Gore but Weathers has the stuff to function as a very good starter with mid-rotation upside or better. If Weathers can consistently keep his velocity in the 93-94 mph range, he could dominate the Cal League next year.
2020: Weathers should open the season in the Lake Elsinore rotation.
11) RHP Reggie Lawson
2019 stats (Amarillo): 3-1, 5.20 ERA in six starts. 27.2 IP, 28 H, 16 ER, 13 BB, 36 K.
Perhaps this is a bit of an ambitious spot to put a pitcher who missed most of last year with an elbow injury but Lawson is one of the most talented pitchers in the system.
When healthy, he features a fastball that sits 93-96 mph with a spike curveball, a changeup and a slider that he unveiled last year during the instructional league. Lawson shelved the slider as he worked to get back into action down the stretch this summer to take some pressure off of his elbow. Assuming that Lawson is healthy next season, the pitch adds another weapon to his already impressive arsenal.
Lawson had a couple of poor outings to start the year in Amarillo but some of that can be attributed to the altitude of HODGETOWN. During the Don Welke Classic, he looked healthy and showed excellent command of his fastball. Lawson went the Arizona Fall League and dominated in limited competition, striking out 14 with just two walks in 11 innings, allowing just three hits.
In addition to his stuff, Lawson is a tremendous athlete who has packed on some muscle since entering the system in 2016. Assuming Lawson is in good health, he could rise into the top five by the end of the year.
2020: Lawson should open up the season in Amarillo next season.
12) OF Edward Olivares
2019 stats (Amarillo): .283/.349/.453, 85 R, 138 H, 25 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 43 BB, 98 K, 35 SB.
Edward Olivares was a bit streaky in 2019 but he also made strides in his approach at the plate. In his first two months, Olivares hit under .260 with a 23.5% K-rate. Over the next three months, Olivares struck out in just 14.7% of his plate appearances. Despite the reduction in his strikeouts, Olivares still displayed plenty of power and finished seventh in the Texas League in slugging percentage. His 123 wRC+ finished eighth in the league, just behind teammates Luis Torrens and Ivan Castillo.
Olivares also was a menace on the basepaths and finished third in the league with 35 stolen bases. He is a strong defensive outfielder with enough arm for right field, where he played 105 of his 121 games. He can play center but probably profiles best at a corner.
If there is a question mark on Olivares, it would be how his production cratered away from Amarillo. He hit 13 of his 17 homers at HODGETOWN and his OPS was just .697 on the road, as opposed to .907 at home.
Olivares improved greatly as a hitter and his increase in contact was encouraging. He may never be a superstar but Olivares has shown enough with the bat to enter the outfield conversation in 2020. While he faces an uphill battle to make the big league club this spring, he’s a very good depth option. I believe that Olivares could be a good, everyday outfielder in the big leagues if he reaches his ceiling.
2020: Olivares should be the starting right fielder and an anchor in the lineup for El Paso.
13) INF Owen Miller
2019 stats (Amarillo): .290/.355/.430, 76 R, 147 H, 28 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 46 BB, 86 K.
Miller is best described as solid but not necessarily spectacular. There are prospects in the system with better tools and more potential than the Wisconsin native. However, Miller does everything well and seems likely to have a high floor.
Miller spent the whole year in Amarillo — his first full professional season — and hit well all year. He homered 13 times and had 28 doubles. His 122 wRC+ was ninth in the Texas League. His strikeout rate was the sixth-lowest. He wasn’t a force offensively but was good and consistent. He doesn’t have tremendous range but makes the plays you need him to.
Overall, Miller is just a solid infielder who has a chance to be a good regular. His game reminds me a bit of Mark Loretta — a good contact infielder with a little bit of pop. His defensive versatility makes him a valuable player as well. Miller is a near-lock to make the big leagues at some point, perhaps as early as next year.
2020: Miller should be in El Paso to start the year.
14) OF Hudson Head
2019 stats (AZL Padres): .283/.383/.417, 19 R, 34 H, 7 2B, 3 3B, HR, 12 RBI, 15 BB, 29 K, 3 SB.
Head, 18, was a bit of a surprise pick for the Padres in the third round this June. The Padres paid him $3 million – more than any third-rounder has ever received – to bypass college. The early returns were promising.
Head showed some power to the gaps, an advanced ability to get on base and a sweet, left-handed swing at the plate. He walked in 10% of his plate appearances and his 20% strikeout rate is passable for a player making his pro debut. Head has above-average speed and fits the mold of a guy who will hit at the top of the order. I placed him higher than some of the more established guys in the system because of his athleticism. Outside of C.J. Abrams, he is the most exciting player the Padres acquired in June’s draft.
