A total of 26 pitchers appeared on at least one of our individual top 30 lists this winter, ranging from Dylan Lesko, who each of us ranked second overall, to Kobe Robinson and Duncan Snider, who each showed up at number 30 on one list. Even outside that group, there are guys who have a case right now for inclusion.
Below, we take a look at a few arms who could easily wind up in the rankings next winter and have upside that could get them to the big leagues.
Manuel Castro, RHP
Castro signed with the Padres out of the development program of the Puebla Pericos in the summer of 2021, soon after his 19th birthday. His fastball, which plays up from the velocity it currently carries in the low-90s, overwhelmed hitters in the DSL that summer and got him to Low-A Lake Elsinore after a pair of stellar complex league outings last June. While he continued to rack up strikeouts in the Cal League – he posted 44 in 31.2 innings – he also was hittable too often. The righty, like many young arms, will need to develop a more reliable breaking ball to keep same-handed hitters off the fastball. If he can find the feel more consistently, he could prove he belongs with the more heralded arms who will join him back in Elsinore this season.
Jagger Haynes, LHP
Selected in the fifth and final round of the 2020 draft, Haynes has yet to make is professional debut thanks to an elbow injury that ultimately led to Tommy John surgery. The 6-foot-3 lefty, from the same hometown as MacKenzie Gore, was a bit undersized coming out of high school, but has used his extended rehab period to add good mass and is finally poised to face professional hitters as the 2023 campaign opens. Now 20 years old, Haynes will look to assert himself as a guy who can move up through the system as a starter. With a strong campaign, he would clearly position himself as one of the club’s top 20 prospects.
Justin Lopez, RHRP
Lopez originally signed as a shortstop out of Venezuela as part of the Padres’ enormous splurge on the 2016 international free agent class which has largely fizzled. He had just a .511 OPS by late May last year – his fourth season in Fort Wayne – when he and the Padres decided to shut it down and try a move to the mound. The initial results were encouraging as he flashed mid-90s stuff with surprisingly good feel for a slider. As with previous later-career conversion efforts with Javy Guerra and Carlos Belen, the real test will be when he reaches the upper minors. The native of Venezuela, who turns 23 in May, has better life on his fastball than either and could finally get out of Fort Wayne this summer.
Zimo (Zack) Qin, LHP
Quin was part of MLB’s player development program in China, where he played under former Padres farmhand Ray Chang. The lefty came to the US last summer to participate in the Perfect Game showcase series and was ticketed to pitch in the All-American Classic at Petco Park, but signed with the ballpark’s occupants instead. Still just 17 years old until July, Qin doesn’t yet generate the velocity he’ll need, but has a low-effort delivery and good feel for a curve. Already 6-foot-2, he’ll get plenty of opportunity to add strength as he develops in the organization. He’ll likely be brought along slowly, but Qin has the building blocks to be able to develop as a starter.
Chase Walter, RHRP
Walter is one of several hard-throwing relievers trying to re-assert himself after missing most of the 2022 season with an injury, but the 6-foot-7 righty’s devastating fastball/slider combination earns him a spot here over Jordan Guerrero and Carter Loewen. Signed as a priority undrafted free agent out of Western Carolina after the truncated 2020 draft, Walter struck out 43% of the batters he faced across the two Single-A affiliates in 2021, but also posted a 16% walk rate and managed to uncork 16 wild pitches in 39 innings. He dealt with shoulder issues throughout last year, and while he got back into a few games at the end of the season in Peoria, didn’t go out to an affiliate. Now 24, he’ll have to show he’s healthy and that he can get at least a few called strikes with his slider to force advanced hitters to chase it out of the zone if he’s going to earn a shot at the highest levels of the game. On pure stuff, Walter is nearly unmatched in the system.