|Original Published Date: January 1, 2019|
The Padres have the best system in baseball and it’s not close. Sure, the Braves have some sexy names and have been rebuilding for several years, the Padres have impact players at seemingly every age and level.
Leading the list is Fernando Tatis. He has 20-20 potential and is still only 19-years-old. The hit tool is still a work-in-progress but assuming it develops as well, he has star potential. MacKenzie Gore is another potential impact talent. The lefty has big-time stuff and as with Tatis is still only a teenager. Want some older players? How about the best catcher in the minor leagues? Francisco Mejia is ready to contribute next year and has a 60 hit-tool with 15 to 20 home run pop. Chris Paddack and Logan Allen are two pitchers that are getting close to the major leagues with Allen being ready to contribute next season.
Looking for potential impact under-the-radar guys? How about Xavier Edwards and Tucupita Marcano? While both have yet to establish themselves above short-season ball, they can really hit with some interesting secondary skills. Finally, don’t sleep on Ryan Weathers. He might be ranked near the bottom of the list but was drafted seventh overall last June and could be a fast mover.
1. Fernando Tatis (SS)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 SS
After a season and a half of pedestrian statistics, the Padres decided to jettison James Shields in the summer of 2016. How much could they get for a league average 34-year-old pitcher? The answer was not much. So, the Padres decided to go with a different tact – trade for a 17-year-old kid who had yet to play a single game in professional ball. The kid’s name…Fernando Tatis Jr.
Sure, his father played 11 years in the big leagues, but Tatis Jr. was not considered an elite talent. He had yet to fill out and many evaluators I spoke with at the time of the trade thought the ceiling was a utility player, maybe a little more if it all came together. One person, I spoke with thought differently and believed the ceiling was much, much higher. In the end, he was right and more importantly, the Padres were right!
Spin forward 30 months and Tatis Jr. has filled out and is now a Top 5 prospect in the game. He has speed and power with enough quick-twitch athleticism to stay at shortstop. His hit-tool has still not yet fully developed as there is still a lot of swing and miss in his game with an approach that is still very aggressive. But he only turns 20 in January and the balance, bat speed is all there. I think he just needs more time to hone his approach and stop expanding the strike zone so much.
The ceiling is a Top 5 shortstop with 20-20 upside. That performance might come early in his career with a .260/.320 average but over time, I think that will improve with multiple all-star games in his future.
2. MacKenzie Gore (LHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SP
How can a pitcher in Low-A who posted a 4.45 ERA have a ceiling of an Ace? Well, when that pitcher was only 19-years-old striking out 11 per nine while walking only 2.7 per nine, you take notice. That pitcher of course is Mackenzie Gore.
Drafted as the number three overall pitcher in the 2017 MLB Draft, Gore has a ton talent. At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he’s tall, projectable and very athletic. While the fastball only sits in the low-90’s, it’s projected to gain velocity as he matures and adds weight. The pitching mechanics are clean, although a pronounced leg kick is a little odd, he’s able to repeat his delivery and throw strikes.
A lot can happen as I’m still betting on a mid-90’s fastball once he gets through the organization, but so far, so good. Gore should split time between High and Double-A as the Padres continue to build his arm strength. Assuming he avoids any significant injury, he’ll likely see San Diego in 2021.
3. Francisco Mejia (C)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 C
The Padres acquired Francisco Mejia from the Indians last summer in a deal for lefty reliever Brad Hand. While the Indians were pushing hard for a Championship and desperately needed bullpen arms, the plan didn’t work as they were knocked out in the first round by the Astros. While anything can happen in the playoffs, that move could turn out to really hurt as now the Indians are peeling back payroll and a seven-year, cost-controlled starting catcher would look really good. But those are the fortunes of war in baseball. You go for it and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Mejia has a chance to be a high-end offensive catcher for years to come. He has a plus hit tool with enough power to hit 15 to 20 home runs annually. Since catchers generally provide very little offensively, it’s reasonable to project Mejia as a Top 5 catcher in fantasy baseball.
