|Original Published Date: December 31, 2019|
The Padres are following the script. They tore it down and are building it back up. They did a slight twist and signed two big free agents in Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer during the rebuild, but for the most part, they are developing a young core that should allow them to compete for years. Some of them have already arrived (Tatis Jr., Mejia, and Paddack), but most of them are still on their way; and getting close.
MacKenzie Gore has top of the rotation stuff and could arrive as soon as 2020. For my money, he’s the best young arm in the Minor Leagues. Luis Patino is right behind him and could also arrive late in 2020 or sometime in 2021. Taylor Trammell is also very close and could easily see the Majors in 2020. The system doesn’t stop there as they have talent in the lower minors that are as good as any in any other system. Many of these players will not likely wear a Padres uniform but will serve as important trade chips to round out the team.
Injuries and poor play will, of course, be there, but the system is so stacked that another year or two of patience should yield impressive results.
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Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: MacKenzie Gore
- Biggest Mover: Owen Miller
- Emerging Prospect: Hudson Head
1. MacKenzie Gore (LHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Fantasy Ace
- Tools Summary: It’s all there to be a star.
The Padres drafted MacKenzie Gore with the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and he’s quickly established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the game, if not the best.
Pitching in the very difficult environment of the California League, he dominated. In 15 starts, he pitched to a 1.02 ERA, striking out 12.5 per nine while walking 2.3 per nine. The performance got him a late-season promotion to Double-A where despite a 4.14 ERA, he continued to show the stuff that makes him the best pitching prospect in the game.
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.
I think he sees San Diego sometime in 2020 and given his arsenal, athleticism, and control and command, he could be good right away. The only fear is an injury. But that’s something that we fear with all pitchers.
2. Taylor Trammell (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF
- Tools Summary: Double-plus runner with a chance to hit for some power. On-base over Batting Average player. A chance to be an impact fantasy contributor.
Despite an underwhelming season, first with the Reds and then the Padres, in my opinion, Taylor Trammell continues to be one of the best prospects in the game. Plus, the Padres gave up two very good players in Franmill Reyes and Logan Allen to acquire him at the deadline. While you might discount Reyes as simply a full-time DH, which is likely his path, the fact is he hit 30 home runs in the big leagues.
First, let’s talk about Trammell’s performance in 2019. In 126 games in Double-A, he slashed .234/.340/.349 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. While fantasy owners will like the 20 steals, the .349 SLG is concerning and actually a little surprising. He has good bat speed with a short, compact swing and while I don’t see a .500 SLG in his profile, I do think he could slug .425 with 15 to 20 home runs.
What he did continue to do in 2019 was show good contact (23% K/9), take his walks (13% BB/9), run, and play great defense. While his strikeout rate is a little high, I do believe he will add another 100 points in on-base percentage and that should allow him to hit at the top of the lineup. As a double-plus runner, he’s going to steal a lot of bases. A .260/.350/.425 slash line with 12 home runs and 30 stolen bases should be a good baseline for fantasy owners.
3. Luis Patino (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
- Tools Summary: Small stature but with plus stuff. Control is not all the way there.
I did my first cut of our Mid-Season Top 100 list before the Futures Game. After watching the game and seeing Luis Patino dominate his 1.2 innings, I wanted to place him higher than slot 59. In the end, I kept him there and figured…well, he has nowhere to go but up.
He split his time in 2019 between the California and Texas League and pitched extremely well in both leagues. In 20 games (19 starts), he pitched to a 2.57 ERA striking out 11.7 per nine while walking 3.6 per nine. His walk rate is high and could limit his ultimate ceiling, but he’s only 20 and already pitching at a very high level.
He shows a mid-90s fastball that can scrape higher and a slider and change-up that are improving quickly. His delivery is simple and clean and he’s athletic enough to repeat his delivery. The knock against him, and it’s a big knock is that he’s not a big guy. He stands 6-feet and 190 pounds. Will he be able to handle a starter workload? Will he be homer-prone? I’ve gotten different opinions when I posed these and other similar questions to evaluators. However, everyone has said that the arm is special. We all saw that in his brief outing on that hot evening in July.
Assuming health, he could see the Major Leagues by 2021, with an outside shot in the second half of next season. It’s big stuff and if it all comes together, he has top-of-the-rotation potential.
4. CJ Abrams (SS)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS or Top 30 OF
- 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.
Selecting in the six-hole of the 2019 MLB Draft, the Padres got one of the most exciting players in CJ Abrams. From a fantasy standpoint, he might have been the most intriguing player in the entire draft.
First, Abrams is an 80-grade runner with good instincts on the basepaths. 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.
To begin his career, he’s given the Padres everything they would have hoped. In 32 games in Rookie Ball, he hit .401 with 14 stolen bases out of 17 attempts. He even popped three home runs. Most impressively, he’s shown a very good approach and the ability to make contact (9.0% K/9) and take a walk (6.4% BB/9). The performance got him a two-game promotion to Low-A to finish the season.
