CJ Abrams in action with the Missions on the road. (Photo:Danne’ Braden)

The 2021 campaign was a remarkably disappointing one for the Padres and their fans. A rash of injuries, lack of contribution from several top prospects, and the clubhouse’s second collapse in three years left the big league club outside looking in at the playoffs. Things weren’t much better in the minor leagues, where every stateside club finished with a losing record and each of the four full-season teams was last on their circuit in home runs.

While the system was regarded among the best in the game for several years, a series of trades hollowed out much of the depth of talent the Padres had stockpiled. While the top four prospects in the system still match up well against most organizations, and there are many intriguing prospects at the lowest levels of the ladder, the number of clear future big league contributors is significantly lower today than it has been in years.

The disappointment has led to the biggest turnover in player development staff since AJ Preller became general manager. After Sam Geaney was let go last fall, Preller brought in new leaders from a variety of other organizations, including pitching coordinator Rob Marcello. The organization has struggled to bring along some very interesting arms over the last several years, so the new regime will be asked to reverse that trend.

2022 Top 20 at a Glance

Our Process: Over the winter, each of MadFriars’ six contributors published our individual Top 30 lists for subscribers. Some years, coming to consensus on a group list is difficult, but this year’s effort came together relatively easily. While 46 different players appeared on at least one of our lists, 13 players appeared in the top 20 of each of our lists, meaning there were only a few spots with significant disagreement. While several contributors elected not to include DSL players in their individual lists, as a group, we have.

Changes from the 2021 Top 25 List

After the lost 2020 campaign, we departed from our standard approach and published a Top 25 list, though we acknowledged just how much was unknown at the time. Seven of the players from that list are no longer eligible, either because of graduation or leaving the organization. Five more have fallen out of the Top 20 this year. Of that group, injuries has derailed two players, while three others have simply struggled to develop as the organization had hoped.

Graduated: Ha-Seong Kim (3); Ryan Weathers (5);

Traded: Hudson Head (7); Tucupita Marcano (9); Anderson Espinoza (14); Luarbert Arias (15; Minor League Rule 5 selection); Jordy Barley (17);

Fell off the List: Jorge Oña (11); Tirso Ornelas (12); Gabriel Morales (16); Osvaldo Hernandez (18); Jagger Haynes (20)

Top 20 for 2022 (All ages as of minor league opening day, April 5, 2022.)

1) CJ Abrams
Position: SS/2B
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: 2019 Draft, First Round (Sixth overall)

CJ Abrams was one the youngest players in Double-A. (Photo: Joe Alexander)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
Missions .296 .363 .420 183 36/15 48 16/2

2021 Highlights: The 2021 season started out positively for Abrams before he suffered a season-ending leg injury in a collision with Eguy Rosario at the end of June. Through the first two months of the season, Abrams produced at the plate, posting a .363 on-base percentage and a wRC+ of 112. While Abrams’ K-rate rose significantly from his first season of the AZL, it was still under 20% in his abbreviated season.

Negatives: The only negative with Abrams at this point is experience. Thanks to injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, Abrams has played in just 76 games and has amassed only 348 plate appearances since being drafted in 2019. While he got exposure against older pitching at the 2020 alternative site, the limited game action could ultimately impact when he is ready to contribute at the big league level. He will likely need most of a full season in the minors in 2022 in order to further his development.

Projection: Abrams is one of the best prospects in all of the minors. He has elite bat-to-ball skills and has speed that many project to be 80-grade as an up-the-middle player. Abrams has shown power in the minors and could ultimately develop into a 15-20 home run player with the speed to produce 50 extra-base hits. With his advanced feel at the plate and his ability on the basepaths, Abrams can be a dynamic force at the plate. In the field, Abrams is more than capable of playing shortstop although his big league future is likely at second base in San Diego for obvious reasons. Assuming Abrams is able to achieve his ceiling, you are looking at a player capable of an OPS well over 800 with 40 stolen bases. That type of player is a perennial all-star and an MVP candidate. At worst, Abrams should be a good everyday player in San Diego by 2023.

