Howdy from Texas! Although 2019 was a pretty forgettable one for the highest rung of the Padres organization (sans some incredible Fernando Tatís Jr. highlights), I’m glad to say I survived my second year as a MadFriars‘ contributor. Though I took my foot off the gas a little bit in terms of number of posts, I was still able to keep y’all updated on the players of the month, along with interviewing some of the Sod Poodles when they visited Frisco, including being at MacKenzie Gore’s Double-A debut.
Before delving into this year’s list, let’s take a quick look at my list from last year, to see how horribly wrong or incredibly accurate I was:
Graduated: Fernando Tatís Jr. (1), Luis Urías (2), Chris Paddack (3), Francisco Mejía (5), Josh Naylor (11), Cal Quantrill (16), Trey Wingenter (21), and Andres Muñoz (22).
Left the organization: Luis Urías (2), Logan Allen (7), Xavier Edwards (9), Austin Allen (23), and Buddy Reed (24).
Biggest leaps: I had Luis Campusano at no. 26 last year, and he’s now in the top five after an MVP-caliber season in Lake Elsinore. Gabriel Arias also moved up eleven spots, and Joey Cantillo finds himself in the top ten after being left off the list last time.
Biggest drops: After being ranked 15th and 18th, respectively, the oft-injured Jacob Nix and Anderson Espinoza have dropped off.
Biggest hits/misses: I don’t think there’s much that was controversial or that I missed in last year’s list. Putting Urías a spot ahead of Paddack and Gore is probably the most obvious blemish, and it would’ve been nice to be higher on Campusano and Joey Cantillo, but that’s fine.
On to the list!
1. MacKenzie Gore – SP
I don’t know what else needs to be said about Gore. The 6-foot-3 lefty turned 20 this season and is showing why he was well worth the third overall pick in the 2017 draft. After demolishing the Cal League for 15 starts (1.02 ERA, 12.5 K/9), he was promoted to Double-A Amarillo. While the stat line didn’t look as pretty in his five Texas League starts, he still struck out 10.4 batters per nine, and really just struggled in his home park of Amarillo, the most hitter-friendly atmosphere in the league. He has a smooth, repeatable delivery and though he has been able to beat a lot of hitters with his fastball, he has a full arsenal of pitches that he can use effectively. The Padres are aggressive promoters, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Gore in Padre brown in 2020, but he threw just 101 innings in 2019 (and just 60 the year before, due in part to blister issues), so it remains to be seen how drastically his innings will be managed going forward.
2. Luis Patiño – SP
Man, I remember seeing the name “Patino” in the Padres rookie league box scores and thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of strikeouts for a 17-year-old.” Fast forward a few years, and he’s raised that 9.3 K/9 rate in Arizona to an 11.7 K/9 mark across both High-A and Double-A and become a household name (well, at least among the online prospect hounds and insane-hypothetical-trade-makers). Like Gore, he has an impressive arsenal and was doing well even before he was capable of throwing 100 mph with Fort Wayne in 2018. The Padres will also be monitoring his innings closely, as he went from 83.1 in 2018 to 94.2 in 2019. If the Padres are in a playoff push after the All-Star break, it wouldn’t shock many to see Patiño make his debut, whether it be in the rotation or in an Adrián Morejón-like cameo out of the bullpen.
3. CJ Abrams – SS
Sure, most organizations’ latest first-round pick ranks pretty highly within the system, even if their first stint as a pro doesn’t go swimmingly. Abrams, however, turned heads right out of the gate, as he posted a 1.104 OPS in 165 plate appearances in the AZL. His willingness to be aggressive on the base paths (15-for-21 in stolen base attempts, along with 13 doubles and 8 triples) coupled with a penchant for contact (he struck out just 8.5% of the time) earned him a big promotion to Single-A Fort Wayne. Though a shoulder contusion kept him out after his second game with the TinCaps, there’s a lot to be excited about with the wiry Georgia native who turned 19 in October. Projected to stay in the middle of the field (either at SS, 2B, or CF), he has an enviable skill set and a high ceiling.
4. Luis Campusano – C
Patience is a virtue when judging high school catchers, but Campusano didn’t require much. In just his second full season, Campusano showed that he knows what to do with a bat, despite being more than two years younger than the average competition in the California League (he had just two at-bats against a pitcher younger than him). Campusano is tough to strike out, doing so at a 15% clip in 2018 in Fort Wayne, and at a 11.7% rate last year in Lake Elsinore, and he coupled that with a huge uptick in power, boosting his OPS almost 200 points to .906. The Padres have some serious depth at catching (at least as I’m writing this, Preller hasn’t moved any of Hedges/Mejía/Torrens/Hunt/Driscoll), but only Francisco Mejía has a higher offensive potential than the 20-year-old. The Cal League didn’t play as kindly to hitters as it has in the past, so Campusano could be primed for a big 2020 in Amarillo.