5. Xavier Edwards (2B)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: Double-plus speed with a solid approach and excellent contact skills. Swing is geared for contact with no power projectable at this time.
Xavier Edwards was the Padres second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and has done nothing but hit since making his professional debut. In 168 games, he’s hit .328 with a .395 OBP, stealing 56 bases. The problem is despite a .399 SLG, he’s really not showing much power. He has one home run and 86% of his hits have been singles.
I had a chance to scout him during Fall Instructs and my scouting report supports the results. I found the approach to be solid, the swing to be compact and direct to the ball, but the swing is contact-oriented with no loft.
As a fantasy owner, it’s easy to get excited and dream of a Dee Gordon type of upside. In reviewing the two, there is a lot of similarities. Speed, no power and likely relegated to second base. But, Edwards is a better hitter. He makes more contact and therefore, he could provide even better overall stats than Gordon. That said, it the modern fantasy game, rostering a player with no power is difficult. Assuming the juiced ball continues, it’s hard to roster a position with one or two home runs when you need nearly 25 at each position. If you can figure out the math, Edwards could be an impact contributor.
6. Luis Campusano (C)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Outstanding year where he showed power with nearly as many walks as strikeouts.
While the Padres want Francisco Mejia to be their catcher of the future, they are so deep with prospects, if it doesn’t work, there’s another kid who will challenge for the role. Luis Campusano could be that kid. He is quickly being mentioned in the conversation of the best catchers in the minor leagues.
Drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Campusano arrived with solid defensive skills (catch, throw and block) but has improved his game-calling by working with some of the best young pitchers in the minor leagues. After a solid offensive season in 2018, he’s backed it up with an even better season in the California League. In 110 games, he’s slashed .325/.396/.509 with 15 home runs and nearly as many walks as strikeouts. The swing has improved as has his pitch recognition.
After a solid season in High-A, Campusano should begin 2020 in Double-A with a chance to see Major League at-bats in 2021.
7. Adrian Morejon (LHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or Closer
- Tools Summary: Power arsenal from the left side but with 40-grade control. Small stature is a concern but the arsenal looks solid.
The Padres skipped Adrian Morejon over Triple-A and brought him to the Major Leagues in July where he worked as both a starter and out of the bullpen. It was a curious move as he wasn’t dominant in 16 starts in Double-A. While he struck out 11 per nine, he also walked 3.8 per nine and posted a 4.25 ERA. He was also hittable as he gave up nearly a hit an inning. Also concerning was he was placed on the IL in August with a shoulder impingement and did not return. Given his history of injuries, it’s not a good development.
According to PitchFx data, his fastball was one of the best in the Majors (96.3 MPH average) but it lacked life as the spin rate was very low (ranking in the bottom quartile). He has a good curveball with plenty of vertical drop and his changeup/split looks like his best overall pitch with a solid Whiff rate. Taken all together, it’s a plus arsenal that should miss bats. The control is behind and given his stiff delivery, which might never be more than average.
I still like Morejon and now that we have some solid statistics to analysis his performance, it’s easy to get caught up in the details and see all the flaws. Overall, the upside is a Top 45 pitcher with plenty of strikeouts. His size will make him prone to the long ball but with a power arsenal from the left side, provided he can stay healthy, there’s a lot to like.
8. Owen Miller (2B)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: Plus hit tool with average power and speed. He’s moving fast with a chance to see the Majors in 2020.
Owen Miller was the Padres third-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. On draft day, he was selected as a kid that could really hit that needed to work on developing power. After 340 plate appearances in his draft year where he hit .335, it was clear he could hit. The Padres thought the same thing and skipped him over High-A to the Texas League where he slashed .290/.355/.430 with 13 home runs and five stolen bases. It was a very nice season that was supported by a 15% strikeout rate and an 8.2% walk rate.
I caught up to him in the Fall League and he didn’t play very well, only hitting .176 in 18 games. But, I saw enough to get excited about a kid that should get regular at-bats at the highest level. While he hit 13 home runs in Double-A, the swing lacks loft, so 12 to 18 home runs is all I would expect from a power standpoint. He’ll hit though and a .280 to .300 average is not out of the question. Throw in a few stolen bases and you have a Top 15 fantasy second baseman.
The bigger question is will he get full-time at-bats with the Padres? There are a ton of high impact middle infielders coming up (or already there). With the Padres, it could in the role of a Super Utility, but he does have a bit of a headstart and could see playing time in 2020 with a chance to secure playing time.
9. Tucupita Marcano (2B)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: Potentially a 70-grade hitter with good speed. The power has yet to develop, but he just turned 20 with the promise of 10 to 12 home run power.
If you believe that hitting is the key to making it in the Major Leagues, then Tucupita Marcano is your guy. He’s a contact machine never striking out in double-digits at any stop who will also work a work. Last season in 504 plate appearances in Low-A, he struck out 8.9% of the time while walking 6.9% of the time. He did that playing the entire season as a 19-year-old.
