In our first of our three-part series, we looked at the infield and catching depth in the Padres farm system heading into the 2022 season. At the big league level, Wil Myers and Trent Grisham are the Padres’ only two full-time outfielders with utilityman Jurickson Profar poised to see the bulk of playing time in left field, unless the Padres are able to make a trade.
The outfield picture in the minor league system is a bit of the good news/bad news variety. The Padres have three very interesting outfield prospects who could develop into everyday big league players, but none will open the year above Single-A. Should they need help in the Majors, San Diego will instead look for help from some minor league veterans. Let’s take a look at the outfield depth in the system.
Top Prospect: OF Robert Hassell III
While a future move to center for CJ Abrams has been speculated many times over the last few seasons, he has yet to make a professional appearance in the outfield. Until he does, Hassell is clearly the best outfield prospect in the organization.
The Tennessee native was exactly as advertised in his 2021 pro debut. He displayed excellent discipline at the plate, speed in the outfield and power that seemed to develop as the season progressed. In his final two months in Low-A Lake Elsinore, Hassell hit .364/.455/.549 with a 14% walk-rate. He earned a late-season promotion to Fort Wayne and hit three homers in his third game at the level. The eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft will start the year in the Midwest League 2.0.
James Wood was the Padres’ second-rounder in the 2021 draft and received a $2.6 million bonus – the largest any Padres amateur secured last season. The 19-year-old from suburban Washington, DC, dominated the ACL, hitting a blistering .372/.465/.535 in 101 plate appearances.
Listed at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, Wood has impressive speed and should be able to stay in center field initially but his enormous power potential will play in the corner outfield as well. Wood breaks camp as a member of the Lake Elsinore Storm and could put up some big numbers in the Cal League.
Joshua Mears‘ power potential is perhaps the loudest tool in the entire minor league system. The big outfielder from Federal Way, Washington hit several tape measures shots into the California sky last summer but he battled injuries and missed some time due to COVID protocols. Overall, Mears hit 17 homers in just 291 plate appearances but he struck out in nearly 40% of his trips to the plate. If Mears can make more consistent contact in the zone, he has the potential to hit in the middle-of-the-order in the big leagues. Mears will be part of a talented outfield in Fort Wayne this season.
Veterans who can help: Outfielder Nomar Mazara looked like a good bet to break camp with the major league club, due to his relative youth (he’s just 26) and his big league experience but the acquisition of Matt Beaty makes that proposition unlikely. Mazara was once considered a top 100 prospect by most publications and he finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year race back in 2016. He hit at least 19 homers in each of his first four big league seasons with the Rangers before falling off the last few seasons. He’ll have the chance to opt-out if he doesn’t make the big league roster, but would head to El Paso if he remains in the minor league system.
Trayce Thompson, 31, is perhaps best known as the brother of sharp-shooting veteran for Golden State Warriors veteran Klay. The former second-round pick has played parts of five big league seasons, with his most extensive action coming in 2015, with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Thompson has the ability to play center field and should supply useful depth in El Paso to start the season.
Fellow minor league free agent signees Luis Liberato and Thomas Milone (not to be confused with the left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone) also figure to start the season with Triple-A El Paso. Liberato, 26, hit .279/.338/.436 for Triple-A Tacoma last season while Milone hit a solid .280/.374/.450, between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton in 90 games in the Yankees’ organization.
In the wings: Tirso Ornelas, still just 22, had an uneven season last year in High-A with the TinCaps. On one hand, Ornelas led the league with 31 doubles but he hit just seven homers. He had a putrid August (.149/.262/.310) and followed it up with a scorching September (.400/.479/.550). The Tijuana native also had a good showing in the Mexican Winter League, hitting .353/.397/.473. He only homered twice but did swat 16 doubles. Ornelas will open the season as the most intriguing position player on the Double-A San Antonio roster.
OF Agustin Ruiz: 2021 was a bit of a breakout season for Ruiz, who connected on a career-high 21 homers between Fort Wayne and San Antonio. Coming into last season, Ruiz had just five career homers to his credit. The 22-year-old hit well in Fort Wayne but floundered a bit after a late-season promotion to San Antonio. Ruiz should be a regular somewhere in the San Antonio outfield to start 2022.
The 2021 campaign was a complete loss for Cuban-born Jorge Ona. After making his big league debut in 2020, Ona started the 2021 season with surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in April, and the 25-year-old played in just five games in the minors before he had to be shut down again in the summer. Now removed from the 40-player roster, Ona could be a factor for a big league team short on outfielders if he can get off to a hot start in San Antonio and remain healthy in 2022.
Looking deeper: Esteury Ruiz showed flashes of excellence last season but his overall line wasn’t overly inspiring. Ruiz’s overall slash-line of .249/.328/.411 was just a tick below league-average. Ruiz has good bat speed but he hasn’t been able to tap into the power he possesses consistently. Ruiz is still just 23 but he will need to produce more consistently. … Outfielder Corey Rosier was acquired by the Padres in the Adam Frazier trade with the Mariners. In 31 games with Low-A Modesto, Rosier hit an excellent .390/.461/.585 with three homers, 13 stolen bases, and a superb 12.8% walk-rate. The speedy outfielder will form part of perhaps the most talented outfield in the system in Fort Wayne with Hassell and Mears. … Venezuela native Samuel Zavala, who won’t turn 18 until July, will be one of the key players to watch when the Arizona Complex League gets underway. The center fielder posted an .887 OPS in the Dominican Summer League last year and already shows a strong power and patience approach at the plate.