Over the years, we’ve generally only done one set of prospect rankings during the offseason and left them alone throughout the year. We’ve always seen a little attrition over the course of the year, but we’ve learned our lesson with A.J. Preller as General Manager, and waited until late enough in spring that they’ve generally had staying power.However, between the lockout pushing the trade season back and a surprise retirement, a full quarter of the players on our list when we published in March are no longer in the organization.
Justin Lange headed to the Yankees in exchange for Luke Voit, the A’s acquired Euribiel Angeles and Adrian Martinez for Sean Manaea and Aaron Holiday, Ethan Elliott announced his retirement because of a shoulder injury, and Brayan Medina was sent to Minnesota as the player to be named in the Taylor Rogers deal. With MacKenzie Gore on his way to graduating, clearly, it’s time for something to give.
While we don’t want to do a full re-rank based on seven weeks of the season, we’re also making a few adjustments to our off-season list based on new information at hand. So, while this list is still largely based on a consensus between our six individual Top 30 lists, there are some revisions to reflect what we’ve learned so far this year. No change is bigger than the jump Esteury Ruiz has taken back into the midst of the system’s top performers.
We don’t include any of the January 2022 international signees, though everything we’ve heard and a very brief view in spring training suggests that Jarlin Susana will be here at the end of the year. We will have new additions as Gore and others graduate or are traded throughout the season.
Top 20 for 2022 (All ages as of minor league opening day, April 5, 2022.)
1) CJ Abrams (Previously 1)
How Acquired: 2019 Draft, First Round (Sixth overall)
2022 Update: Despite coming into the year with just 191 plate appearances above the Complex League, Abrams was part of the Padres’ opening day roster. While his predictable struggles resulted in the club sending him back to Triple-A, the long-term prospects remain very strong. Although Abrams logged 12 innings in the outfield with the big league club, he has worked only at shortstop since joining the Chihuahuas.
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 in San Diego is likely elsewhere 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.
2) Robert Hassell III (2)
How Acquired: 2020 Draft, First Round (Eighth overall)
2022 Update: Hassell has gotten off to a stellar start in High A, showing a balance of bat-to-ball skill and emerging power, while swiping 15 bases without getting caught. Hassell should move up to Double-A at some point during the summer.
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.
3) MacKenzie Gore (4)
Position: LHP/Starting Pitcher
How Acquired: 2017 Draft, First Round (Third overall)
2022 Updates: It’s hard to imagine a better turn-around for Gore than we’ve seen this year. From his first appearance of the spring on, he’s shown velocity, feel for his four pitches, and a strong mound presence. After just one outing in El Paso, Gore joined the big league club, where he’s shown that he belongs on one of the best big league starting staffs in the game. He’ll still need to refine his command to hit the lofty expectations the industry had for him after 2019, but he’s answered many of the questions that hung over him this winter.
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.
4) Luis Campusano (3)
How Acquired: 2017 Draft, Second Round
2022 Updates: Campusano struggled in Spring Training and the Padres opted for minor league free agent signee Jorge Alfaro as their second catcher to open the year. The 23-year-old did briefly join the big league club in late April but recorded just 12 plate appearances in eight days. With El Paso, he’s been among the best offensive performers in the PCL, but he continues to work on managing his pitching staff.
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 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.
5) James Wood (5)
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, Second Round
2022 Updates: Wood has twice been sidelined by a wrist injury. While it doesn’t appear there’s any structural damage, the organization will be cautious getting him back to the Storm. The longer he’s away, the happier pitchers around the Cal League will be as the big man pounded competitors for a .300/.462/.560 line while walking more than he struck out. He should be back in Elsinore in June, and a second half that looks anything like his first 14 games would likely cement his position among the top offensive prospects in the game.
2022 Interviews: Spring Training
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. Wood went through a six-week stretch in his senior year when his strikeout rate jumped, questions arose 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) Jackson Merrill (9)
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, First Round (27th overall)
2022 Update: Before injuring his left wrist on an awkward fall at second base, Merrill was asserting himself in his first taste of full-season ball. The teenager was at .393/.452/.518 through 13 games, but it could be another month before he gets the chance to get back underway. While he might still outgrow the position, he’s looked comfortable and competent at shortstop with the Storm.
2022 Interviews: Spring Training (Severna Park Voice)
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: One thing that stands out about Merrill is that he is a baseball rat who can seemingly never get enough of the game and he has 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.
7) Esteury Ruiz (Unranked)
How Acquired: 2017 Trade with Matt Strahm and Travis Wood from
Kansas City for Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter, and Trevor Cahill
2022 Update: Ruiz is no stranger to our Top 20 lists, but coming off another injury-shortened season with middling results, he fell off each of our individual lists over the winter. What he’s done over the first seven weeks of 2022 puts him squarely back among the top prospects in the system, with a chance he could contribute this year.
