|Original Published Date: December 27, 2016|
The Padres did a nice job recovering from several ill-advised trades in the first year of General Manager’s A.J. Preller’s tenure. While you had to admire the aggressiveness of his 2015 off-season, acquiring Matt Kemp and Justin Upton to anchor an already flawed lineup as well as Craig Kimbrel to close out games for an average rotation just didn’t make a difference. But 2016 was a new year and Preller unwound many of the trades, acquiring solid talent in return.
Manny Margot and Anderson Espinosa lead the way and while I have Margot as the number one prospect, I could just as easily put Espinosa’s name first. Margot though has a good chance to start the season as the starting center fielder in San Diego and therefore gets the nod. Joining him should be Hunter Renfroe, the Pacific Coast League’s MVP. In a September callup, Renfroe already showed what he was capable of – hitting four home runs in 11 games while batting .371.
Joining Espinosa a little further away from the show is Michael Gettys. Assuming he continues to show progress in his hit-tool, he could easily become the best player in the Padres system. There is speed, power and ton of athleticism. He just needs to hone his approach and strike zone awareness.
In two years, the Padres went from a top 10 system to a bottom 10 system, and back again to a Top 10 system. While I preferred the 2015 list, which included Joe Ross and Trea Turner, the 2017 list is nearly as good. I doubt Margot winds up being better than Turner but Espinosa has a good shot at surpassing Joe Ross.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 OF
Manny Margot is one of our favorite prospects in the game. He combines skills with just a grinder mentality that should allow him to have a long and successful career in the big leaguers.
He came to the Padres in a 2015 post-World Series trade with the Red Sox for Craig Kimbrel. The Padres assigned him to El Paso in the Pacific Coast League where he went on to have a terrific season. In 124 games he hit .304 with six home runs and 30 stolen bases. He also played very well in the playoffs, leading the Chihuahuas to a PCL Championship.
Finally on September 21st, he made his major league debut. He only got 37 at-bats, but it allowed him to get a taste of the big leagues, something that will come in handy next year when he logs 400 or more at-bats.
Scouting Report: Margot is quick twitch athlete with wirey strength. He has premium bat speed but little bulk in his lower half. However, as he puts on weight and adds strength, you can project average home run power. He’s an above-average runner with times of 4.12 to 4.17 from home to first but the speed plays up on the base paths as he gets great jumps on pitchers and can steal bases in bunches.
Margot’s hit tool is also very advanced with a mature approach and the ability to alter his swing to make contact. He just has a great feel for hitting and has all the makings of a high average leadoff hitter. He is an aggressive hitter, so he’s not going to post a .400 OBP but as a potential .300 hitter, a .350 OBP should be a reasonable baseline. Finally, Margot is a plus defender, getting excellent jumps and covering a lot of ground in the outfield. He doesn’t have a plus arm but it’s plenty good to throw a plus overall defender profile on him.
Fantasy Impact: Margot could be an impact fantasy asset with a ceiling of a Shane Victorino type player – the good Victorino. There is double-digit home run potential, likely less in San Diego, with 30 plus stolen bases, a .300 batting average, hitting at the top of a line.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SP
The Red Sox paid Anderson Espinoza a $1.8 million dollar signing bonus in July of 2014, a substantial amount for a 6-foot Latin pitcher. After dominating the DSL in 2014, the Red Sox brought the 17-year-old righty to the US where he dominated the Gulf Coast League. Building on his 2015 success, he started last season in Greenville (Low-A) and he more than held his own.
In fact, he looked so good that he was traded straight-up for Drew Pomeranz in mid-July in what I thought was an ill-advised trade for the Red Sox. Sure, Pomeranz still has several years of team control but he’s also not that good and it showed after he was traded. In exchange, the Padres got one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball.
Scouting Notes: Espinoza is a slight pitcher, standing 6-feet tall and only weighing 160 pounds. However, his arm strength is impressive and when I saw him in early May, he easily hit 96 MPH in the early going. His fastball though sat for the majority of his outing in the 92 to 94 MPH range, only losing about a mile per hour from the first to the fourth inning. The pitch has a ton of late life and really jumps up on hitters with most everyone being late on the pitch throughout his outing.
He complements his fastball with a two different curve balls – a harder curve that sits 78 to 79 MPH and a slower variety (70 to 72). Both pitches will be real weapons once he learns to repeat his deliver better. I only saw him throw a handful of change-ups and it’s clearly his third pitch.