The only issue with Mejia is his defensive ability. He’s adequate as a backstop by far from elite. If that causes him to move off the position, his value will take a huge hit. As a catcher, he’s a premium fantasy player. At another position, eh…he’s rosterable for sure, but far from an impact performer. The good news is he’ll stick at catching for the next few years, so if you’re an owner, enjoy the ride
4. Adrian Morejon (LHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
Adrian Morejon had an uneven season in the California League in 2018 that was a product of a challenging league (California League) and some arm trouble that limited him to 13 starts. In the end, he posted a 3.30 ERA, striking out 10 per nine while walking 3.45 per nine. He also gave up six home runs.
The scouting report remains impressive. He has plus stuff with two impact pitches in his fastball and curve that when he can throw them for strikes, can miss bats. His fastball touches the mid 90’s that sets up his hard curveball. He also shows a feel for his changeup. He can throw all pitches for strikes but does lose his release point at times which can lead to bouts of wildness.
While I love the stuff and his feel for pitching, I must again point out that Morejon stands only 6-feet tall. While shorter lefties have a history of having more success than their right-handed counterparts, home runs could be a problem.
5. Logan Allen (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
With so many famous prospects in the Padres organization, Logan Allen gets overlooked. However, after another fantastic season where he pitched to a 2.79 ERA striking out over a batter an inning while walking less than three per nine in Double-A and pitching even better in four starts in Triple-A, that is changing.
Allen is primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball that sits 92 to 95 MPH and a change-up that misses plenty of bats. His breaking pitch flashes at times but is still a work-in-progress. If he can ever develop that pitch, combined with his plus control, he could pitch at the top of a rotation one day. However, until it does, we need to downshift and put his ceiling at a number three pitcher.
While he doesn’t turn 22 until May, assuming health, Allen will make his major league debut in 2019. He’s a perfect target for a draft-and-hold format league as when he arrives, I think he’ll be effective.
6. Michel Baez (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP with extreme risk or a Closer
Michel Baez continues to tantalize the baseball world with his 6-foot-8 frame and his big-time fastball that can touch the upper-90s. Plus, with the extension he gets on his pitches, the ball seems to jump up on batters making his stuff in more difficult to square.
The problem, as with many tall pitchers is the ability to throw consistent strikes. I did get a chance to see him this year and noticed that he pitches from the third-base side which causes him to throw across his body. While this adds a lot of deception and makes his stuff even that more lethal (like he needs it?), it’s likely causing him trouble with his control.
While there is a ton of risk, the upside continues to be sky high. If Baez remains a starter, the stuff has number two potential. If the control doesn’t improve, he could fit in the back of a bullpen with a chance to be dominant.
7. Chris Paddack (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Drafted in the eighth round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Chris Paddack put up video game numbers in his first 20 starts in 2015 and 2016. He then decided to take a year off to have Tommy John Surgery returning last season to put up well…video game numbers. In 17 starts across High and Double-A, he pitched to 2.10 ERA striking out 12 per nine and walking…are you ready…eight.
But nothing is perfect. You see, Paddack’s bread-and-butter pitch is a double-plus change-up that can be unhittable. The fastball is ok, but the curveball is not. It’s still very much a work-in-progress. Still, the ceiling is a number three starter. Kind of in the Shane Bieber type-a-way. Granted Bieber is a fastball/curveball pitcher and Paddack is a fastball/change-up guy, both have 80-grade control and will get big league batters out.
8. Luis Urias (2B)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
Luis Urias will likely be a better baseball player than a fantasy player. While he could be a .300/.375 hitter given his solid approach and plate discipline, the swing lacks loft and I’m not sure how much power he will ultimately have.
He did try altering the swing path this year and it didn’t yield much except more strikeouts. Prior to last season, he averaged a 7% strikeout rate, but it jumped up to 20% in Triple-A. If it would have come with 15 to 20 home runs, I would have been ok. Unfortunately, he hit eight.
Urias did get a promotion to San Diego in September and held his own. In fact, he hit two home runs in 12 games. He should break camp with the club as they head North despite only be 21-years-old. Again, the fantasy ceiling is a high OBP player with 10 to 12 home runs and a handful of stolen bases.