2020: Depending on the offseason and Spring Training, he’s got a chance to begin the year in the Midwest League as a teenager.
15) INF Hudson Potts
2019 stats: .240/.302/.423, 59 R, 101 H, 24 2B, 3B, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 32 BB, 131 K.
Hudson Potts had a bit of a rough year in Amarillo, his second season in the Texas League. The Texas native showed plenty of power but struggled with strikeouts and a low walk total. Potts did show some improvement in the second half of the season but his sub-.300 on-base percentage remains a bit of a concern.
While Potts improved on the 37% strikeout rate he posted in 22 games with the Missions in 2018, it still hovered at a 28.6% clip this year. His walk rate was about average but he definitely needs to be more selective at the plate. He is still very young, (just turned 21) and is the best corner infield prospect in the Padres system. If Potts can reduce the strikeouts, he could be a 25-30 home run bat.
With Manny Machado entrenched at third base, the organization has tried Potts at second but that’s probably not a realistic option going forward. He’s a decent fielder at third but probably will never be a strong defender. For now, he is a very good young player who will provide depth and a decent trade piece, should the club opt to deal prospects for big league pieces this spring.
2020: Potts should be back in Amarillo to start the year and will still be one of the younger players in the Texas League.
16) OF Tirso Ornelas
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore and AZL Padres): .217/.303/.279, 47 R, 91 H, 13 2B, 5 3B, HR, 41 RBI, 53 BB, 113 K.
No prospect in the Padres’ organization had a tougher year than Tirso Ornelas. The 19-year-old from Tijuana, Mexico, has been a popular player due to his local ties and his potential. He had a solid pro debut in the AZL back in 2017, showed plenty of promise in Fort Wayne in 2018 before finishing the season on the injured list then struggled mightily in Lake Elsinore. So what happened?
From the outside, it seemed that Ornelas had some issues with his mechanics. After limping through the Cal League, the organization sent him all the way back to the Arizona League, where he took 200 swings a day trying to remedy his offensive game. He showed signs of life down the stretch in Elsinore and put together a five-game hitting streak in the Cal League playoffs.
Ornelas still has a good approach at the plate and walked in nearly 11.6% of his plate appearances. The outfielder is still young and even at 20, he will be much younger than the competition he will face next year. While there should be some concern in Ornelas’ development, he still has the tools to deliver on the potential he showed previously.
2020: Ornelas should be back in Lake Elsinore to begin next season.
17) RHP Ronald Bolaños
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore and Amarillo): 13-7, 3.66 ERA in 25 games (23 starts). 130.1 IP, 108 H, 53 BB, 142 K. 0-2 with a 5.95 ERA in 19.2 innings with San Diego.
If there was an award for the most improved player in the Padres’ system, Bolaños would have likely earned that honor. In 2018, the Cuban-born righty spent the year in Lake Elsinore and didn’t show a ton of velocity and was generally unimpressive in the two starts I observed. In 2019, he took a huge step forward.
It all starts with his fastball. Bolaños was sitting 95-97 mph and touched 99 with the Storm after mostly sitting in the low-90s back in 2018 then hit triple-digits upon his promotion to Amarillo. His increased velocity has been a game-changer for him.
Bolaños’s strikeout rate climbed significantly this year, as he averaged over 10 per nine innings in 15 appearances with the Sod Poodles. He issued too many walks and also hit 10 batters in 76.2 innings with the Sod Poodles, so he will need to avoid self-inflicted damage to be successful at the next level. Bolaños did do a good job of limiting the long ball, which is why he was able to post a solid 3.75 FIP.
The righty also throws a pretty good curveball that can dance to the plate in the low-70s and a changeup. While neither pitch has shown to be elite, his curveball is his best secondary. He could use a little more refinement in the minors but there’s no reason why Bolaños can’t develop into a viable starter.
2020: Barring a big spring, Bolaños should open the season in El Paso.
18) INF Tucupita Marcano
2019 stats (Fort Wayne): .270/.323/.337, 55 R, 124 H, 19 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 45 RBI, 35 BB, 45 K, 15 SB.
Marcano, 20, is one of the best contact hitters in the system. The left-handed swinging Venezuelan struck out in just 9% of his plate appearances — which was actually a career-high. He has a good approach at the plate and is able to spray the ball all around the diamond. He also handles left-handed pitching well and should be able to play regularly against southpaws. However, if there is a flaw in Marcano’s game, it is the lack of power.
Marcano hit just two homers and his ISO of .067 was the fifth-lowest amongst Midwest League hitters who qualified for the batting title. His overall offensive production was below-average and he scuffled in the second half, posting an OPS of .641.