2022 Interviews: San Antonio
2021 Highlights: After spending six weeks on the disabled list, Ruiz came back making loud contact and posted an OPS over 900 over a 32-game stretch, but he couldn’t keep it up and finished the year with a rough September. Moved exclusively to the outfield late in 2019, Ruiz showed flashes of how he could deploy his game-changing speed defensively, but still had plenty of growing pains in both the corners and center field. On the bases, he continued to improve his success rate, leading the organization with 36 stolen bases while succeeding in 86% of his attempts.
Negatives: Ruiz has had multiple hand and wrist injuries from head-first slides on the bases which – combined with the pandemic – have cost him valuable development time. His last above-average offensive campaign is now more than three years ago.
8) Joshua Mears (6)
How Acquired: 2019 Draft, Second Round
2022 Updates: For one glorious week, we got a glimpse of Mears’s immense upside as the big man went off for a .368/.455/1.263 line while only striking out 27% of the time in a series at Lansing. But the rest of the year has been a struggle as he’s whiffed in 50 of his 105 other plate appearances. He is among the highest-variance prospects we’ve ever seen, but even with a 20-hit tool, he’s dangerous enough to be a valuable big league hitter if he can find his path.
2021 Highlights: In the 61% of 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 the 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: 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.
9) Brandon Valenzuela (11)
How Acquired: 2017 International Free Agent
2022 Updates: Valenzuela’s gotten off to a rough start at the plate, hitting just .196, but he’s shining behind the plate for the system’s best pitching staff. He’s actually walking more and only striking out slightly more often than he did in Lake Elsinore last year, and even without hitting the ball harder, he can expect some improvement in his average on balls in play as the season progresses.
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.
10) Eguy Rosario (12)
How Acquired: 2015 International Free Agent
2022 Updates: Rosario stumbled out of the gate this spring after putting together his most complete offensive season in 2021. His walk rate is down, his strikeout rate up, and he’s hitting fewer line drives, all a recipe for a .294 wOBA through his first 38 games. The 22-year-old has often performed better as the season goes on, so it’s too early to read too much into the struggles, but with limited depth options on the 40-player roster, the club would like to see him get hot.
2022 Interviews: El Paso.
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: 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.
11) Victor Acosta (13)
How Acquired: 2021 International Free Agent
2022 Updates: Acosta has been part of a deep group the Padres have working in extended spring training and will get underway with the ACL club in early June.
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.
12) Robert Gasser (14)
Position: LHP/Starting Pitcher
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, Competitive Balance Round B
2022 Updates: The lefty is among the Midwest League leaders in strikeouts, but the walk rate remains high and opponents have done some damage when they make contact. None of that’s especially surprising in his first full season of professional baseball. He still looks to have what it takes to develop into a rotation piece.
2022 Interviews: Fort Wayne
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.
13) Victor Lizarraga (16)
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
How Acquired: 2021 International Free Agent
2022 Update: Lizarraga is the youngest player to throw a pitch in minor league baseball this year. While he still has some physical maturation, he’s also getting plenty of swings and misses with his fastball and change-up. He’ll be challenged to hone his breaking ball into something he can rely on more regularly.
2022 Interviews: Lake Elsinore
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 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: As he grows into his full strength, he could still add velocity to a fastball that now sits around 93. Lizarraga has all the traits to profile as a starter as he advances if he can bring the breaking ball along. His extreme youth gives him a long runway for development.
14) Noel Vela (Unranked)
How Acquired: 2017 Draft, 28th Round
2022 Update: The lefty from Texas has struggled with control at times, but he’s also struck out 36 in 29 innings and is holding opponents to a .203 average. He shows three pitches that have the chance to be weapons at the highest level and is learning how to sequence them more effectively.
2022 Interviews: Fort Wayne
2021 Highlights: Originally drafted as a rail-thin 17-year-old out of deep South Texas, Vela has matured enough physically to show starter traits. A mid-season adjustment in Lake Elsinore to improve the balance in his delivery stuck as he moved up to Hi-A and he finished the year with an eye-popping 107 strikeouts in 87.2 innings and a strong .218 opponents’ average. He now sits comfortably mid-90s with his fastball, making his changeup an even more dangerous weapon.
Weaknesses: Vela can lose the zone entirely and even on his best days, struggles to lock in his command. If he can’t continue to refine his delivery, then he likely slides to the bullpen. However, if he can continue the development curve he’s been on over his five years in the system, he could sneak up many.
15) Steven Wilson (Unranked)
Position: RHP/Relief Pitcher
How Acquired: 2018 Draft, Eighth Round
2022 Update: Each of us had Wilson just outside the top 20 before all the system attrition, and even before he started striking out big league hitters had slid up the rankings. The righty has worked some high leverage innings out of the Padres pen but a few big homers have pushed him back down the depth chart.