5. Taylor Trammell – OF
Acquired from Cincinnati in a three-way trade at last year’s deadline, Trammell is primed to be a top-of-the-lineup sparkplug, using his speed (20 steals last year) and on-base prowess to set the table. Despite trading away two MLB-level talents to pry him from the Reds, he was a bit of a buy-low candidate, as he had compiled just a .236/.349/.336 slash line at Double-A Chattanooga. The Padres are hoping that a combo of better health and swing retooling can get the top 100 prospect back on the upswing. Some scouts believe that his arm will limit him to a corner outfield spot, though he only played center during his 32-game stint with Amarillo. At just 21 years old, he still has time to adjust to advanced pitching, and the 13% walk rate he posted in 2019 is impressive. However, with Amarillo playing as hitter-friendly as it was in 2019, a .697 OPS isn’t ideal. He’ll look to build on the last 18 games of the season, in which he slashed .279/.355/.500.
6. Adrián Morejón – SP
Perhaps I’m overly optimistic on Morejón, who had an up-and-down season that culminated in his debut for the Padres last year. If I was looking at him more pessimistically, I might say that his inability to throw a full season (he pitched in 65.1 innings in 2018 and 44 innings in 2019) and effectiveness in short spurts make him more of a bullpen arm than a starter. If that’s the case, his overall value takes a hit. However, I think that eventually he’ll get to the point where he’s auditioning for a rotation spot, and if he can do that, he’s a top ten prospect in the Padres organization. How long it takes him to get to that point remains to be seen, but he doesn’t turn 21 until February, and the talent is definitely there.
7. Gabriel Arias – SS
Last year, I said that Arias’ .654 OPS had “glove-first middle infielder” written all over him. However, I also pointed out that he was still just 18-years-old, and he had an .896 OPS the last 30 games of the season. Well, Arias built on that last month of 2018, and destroyed the Cal League, hitting .302/.339/.470, while knocking 21 round-trippers and trimming his strikeout rate from 30% to 25%. How sustainable his offense will be with a 4.9% BB rate (it was 8.1% in 2018) remains to be seen, but he doesn’t turn 20 until right before Spring Training, and even an average bat paired with his impressive defense has the makings of a major league shortstop.
8. Joey Cantillo – SP
Cantillo is a 6-4 lefty with an 11.8 K/9 rate as a starter in his minor league career and didn’t turn 20 until the end of 2019. What I’m saying is that it seems, uh… “unwise” to have a player like him all the way down at number eight. I’m fully ready to eat crow in 2020 when he puts up some monster numbers in Lake Elsinore and becomes a top 100 prospect. The 16th-round pick from the 2017 draft out of Hawaii unlocked some velocity, hitting 94 mph with the TinCaps, and although his walk rate inflated a bit after a late-season promotion to the Cal League (from 2.5 BB/9 to 4.6 BB/9), he can miss bats with the best in the Padres minor league system.
9. Hudson Head – OF
The Padres convinced Head to forgo college by offering the prep star from San Antonio a cool $3 million – more than any third-rounder has ever received. Initially, I had Head in the top ten, but after digging back to my 2018 list, I was almost as optimistic about another prep outfielder from Texas that the Padres chose in the third round: Mason House. Both had an equally impressive start in the Arizona League after being drafted, but the main difference is that Head struck out just 20% of the time, while House K’d at a 38% rate. Head is 6-foot-1 and athletic enough to start in center the majority of his games (he was the DH the rest of them), and if he can add some power, he could rise up the charts quickly.
10. Tirso Ornelas – OF
Woof, 2019 was not a banner year for the Tijuana native. After struggling to a .566 OPS in his first 71 games for the Storm, the 19-year-old was demoted to the Arizona League, where he didn’t do much better. He’ll likely look to rebound in the Cal League again and build on the improved .732 OPS he posted after returning to the Storm for the final 18 games of the season. The Padres have been aggressive with his placements, and he hasn’t posted big numbers in the minors yet, but he’s difficult to strikeout, plays solid outfield defense, and has a big league frame. This might be an optimistically high rating for him, but the potential is there.
11. Michel Báez – RP
Not too long ago, Báez was terrorizing the Midwest League with a huge fastball and a 12.6 K/9 rate as a 21-year-old. The high-90s heat is still there, but the big question with Báez is (like Morejón,) whether or not the move to the bullpen is a temporary one, or is permanent. In Fort Wayne, he averaged almost six innings a start, and a year later in San Antonio, it was five innings. Báez missed the first month and a half of the 2019 season, and when he returned, he worked in mostly two-inning stretches out of the bullpen. He should be an effective piece out of the bullpen for the Padres in 2020, but it remains to be seen if the 6-foot-8 righty returns to the rotation.