Despite the flaws, Marcano is still an interesting prospect. His ability to make contact is rare in professional baseball and if he can fill out a little more, he should develop a little more power. He will never be a power threat but for a player who profiles as a second baseman, that’s perfectly okay. There’s no reason why Marcano can’t be an above-average offensive player who would hit at the top of the order.
2020: Marcano should open the 2020 season in Lake Elsinore.
19) OF Jeisson Rosario
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore): .242/.372/.314, 67 R, 104 H, 14 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 87 BB, 114 K, 11 SB.
Rosario, 20, has been an on-base machine ever since the Padres signed him in their international spending spree of 2016. This year in Lake Elsinore, the fleet-footed center fielder led the league with a 16.6% walk rate and his .372 on-base percentage was fifth in the league. No matter where he plays, Rosario gets on base.
He also finished the year strong, posting a monstrous .304/.453/.446 slash-line in August, drawing 23 walks while striking out just 17 times. In the second half of the season, Rosario walked (54 times) more times than he struck out (52).
Like Marcano, Rosario’s flaw is his lack of power. Rosario slugged just .314 in the Cal League, which represented a career-low. He is also still very passive at the plate and strikes out quite a bit looking. The speedster will need to show he can be more aggressive to do damage on pitches in the strike zone, but he is a freak athlete and still could add more strength.
Rosario is also a fine fielder and should have no issue playing center field. If he can find a little more power next year, there’s no reason to think he won’t crack the top-ten next season. He is one of the best athletes in the entire system.
2020: Rosario should open the season in Amarillo.
20) OF Joshua Mears
2019 stats (AZL Padres): .253/.354/.440, 30 R, 42 H, 4 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 23 BB, 59 K, 9 SB.
Mears, the Padres’ second-round pick in June, adds something that the system sorely lacks; corner outfield power. The 18-year-old from Washington State was a bit of a surprise draft pick but he showed why the organization selected him.
Mears hit seven homers in 200 plate appearances and also showed some athleticism with three triples and nine stolen bases. His strikeouts were a little high but you’d expect that from a player transitioning from high school in the Arizona League.
At 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs., he has the size of a mashing corner outfielder. He will be an interesting player to follow, as he enters his first full professional season in 2020.
2020: Mears should be in the mix for a job in Fort Wayne, although opening in extended spring training seems like a more likely scenario.
21) Esteury Ruiz
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore): .239/.300/.367, 45 R, 81 H, 18 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 26 BB, 101 K.
Ruiz, 20, struggled quite a bit in High-A last year but there is still plenty to like about him. He has power, speed and the tools to become a force at the pate. Despite the talents, there is still cause for concern.
Ruiz struck out in 26% of his plate appearances and only walked 6.8% of the time. He also struggled in the second half, hitting just .192/.233/.256 before landing on the injured list with a hand injury.
Ruiz also started to play left field when the organization promoted Xavier Edwards to Lake Elsinore and that seems like where he will end up. As a second baseman, Ruiz’s offensive potential made him a really interesting player but his defensive struggles there were extensive. I still think that Ruiz has a chance to be an above-average offensive player but he will definitely need to be more disciplined. He will need plenty of development time to reach his potential, so it’s probably best he was bypassed in the Rule 5 draft and has time to grow at an age-appropriate level.
2020: Ruiz should return to Lake Elsinore for a second season.
22) C Blake Hunt
2019 stats (Fort Wayne): .255/.331/.381, 40 R, 85 H, 21 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 39 RBI, 35 BB, 67 K.
Hunt, 21, had a very solid year with the bat in his second full professional season. The Orange County native had a .782 OPS in the second half the year with Fort Wayne and he posted a wRC+ of 108. He struck out in just 19% of his plate appearances, so he has the ability to make consistent contact. The offensive production is nice but what really makes Hunt interesting is what he can do behind the plate.
He is a very intelligent backstop who is adept at calling a game and has as much knowledge about the position as anyone I have covered in the system. He had just five passed balls behind the plate and showed the ability to smother pitches in the dirt to help out the pitching staff and threw out 33% of opposing base stealers.
Catching depth is a strength in the system and Hunt is a big part of that. He doesn’t project to have near the offensive upside of Luis Campusano, but with his abilities behind the plate, he should make it to the big leagues.
2020: Hunt should be the everyday catcher in Lake Elsinore to open the season.
23) C/OF Logan Driscoll
2019 stats (Tri-City): .268/.340/.458, 20 R, 38 H, 14 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 15 BB, 23 K.
