In a season when the biggest breakout hitter in the system, Jack Suwinski, was traded, and both CJ Abrams and Luis Campusano – the organization’s top two position players coming into the year – missed significant time with injuries, the race for the top position player came down to a pair of teenagers who entered the year with zero official professional at-bats in the U.S.
Euribiel Angeles came into the season largely as an unknown. While he was one of more than a dozen players who got the $300,000 maximum bonus the Padres could offer to international free agents in the 2018 class, and hit .301 in his DSL debut in 2019, his assignment to Lake Elsinore to open the season as an 18-year-old was something of a surprise.
Robert Hassell III, meanwhile, was widely expected to make an impact. The eighth overall pick in 2020’s oddball draft spent his first summer as a professional at the Padres’ Alternate Site, taking swings against pitchers with hundreds of innings in the upper minors. Seen as the best pure high school hitter in his class, Hassell debuted at number six on our Top 25 Prospects list as a 19-year-old last winter.
The two teamed up to fuel the top of the Storm lineup through the summer, collecting 242 of the club’s 1,094 total for the season before earning simultaneous promotions to High-A at the end of August. Both played well up the middle, though Hassell figures to stay in center at the highest level while Angeles proved more serviceable than exceptional at shortstop. Both added value on the basepaths, with Hassell second on the Low-A circuitwith 31 stolen bases at the time of his promotion. Angeles claimed the Low-A West batting title and outperformed Hassell in their 18-game stint with Fort Wayne.
While the race was closer than casual observers might think, in our estimation Hassell’s overall production edged out Angeles for the Player of the Year.
The outfielder hit .323/.415/.482 overall in 92 games for Lake Elsinore, but it was a stretch in July and August when the Tennessee native really differentiated himself. Even with a minor shoulder injury, Hassell reached base at an absurd .469 clip and collected 17 doubles on his way to an OPS just below four digits. His performance quickly moved him into the national spotlight and he started to appear in the middle of national Top 100 lists.
Throughout the year, Hassell showed strong command of the strike zone, posting a double-digit walk rate while striking out in just 17% of his trips to the plate in Low-A. While Angeles actually bettered him with a 15% rate – a mark which barely increased once they moved up – his more aggressive approach meant he only drew 32 walks for the Storm.
Hassell’s combination of extra-base power and success on the bases put him in elite company across the minors. Among those with 30 stolen bases or more this year, just four bettered his extra-base hit total of 48.
Coming into the year, some had questions about his power potential, so the extra-base hits were an important step for the left-handed hitter to take in his first summer of professional games. He finished with seven homers for the Storm before adding four more – three in one notable game – in Fort Wayne. As he adds muscle to his 6-foot-2 frame, Hassell it’s easy to see how he might convert more of the doubles into homers at higher levels, without costing him much on the bases.
There have been some years when the best performances in the Padres system have come from outside the top prospects, but with the exception of Allen Cordoba, the top production came from players who will appear in the Top 10 this winter. Had Abrams and Campusano, the race could have been even closer, but as things played out, Hassell earns the nod this year, with a chance to be the top position player in the minors by the end of next season.