Robert Hassell III finished his first professional season in High-A. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

2) Robert Hassell III
Position: CF/OF
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: 2020 Draft, First Round (Eighth overall)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
Storm .323 .415 .482 429 74/57 118 41/7
TinCaps .205 .287 .410 87 25/9 16 7/4

2021 Highlights: 2021 marked a solid breakout for “Bobby Barrels.” The Tennessee native lived up to the reputation as one of the class’s best pure hitters that inspired the Padres to draft him eighth overall in 2020. Hassell got better every month and was eventually simply too good for Low-A. In his final two months in Lake Elsinore, Hassell hit a monstrous .360/.453/.503 with just a 14% K-rate. He was promoted to High-A Fort Wayne in September and, while the numbers weren’t overly impressive, he did hit three homers in just his third game with the TinCaps.

Between the two levels, Hassell hit 11 homers, socked 33 doubles, and stole 34 bases while playing outstanding defense in center field.

Negatives: Hassell’s performance in Fort Wayne – while brief – wasn’t overly impressive. In 87 plate appearances, his K-rate rose to 28.7% which is considerably higher than it was in Lake Elsinore. Outside of that, Hassell didn’t show many weaknesses in any facet of his game. As with most teenagers, he will be asked to add more strength.

Projection: One could make a compelling argument that Hassell is the best prospect in the system. His hit tool may not be as strong as Abrams’, but Hassell has shown a better eye at the plate. He rarely goes outside the strike zone and should develop more power as he gets older. It would not be unreasonable to see Hassell develop into a hitter capable of hitting 20-25 homers at the plate while getting on-base at an above-average rate. Defensively, Hassell should stick in center field but his bat should profile nicely in a corner as well. Hassell has all the tools to develop into a very good big league player.

Luis Campusano is one of the top catching prospects in baseball. (Photo; Jorge Salgado)

3) Luis Campusano
Position: Catcher
Height/Weight: 5-11/232
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2017 Draft, Second Round

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
Chihuahuas .295 .365 .541 326 66/27 86 39/15
Padres .088 .184 .088 38 11/4 3 0/0

2021 Highlights: Luis Campusano opened the season in San Diego after Austin Nola suffered a hand injury in spring training. Then 22 with just three at-bats above Hi-A, Campusano struggled in sporadic big league playing time before Nola returned and Campusano headed to El Paso. The Georgia native struggled early on, but over the final three months of the season, he hit over .300 and clubbed 11 homers in his final 40 games. He sustained an oblique injury at the end of August and didn’t appear in a game over the final of month of the season. He represented the Padres at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, going 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly.

Negatives: After struggling in the big leagues, he got a bit over-aggressive and chased more out of the zone. He made an adjustment in the minors and got back to spraying line drives all over the diamond. Behind the dish, Campusano is an average receiver and probably won’t develop into a plus-defender. However, his batting prowess for a catcher is rare.

Projection: Campusano has the power to develop into a 25-homer bat with good contact skills. He will need to continue to improve behind the plate but he is a line-drive machine who put the ball in the air in El Paso. Campusano could develop into one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. The Padres have three other catchers on the 40-man roster, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in next season.

4) MacKenzie Gore
Position: LHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: 2017 Draft, First Round (Third overall)

MacKenzie Gore returned to Double-A as he reworked his delivery. (Photo: Rey Holguin)

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
Chihuahuas 1-3 20.0 5.85 6 18/12 24 26/22
Missions 0-0 9.0 3.00 2 16/8 6 3/3
TinCaps 0-1 5.0 5.40 1 5/4 3 3/3
ACL Padres 1-0 16.1 1.65 3 22/4 13 9/0
Total 1-3 50.1 3.93 12 61/28 46 26/22

2021 Highlights: It was a rough season for Gore, who just two years ago was the unquestioned top pitching prospect in baseball. After dominating Lake Elsinore in 2019, the left-hander reportedly had mechanical issues at the alternate site in 2020 before starting 2021 in El Paso. Gore struggled with his fastball command with the Chihuahuas and allowed 37 baserunners in just 20 innings with El Paso before being sent back to Peoria to work his delivery. When he emerged from Peoria, he had a shorter stride and his command was better than he displayed early in the season.