12. Reggie Lawson – SP
Lawson threw just 27.2 innings for Amarillo in 2019, and though he put up the highest K/9 rate of his career (11.7), he was also very, very hittable, and posted a 5.20 ERA in six Texas League games. He missed most of the season due to injury but looked sharp in the Arizona Fall League and the Don Welke Classic at Petco Park. He has been fastball-reliant in the past, but if he can effectively use his secondaries (especially his breaking pitches), he could be a useful arm (or a trade piece) for San Diego.
13. Ryan Weathers – SP
The Padres’ first-round pick in 2018 burst out of the gate in 2019, giving up just four runs in his first four starts (22.2 innings) while striking out 28. In his last 18 outings, however, opponents hit .290/.339/.437 against him while he averaged just four innings per start. If it’s just a serious case of dead arm, then there’s not too much cause for concern. He has a good pitch mix and doesn’t walk many batters, but was still very hittable at the end of the year (11.8 hits per nine innings in his last six starts).
14. Owen Miller – IF
Perhaps I’m too low on Miller. Everywhere he goes, he hits, and while I don’t see a high ceiling on the Illinois State alum, I think his floor is a Greg Garcia-type utility infielder, which is a legit major leaguer. That should probably place higher on this list, but he’s up 14 spots from last year for me, and we could see him put up some big numbers in El Paso.
15. Edward Olivares – OF
Acquired from Toronto in the Yangervis Solarte trade back in 2018, Olivares has been one of the most consistent performers in the Padres farm system. While his 18 homers in 2019 were his career-high, his home/road splits for power were stark – a .537 slugging percentage at home, and just .370 on the road. He profiles more as a fourth/platoon outfielder, capable of getting on, swiping a base (he had 35 steals last season, good for third in the Texas League), and covering ground in the outfield.
16. Ronald Bolaños – SP
I was super-low on Bolaños coming into last season, and while I still don’t think he’s much more than a back end starter or a middle reliever, he unlocked some velocity last year and has become a viable weapon (watching him strike out Hunter Pence and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa during their rehab stints in Frisco was the highlight of my MadFriars coverage in 2019). He has a wide arsenal of pitches and can make batters miss, but his inability to throw strikes hurt his effectiveness during his cup of coffee with the Padres last fall. He could rack up the frequent flier miles between El Paso and San Diego this year.
17. Blake Hunt – C
Lauded for his defensive abilities when the Padres went overslot to sign him out of high school in 2017 (though not an Austin Hedges-level receiver, many still considered him a major league caliber talent), Hunt will work on getting his offensive game caught up in 2020. Now 21, he lowered his strikeout rate from 22.9% in 2018 to 17.8% in 2019 while flashing some gap power. While the Southern California native has a ways to go, he’s put up above-league average offense over the last two years during a promising start to his professional career.
18. Hudson Potts – IF
Taken with the 24th overall pick in 2016, Potts has flashed promise (OPSing 1.004 the last 36 games of the season as an 18-year-old in Single-A), but has mostly underwhelmed, compiling a .315 OBP as a professional. The pop in his bat is real, and if he could cut down on the strikeouts (28.6% rate in his career), he’d be knocking at the door of a Top 100 list. The right-handed slugger will need a second go-around in the Texas League, where he’ll still play at 21 all season because the Padres have been very aggressive with his placements.
19. Logan Driscoll – C/OF
After raking for three years at George Mason, Driscoll was selected by the Padres with the 73rd overall pick. He has a smooth left-handed swing and a strong throwing arm, which was put to use at both catcher and in right field in Tri-City. He put on an impressive display in a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he homered twice in his debut. While it’s not clear where he’ll end up defensively (the Padres have quite a bit of organizational depth at both catcher and outfield), he’s shown the ability to be both a power threat and difficult to strikeout. He’ll be one to keep an eye on this year in Fort Wayne.
20. Luarbert Arias – SP
Signed out of Venezuela for $300,000 the year after the Padres spent big money in the international market, Arias has good peripherals as a teenager in the lower levels (9.1 K/9, 1.9 BB/9). I’m likely being incredibly optimistic on this ranking with him, but I was really impressed by video of him in the AZL, and the Padres thought enough of him to have him throw in the Don Welke Classic at Petco Park last fall.
21. Jake Cronenworth – RP/IF
Acquired in the trade that brought outfielder Tommy Pham to the Padres, Cronenworth is a super-duper utility player, able to play both middle infield positions as well as come out of the bullpen. His .394 slugging percentage during his five-year minor league career may speak as to why he was asked to add the bullpen back to his repertoire, but he pitched in college and offers the Padres an interesting option off the bench. His offensive production ballooned last season in the International League, where he posted a .949 OPS and a career-high 10 homers. At 26 years old, he’s easily the oldest player on this list, but it’s easy to see how his skillset could get him onto a major league roster, even if he doesn’t make a huge impact.
