Major League Baseball has changed the name of the league.
The draft has been moved back to July and continuing adjustments to international free agent rules have changed the dynamics of the rosters significantly.
The Padres are fielding just one club for the first time since 2016.
COVID protocols for their scheduled opponents even pushed back their debut one extra day.
And yet, the Padres’ youngest prospects get underway in the newly-christened Arizona Complex League Tuesday night.
Based at the Peoria Sports Complex, the Padres’ 2021 ACL initial active roster features a mix of players ranging from 17-year-old pitcher Victor Lizarraga, who earned a seven-figure signing bonus to join the organization from Mexico in March, to 2019 25th-round draftee Blake Baker, who turned 22 in January.
Righty Justin Lange, who landed at tenth in our preseason top prospect rankings, headlines a pitching staff that also includes fellow 2020 draftee Jagger Haynes (#20), and Venezuelan righty Brayan Medina (#24), the biggest headliner of the club’s 2019 international free agent class still in the organization. Righty Luarbert Arias (#15), the 20-year-old Venezuelan who pitched on the circuit in 2019, is also getting underway in the desert.
Lefty Bodi Roscon, who landed a six-figure bonus as a day three draftee in 2019, and current international period signees Jose Luis Reyes from Mexico, Bahamian Evan Sweeting and huge Cuban righty Wilton Castillo will join Joshua Paulina, a 6-foot-6 righty from Pennsylvania who signed out of high school as a non-drafted free agent last summer, in making their professional pitching debuts with the club.
Righty Yerri Landinez, who signed as a shortstop back in 2017 and appeared in the desert in 2019, will also be making his pitching debut. The righty, now 20 years old, has just kept growing since he signed out of Venezuela, and struggled to make contact as a position player, but always showed big arm strength on the left side of the infield.
They will work alongside Alexuan Vega, drafted out of Puerto Rico in 2018. 2017 international signees Jesus Gonzalez, Frank Lopez and Edgar Martinez, join them and Manny Guzman, who has been limited to just 97 professional innings since signing way back in 2016 and debuting in Peoria the following summer.
The position player group is largely made up of players from the 2017 and 2018 international signing periods when the Padres were limited to $300,000 bonuses. That group includes 19-year-old infielders Charlis Aquino, who came stateside late in the 2019 campaign and has previously showcased in the Don Welke Classic, and Neifi Antunez, who had a solid professional debut in the Dominican that summer. They’ll play alongside lefty slugger Carlos Luis, whose 2019 season in the Northwest League was cut short by an ugly broken arm, and switch-hitting shortstop Anthony Nunez, who was an under-the-radar high school draftee in 2019.
Catcher Jared Alvarez-Lopez and outfielder Pierce Jones, fit the same profile, as day three draftees who opted to start their professional careers. Each has interesting tools, but was largely off the public draft radar before the Padres called their names in 2019.
The outfield will feature several interesting prospects, including Ruben Zayed Salinas, who signed out of Mexico late in the 2019 period as a two-way prospect. The organization has shelved his work on the mound and only has him playing center at this point. He’ll flank Cristian Heredia, a 2017 signee who produced as an 18-year-old in the desert in 2018.
Alvarez-Lopez will share time behind the plate by a deep group that the Padres hope will continue to rebuild depth at the position, including Alex Ramirez and Wilfredo Tovar.
Editor’s Note: This article originally misnamed Joshua Paulina. The Editor regrets being a moron.