9. Luis Patino (RHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
In a stacked system like the Padres, even guys that are ranked outside the Top 10 have number three starter upside. In case you’re wondering…that is just unusual. Luis Patino has three quality pitches in a fastball that tops out at 95 MPH with a potential future-plus curveball and an emerging change-up. He’s only 6-feet tall but does pitch from a high three-quarter delivery. Home runs have not yet been a problem but could as he moves through the system.
10. Hudson Potts (3B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
Hudson Potts was one of the guys I wanted to see the most in the Fall League. I did and came away quite impressed. First, the dude is jacked, but not too much that he is losing athleticism. He’s got great bat speed and a swing that works. The plate discipline is not there, and he does struggle with pitch recognition, but at 19-years-old, he was extremely young for the AFL as well as Double-A where he ended the season.
While the Padres might be rushing Potts, he hit enough in High-A to convince the Padres to keep pushing him. He did struggle in a small sample size in Double-A but again, at 19-years-old, he was one of the youngest players in the league.
11. Ryan Weathers (LHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
With the success of drafting MacKenzie Gore in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Padres went back-to-back with another high school lefty in Ryan Weathers last June. While he doesn’t have the size of Gore, his fastball is bigger and he’s already flashing an ability to throw strikes. In 18.1 innings across the AZL and Low-A, he struck out nearly a batter an inning while walking only four batters.
Want more? His secondary pitches are also showing nice promise with a curveball that can already miss plenty of bats as well as a feel for a change-up. Want even more?? The bloodlines are there as his father David Weathers spent 19-years in the major leagues.
12. Buddy Reed (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF with elite speed
I’ve seen Buddy Reed in the California League, the AFL and the Futures game and each time he did something to impress me. The speed is double-plus, he makes great contact and can pretty much run down anything in the outfield. The problem is he just doesn’t have a lot of strength and ultimately that will limit his upside. If I compare him to Billy Hamilton, I will put his strength as more than that, but will it be enough to get him full-time at-bats? I’m just not sure.
Regardless, he should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues and perhaps even considered as a late-season pickup in a re-draft league next season. The reason? He’ll steal bases in bunches and the defense will get him playing time. As we found out with Hamilton, that was ok until he got expensive. The same thing could hold true for Reed but for now, I think he’ll hold some fantasy value.
13. Xavier Edwards (SS/2B/OF)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B or Top 45 OF
The Padres selected another high schooler in the supplemental first round last June in Xavier Edwards. An athletic kid, his carrying tool is double-plus speed as well as an idea at the plate. He got off to a fast start to the season where he hit .346/.453 with 22 stolen bases in only 45 games. He slugged .409 but did not go yard. The power, particular over-the-fence power, is currently well below average but as he matures and fills out, that is likely to change as there is plenty of bat speed.
14. Tucupita Marcano (2B)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
Tucupita Marcano is a name that Dynasty League owners and Padres fans need to know. Signed in 2016 for just over $300K, Marcano was one of the more exciting performers in the AZL last season. He’s athletic with plus speed and a great feel for hitting. In 35 games, he hit .395 while walking over twice as much as he struck out. Yes, that’s correct. He struck out 10 times while walking 26 times. Even after being promoted to Northwest League to finish the season, in 17 games, he struck out six times while walking four. He did show-off his plus speed by stealing 15 of 22 bases across both levels. While there’s plenty of bat speed, he’s shown no power to-date as his swing is more geared for contact.
Marcano just turned 19 and will likely start the year in the Midwest League. With his advanced feel for hitting, he could move through the system quickly. If it all comes together, he has the kind of upside found in Cesar Hernandez.
15. Cal Quantrill (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
After a solid 2017 campaign, Cal Quantrill took a step back in 2018. He spent most of the season in Double-A where he pitched to a 5.15 ERA striking out only 7.7 per nine and walking just under three per nine. He did get six starts in Triple-A and did pitch better, but still didn’t miss many bats.
Quantrill is solid but the stuff points more to a number four starter than a number two starter. He’s got good size with above-average control and a plus fastball that he can run up to 96 to 97. But his secondary pitches still need work and until they get sharper, I think the ceiling will be limited.