22. Joshua Mears – OF
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Mears fits the profile of a masher – quick bat speed and power for days. He moves well enough right now in the outfield (and is able to swipe a few bases), but he’ll rise in the system as far as his bat will carry him. He was a bit of a stretch as a second-round pick (what the Padres saved on his signing they used to lure Hudson Head), so he’s more unheralded than some other higher draft picks. While the power is legit, the hit tool is the big question, and he may have a “three true outcomes” risk (he homered, walked, or struck out in 45% of his plate appearances in the AZL last season).
23. Tucupita Marcano – IF
At first blush, Marcano has a similar profile to recently-traded Xavier Edwards (who I had ranked seventh at the time of the deal). Both have little to no home run power, play solid defense up the middle, can move on the base paths, and are difficult to strikeout. So why is Marcano so much lower than Edwards? While he’s still just 20, he has a career .343 slugging percentage, and eventually, you need to develop at least some gap power, and the rest of his tools are still a notch or two below Edwards (who has concerns of his own). He’s likely to build upon his 170 pound frame, and if he is able to match/stay close to his ridiculous 8% strikeout rate while adding at least a little pop, he could see the major leagues.
24. Justin Lopez – IF
I’m not a scout, and I should really defer to the experts when it comes to projecting a teenager’s ability to play in professional baseball. But when I watch Lopez, I can’t help but see a legit swing and solid defensive play. Thus far, it hasn’t translated to much in terms of production (he has a .646 OPS in a little over 1,000 professional plate appearances), but he has consistently been one the youngest players in the league and every level he’s appeared in. He was 17 when he played for Tri-City, against some guys that finished college. At some point, he’ll play mostly against players that were (like him) born in the 2000s, and I’d expect to see some production slide at least a little closer to the raw tools.
25. Ivan Castillo – IF
He faded a bit for Amarillo in August, but he put up a .333/.359/.502 slash line from May to July. While you may have to squint to see a major leaguer in a 24-year-old who was one of the oldest position players on the Soddies, he can definitely hit and is likely to put up some big numbers in El Paso in 2020. If I’m ranking a guy that most people aren’t, it’s likely he put up a low strikeout rate last season (12.7%) and plays solid middle infield defense with speed. He has a low ceiling but a high floor and could find his way onto a major league roster eventually.
26. Efraín Contreras – SP
Straight out of Cuidad Juárez, Contreras can occasionally hit mid-90s and has a solid curve and change. He put up a 9.9 K/9 rate in 23 starts (and a pair of relief appearances) for Fort Wayne in 2019, en route to posting a 3.61 ERA. There are some red flags – he had 15 wild pitches in 110 innings, he allowed a lot of flyballs (63% last year) that might’ve done more damage in more hitter-friendly parks, and he stands at just 5-10. Nonetheless, he’ll be one to watch for in Lake Elsinore in 2020.
27. Agustin Ruiz – OF
Ruiz made my “Honorable Mentions” list last year, but struggled with the Midwest League as a 19-year-old, striking out a quarter of the time and posting a .654 OPS. He teased a .466 slugging percentage for the AZL Padres in 2018, but admitted in an interview with MadFriars that he wasn’t a natural power hitter and needed to “learn how to drive the inside fastball”. He led the TinCaps with 26 doubles in 2019 and will look to unlock more power to try to stand out among the glut of high-upside young outfielders in the Padres system.
28. Jeisson Rosario – OF
I mentioned last year that with his speed and on base capabilities, if I knew that at some point Rosario would bulk up and start hitting for power, I’d get a brown jersey with his name on the back ASAP. As it stands, the athletic Dominican slugged .314 in Lake Elsinore, despite tying his career best with three homers. He’ll still be just 20 years old next season, so there’s plenty of time for him to find a semblance of a power stroke.
29. Jorge Oña – OF
There are quite a few people hopping (back) on the Oña bandwagon for 2020. After being one of the headliners in the Padres international signing extravaganza in 2016, the Cuban outfielder struggled to live up to the Albert Belle comparisons, hitting .239/.312/.380 in Lake Elsinore. In Amarillo as a 22-year-old, he posted a .957 OPS in 25 games before being sidelined with a shoulder injury for the remainder of the year. Whether that improvement was led by an improved approach or an inflated .433 BABIP remains to be seen, but Oña looks to be in better shape than when he first arrived in Fort Wayne and could be primed for a big season in his return to the Texas League.
30. Yeison Santana – SS
His .346/.429/.494 slash line in the Arizona League as an 18-year-old was very impressive. A bit on the shorter side at 5-foot-11, and from the video I’ve seen, he sets up pretty low at the plate, but he has quick hands and a good feel for the strike zone, striking out just 20% of the time.
Just missed the list: Esteury Ruiz, Omar Cruz, Osvaldo Hernandez, Jordy Barley