The Padres’ window officially opened in 2020 with their first appearance in the playoffs since 2006. It was an impressive run that ended in a three-game sweep by the Dodgers but with their young Major League talent and current minor league pipeline, the window should be open for several years.
MacKenzie Gore is one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues and leads our list. It was disappointing that he didn’t get the call in 2020. Both Luis Patino (now traded to the Rays) and Ryan Weathers got the call and Gore was arguably ahead of them on the “next ready” list. Besides those three, the pitching is very deep with the key that all of them throw hard.
Offensively, CJ Abrams and Luis Campusano lead the list. Abrams is still a couple of years away but has the makings of an elite leadoff man. Campusano is a Top 3 catching prospect in the game but got caught carrying 79 grams of weed and will have to sort through that before he can continue his career.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: MacKenzie Gore
- Biggest Mover: Hudson Head
- Emerging Prospect: Ismael Mena
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Fantasy Ace
- Tools Summary: It’s all there to be a star.
The Padres were pushing for a playoff spot last September and their pitching rotation was a mess, but the best pitcher in baseball was nowhere to be seen. There were no reports on an injury, pretty much, no reports on anything. As I write this capsule in mid-November, I’ve still not heard a good explanation as to why he wasn’t called up. I did hear from someone who saw a bullpen session and said he looked “off”.
The scouting report remains the same. It’s an elite arsenal with a fastball that sits 93 to 95 MPH and a double-plus curveball. What is unique about Gore is his ability to command his fastball which allows each of his secondary pitches to play-up. Remember, command and control are different. Sure, he can throw strikes, which is control, but he’s able to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate and that is what gives him a ceiling of a number one.
We can only hope that my report of being “off” means he wasn’t ready, and the Padres didn’t want to take any chances with their prized lefty. February and March are going to be important for fantasy managers to figure out if he is draftable or not in 2021. At this point, I don’t know.
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP or Closer
- Tools Summary: Small stature but with plus stuff. Control is not all the way there
Luis Patino made his Major League debut on August 5th against the Dodgers and came out pumping 98 MPH. He also gave up three hits and three earned runs including a massive home run to Joc Pederson. In the end, his 17.1 innings, all in relief were mixed. He showed great stuff with a fastball that sat 96 to 98 and a wipeout slider that helped him strikeout over 10 per nine. He also walked over seven per nine. As we wrote last year, Patino’s control was not yet there and indeed he proved our point. But for me, I saw enough. His arm is electric, and I believe there is enough athleticism that he will learn to repeat his delivery and improve his control. Plus, he was 21 years old!
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF, Top 15 SS or Top 3 2B
- Tools Summary: 80-grade runner with the makings of a solid hit-tool. Swing is more geared to contact but could develop power down the road.
First, CJ Abrams is an 80-grade runner with good instincts on the basepaths. He also shows his speed in the outfield and while his routes could use some work, his speed allows him to make up for some of the mistakes he’s making. He has good bat speed, but his swing is more geared for contact and lacks loft. As he matures, he’ll get stronger and should naturally add some loft to his swing. While nobody will mistake him ever for a power hitter, he should have enough pop downstream to hit plenty of doubles and the occasional home run. The ceiling is an impact top-of-the-lineup bat with plenty of runs scored and stolen bases.
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Plus hit tool with power and should be able to stay at catcher
Luis Campusano got a surprise promotion to San Diego and started one game before hurting his wrist and spending the rest of the season on the IL. He’s one of the best catching prospects in the game, already demonstrating an ability to control the strike zone with power. He just turned 22 and while he likely needs more grooming, he’s closer to be ready than we originally thought. The upside is one of the best fantasy catchers in the game.
Now for the bad news. Campusano was arrested shortly after the season ended for possession of 79 grams of marijuana near his home in Georgia. While many states are decriminalizing marijuana, Georgia is not one of them. Unfortunately for Campusano, it’s a felony offense with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. While the general belief is, he will not get the maximum penalty if found guilty, it clearly will hang over him until resolved.
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF
- Tools Summary: Plus potential hit tool with solid speed and questionable power potential
Robert Hassell was the Padres first-round pick (pick #8) last June. From everyone I spoke with, it was uniform that Hassell should be able to hit. He has a good understanding of balls and strikes, is short to the ball, and can make elite contact. While he has plenty of bat speed, the swing is more geared to contact and therefore lacks loft for power. He’s also a good runner and should be able to steal low double-digit stolen bases annually. With his ability to hit, he could move quickly through the system and be up as early as 2023.