Negatives: Gore struggled with his fastball command and at times with his velocity. Gore’s walk rate more than doubled from where it was in 2019. His velocity dropped a bit early in the season but he was sitting in the mid-’90s in his starts down the stretch. Gore’s command issues made him very inefficient and it inhibited his ability to put batters away, especially during his stint in Triple-A. Gore punched out 21 batters in his final 14 innings of the year but also walked 12 during that stretch. That simply cannot continue if Gore is to advance to the big leagues.

Projection: Gore still has the tools to develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter, although it doesn’t look as likely as it did just two seasons ago. Gore’s stuff still plays well but one of his biggest strengths prior to 2021 was getting ahead with the fastball and unleashing his off-speed mix. His other pitches: a slider, change, and curve looked just as good as they did in 2019 but Gore will need to regain his ability to command the fastball. There is some optimism that new Padres pitching coach Ruben Niebla will be able to help Gore regain the form and potential that made him special in 2019. As it stands, Gore should still develop into a mid-rotation arm based on what we saw in 2021.

5) James Wood
Position: CF/OF
Height/Weight: 6-7/240
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, Second Round

James Wood wowed in his professional debut. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
ACL Padres .372 .465 .535 101 32/13 32 8/3

2021 Highlights: Wood was considered one of the top prep draft prospects in the country coming into 2021 because of his size and plus athleticism. A six-week stretch in his senior year when his strikeout rate jumped, questions about his ability to make adjustments at the pro level, and a reported $3 million bonus demand caused him to fall out of the first round. San Diego liked what they saw enough to pay him $2.6 million to forgo his scholarship at Mississippi State. So far, it looks like one of the best selections of the draft.

The organization made a few adjustments to his setup in the box, and although the ACL is a very long way from the major leagues, if the 2021 major league draft were held again, Wood would likely not be available to the Padres. To cap it off, he also stole ten bases in 26 games without being caught.

Negatives: It’s a very big strike zone, which could be a problem going forward. He struck out in 31.7% of his plate appearances, but as one minor league manager once said about Fernando Tatís Jr., “look at what he does when he’s not striking out.”

Projection: Wood will start the year in center field for the Storm and the Padres are going to let the big man roam the middle of the outfield as long as he shows that he is capable. At the plate, the organization should continue to emphasize its contact first approach because Wood is so strong the ball will carry when he hits it.

For sheer size and athletic ability, it’s hard to find a Padres prospect with a higher upside than Wood.

6) Joshua Mears
Position: OF
Height/Weight: 6-3/240
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2019 Draft, Second Round

Joshua Mears racked up extra base hits in Lake Elsinore. (Photo: Mike Wilson)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
Storm .244 .368 .529 291 114/36 59 31/17

2021 Highlights: In the 61% of the his plate appearances that didn’t end in a strikeout, Mears walked at a 12% clip and collected 31 extra-base hits, including 17 that went over the wall. Starting in big league spring training, and through the season, he hit ball the way few in the game can. Despite his physique, Mears isn’t just a plodding slugger; while he profiles as a right fielder, he was athletic enough to still log 16 starts in center for Lake Elsinore.

Negatives: Mears only played in 71 of the Storm’s 120 games, missing time because of a concussion and COVID protocols, and he struck out 114 times in just 291 plate appearances. While Mears did make progress on some swing changes, a 39.2% strikeout rate simply has to improve. Right now, there is a lot of swing and miss even within the zone, and he’ll have to make improvements on both timing and mechanics.

Projection: He should begin the year in Fort Wayne and could do some serious damage in Parkview Field. The thought of a future outfield of Hassell, Wood and Mears – which has huge upside – is tantalizing for an organization that hasn’t produced many power hitters in recent years.

7) Euribiel Angeles
Position: SS/INF
Height/Weight: 5-11/175
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2018 International Free Agent

Euribiel Angeles showed a plus hit tool throughout his stateside debut. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
Storm .343 .397 .461 405 61/32 124 31/3
TinCaps .264 .369 .361 86 16/8 19 5/1

2021 Highlights: Angeles put himself on the map by leading the Low-A West in hitting at 19 while playing three different infield positions – primarily shortstop. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, although his walk rate did improve from Lake Elsinore (7.9%) to his 18-game cameo at Fort Wayne (9.3%). Simply put, Angeles, 19, makes a lot of contact with exceptional bat-to-ball skills.