2021 Highlights: The Santa Clara alum just kept mowing down Triple-A hitters, racking up a stellar 63:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 39.1 innings. He held opponents to a minuscule .157 average against, then continued to build on the success with 10 scoreless frames in the Dominican Winter League. The Padres elected to add him to the 40-man roster rather than expose him to a Rule 5 draft that never happened.
Weaknesses: When Wilson gives up hits, they tend to come in clumps, and go for extra bases. Despite the ridiculous strikeout rates, his FIP indicates his 3.43 ERA for El Paso may have been a bit lucky. He’ll need to develop the breaking ball a bit more to get outs consistently at the back of a big league bullpen.
Projection: At 27, Wilson’s window is now. The club continued to pass him up even as the need for pitching help escalated last summer, but now that he’s on the 40-player roster, he’ll certainly get the opportunity to contribute in the big-league bullpen this year.
16) Corey Rosier (Unranked)
How Acquired: 2021 Trade with Ray Kerr from Seattle for Adam Frazier
2022 Update: Rosier wasn’t in the system when our individual lists started, and he landed just outside the top 20 when we initially completed it in March. The Maryland native has had some bad luck with a .265 BABIP, but his advanced approach and good eye at the plate have still helped him to a .345 wOBA in his first 166 plate appearances with the organization. His speed plays on both sides of the game as he’s swiped 14 bases and played strong defense in left and occasional appearances in center.
2022 Interviews: Fort Wayne
2021 Highlights: After a solid showing in the mid-tier Southern Conference, the Mariners drafted the Washington, DC-area native in the 12th round. Rosier rewarded them by using an advanced feel for the strike zone and a quick bat to steamroll the Low-A West league in his professional debut. The lefty slashed .390/.461/.585 while showing that he could turn on pitches in his wheelhouse without giving up his overall approach which led to almost as many walks as strikeouts.
Negatives: While his speed certainly plays in center, he probably doesn’t have the arm for right and might not develop enough power to be a regular in left. He’ll get the opportunity to develop in a strong Fort Wayne outfield in 2022.
17) Kevin Kopps (17)
Position: RHP/Relief Pitcher
How Acquired: 2021 Draft, Third Round
2022 Update: Kopps has walked 10 hitters through his first 14.1 innings in Double-A, a rate that’s not sustainable for the righty. When he’s in the zone, he’s holding the Texas League to a meager .120 average, but he’s surrendered seven earned runs because of the free passes and some loud contact. He’ll need to find more consistency if he’s going to move as quickly as initially expected.
2022 Interviews: San Antonio
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.
18) Reiss Knehr (Unranked)
How Acquired: 2018 Draft, 20th Round
2022 Update: Knehr was just outside the Top 20 before the departures from the org. His walk rate has spiked to open the year as he’s largely shelved his cutter and worked to use his slider more often. While the results haven’t been there for him yet, if he can find the feel for a true breaking pitch, the hope is that it will play better when he gets back to the Majors.
2021 Highlights: Knehr opened the season posting solid results in San Antonio, although his K/9 of 7.5 was a bit underwhelming. Despite the lack of swing-and-miss stuff, his component production – and a lack of healthy arms in the system – earned him the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. Overall, Knehr got into 12 games (5 starts) with the Padres and struggled with command, pitching to a 4.97 ERA in 29 big league innings.
Weaknesses: Knehr’s best pitch is his changeup, but once he hit the big leagues, the velocity separation between it and his fastball decreased and he didn’t have a viable third pitch to really interrupt hitters’ timing. He’ll need to hone a breaking ball to get another extended look in the Majors.
19) Garrett Hawkins (Unranked)
How Acquired: 2021Draft Ninth Round
2022 Update: While he’s largely been on a restrictive pitch count in his first full season, the big Canadian has shown he has the repertoire and approach to be effective in the rotation. The righty is fifth in the Cal League with 45 strikeouts through his first 30 innings and has largely lived in the zone. His velocity has been inconsistent from start to start, but when he’s on, he sits comfortably in the mid-90s.
2021 Highlights: With his University of British Columbia squad sidelined by the pandemic, Hawkins leveraged a solid showing in the inaugural season of the Draft League to earn a selection by the Padres. The Saskatchewan native has a starter’s frame and overmatched batters in the Complex League on his way to earning the nod as our Pitcher of the Year at that level. He showed an advanced feel for the zone, not issuing a walk until his fifth appearance of the year.
Weaknesses: His track record against quality competition is limited and he’s thrown relatively few innings of any sort heading into his first full year in professional baseball. He could have some bumps as he navigates the adjustment to a typical starter’s workload.
20) Efrain Contreras (20)
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
How Acquired: 2017 International Free Agent
2022 Updates: The big righty from Juarez made his first post-surgery start for Fort Wayne earlier this month and is just getting back to work in a meaningful way.
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: His addition to the 40-player roster puts him on the clock, so he’ll not have the luxury of a slow work-back from surgery.