In general, his delivery is very easy and effortless. However, he doesn’t always repeat it well and can get out of sync. This should improve over time as he gains more experience. The only thing holding him back is his size. At 6-feet, he doesn’t get a lot of plane on his pitches and you do worry about him being homer-prone. However, pitching half his games in Petco should help.
Fantasy Impact: The ceiling for Espinosa is a number two starter in the mold of Blue Jay’s Marcus Stroman. Stroman has a much more solid base currently, but as Espinoza ages, he should put on weight that should only help him to log the necessary innings as a big league starter. One final word of caution for fantasy owners – Espinoza needs time to develop. He’s at least three years away from seeing the big leagues. The arm is special and he’s clearly advanced for his age, but he needs to work on repeating his delivery, developing a change-up and working down in the zone more. It’s all there though…just be patient.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF
I got Hunter Renfroe in a Dynasty League trade two years ago as a throw-in. I didn’t get it. He’s always had tremendous power and even though he’ll play half his games in Petco, the power is going to play there. In fact, if you haven’t noticed, Petco doesn’t play so bad for power anymore.
Renfroe had his best year as a prospect in 2016, hitting .306, slugging 30 home runs while posting an .893 OPS in the PCL. The season earned him MVP honors in the league as well as a promotion in mid-September to the big leagues. In 11 games, he was a monster: hitting .371 with four home runs.
Of course there are concerns. He’ll be 25-years-old in January and he’s very aggressive at the plate. In his 438 games in the minor leagues, he’s walked 6.5% of the time but it got worse when he hit the upper minors. For instance, last year he posted a disappointing 4.0% walk rate. However, if you add it all up, his ceiling is a middle-of-the-order bat with 30 home run power, posting a respectable .260 batting average with a .290 to .300 OBP.
Scouting Report: Renfroe’s carrying tool is plus raw power that emerged last year. While he has good bat speed, he’s just a strong human being. The result should be 30 home run power. He makes good contact but is a very aggressive hitter. That will put pressure on his on-base skills but I think his contact rate should allow him to hit .260 at the highest level.
He’s a fringe-average runner so stolen bases will not be a huge part of his game, but early in his major league career, he should be able to steal 5 to 8 annually.
Fantasy Impact: Renfroe should be given every opportunity to start the season with the Padres. If that happens, he will be a nice player to roster late in a fantasy draft. Owners will dismiss him because he plays for the Padres. Don’t do that as I think the power translates, resulting in a Top 30 outfielder.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 OF with extreme risk
After an ill-advise attempt to build a contender quickly, I was really down on the Padres system in 2015. A.J. Preller recovered well, particularly with the addition of Manny Margot but one guy that I thought could become an impact player was Michael Gettys. While he’s still young and has a long way to go, it has started to come together for the talented 20-year-old.
The Padres started him back in Low-A to begin the season, but after posting a.785 OPS in the first half he was promoted to High-A where he continued to play extremely well. Overall, he slashed .305/.363/.442 with 12 home runs and 33 stolen bases. It did come with too much swing and miss and his 6% walk rate was not great, but he’s still very young and improving rapidly.
Scouting Report: Gettys has the raw tools that get major league teams excited. He has elite bat speed, plus raw power, an 80-grade cannon of an arm, and is a double-plus runner. The problem is he his hit-tool is three grades behind his other tools. However, after seeing him in the Arizona Fall League, I must say, I’m a believer.
First, he has the look…the look that says I got mad athleticism and skills. Candidly, it’s the same look that Mike Trout had the first time I saw him. Look, he’s not Mike Trout, not even close, but the confidence and the style is eerily similar. I also think he’ll hit. He’ll never be a .300 hitter but the swing has improved and so has his pitch recognition. If he can just hit .260, he could be a star because there is 20/40 potential with a chance to be a gold-glove outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: On upside alone, Gettys will make our Top 100. He still has a ways to go and a .230 batting average next season in Double-A is entirely possible. That said, it’s all there. He just needs time and at 21-years-old, he has another two-years to marinate. For me, the upside is a Carlos Gomez (the good one – the Brewers guy). It could take a while but it’s in there.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP
Cal Quantrill was one of the more intriguing players in the 2016 MLB Draft. Since pitching as a freshman for Stanford, evaluators considered him to be one of the top players coming out of this past year’s draft. However, Quantrill had TJ Surgery in 2015 and didn’t pitch at all before the draft, leading to much speculation of where he would be drafted. The Padres decided to go “early” and selected him with the eighth overall pick. He showed signs of being dominate, but also had some outings that were dreadful. At this point, the Padres are just happy that he’s healthy and in general, looked good.