Negatives: While he had 26 doubles between the two levels for an overall slash line of .329/.392/.445, he doesn’t have physical projection and will never be a power threat. Defensively he played mainly shortstop but saw significant time at second and third base. His best position profile is probably second base, but the organization will likely keep running him out at third and shortstop next year in Fort Wayne.

Projection: Because of his exceptional bat-to-ball skills, there is a risk that he may not develop the selectivity needed to avoid weaker contact on pitcher’s pitches, but the spike in walk his walk rate at High-A may indicate he can make the necessary adjustment. Angeles should have little trouble in High-A to start next season and could be a mid-year candidate for promotion to San Antonio where everyone will get a better idea of how his approach plays against more advanced opposition.

8) Adrian Martinez
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Age: 25
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2015 International Free Agent

Adrian Martinez. (Photo: El Paso Chihuahuas)

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
Missions 7-3 80.2 2.34 13 83/24 64 22/21
Chihuahuas 1-2 44.1 5.28 9 39/17 50 28/26

2021 Highlights: Martinez had a well-timed breakout year that ended with him added to the Padres’ 40-player roster. With a standout changeup in his arsenal, he dominated Double-A competition, earning a promotion to El Paso. He was particularly adept at keeping the ball in the yard, allowing only four home runs in 80.2 innings in San Antonio.

Negatives: The promotion to El Paso slowed the momentum of his season, as he definitely struggled upon joining the Chihuahuas. His K/9 fell from 9.3 to 7.9, while his BB/9 increased from 2.7 to 3.5. His last two appearances in Triple-A, however, gave him something to build on entering the offseason.

Projection: Expect to see a healthy amount of Martinez in Peoria whenever camp opens as he gets a chance to pitch his way onto the Padres roster. More likely, however, is that he begins the regular season in El Paso, where he will anchor the rotation and provide pitching depth the club lacked last year. It’s completely reasonable to expect to see Martinez at Petco Park in 2022 in some capacity.

9) Jackson Merrill
Position: SS/INF
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, First Round (27th overall)

Jackson Merrill swung it in his debut in the ACL. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
ACL .280 .339 .383 120 27/10 30 9/0

2021 Highlights: Merrill was a fast-rising senior out of Severna Park High School outside of Washington DC who played himself into the first round. In his senior year, he hit a school-record 13 home runs with a .500 batting average. In the ACL he got off to a blazing start before wearing down in his last seven games in September. What he did show was a very good feel for hitting against high-level competition and the ability to play in the middle of the field.

Negatives: More than most prep prospects, Merrill is a much different player physically than he was just three years ago. According to various scouts, he can handle velocity but is still learning – like many young players – how to handle spin. The swoon at the end of the season is worth noting, but not a major red flag.

Projection: He will begin the year as the everyday shortstop for the Storm. One thing that does stand out about Merrill is that he is a baseball rat who can seemingly never get enough of the game with a bit of a chip on his shoulder to prove he’s better than many draft pundits projected. He should stick on the dirt, though where ultimately depends on how much weight he puts on. If his bat develops as expected, it will be the carrying tool at any position.

10) Justin Lange
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2020 Draft, Competitive Balance Round A (34th overall)

Justin Lange didn’t get as much action as the organization hoped. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
ACL Padres 0-3 22.0 6.95 9 29/15 18 17/17

2021 Highlights: Blink and you missed Justin Lange’s 2021 season. Coming off injury and the lost 2020 minor league season,the Padres predictably brought Lange along cautiously in his first professional season. In that time, Lange showed the Texas-sized velocity he’s known for, as well as a slider that presents itself as a weapon he can develop into an out pitch. In 22 innings, Lange struck out 29 batters, including seven in four innings in his second start of the year.

Negatives: After making it look easy in his first two starts, Lange fell victim to the free pass, allowing four in both in his third and fourth starts, and three in his fifth start. Thirteen of his 15 walks were issued to batters older than the 20-year-old Lange, perhaps an indicator of how his raw stuff plays against hitters who’ve got a little time under their belt. Lange missed almost all of August with a knee injury and showed the ill effects of it in three brief outings in September to end the year.

