While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers.
Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our 23rd farm system overview will be of the San Diego Padres. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.
#1: LHP MacKenzie Gore
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 3rd Overall- 2017
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 57.5 Third Pitch: 57.5 Command: 60
Overall Grade: 59.375
Most of the buzz around the 2017 MLB Draft was around Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay, who were each two-way players at the time, and had an enormous upside. However, one prospect who didn’t get enough recognition was high-school lefty MacKenzie Gore, who went to the Padres with the 3rd overall pick. Gore posted an absurd 0.19 ERA and 158-5 K-BB ratio in his final year of high school, and has picked up right where he left off as a professional. The first thing you’ll notice with the 21-year-old is the insane amount of extension he has with his leg stride, which allows his fastball velocity to appear to be much harder than in the mid 90s. He doesn’t necessarily have the spin rates you’re looking for with his breaking pitches, but they’re sharp with good control, while his changeup is a well above-average offering. With a four-pitch mix, and an athletic delivery that allows him to possess exceptional command, Gore is the complete package as a pitching prospect. He’ll be a K-BB ratio darling, and even if he’s more of a high-end #2 starter than an ace, has a super high floor. If the season takes place this year, he could work his way onto the Padres’ big-league rotation.
#2: RHP Luis Patino
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 192 lbs
Signed: July 2, 2016
Fastball: 65 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 55.25
In an ideal world for the Padres, Gore will be complemented in the rotation soon by Luis Patino, whose upside is incredible. Still just 20-years-old, Patino’s fastball sits in the upper 90s with great spin and lively action, while he complements it with two electric breaking balls and a developing changeup. Heck, he’s even exceeded expectations with his command so far, and if he can just keep his walk rate at around 3 BB/9, he’ll be a premier frontline starting pitcher. It’s important to take this lightly, but his potential is very similar to Pedro Martinez, who also was an undersized flamethrower. Simply imagining a rotation headlined by him, Gore, and Chris Paddack should be something Padres fans are doing daily.
#3: LHP Ryan Weathers
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 230 lbs
Drafted: 7th Overall- 2018
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 55
Overall Grade: 55
Whereas Gore is super well-rounded and Patino has an enormous upside, Ryan Weathers is the perfect pitcher to accompany those two. He may not have the highest ceiling, but he’s a polished prospect that should move through the minors quickly, which holds plenty of value. He doesn’t have a standout pitch, but his fastball, breaking ball, and changeup are solid offerings that he commands well, and he’s advanced with his overall feel for pitching. The 20-year-old won’t be an ace, but he’s as sure of a bet as there is to be a #3 starter in the MLB. He finished the season in Single-A last season, though I still expect him to be in the Padres rotation by the beginning of the 2022 season at the latest.
#4: OF Taylor Trammell
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 215 lbs
Drafted: 35th Overall- CIN 2016
Hit: 55 Power: 45 Field: 62.5 Arm: 42.5 Speed: 67.5
Overall Grade: 53.2
General manager AJ Preller is known for making a lot of trades, even when it’s perhaps not necessary. One example was at the trade deadline, as he interjected in a trade between the Indians and Reds for starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, sending pitcher Logan Allen and outfielder Franmil Reyes to Cleveland for Taylor Trammell from Cincinnati. The 22-year-old didn’t have the season he wanted to have last season, posting just a .689 OPS in Double-A, but I’m still optimistic about his development. He should post good on-base percentages due to his high walk rates, which makes up for his strikeout tendencies. Ultimately, his offense will be dictated by his power, which hasn’t translated into on-field production, but he still has plenty of raw power to tap into. No matter what, however, he’ll provide a lot of value to a team, thanks to his defense, which projects to be elite at a corner outfield spot; his athleticism makes him passable in center field, but he’d thrive in left field. Trammell’s stock may be down at the moment, but Preller did a great job to buy low on him. He has the type of on-base/defense combination that teams cost, and still has “above-average everyday outfielder” written all over him.
#5: SS CJ Abrams
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 185 lbs
Drafted: 6th Overall- 2019
Hit: 55 Power: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 77.5
Overall Grade: 53.125
The 2019 MLB draft was filled with talented position players, as six straight went off the board with the first six picks. The last of the six was prep shortstop CJ Abrams, whom San Diego was ecstatic to see still on the board with the 6th overall pick. The 19-year-old was a very risky pick in the top ten, as he has a low floor, but if he pans out, the Padres could have their own version of Ketel Marte. He has a very quick, smooth swing with our contact skills, and better yet, has raw power that he’ll tap into over time. Now, I don’t see him sticking at shortstop, but similarly to Marte, he has the athleticism to play an effective center field- he has fringe 80-grade speed. Preller is known for taking risks, which is what he did drafting Abrams. I’ve become a bigger fan of him by the day, but he’s certainly someone who San Diego will be watching closely.
