I had no idea what I was going to find when I started researching the Padres organization. They traded so many players, would there be 15 relevant players to write about? In short, there sure were…and plenty more.
Look, they traded away a ton of players, so the system took a hit. However, they still have three Top 50 players in CJ Abrams, Luis Campusano, and Robert Hassell. All are good with a chance to be impact performers at the highest level.
If you dig deeper, you find what might be the best collection of teenagers in any system. Now, will any of them make it? Who knows, but they are all talented with significant upside. Then, of course, they still have MacKenzie Gore kicking around. I must tell you, it was a tough capsule to write, but as the old saying goes…it is what it is…until it’s not.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: CJ Abrams
- Biggest Mover: Eguy Rosario
- Emerging Prospect: Samuel Zavala
1. CJ Abrams (SS)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 SS or Top 10 OF
- Tools Summary: 80-grade speed and a feel for hitting. The home run pop hasn’t yet developed but double-digit home runs are in the profile. For those who like comp’s, it’s a Trea Turner starter kit
The Padres gave CJ Abrams an aggressive assignment to Double-A to start the 2022 season. He was the second-youngest player in the league and looked like one of the best. He controlled the strike zone striking out less than 20% of the time and walking 8%. He can flat out hit and with his 80-grade speed, he’s going to be an impact player. He has great bat speed but isn’t yet hitting many home runs. I do think that will come as he matures. His season ended early when he fractured his tibia and sprained his MCL in July. Even with his abbreviated season, he’s getting close to a call to the Major Leagues. He’s blocked at short unless Tatis Jr. moves to the outfield full-time. He could easily move to second or with some work, move to centerfield.
2. Robert Hassell (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 OF
- Tools Summary: Plus speed with the ability to hit could make him an ideal leadoff hitter at the highest level.
Hassell was the Padres first-round pick in 2020 (pick #8). When drafted, the Padres believed his hit-tool was advanced enough that he could move quickly through the system. In his first exposure to professional ball, that appears to be the case. He started the season in Low-A where in 92 games he hit .323 with a .415 OBP as a 19-year-old. He also flashed his plus speed by stealing 31 bases. He finished the season in High-A where he held his own. While there is good bat speed, the swing suggests he will be a hit-over-power player, but given his speed and ability to make contact, he could develop into one of the best leadoff players in the game. The upside could be a .300/.400/.425 hitter with 12 to 15 home runs and 30 plus stolen bases.
3. Luis Campusano (C)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 Catcher
- Tools Summary: He’s just about ready to take over the full-time catching duties in San Diego. His combination of power and a feel for hitting could make him a Top 5 catcher in the league
There was no room in 2021 for Campusano to receive full-time playing time, but he’s getting close. I would guess a move of Austin Nola in the off-season will free up the spot. Campusano is a very good all-around player. He has great bat speed that produced high exit velocity in his brief call-up (23 batted balls and a 94.6 average exit velo). He’s not a “launch angle guy”, but there’s enough loft in his swing to suggest plenty of 20 home run seasons. Finally, he controls the strike zone well. In 81 games in Triple-A, he struck out 20% of the time while walking 11% of the time. Add it all up, his ceiling is a Top 5 offensive catcher in the league who will be at least adequate defensively.
4. MacKenzie Gore (LHP)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: Unknown Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
- Tools Summary: He’s reworking his delivery and it’s going to take time to see how effective he will be
Since the summer of 2020, MacKenzie Gore has struggled to find the plate. At the Alt-site, there were reports of him being wild and not looking right. The baseball community knew something was wrong when he didn’t show up to help the Major League club as they were making their playoff run. Once we had a chance to see him in 2021, the problems became clear. He’d lost his release point and his patented high leg delivery wasn’t working. Why did the delivery stop working or why did it happen so quickly (almost like a light switch)? In the end, we might not ever know. However, the Padres decided, with Gore, to rework the delivery. What we learned is it’s not going to happen overnight. In watching videos of him after the change, you can see him struggling to consistently use the new delivery. He’s athletic and from all accounts, motivated, so you hope that he figures it out. Look, we can talk about all the positives that he has…and there are many. But he needs to work through his delivery issues, and until he does, projecting a timeframe for when he might help the Padres is a fruitless exercise. I’ll leave it at this…he’s athletic, has a great arm with a starter arsenal, and a ton of makeup. If it all comes together, he could pitch at the top-of-the-rotation. Let’s hope it does.
5. Esteury Ruiz (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF or 15 2B
- Tools Summary: His 70-grade speed could be significant in fantasy leagues
Ruiz carrying tool is his 70-grade speed. In 2021, he added another 36 stolen bases and now has 158 bags in 407 games. He also cut down on his strikeout rate in Double-A and has developed some pop. Granted, he’s never going to be a home run hitter, but if he can hit 8 to 10 annually with a chance to steal 30 bases, he could be a significant fantasy asset. He played mostly centerfield last season, but given his history of playing in the infield, could also handle second in the Major Leagues.
6. James Wood (OF)
- Highest Level: Complex League ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with upside?
- Tools Summary: Excellent athlete with a feel to hit who also happens to be 6-foot-7
James Wood is one of the more intriguing players in the Padres system. He’s 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, exceptionally athletic with crazy tools. There was talk of him playing college basketball but the Padres change that by selecting him in the second round last June. In his first taste of professional ball, he didn’t disappoint. He hit .372 with a .465 OBP showing plenty of raw power and speed. Granted, he hit everything in sight, posting a .569 BABIP and that hid that he also struck out 32% of the time. Given his size, there’s going to swing and miss in his game, but he also has an idea at the plate. He doesn’t chase pitches and his swing works. With his size, he’s also a plus runner who stole 10 bags. If you’re thinking Oneil Cruz…well, let’s go with that for now.
