Where to Find the Padres Top Prospects in 2018

The rosters for most minor league teams are set

The big league Padres are off to an 0-3 start … so it’s already time to start looking at the future!

OK that’s a little premature (hopefully) but this week minor league seasons get going and since there’s been so much emphasis and focus put on the #1-ranked minor league system in baseball it’s not a bad idea to see where some of the well-regarded youngsters will start 2018.

Here’s where the Padres Top-30 Prospects (according to MLB.com) are headed:

1)    SS Fernando Tatis, Jr. – AA San Antonio
The Wonder Child will open up at Double-A, where he finished the 2017 season as an 18-year-old. The shortstop with the massive potential will now be one of the youngest players in the Texas League. In fact the average age of players across AA baseball is a shade under 24 so Tatis is developing well ahead of schedule. He might not allow the Padres to keep him on the farm too much longer.

2)    LHP MacKenzie Gore – Low-A Fort Wayne
One of the most-hyped left-handed pitching prospects in recent memory, Gore was the talk of Spring Training with his stuff, command and poise. On Opening Day Padres General Manager A.J. Preller was in the dugout at Petco Park still smiling about the performance of the 3rd overall pick in last year’s draft. The 19-year-old will start his first full season of professional baseball with the TinCaps in the Midwest League.

3)    INF Luis Urias – AAA El Paso
Another infielder who impressed in his first big league Spring Training, Urias is ticketed for the Pacific Coast League. He is likely the first position player among the top prospects be called up. During Cactus League games Padres Manager Andy Green praised the 20-year-old’s plate approach, saying “His at-bats have been scary good.” Urias, like Tatis, is a candidate to force the Padres hand if he gets off to another fast start.

4)    RHP Cal Quantrill – AA San Antonio
Quantrill’s stuff and numbers have not added up yet. Their first round pick in 2016, Quantrill made just 20 starts at Stanford before undergoing elbow reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery and missing a year and a half. In his first full professional season he went from Single-A Lake Elsinore to the Missions, where he struggled in eight starts. But his arsenal is so good that as he re-learns how to pitch (and with a Stanford degree already in-hand he’s a sharp kid) the results should catch up to the expectations.

5)    RHP Michel Baez – Injury Recovery

Baez stands out in a crowd, and not just because of his 98-MPH heat. Baez is 6’8” and 220 pounds and he turned 22 in January. The right-hander from Cuba made 10 starts for Fort Wayne a year ago and finished with a sparkling 89 strikeouts and 10 walks in 63.2 innings. He’s been dealing with a lower back problem so his 2018 debut will be delayed. Baez was assigned to High-A Lake Elsinore so when he’s ready that’s likely where he goes.

6)    LHP Adrian Morejon – High-A Lake Elsinore
Once Baez shows up the Storm should have fun coming up with a nickname for their Cuban connection. Morejon joins his countryman in Lake Elsinore as another 19-year-old with huge upside. He was part of the Padres gigantic 2016 International signing spree after agreeing to an $11 million bonus. Morejon has a good fastball and throws two different kinds of changeups, and can throw all of them for strikes.

7)    RHP Anderson Espinoza – Injury Recovery
Just a year ago Espinoza was one of the top-15 prospects in baseball, drawing comparisons to Pedro Martinez. Then in August he had Tommy John surgery so his 2018 season is likely going to be wiped out until the fall. If his stuff is back to being what it was before the surgery then he could vault back into the Top-5 on this list quickly.

8)    LHP Logan Allen – AA San Antonio
Allen is the 4th piece of the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to Boston (along with Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, and Javier Guerra). Allen does not have overpowering stuff but shows no fear in attacking hitters and when he misses he doesn’t miss in the middle of the plate. In 125 innings between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore last year the 20-year-old only allowed three home runs.

9)    JHP Joey Lucchesi – San Diego Padres
After chasing his fantastic 2017 (2.20 ERA in 139 innings between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio) with a stellar Cactus League showing Lucchesi was called up on the 2nd day of the season to make his MLB debut against the Brewers. He allowed three runs on seven hits with one whiff in 4.2 innings in a game the Padres were in a position to win before a 5-run 9th-inning debacle. Lucchesi figures to get at least a few more Big League starts.

10)    OF Franchy Cordero – Disabled List
Cordero was on the brink of earning an Opening Day roster spot before a sore groin sent him to the 10-day disabled list. He’s eligible to come off before the Padres start their first road trip of the year in Houston on Friday. Cordero has an exciting mix of speed and power but needs to cut down dramatically on his strikeout rate to be a regular MLB contributor.

11)    SS Gabriel Arias – Low-A Fort Wayne
This kid was born in the year 2000. Think about that for a second. Or don’t; it will make you feel incredibly old. Arias played in the Australian Baseball league over the winter and as a 17-year-old hit five home runs with a .796 OPS in 29 games. He also might be the best defensive shortstop in the system. Arias likely won’t hit with the same power that Tatis has but he might have the same kind of impact as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League.