Projection: Padres fans in San Diego should be able to make the trip to Lake Elsinore to see Lange this year. With nine starts in the desert under his belt, if all remains clear with his health, we should see a full season of Lange in 2022. His pure stuff is among the best in the organization, and the club will hope he shows progress in the first extended opportunity he gets.

11) Brandon Valenzuela
Position: C/1B
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: B/R
How Acquired: 2017 International Free Agent

Brandon Valenzuela’s offense caught up to his work behind the plate in 2021. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
Storm .307 .389 .444 378 80/44 101 30/6
TinCaps .245 .415 .327 65 20/15 12 2/1

2021 Highlights: The switch-hitting backstop from Hermosillo turned heads with a breakout year at the plate, assuaging concerns of previous seasons when his best slash line in a year was .253/.379/.323. Already well-regarded as a defensive catcher, Valenzuela added a much improved hit tool in 2021, and it resulted in a promotion to Fort Wayne before the season was over.

Negatives: Valenzuela doesn’t have a ton of power, with eight career home runs in 869 plate appearances. He also struggled somewhat at the plate upon joining the TinCaps, which undoubtedly was at least partly due to the fatigue of catching his first full season in pro baseball after two short-season stints and a lost year to COVID in 2020.

Projection: It would make sense to see Valenzuela begin the year back at Fort Wayne as their primary catcher, familiarizing himself with High-A pitching as he’s now more accustomed to full seasons. At some point in the year, he could easily find himself in San Antonio if he continues to build upon his 2021 season.

12) Eguy Rosario
Position: INF
Height/Weight: 5-9/185
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2015 International Free Agent

Eguy Rosario had plenty to celebrate in 2021. (Photo: Rey Holguin)

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
Missions .281 .360 .455 481 109/49 118 46/12

2021 Highlights: For the first time in his career, Rosario wasn’t among the youngest players in his league, and he showed out both at the plate and with the glove to earn a spot on the 40-player roster at the end of the season. Starting out at second base, where he’s most comfortable, and shifting over to short after Abrams’s injury, the San Antonio fan favorite set career highs in doubles, home runs, and walks before getting a turn in the Arizona Fall League, where he was the lone Padres representative in the Fall Stars Game and flashed some impressive leather at third base.

Negatives: No one in San Antonio came close to matching Rosario’s 109 strikeouts. While he’s still only 22, Rosario plays a raw game sometimes, with an aggressive approach at the plate leading to strikeouts, and on the basepaths leading to unnecessary outs.

Projection: Rosario will begin the year in El Paso, likely at second base, but it would not surprise to see Eguy in Padres pinstripes at some point during the year. He provides versatility in the field and on the bases with enough upside at the plate to provide value as a big league utility player.

Victor Acosta works double-time as shortstop and umpire in Peoria. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

13) Victor Acosta
Position: SS
Height/Weight: 5-11/170
Age: 17
Bats/Throws: B/R
How Acquired: 2021 International Free Agent

Team AVG OBP SLG PA K/BB Hits XBH/HR
DSL Padres .285 .431 .484 224 45/38 53 22/5

2021 Highlights: Acosta started the year by signing for $1.8 million, the largest bonus in the Padres’ 2021 international class. Six months later, he was a 16-year-old starting in the DSL, showing why the club was willing to make such a large investment. He displayed an advanced feel for hitting from both sides of the plate and advanced pitch recognition. Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, Acosta finished the season in the top 10 in OBP, triples, and stolen bases.

Negatives: It’s hard to nitpick negatives for a 16-year-old in the lowest reaches of professional baseball. The biggest question mark post signing when Acosta signed was how much power might eventually come from his frame. While he finished the season with only five home runs, only one player in the entire DSL hit over 10. Acosta committed 20 errors in 53 games in the DSL, but evaluators like his action and range at the most difficult position on the field..

Projection: Acosta was stateside for Fall instructs and scouts seemed to be even more impressed with him than when he first signed. He should be a key part of a very young position player group in the Arizona Complex League. There is a lot to be excited about with Acosta.