The Padres drafted Driscoll, 22, with their competitive balance pick in June. Initially, he was a bit of a surprise pick, as he wasn’t featured prominently in national prospect lists going into the draft. However, Driscoll has some intriguing skills that make him a player worthy of making this list.
Driscoll has the ability to play behind the dish but he can also handle the outfield. He has average speed and could be one of the fastest catchers in all of the minors. He also showed good discipline at the plate and should be able to hit for some power. His 14.7% strikeout rate would have ranked as the fifth-lowest in the Northwest League if he had enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. He had 14 doubles and three homers despite missing a month of the season with a back injury.
The former George Mason star also made some headlines by having a multi-homer game in the Arizona Fall League, after being added to the roster late in the year. He has a sweet, left-handed stroke and his versatility should make him a valuable player as he climbs the ladder.
2020: Driscoll should open next season in Fort Wayne.
24) INF Jordy Barley
2019 stats (Tri-City): .254/.310/.423, 45 R, 71 H, 11 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 22 BB, 98 K, 14 SB.
Barley finally made it out of the Peoria complex in his third professional season and the overall results were encouraging. Barley hit eight homers — the most any Dust Devil hit in the last ten years. He stole 14 bases and was the most exciting player to suit up for the Dust Devils in 2019. However, with all the excitement comes some of Barley’s flaws.
He struck out in over 30% of his plate appearances, including one stretch in August where he punched out 10 times in 13 plate appearances. In the field, he has outstanding range but got erratic with his footwork and made 23 errors in 56 games. Despite the obvious talent and tools, he has a long way to go.
In many ways, he reminds me of Franchy Cordero — an infielder with a ton of tools who has a tendency to be erratic. Like Cordero, Barley might need to move to the outfield. However, his bat has a chance to be special, assuming he can figure everything out. Next year will be critical, as Barley will be Rule 5 eligible next winter.
2020: Barley should open the season in Fort Wayne.
25) INF Justin Lopez
2019 stats (Fort Wayne): .228/.278/.368, 65 R, 101 H, 17 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 28 BB, 119 K.
Lopez, 19, was one of the many infielders the Padres signed in their 2016 international class. He broke out a bit with Fort Wayne this year, belting a career-high 13 homers, a total which led the club. He finished strong down the stretch and looked like he belonged in the Midwest League, despite still being one of the youngest players in his repeat season in the league.
The switch-hitting infielder is a good fielding shortstop with an above-average arm. In fact, opposing managers in the Midwest League voted him as having the circuit’s strongest arm.
Lopez is still a work in progress. He has posted sub-.300 on-base percentages in each of his three professional seasons and his .278 on-base percentage in 2019 was the fifth-lowest in the league. His walk rate was also significantly below average. He will need to refine his approach at the plate to have a chance to reach the upper minors. However, his defensive acumen and his power make him a really solid prospect to watch in 2020.
2020: Lopez should open the season in Lake Elsinore.
26) INF Eguy Rosario
2019 stats (Lake Elsinore): .278/.331/.412, 60 R, 25 2B, 8 3B, 7 HR, 72 RBI, 37 BB, 103 K, 21 SB.
Rosario, 20, repeated the Cal League in 2019 and had a very good year. The infielder posted a slash-line above the league average but he broke out in the second half. After the all-star break, Rosario hit .319/.370/.485 with five homers and 55 RBI’s, while increasing his walk rate and decreasing his strikeout totals.
Rosario has the ability to play every position in the infield, although he is best suited for duty at second. He is never going to be a big power guy but with his speed and contact ability, he has a chance to be a starter in the big leagues.
For me, part of Rosario’s appeal is the fact that he can play all over the infield with a good arm. His versatility makes him a very valuable player going into next season.
2020: Rosario should start the year in Amarillo.
27) OF Jorge Oña
2019 stats (Amarillo): .348/.417/.539, 11 R, 31 H, 2 2B, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 11 BB, 26 K.
Despite missing most of the season with a shoulder injury, Oña improved his stock dramatically. The 22-year-old Cuban slugger had a big spring and got off to a hot start with the Sod Poodles, slamming five homers in just 100 plate appearances. Oña’s power potential is a big reason why the organization added him to the 40-man roster this winter. It could also be because the organization invested $14 million in him and wants to give him another look in 2020. He should be healthy and ready to go this spring.
In the outfield, Oña is limited to left field and has struggled there defensively. When the organization signed him, there was talk of him being able to play center field, although that ship has seemingly sailed. His power will need to be his carrying card to the big leagues.
2020: Oña should be in Amarillo to start next year.