He didn’t show a ton of power last season (.337 SLG in 2019). However, when I caught up to him in the Fall Instructs in September, I saw plenty of bat speed and he’s not a small guy. I think he’ll eventually slug .400 plus with 10 to 12 home runs. Finally, he’s also a good runner, stealing 15 bases, but also getting caught 16 times. I didn’t get a time on him to first, but visually, he has speed but clearly needs to work on his base-stealing skills.
10. Ryan Weathers (LHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Has shown solid stuff with control but in Fall Instruct, he wasn’t throwing hard at all.
Ryan Weathers, the Padres first-round draft pick in 2018, had a nice season in 2019. In 22 starts in Low-A, he pitched to a 3.84 ERA striking out 8.4 per nine while only walking 18 in 96 innings (1.7 BB/9). However, I had a chance to see him pitch a couple of innings in the Fall Instruct and he didn’t look good. He was sitting 87-89 MPH and was getting hit hard. He was visually frustrated and as the outing progressed, he pitched even worse. Was this an isolated outing? I had heard that he sat more 90 to 93 MPH, but I saw what I saw and it wasn’t good.
Assuming, he’s not a soft tosser, there is a lot to like with Weathers. His secondary pitches are sharp with a very good changeup and curveball. The delivery is clean and he’s able to throw strikes. He should start the 2020 season in Lake Elsinore of the California League.
11. Edward Olivares (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Late bloomer with double-plus speed, emerging power who should hit enough to have a big-league career.
The Padres acquired Edward Olivares in an under-the-radar trade during the 2018 off-season for journeyman Yangervis Solarte. He performed well in High-A in 2018 but really turned it on in 2019. In 127 games in Double-A, he slashed .283/.349/.453 with 18 home runs and 35 stolen bases. As he has matured, the hit-tool has gotten better and an 18% strikeout rate in Double-A with a 7.8% walk rate should be good enough to allow him to get to his power and speed at the highest level.
From a scouting viewpoint, there is great bat speed and while the 18 home runs in Double-A are impressive, I think there is more to come. He’ll have to guard against his swing getting too long, but if he can continue to stay short to the ball, a 20-20 performer at the highest level is not out of the question.
While he does turn 24 in January, Olivares is the definition of a late-bloomer with a chance to be a full-time regular at the highest level.
12. Hudson Head (OF)
- Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022 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 performed well. In 32 games, he slashed .283/.383/.417 with a home run and three stolen bases. While the numbers were not eye-popping, he has very 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.
The Padres are obviously very high on the kid and therefore, we are as well. Plus, he was a young 18-year-old at the time he was drafted, so if you believe in drafting players young, then that’s an added bonus for Head.
13. Gabriel Arias (SS)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
- Tools Summary: His ceiling could be a utility player, but he showed some solid pop and speed in High-A that could change that. He does need to work on his contact.
Another Padres that has been performed very well all season is Lake Elsinore shortstop Gabriel Arias. He played the entire season as one of the youngest players in the league and showed nice offensive skills to go with his plus defensive ability.
When the Padres signed Arias in 2016 for an impressive $1.6 signing bonus, they saw a young kid with great defensive instincts that could really pick it at short with a swing that worked. Since then, he has developed into a plus defender with a growing offensive profile. He has added loft and that when combined with the great hitting environment of the California League resulted in some over-the-fence power. The hit-tool though is still very raw as he strikes out too much and is very aggressive at the plate.
The upside is likely a utility player at the highest level, but some evaluators believe he could develop into a little more. Remember, he was very young for the level.
14. Michel Baez (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or Closer
- Tools Summary: Premium velocity but control continues to lag behind. A move to the bullpen, ala Delin Betances, could be in the cards.
Michel Baez has been a mainstay on our Padres Top 15 list for the past several years and finally got a chance to show his stuff in the big leagues. The 6-foot-8 right-hander showed promise in his Major League debut where he pitched to a 3.03 ERA, striking out 28 in 29.2 innings. He showed premium fastball velocity (96 MPH) but only average spin, ranking 285 out of 696 pitchers who had thrown at least 250 pitches.
Control continues to be his biggest barrier to success. He averaged over four walks per nine in his limited big league action and a 3.7 per nine walk rate in Double-A prior to his promotion. His size is clearly a contributing factor and it might take several more years before improved control is realized. Dellin Betances had similar issues and was moved to the bullpen where his career flourished. The Padres could follow a similar path with Baez and that should be revealed as soon as 2020.
15. Ronald Bolanos (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP or bullpen arm
- Tools Summary: Quality arsenal but needs to throw more strikes.
As the youth movement starts to roll in San Diego, the Padres decided to promote Ronald Bolanos directly from Double-A in a September call-up. The 6-foot-3 right-hander struggled with his control and that gave him an ugly 5.95 ERA in 19.1 innings, but he showed good swing and miss stuff with a quality arsenal.
He throws a mid-90’s fastball with a plus curveball that gets a ton of swing and miss. His changeup also shows promise. As with many young pitchers, the control is lagging behind. If he can’t improve, then a move to the bullpen will likely be in the cards.