For the first time in the organization’s history, the San Diego Padres will field a second team in the rookie-level Dominican Summer League for the 2023 season. The team becomes the 20th MLB club to add a second roster of players at the lowest level of the minors.
“We feel like it’s a real asset to be able to run multiple teams there,” said assistant director of player development Mike Daly. “That doesn’t work without ownership’s commitment and a really strong international scouting group and strong coaching staff.”
Numerous forces inside baseball and beyond have spurred the move to multiple DSL teams.
The latest collective bargaining agreement limited the number of players on a team’s domestic reserve list to 180. That number will drop to just 165 in 2024. The Padres carried more than 210 minor-league players on their U.S. roster as recently as 2020.
“With the 180 number here domestically, what are opportunities to continue to find quality players that we can bring into the system,” asked Daly. “One of those levers is adding that second DSL team.”
Some organizations began running a second DSL club after a smaller summer league in Venezuela was shut down by political instability before the 2016 season. The Padres hadn’t been involved in the VSL after 2005.
Expanded rookie-level representation is a familiar approach for the Padres. Following their vast, largely fruitless, spending on international free agents in 2016, the Padres fielded two teams in the Arizona Complex League as the organization aggressively pushed many of the members of that class stateside in 2017. They maintained the second squad for three seasons.
For the Padres, the move comes at a unique time in their player development arc. Because the organization invested almost all of its 2023 international free agent pool in Ethan Salas, nearly 40 members of this year’s signing class are all lower-profile signees. Players who sign for $10,000 or less don’t count toward the bonus pool.
Having signed so many relatively untested players, adding a second DSL roster gives the Padres more opportunities to surface and develop talent and to retain players from last year’s DSL roster who may not yet be physically ready for competition in the U.S. but show upside.
The team will be in the same position next year when they have already committed most of their available signing bonus funds to Dominican shortstop Leo De Vries.
“You look at players, whether they’re players taken late in the draft who sign for $10,000, or the real opportunity there in Latin America to sign players for $10,000 or less,” said Daly. “What we’re looking for are guys with skills that are really hungry. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put them into the complex with Nellie Cruz and Jackson Quezada on the pitching front to develop some interesting arms… and bring them over to the States.”
Ruben Galindo is one player signed for $10,000 out of Colombia in 2019 who has moved up through the system. The right-handed pitcher was already 18 when he signed on the High-A roster at Fort Wayne.
“Luis German and Francis Pena are two $10,000 pitchers who were signed at 20 and 21 years old [last year],” said Daly. “These guys are a little bit older, but those are some real opportunities other teams have taken advantage of – being able to find some of these guys who aren’t 16 years old, but by stateside standards, they would be right within range there.”
The DSL and domestic Complex Leagues are underway on June 3 and will run through August 22.