Scouting Report: Assuming health, Quantrill is primarily a fastball/change-up pitcher. His fastball sits in the low-90’s with plenty of sink (1.83 GO/AO ratio). While many times pitchers with a heavy sinker become pitch-to-contact pitchers, Quantrill strikes out batters. In his limited 37 innings in professional ball, he struck out over 11 per nine. His primary out-pitch is a plus change-up that just disappears. It’s a great pitch that is already big league ready. His slider is his best breaking pitch and is still a work-in-progress. For Quantrill to reach his ceiling of a number two starting pitcher, he needs to improve his slider. Through repetition, I see no reason why the pitch can not become at least an average pitch, if not more.
Qunatrill’s delivery is a little stiff but he does get good plane on his pitches as well as good extension. He is off-balance on his landing as he puts so much power into the delivery. It doesn’t appear to affect his arm slot as it looks like it stays pure.
Fantasy Impact: It appears that Quantrill is healthy and his stuff and control are returning. While there is risk in drafting TJ-survivors, I think he’s worth the risk as the upside is a number two starter. He has a chance to strikeout a batter-an-inning; and with the ability to keep the ball down, his ratios should be better than league-average.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
Javier Guerra was traded along with Manny Margot in the Craig Kimbrel trade last winter with many suggesting that Guerra had a higher ceiling than Margot. That did not hold true last year as Margot excelled and Guerra really struggled in 105 games in High-A. In fact, it was just an awful statistical year.
In 105 games in the hitter-friendly California League, Guerra hit .202 with a .264 on-base percentage. He also struck out an alarming 32.7% of the time while walking 7.9%. He did pop nine home runs, but that was a small consolation in an otherwise dismal season. I would assume the Padres would have Guerra repeat the level and since he just turned 21-years-old, he’s still very age-appropriate for High-A.
Scouting Report: Guerra is slightly built at 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds and will need to add strength in order for him to have success as he moves through the system. His nine home runs were encouraging but the trade off in strikeout rate was not. I have reports on him muscling up on the ball and trying to hit everything 600 feet. When I saw him this year, I did not see that but instead, I saw a guy lunging after soft stuff away. Regardless, there is clearly work to be done.
Fantasy Impact: Last year I wrote that: “Guerra will be a sexy pickup this year but I’m not jumping in yet with both feet.” I wasn’t sold on the offensive upside and based on what we saw this year, I continue to be skeptical. If he can tone down his swing and get back to making better contact, he could be a .270 15/5 type of performer. At peak, that’s a good fantasy performer, but not a star.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
Selected in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Josh Naylor found his way to the Padres in the botch trade for Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea. After the dust settled, Colin Rea and Luis Castillo were returned to their original teams, basically making the trade, Cashner and Tayron Guerrero for Naylor.
Scouting Report: While Naylor is clearly a prospect, for me, he’s not an elite prospect. The body is not great and while he has plus raw power, the approach is very raw and there is a lot of swing and miss in his game. He has below-average speed, so I would not get too excited about the 10 bases he swiped in 89 games in the Midwest League.
Despite my less than enthusiastic profile, the game is changing and a below-average approach is tolerated if a player can produce double-plus power. Candidly, Naylor could hit 20 to 25 home runs, possibly 30 and that could make him a full-time regular in the major leagues. That said, I’m still not sold as I believe the bad body and the swing and miss will get in the way of his power and leave the Padres thinking they should have kept Castillo.
Fantasy Impact: The upside for Naylor is an Adam Lind type of performer – a 20 to 25 home run power that will be a platoon first baseman. As he works his way through the minors, I believe he will be exposed in facing lefties and will be a more effective performer if used exclusively against right-handed pitchers.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
The Padres signed Luis Urias in 2013 as a 16-year-old without much fanfare, hoping that eventually he would develop into at least a serviceable organizational player. After hitting .317 in 229 professional games, the upside is much more than an organizational player; in fact he’s a legitimate prospect that could see the major leagues as soon as next season.
He did nothing but hit last season. In 120 games in High-A, he hit .330 while walking more than he struck out (40/36). In fact, his 36 strikeouts in 531 plate appearance equated to an almost unbelievable 6.9% strikeout rate. How good was that? My measuring stick for contact is Jose Altuve and he had a 9.8% strikeout rate. It was good, very good.
The Padres were so impressed that when they needed help in mid-June in Triple-A, they called upon Urias to fill-in. He hit .444 with five walks and one strikeout in his three games. He even hit a home run.
Scouting Report: If you followed all the stats I threw out, the conclusion you should draw is Urias can hit. The bottom line is he has elite contact skills with a very mature approach. He does have a slight build, but I think he fills-out enough to hit 10 to 12 home runs down the road. He’s only an average runner, so I don’t think stolen bases will be a big part of his game.