14) Robert Gasser

Robert Gasser works in the bullpen at the Peoria Sports Complex. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Position: LHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, Competitive Balance Round B

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
ACL Padres 0-0 1.00 0.00 1 1/0 0 0/0
Storm 0-0 14.0 1.29 5 13/2 11 4/2

2021 Highlights: This list is filled with guys who had breakout 2021 campaigns as the industry got back to something like normal, but few vaulted as far as Gasser. Before COVID, he was a reliever at the University of Houston, sitting upper-80s with an 11.57 ERA. In 2021, after a year in the weight room, he was consistently hitting 93, topped out at 96 mph and forced his way into the Friday night starter role and a second-round pick for the Padres. He continued that effectiveness after being drafted with a 1.29 ERA with Lake Elsinore.

Negatives: Despite just being drafted, Gasser will turn 23 in May, putting a bit of pressure on him to move quickly through the organization. His 12-6 breaking ball improved in 2021 but was still considered below average to average, and he’ll have to show he can maintain his newfound velocity over the course of a full professional season.

Projection: Another winter of work similar to what he put in before his senior year he should have no issue implementing the Padres program for him. He is set to open up in High-A Fort Wayne, but given his age and commitment could easily be one of the first names promoted to Double-A San Antonio.

15) Ethan Elliott
Position: LHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: L/L
How Acquired: 2019 Draft, 10th Round

Ethan Elliott got three games under his belt in Double-A. (Photo: Rey Holguin)

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
TinCaps 2-1 58 2.95 12 71/13` 43 20/19
Missions 0-1 12.2 3.55 3 16/6 16 7/5

2021 Highlights: Elliot’s third start of the year, when he struck out 13 and allowed just one hit and no walks over six innings, was arguably the best performance of the year in the system. He needed only 86 pitches to complete the task. That start propelled Elliott, who had a nice 2019 season with Tri-City, to legitimate prospect. When Elliott was promoted to Double-A in the middle of July, he was leading the league in most pitching categories including ERA and strikeouts. Elliott’s season was soon derailed by injuries as he appeared in only three games with the Missions before being shut down after a July 25th start.

Negatives: Elliott will turn 25 in April, which puts him nearly two years older than Ryan Weathers, and he has thrown just 12.2 innings above A-Ball. Elliott also typically sits between 88-90 mph, occasionally reaching back for low-90s. Outside of a plus changeup, his other pitches are just solid and rely on deception in his delivery and ability to hit his locations. Will that deception continue to play at higher levels?

Projection: If healthy, Elliott should start the year with the Missions. If he can have even close to the same success he had in Fort Wayne, it will be a good foretelling that he could make it work in the majors.

16) Victor Lizarraga
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Age: 18
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2021 International Free Agent

Victor Lizarraga was the Padres’ youngest player in the ACL. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Team W-L IP ERA GS K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
ACL Padres 0-4 30.0 5.10 11 35/15 25 17/17

2021 Highlights: Lizarraga was the top pitcher from the Padres’ January international free agent signing class, though he grew up in San Diego before moving across the border for eligibility purposes. He never threw more than four innings in any start, and didn’t go past two innings in four of his 11 starts. Despite that, there was a lot to like. His fastball sat in the low-90s, but could could easily end up sitting mid-90s by the time he is 20. He also flashed both a plus slider and change although they were inconsistent.

Negatives: It’s hard to read much into 30 innings of complex league baseball, but despite his good feel for pitching, Lizarraga walked 15 and gave up five homers in his professional debut. He doesn’t have nearly the physical projection of some other pitchers his age, so his ceiling may be a bit more limited.

Projection: The Padres will have a difficult decision on whether to push the 18-year-old to Lake Elsinore, where he would more than likely be one of the youngest in the league, or give him another year in the Arizona Complex League. How he is handled will be an interesting test of the Padres’ new pitching program. Either way, if Lizarraga continues to develop, he could be a top 10 prospect in the system next year.

17) Kevin Kopps
Position: RHP/Relief Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-0/200
Age: 25
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, Third Round

Kevin Kopps kept on rolling after the Padres drafted him in the third round. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Team W-L IP ERA K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
ACL Padres 0-0 4.2 1.93 10/1 3 1/0
TinCaps 1-0 8.0 0.00 10/4 2 0/0
Missions 0.0 2.0 0.00 2/1 0 0/00

2021 Highlights: Dominance. All Kopps did in 2021 was stymie the opposition, winning the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s most outstanding player for the University of Arkansas. The right-hander posted an ERA of 0.90, striking out nearly 40 percent of the hitters he faced. If that wasn’t enough, Kopps transitioned seamlessly to minor league baseball, allowing just one earned run in 14.2 innings.