7. Jackson Merrill (SS)
- Highest Level: Complex League ETA: 2025+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Athletic but very baseball raw with significant work required on his swing mechanics
Merrill was the Padres’ first-round pick last June and held his own in the Complex League. He’s currently at short but given his size a move off the position is likely in the cards. He’s a good athlete but there’s a hitch in his swing that will need to be resolved or getting to his power could be difficult. But the Padres like raw, athletic players that they can mold and Merrill fits the bill.
8. Eguy Rosario (SS)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: Has always demonstrated the ability to hit and last season he started to show some power. When combined with his plus speed, he has a chance to get full-time at-bats
When CJ Abrams went down, Eguy Rosario slid over from second and handle the position well. He’s not Abrams, but he had a nice season nonetheless. In 114 games, he slashed .281/.360/.455 with 12 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He’s always been able to control the strike zone with solid speed, but he got noticeable stronger and he now has a chance to be a Major Leaguer. It might be in the role of a utility player, but he can hit and that might be enough to get him full-time at-bats. I’ve put him at second base as I don’t see him beating out Tatis Jr. or Abrams for shortstop reps…but hey, you never know.
9. Victor Acosta (SS)
- Highest Level: DSL ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: He has plus speed with a feel to hit. There’s not going to be a ton of future power, but there is enough bat speed to project at least high single-digit home runs annually
The Padres signed Acosta in 2020 and he got his first exposure to professional ball and did not disappoint. In 56 games in the DSL, he slashed .285/.431/.484 walking nearly as much as he struck out (19% K/9 ratio) with 26 stolen bases. Yep, he’s tooled up and is already showing a feel to hit. This is what the Padres are good at. Finding young players, particularly Latin players, and develop them. His defense is good enough to stay in the dirt, he’s a plus runner and while he’s only 5-foot-11, there is enough bat speed to project some future power. He’s at least four years away but given how well he hit, he could see time in Low-A next season.
10. Euribiel Angeles (SS)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
- Tools Summary: Controls the strike zone well with above-average speed
In 2019, Euribiel Angeles showed he could hit but needed to get stronger and show that he could handle more advanced pitching. Fast-forward to 2021 and he checked all the boxes. He got stronger and controlled the strike zone well in Low-A as well as in High-A (only 18 games). He also got stronger and was able to handle velocity better. He’s never going to be confused with a power-hitter, but assuming he continues to get stronger, he could have solid doubles-power. Finally, while he’s not a burner, he’s a good runner and is adept at stealing bases. He’s likely a utility player at the highest level, but his ability to steal bases gives him an interesting fantasy upside.
11. Josh Mears (OF)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme contact risk
- Tools Summary: 70-grade raw power who runs well. He also struck out nearly 40% of the time in Low-A
I saw Mears in the Fall Instructional in 2019 and at 18, he was more physically mature than most people roaming the backfields. He has 70-grade power and that showed up in Low-A last season when he slugged .529 with 11 home runs. Even though the league (the old California League) favors hitting, the Padres home park does not. While the power emerged, so did the strikeouts. Maybe I buried the lead, but he struck out 39% of the time. Yikes! When I saw him in 2019, he did not recognize breaking stuff and was chasing everything. It appears that he has yet to course correct that. He’s toolsy and looks the part, but he’ll need to work on his approach and cut down on his strikeouts to have a chance.
12. Victor Lizarraga (RHP)
- Highest Level: Complex League ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with upside
- Tools Summary: Tall and projectable with the core of a starter’s arsenal. He’s raw and needs time to develop but there’s a lot to like
Lizarraga was signed in 2020 out of Cuba as a projectable right-handed power pitcher. He’s 6-foot-4 and has already put some weight onto his svelte signing-weight of 180 pounds. The extra bulk allowed him to increase his velocity and now he’s sitting in the Low-90s with more in the tank. He can spin a curve and already has a feel for a change-up. At 17, the Padres brought him stateside and he pitched well in the Complex League striking out 10.5 per nine. He’s a project, but he has the frame and arsenal core of a starter.
13. Justin Lange (RHP)
- Highest Level: Complex League ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with control risk
- Tools Summary: Has the size and raw stuff to be at least a mid-rotation starter, but the control has a long way to go
Lange was the Padres supplemental first-round pick in 2020 and finally got on the bump last season. The results were mixed in nine starts in the Complex League. He showed quality stuff with a fastball that was touching the mid-90s and a nice slider with hard tilt. The control wasn’t there and he struggled to throw strikes. He’s got the body of a starter and just needs time to develop.
14. Ethan Elliott (LHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
- Tools Summary: Stuff plays up because of great spin rates
Early in the season, I got excited about Ethan Elliott. He was an analytics guy who didn’t have great velocity but pitched with a high spin rate and therefore, everything played up. He was somewhat unhittable in High-A striking out 11 per nine while walking 2 per nine. Once the crackdown on the sticky substance occurred, I got less interested. I’m not saying that was why he was being successful, but history would say it’s a strong possibility. To his credit, he pitched well all season (before and after the crackdown), so perhaps there is indeed something there. As a fantasy manager, I’m holding onto my shares as things should sort themselves in Double-A
15. Samuel Zavala (OF)
- Highest Level: DSL ETA: 2025+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Was one of the youngest players in the DSL and didn’t look out of place showing a solid approach, some pop, and speed
Zavala was signed in January and got a chance to show his wears in the DSL as one of the youngest players in the league. He didn’t look out of place. In 55 games, he slashed .297/.400/.487 with 3 home runs and 11 stolen bases. To make you feel old, he celebrated his 17th birthday on July 15th and was playing in his first professional baseball game three weeks later. He’s athletic with a semblance of an approach and turned heads with his outstanding play.
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