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Excellent tools with an approach that should allow him to get to those tools. He’s a long way off but is a very intriguing prospect.
Hudson Head was drafted in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft but was given first-round money ($3 million signing bonus. In his debut in the AZL, he slashed .283/.383/.417 with a home run and three stolen bases. While the numbers were not eye-popping, he has remarkably interesting tools. He’s a plus runner, has plus bat speed, and an approach that should allow him to hit enough to let his secondary tools play. It’s a great upside, particularly for a kid who dropped to the third round.
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: Potentially a 70-grade hitter with good speed but also not showing much power
Tucupita Marcano is a contact machine never striking out in double-digits at any stop along his development. He’s yet to show much power (.337 SLG in 2019) but he does have enough bat speed to eventually slug for higher than his OBP. He needs to get stronger or the upside might be that of a utility player. He is a plus runner and while he hasn’t been great at stealing bases, I saw in the Fall Instructional League in 2019 and the speed is there.
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: He was a surprise call-up in October. He gave me hope as the fastball velocity seems to have returned
I saw Ryan Weathers in the 2019 Fall instructional League and he was pumping 87 to 89 MPH and getting hit hard. I wasn’t sure what to think and wrote that last year. However, he got a surprise call-up to pitch in the Divisional Championship game and looked good. He was throwing 93 to 94 MPH and even touched 95 a couple of times. The secondary pitches, which always looked good, played nicely. He didn’t allow a run in his 1.1 innings. He’ll likely start 2021 back in the minors but the profile points to a mid-rotation starter.
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Raw, hard-throwing right-hander
The Padres drafted Cole Wilcox in the third round last June but paid him first-round bonus money ($3.3 million). He was a draft-eligible sophomore and with a missed 2020 season, there was speculation that he wouldn’t sign unless he got first-round money. Well, the stars aligned and he’s Padre. He’s still raw but has a double-plus fastball that he can run-up to the upper 90s, a potential plus slider and change-up. Some delivery issues need to be sorted out, but there is a lot in which to work with. Fantasy managers need to consider a slower development path than what might be expected for college drafted pitchers. Again, he only pitched a year in college.
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Potential five-tool 17-year-old with double-plus speed
The Padres signed Ismael Mena for over two million dollars in 2019 as one of the top international free agents. He’s athletic with double-plus speed with a feel to hit. His swing is currently geared for contact but there is plenty of bat speed in which power can be developed. He’s a project and at least two years away from determining more concretely on his ceiling, but there is fantasy potential here.
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Nice swing with power potential. Limited speed
Reginald Preciado was the second significant 2019 J2 signing after Ismael Mena. He’s tall at 6-foot-3 but currently has enough athleticism to handle short. His length will also challenge his ability to make contact as he’ll have some holes, but evaluators love the swing and bat speed for making hard contact. He’s only an average runner and as he fills out, we likely slow further. I think a move to third or a corner outfield spot is likely.
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
- Tools Summary: Athletic with potential double-plus power
I scouted Joshua Mears in the Fall Instructional League in 2019 and was impressed. He’s extremely athletic with great bat speed and plenty of natural strength from his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame. He’s currently a solid-average runner but will likely slow as he fills out. There is some length in his swing and he’ll likely strike out too much, but in his professional debut, he walked nearly 12% of the time. That should hopefully help neutralize his strikeouts.
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP, maybe more with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Raw, hard-throwing athletic pitcher
Justin Lange was drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he’s the size you want to draft for pitchers. He’s tall and should have good plane on his pitches and as he puts on weight, should see a boost in velocity. He already throws hard with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can touch higher. The secondary pitches are not there yet but he’s athletic with significant upside.
- Highest Level: Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: Hard-throwing athletic pitcher
While the Padres are developing Reggie Lawson as a starter, I’ve had a chance to see him pitch last fall, and the delivery and arsenal point to a bullpen arm. He’s got exciting stuff with a fastball that can touch the mid to upper 90s. The curveball is nice and will be a real weapon. His change-up will flash but is far from consistent. While very athletic, he doesn’t repeat his delivery well and therefore walks too many. Given his long injury history, it might make sense for the Padres to move him to the bullpen and get him to the big leagues quickly.
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Defensive first catcher with a chance for his offensive skills to catch up
Bake Hunt was drafted in the second round in 2017. The Padres love his catching skills and he’s shown some pop and plate patience. However, his swing gets long and there will likely be pressure on his batting average over time. I’ve received feedback from evaluators that believe his bat will develop, therefore, he makes our list.