#6: LHP Adrian Morejon
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 175 lbs
Signed: July 7, 2016
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 57.5 Third Pitch: 57.5 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 53.125
As mentioned, Preller loves to takes risks, and giving $11 million to an undersized Cuban lefty certainly qualifies as one. Even to this date, we still aren’t sure what to expect from the 21-year-old. He has all the tools to succeed with a fading changeup, power breaking ball, and mid-90s fastball, but there are several red flags that may prevent him from maximizing on his potential. He doesn’t have good extension with his leg stride, which causes the perceived velocity of his pitches to be lower than you’d like, and even more worrisome, he’s inconsistent. Now, his command has been fine, especially with his high strikeout rates, but he also comes with durability questions, and may end up in the bullpen. That would severely hurt his value, so here’s hoping he can find a place in the Padres rotation. He’s already made his big-league debut, and should there be a season, will presumably fill some role for them.
#7: OF Jeisson Rosario
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 191 lbs
Signed: July 2, 2016
Hit: 60 Power: 40 Field: 57.5 Arm: 55 Speed: 57.5
Overall Grade: 53.1
Sometimes, prospects are in need of major mechanical changes, but if they can make the necessary adjustments, they have the potential to be superstars. That’s the case with outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario, who is a prospect that I like even more than his rating would indicate. The 20-year-old drew walks at a tremendous 16.6% rate, so he’ll not only use his athleticism in the field, but he’ll also be able to use it on the bases. Now, his swing can best be described as discombobulated, which currently is destroying his ability to hit for power, but still, I’m confident he can refine his mechanics to prevent that from further being an issue. Even with his lack of refinement, his on-base skills, defense, and athleticism all could be borderline elite, and with that, he’s the perfect high floor/high ceiling type of prospect.
#8: OF Tirso Ornelas
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 200 lbs
Signed: March 31, 2017
Hit: 52.5 Power: 52.5 Field: 52.5 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 47.5
Overall Grade: 52.25
Sticking with the theme of high-ceiling international outfield prospects, Tirso Ornelas was signed out of Mexico for $1.5 million in the 2016 international signing period. He has the prototypical offensive tools that stand out, yet, at the same time, that hasn’t translated. His plate discipline is fine, but his raw power hasn’t developed into game power, and the same can be said about his contact skills. Still, he’s already in High-A, and has plenty of time to develop- we shouldn’t be overly concerned at the moment. He’ll need to show improvements whenever play ultimately resumes, but for now, he remains a fascinating boom-or-bust prospect.
#9: RHP Michel Baez
Height: 6’8″ Weight: 220 lbs
Signed: December 19, 2016
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 60 Command: 45
Overall Grade: 51.75
Continuing on with their impressive 2016 international signing period, the prize of it all appeared to be Michel Baez, who signed for $3 million out of Cuba. With his towering 6’8″ frame, it’s hard for Baez to maintain his mechanics, which is why his command can be inconsistent. Meanwhile, he also has dealt with a lot of injuries, so some think he’s going to end up as a reliever. However, if he can stick as a starting pitcher, his upside is off the charts. His rising fastball, snapping breaking ball, and elite changeup give him a dominant three-pitch mix, he has all the tools to be a frontline starter, especially with the deception created by his height. San Diego moved him to the bullpen last season, but even there, he provides more value based on his ability to pitch multiple innings. He’s a low floor/high ceiling prospect, though as illustrated, that’s a profile the team isn’t scared of.
#10: RHP Anderson Espinoza
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 160 lbs
Signed: Aug 15, 2014- BOS
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 60 Command: 45
Overall Grade: 51.75
The headliner of the Drew Pomeranz trade in 2016, Anderson Espinoza was considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Yet, it’s safe to say the 22-year-old’s early career as a Padre hasn’t gone as planned. He pitched 32.1 innings with San Diego’s Single-A affiliate after being trade, but since then, has missed the last three seasons after undergoing multiple Tommy John surgeries. He’s an undersized pitcher, but between his mid-90s fastball with late movement, solid curveball, and great changeup, he’s electric. Then again, his development has obviously been stunted tremendously, and even when he returns, it’s impossible to know how durable he’s going to be. He’s the ultimate flyer as a prospect, though the Padres shouldn’t lose hope on him yet.
Best of the Rest
- Andres Munoz is limited in value as a full-time reliever, but his 80-grade fastball and breaking ball are fantastic.
- Luis Campusano is highly regarded as a catching prospect, though he’s rather inconsistent and has too aggressive of swing- it lacks control.
- Gabriel Arias is a tremendous defender at shortstop, yet with subpar offense.
- Low OBP/high slugging type of third basemen aren’t super valuable, so Hudson Potts may just be a role player.
- Inconsistency has plagued Reggie Lawson, who still has upside with a 97-98 MPH fastball.
- Tucupita Marcano is a player I’m keeping an eye on with his excellent approach and defense, but his power is non-existent.
- Mason Thompson has three plus pitchers, though his injury and control problems appear to be too much for him to overcome.
- Acquired in a six-player trade with the Royals, Esteury Ruiz has some raw power that hasn’t translated and doesn’t have any other above-average tool, so he’s probably a bench bat at best.
Farm System Overview
General manager AJ Preller has made some questionable trades and free agency signings, but he has to be commended for building the farm system. He’s taken a lot of chances, and although plenty haven’t worked out, the ones that have, the pay-off will be huge. Gore, Patino, and Weathers will be a part of a dominant rotation, while Trammell, Rosario, and Abrams are all future everyday players. Add that to Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Paddack, and other intriguing young players, and if he doesn’t ruin it with short-term ambitions, Preller may have built the foundation of a sustainable World Series contender.