While the San Diego Padres system has less depth than it has at any point in the last six years, some names beyond the players in our Top 20 could wind up contributing at the big league level.
None of the players below were among the 45 who appeared on at least one of our top 30s, so they’re deep sleepers. The group includes some lower-ceiling players who are close to the majors and some young players who could put things together.
Players ranked: Ethan Salas; Brandon Valenzuela; Lamar King, Jr.
Like other members of the 2019 international class, the Venezuelan catcher didn’t debut until 2021. Now, at 19 years old, he has yet to make his stateside debut. While the catching depth chart at the bottom of the system has suddenly gotten very strong, Linares offers above-average skills and performance on both sides of the game. Offensively, the righthanded hitter has plenty of raw power that he brought into games in his second pass at the DSL last summer, and he commands the strike zone well. Behind the plate, he’s one of the smoother receivers anywhere in the system. Figuring out how to find playing time for him, Ethan Salas, Lamar King, Jr., and Carlos Rodriguez will be one of the bigger challenges for the Padres’ player development group through the summer, but it’s certainly a problem they’re glad to have.
When COVID-19 eviscerated the Missions roster last June, the Padres acquired the then-22-year-old from the Dodgers organization for nominal cash considerations as a stopgap option. The Colombian native had played in just 155 games – all but 13 in the rookie leagues – since signing with LA in 2015. But he had a couple of key hits in San Antonio, then landed in Lake Elsinore in mid-June. Over the next two and a half months, he posted a .294/.390/.393 line, swiped 19 bases, and showed strong skills and leadership behind the plate. The quintessential example of a player controlling everything he could when given an opportunity, Zabala earned the chance to play regularly in Fort Wayne in 2023. The needle he’d have to thread to reach the big leagues at this point is incredibly narrow, but the skillset certainly looks wildly different than you might expect from a player obtained essentially for free.
Players Ranked: Jackson Merrill; Eguy Rosario; Nerwilian Cedeño; Marcos Castañon; Carlos Luis; Nathan Martorella; Daniel Montesino; Yendry Rojas; Rosman Verdugo
Batten appeared on the 2019 version of this list and has spent most of the last three years playing all over the field for El Paso. Now 28, he doesn’t profile as a starter, but he did earn his first taste of the Majors last season and has plenty of tools to be a good role contributor. Batten has carried a double-digit walk rate and has converted on 86% of his stolen base attempts over the last two years. His strong pitch recognition helps him lay off pitchers’ pitches, and he’s able to hold his own against velocity. Defensively, the Connecticut native is capable at each of the four infield positions and has enough arm to be viable at shortstop. Given the Padres’ depth around the infield, it’s unlikely Batten will get a real window of opportunity with the organization, but he will likely get other looks in the coming years.
Originally eligible to sign with the 2021 class, Muñoz ultimately waited and signed with the Padres on January 22. The club sent the big-bodied corner infielder to the Dominican Summer League, where he posted a .288/.376/.435 line as an 18-year-old. A physically-imposing righthanded hitter who weighs at least 60 pounds more than his listed weight, the Venezuelan native has among the best raw power in the system, but he has plenty of work to do to get to it consistently when he makes his stateside debut this year. He could ultimately grow out of the ability to play third, but for now, he’s an intriguing option at third who could earn a fair amount of attention in the coming year.
Players ranked: Samuel Zavala; Joshua Mears; Jakob Marsee; Juan Murillo; Ruben Salina
A 2021 signee who benefited from the delayed international period, the true center fielder had a big campaign in the DSL that summer, setting expectations for his stateside debut. Instead, the righthanded hitter got off to a slow start in the ACL, then missed most of July with an injury. When he returned to action in August, he showed better bat-to-ball skills and finished strong. He should open the 2023 campaign, which he’ll play at 19 years old, atop of the Lake Elsinore lineup. He’ll need to use his speed more effectively on the bases and add a bit more power to move into the ranks of the organization’s top prospects, but he has the core set of skills to do it.
Fabian might be more accurately listed with the infielders as he may ultimately only profile at first base, but the 21-year-old left-handed slugger makes loud enough contact to have a puncher’s chance. His .278/.362/.502 line for Lake Elsinore last year shows the potential when the power plays; however, his 38% strikeout rate in 114 late-season plate appearances with Fort Wayne shows the primary risk factor for his success. The lefthander tends to sell out to get to pull-side power, and if he’s going to take the next step, he’ll need to find a way to add some other dimensions to his game.
Much like Batten, Kohlwey was a late-round draft pick out of a small, cold-weather college who has consistently produced solid – but not eye-catching – numbers as he’s moved through the system. Unlike Batten, the Wisconsin native hasn’t reached the 40-player roster yet and is limited to the outfield and first base. Now 28, the lefthander doesn’t have one standout tool, but he makes solid contact and can offer value in the corners.
Players Ranked: Korry Howell
This is the second time I’ve included Aquino in one of these pieces. The Padres first brought him stateside for the fall after signing out of the Dominican Republic in July 2018. He finally spent the entire 2022 campaign in full-season ball, putting up generally uninspiring numbers with Lake Elsinore. Now 21, Aquino hasn’t added as much strength as many of his peers, but he remains an intriguing athlete with the tools to develop as a true utility player