Negatives: The two main knocks on Kopps are his age (25) and the lack of a dynamic fastball to spearhead his arsenal. Despite his absolute dominance over SEC competition, Kopps tops out around 93, putting a heavy emphasis on his ability to command both sides of the plate and his wipeout cutter to have success.

Projection: Jumping from Fayetteville, Arkansas to the professional ranks didn’t seem to phase Kopps, as his collegiate mastery continued across three different minor league stops. Kopps will open the season in the upper minors, but his minor league stint figures to be brief assuming there is eventually a big league season. The right-hander should become a key cog in a reshaped Padres bullpen.

18) Brayan Medina

Brayan Medina offers plenty to dream on, though his performance lagged in 2021. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2019 International Free Agent

Team W-L IP ERA K/BB Hits GS Runs/Earned Runs
ACL Padres 0-1 5.0 18.00 7/3 11 2 11/10
DSL Padres 0-2 28.2 3.77 42/21 22 10 15/12

2021 Highlights: Medina’s first professional campaign displayed the inherent risks of young international arms. After scuffling through three appearances in Arizona, Medina was sent down to the Dominican Summer League, where he had considerably more success, finishing with a 3.77 ERA. He showed big velocity and room for growth that earned him a seven-figure bonus in 2019.

Negatives: Medina struggled to harness his control in 2021, walking nearly seven batters per nine innings after his demotion to the DSL. As with all pitchers his age, there is extreme risk involved simply with how far away he is. The ceiling is very lofty, but there are a myriad of developmental hurdles still to be conquered.

Projection: Medina figures to get a second chance at stateside success in 2022, likely back in the Complex League. The overall profile is one to dream on, as Medina possesses one of the higher ceilings of any arm in the organization.

19) Reggie Lawson
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2016 Draft, Competitive Balance Round B

Reggie Lawson made a brief return to the Missions. (Photo: Joe Alexander)

Team W-L IP ERA K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
Missions 0-2 2.0 9.45 9/6 7 10/7

2021 Highlights: Lawson’s 2021 highlights were all too brief. The talented but frequently-injured right-hander was limited to just four appearances spanning a total of 6.2 innings coming off Tommy John surgery in March of 2020. The Padres outrighted Lawson to Triple-A El Paso in December after he was shut down in late June.

Negatives: Lawson’s litany of injuries has derailed his minor league career, limiting him to just 233 innings since the Padres drafted him in 2016. The Victorville native has arrived at somewhat of a career crossroads as he approaches his 25th birthday in early August. The stuff is good enough to be a part of a big league rotation, but health and availability will be paramount going forward.

Projection: Lawson has lost so much development time to injuries, the chances of emerging as a big league starter seem pretty bleak, despite his top-shelf stuff. Even before losing so much time, there were some who thought he best profiled as a shut-down reliever. If he’s healthy this year, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him shift roles.

20) Efrain Contreras
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 5-10/210
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: 2017 International Free Agent

Efrain Contreras will be on the clock once he can return to the mound. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Team W-L IP ERA K/BB Hits Runs/Earned Runs
DNP

2021 Highlights: Contreras missed all of 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery following fall instructs in 2020. Prior to the injury, there were some reported velocity gains into the mid-90s. Despite missing an entire year of development, the Padres added him to the 40-player roster to shield him from being lost in the Rule 5 Draft.

Negatives: Contreras is maxed out physically, so he’s essentially a finished product with less margin for error than some other arms in the system. Fortunately, the 22-year-old has the potential for above average or better command, but where he emerges post-injury remains to be seen.

Projection: Contreras could be ticketed to return to Fort Wayne after the restructuring of the minor leagues, where he could get his first opportunity at the High-A level. His workload will in large part determine his 2022 plans, but the addition to the 40-player roster puts him on the clock and will keep him from getting back on the mound until the lockout ends.

Posted by MadFriars

11 Comments

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