The Padres did play him at shortstop towards the end of the season to add some needed versatility. If serviceable there, he could develop into a solid utility player with a chance for extended looks at second.
Fantasy Impact: Urias could sneak up on people. The kid can hit and I think he develops more strength than he has currently shown. He’s not going to be a dynamic fantasy player but with a little more power, he could be a very nice middle infielder in deeper fantasy roto league. The primary reason will be his ability to score a ton of runs; a category that can be frustrating for owners to fill. He’s not a star and should only be rostered in deeper leagues, but he’s a kid that should be on Dynasty League owner’s radar. In fact, don’t be surprised when you see his name in a starting lineup in 2017 for the Padres.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
We have long been intrigued by Franchy Cordero, continuing to rank him despite anemic stat lines early in his professional career. However, 2016 was the breakout we have been waiting to see. Granted it took nearly a .400 BABIP to accomplish, but Cordero posted a slash line of .290/.344/.450 across primarily High and Double-A.
As to not get ahead of our skies, there continue to be the same warning signs with Cordero as there has always been, primarily his penchant to strikeout. In 602 plate appearance, he struck out 25% of the time. Additionally, in his brief time in the Arizona Fall League, he struck out nearly a third of the time.
Scouting Report: When I first saw Cordero in 2014, I fell in love with the swing. He has a beautiful lefty swing where he is able to keep his hands inside the ball and pound balls to all fields. He does have an aggressive approach and expands the strike zone far too much. His nice stat line in the upper minors in 2016 was fueled by an unsustainable .400 BABIP. A more realistic batting average given his base skills is more in the .250 to .260 range.
Cordero does have nice secondary skills with excellent bat speed and emerging power. While he’ll never have plus in-game power, he could hit 12 to 15 home runs at the highest level. Additionally, he’s an above-average runner, capable of stealing 15 to 20 bases annually. However, his stolen base rate needs improvement and that should come with more instruction and repetition. Where Cordero has really excelled is in the field. The Padres have moved him from the dirt to the center field and he has quickly become a plus defender.
While there is a lot like, unless Cordero can improve his strikeout rate, he’s likely a fourth outfielder. If he stops expanding the strike zone, things start to get very interesting with the upside of a Cameron Maybin type center fielder at the highest level.
Fantasy Impact: So far I’ve been wrong about Franchy Cordero. I do think he’ll be a major leaguer but unless the hit tool takes a step-up, the ceiling is a fourth outfielder. If you roster 350 or more minor leaguers, I would take a flyer because he’ll likely start the season in Triple-A and should see the major leagues sometime in 2018. However, I don’t think he’ll be an impact fantasy contributor…at least…not yet.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP
Eric Lauer dominated his junior year at Kent State pitching to an impressive 0.69 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out nearly 11 per nine while walking less than three per nine. The Padres liked what they saw and dropped $2 million dollars to sign the 6-foot-3 right-hander in the Supplemental First Round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
In his professional debut, it was more of the same. In 10 three-inning starts, he pitched to a 2.06 ERA, striking out nearly 11 per nine while walking less than three per nine. He spent most of his time in the college-heavy Northwest League but did get one start in Low-A. The Padres will likely start him back in the Midwest League to begin the 2107 season with a good chance to see High-A before the season ends.
Scouting Report: Lauer has a solid three pitch arsenal with a fastball that sits in the low-90’s, touching 94 MPH when he needs something extra. His secondary pitches grade out as average. He does throw strikes and that helps all of his pitches play up, however, he doesn’t have any true plus pitch that stands out.
While there’s a lot to like with Lauer and pitching half his games in Petco Park will help, his ceiling is a mid-rotation starter.
Fantasy Impact: I would consider rostering Lauer in deeper Dynasty Leagues. While the stuff puts him as a number four or five starter on a fantasy team, he will pitch in the NL, pitching half his games in Petco Park. Plus, he should move through the system quickly.
2017 Emerging Prospect
It’s rare that you see a 17-year-old Cuban Émigré playing professional baseball but Adrian Morejon left Cuba in 2015 and the Padres signed him to an $11 million dollar signing bonus as soon as he was declared eligible. It was a significant investment for a then 16-year-old and once again shows the type of bonuses that could be paid if baseball was left to a true free-market. Morejon has above-average stuff and polish for a 17-year-old and therefore could move through the system quickly. He’s only 6-feet tall but as a lefty, that should limit his exposure to having a lack of downward plane.