28) LHP Omar Cruz
2019 stats (Tri-City and Fort Wayne): 2-3, 2.73 ERA in 12 starts. 56 IP, 46 H, 17 ER, 19 BB, 76 K.
The lefty out of Hermosillo, Mexico signed with the Padres in July, 2017 and made his professional debut in the Arizona League 11 months later. He impressed there and in Tri-City, but stayed back in extended to open the 2019 season. After a pair of starts for the Dust Devils, he joined the TinCaps and posted posted a 2.76 ERA with a 2.22 FIP in 49 innings with Fort Wayne, striking out 62 batters.
The 20-year-old southpaw doesn’t possess big-time stuff; his fastball sits in the low 90s and he throws a big curve that is often below 70 mph. He also throws a decent changeup. Despite the lack of elite velocity, Cruz’s strikeout percentage of 31% ranked 12th in the Midwest League among pitchers who threw at least 40 innings. He also made significant strides to limit his walks — he issued just two free passes in his final 19 innings. Cruz isn’t a big name in the Padres system, but his improvement this year makes him a guy that should get some buzz going into next year.
2020: Cruz should have an opportunity to open the season in Lake Elsinore.
29) RHP Efraín Contreras
2019 stats (Fort Wayne): 6-6, 3.61 ERA in 25 games (23 starts). 109.2 IP, 97 H, 44 ER, 32 BB, 121 K.
Contreras, 19, was part of the Padres’ 2017 international signing class. He somewhat surprisingly made the Fort Wayne roster out of spring training and really impressed all year. Outside of a rough July (7.88 ERA), he was arguably their most consistent starter, using a low-90s fastball that gained velocity as the season progressed. He pitched a game for the Storm in the playoffs and was sitting 94-96 mph with his heater.
Contreras isn’t a physical specimen — he’s listed at five-ten, 215 lbs., although he did lose some weight during the season. He throws a change and a curve for his offspeed offerings, with the change generating some poor swings in the outing I observed in Elsinore. In Fort Wayne, he was fifth in the league in K’s per nine innings among starters (minimum of 100 innings) and his 26% strikeout percentage also ranked fifth. The key for Contreras going forward will be conditioning — if he can consistently keep his fastball in the mid-90s, he has a chance to move up this list. He will be 20 next year and should likely start the league in the Cal League. That’s a pretty significant jump for a guy who made his stateside debut in 2018.
2020: Contreras should be in the Lake Elsinore rotation.
30) RHP David Bednar
2019 stats (Amarillo): 2-5, 2.95 ERA with 14 saves in 44 games. 58 IP, 49 H, 19 ER, 29 BB, 86 K.
Bednar is a pure reliever although a very good one. He has a fastball that tops out at 96 mph, a slider and a splitter that’s a difference-maker. Aside from one poor outing in Arizona, he threw the ball very well in his brief cameo with the big league club. He should be in the mix for a big-league gig in the spring.
2020: Bednar should contend for a spot in the Padres’ bullpen.
Others of Note
The Padres’ system has been thinned out a bit with promotions and some trades (Xavier Edwards was #6 on this list before being traded), and is not quite as top-heavy as it was this time last year. However, there is still quite a bit of depth, especially at the middle infield positions. There is also a bevy of arms that could rise in 2020. Here are a few of the players who just missed this list but are still interesting guys to watch.
SS Reginald Preciado: Preciado was the first guy who missed the list, partially because there just isn’t a lot of information available on the fresh international signing. He is a 6-foot-4 shortstop who can switch-hit. He may need outgrow the position eventually, but it seems like the organization is quite bullish on the young infielder. Seeing him at the Don Welke Classic, it’s easy to understand why. He will likely start next year in the AZL.
RHP Anderson Espinoza: Espinoza was once the best pitching prospect in the Padres’ system, featuring three pitches that all flashed above-average. We all know the sad story: Anderson went down this spring with his second Tommy John surgery and likely won’t throw a competitive pitch until 2021. Even then, there is no guarantee that Espinoza will be able to handle the load of a starting pitcher. For now, the hope is that he bounces back and gives the Padres something for the patience that they have had with him over the last few years.
INF/OF Sean Guilbe: Gulibe was my pick for the Dust Devils’ player of the year, in part for his good eye at the plate and his power. Guilbe is still very young but has an idea of what he is doing at the plate and his power potential makes him a really interesting player. He should have a chance to open the season in Fort Wayne.
SS Yeison Santana: Santana, a right-handed hitting shortstop hit a blistering .346/.429/.494 in the Arizona League, with a 12% walk rate. His wRC+ of 150 was in the top-ten in the league. Outside of CJ Abrams, Santana was the most productive position player who saw action for the Padres in the Arizona League.