12)    INF Esteury Ruiz – Low-A Fort Wayne

If you like a hit tool, this is your guy. Ruiz, much like Tatis, seemed like a throw-in for the trade last year that sent pitchers Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter to the Royals. Pitchers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood were the higher-profile pieces in that deal but Ruiz might be another steal. In 206 rookie league at-bats he hit .350 with four home runs and 26 stolen bases. Ruiz makes consistent, hard contact but will be really challenged for the first time in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old.

13)    LHP Eric Lauer – AAA El Paso
Lauer made another case for himself to make the big club out of Spring Training and is probably the first in line for a 2018 call-up. Lauer is another strike-thrower who does not have an overwhelming fastball but finds ways to miss the barrel of the bat. When I talked to him in Spring Training we agreed a good comparison for him is Dodgers starter Rich Hill, a crafty lefty who can get guys out and give you a really good option as a 4th or 5th starter. He’s possibly the most polished pitcher in the system.

14)    RHP Jacob Nix – Injury Recovery
Nix suffered a groin injury early in Spring Training so his 2018 will be delayed, just like his 2017 season was with a similar injury. When he’s ready he’ll likely head to either San Antonio or El Paso. Nix is a big, strong kid (6’4” and 220 pounds) who sits in the mid-90’s with his fastball but last year he was knocked around a bit between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio, giving up 110 hits in 94.1 innings.

15)    OF Tirso Ornelas – Low-A Fort Wayne
Another millennial (literally), Ornelas just turned 18 in March. The left-handed hitting outfielder is another kid signed from the Mexico City Red Devils (the same team Luis Urias played on). He’s regarded as one of the better power hitters in the system and when added to Arias and Ruiz should help give the TinCaps one of the best offenses in the Midwest League.

16)    1B Josh Naylor – AA San Antonio
Naylor is a 20-year-old lefty with pop but now probably the odd-man out with Eric Hosmer manning 1st base for the foreseeable future at Petco Park. Naylor will likely be a trade chip because moving him to another position is nearly impossible but if he can utilize his raw power more consistently he could bring more in a deal at some point.

17)    3B Hudson Potts – High-A Lake Elsinore
Last year Potts became just the second 18-year-old to his 20 homers in the Midwest League since 1987. The first was Tatis, who did it a few weeks before Potts did. He has above-average power from the right side but with that comes a high strikeout rate. Potts fanned 140 times in 491 at-bats with Fort Wayne. The Padres are not shy about pushing their players through the system so they’ll give Potts a tough test with a jump to the California League as a 19-year-old.

18)    OF Jorge Ona – High-A Lake Elsinore
Ona signed for $7 million out of Cuba in 2016 but he has not progressed as quickly as Baez or Morejon. A corner outfielder with the ability to drive the ball out of the yard to all fields, Ona needs to work on his plate approach to cut down on his strikeouts. But if he gets ahold of one, look out because it’s going to fly a very, very long way.

19)    OF Jeisson Rosario – Low-A Fort Wayne
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before … Rosario was an International signee in 2016. If Ona had the plate discipline of this 18-year-old he’d be a monster. In rookie ball in 2017 Rosario struck out 36 times and walked 33 times, finishing with a .404 on-base percentage. He might have the speed to stay in centerfield, too.

20)    OF Edward Olivares – High-A Lake Elsinore
Acquired from the Blue Jays in the Yangervis Solarte trade, this outfielder is what scouts refer to as “toolsy.” Last year between low and high-A the now-22-year-old had 17 home runs and 10 triples (he was 21 last season), a power-speed combination that makes scouts drool on their stopwatches. He’ll start at Lake Elsinore but a strong first half could put him in San Antonio after the All-Star break.

21)    RHP Trey Wingenter – AAA El Paso
If you like fastballs you’ll really like the next two guys on the list. Wingenter is a kid out of Auburn who grew into a 6’7”, 200-pounder that can hit 100 MPH with his heater. He was in big league camp with an outside shot at an Opening Day bullpen spot but a rough Cactus League (six runs, six walks, six strikeouts in 4.0 innings) ended that possibility. If he sorts out that bought of wildness he could be a 2018 call-up and a late-inning relief option.

22)    RHP Andres Munoz – Unassigned
As hard as Wingenter throws, Munoz throws harder. As an 18-year-old he became the talk of the Arizona Fall League when he was hitting 101 MPH consistently with his fastball and striking out 11 hitters in 8.2 innings. A year ago Munoz spent most of his time with short-season Tri City before getting three appearances with Fort Wayne. Overall he whiffed 38 hitters in 26 innings but added 18 walks so he needs to find the plate more consistently to become the closer his stuff suggests he will be.

23)    RHP Chris Paddack – Injury Recovery
Another starter who had TJ surgery in August of 2016, Paddack is expected to be assigned to an affiliate in the next month or two to resume his professional career. He was acquired in a trade with the Marlins for Fernando Rodney and in a very short stint with Fort Wayne showed a ridiculously good changeup to go with a low-to-mid-90’s fastball.

24)    C Luis Campusano – Low-A Fort Wayne
One of only two catchers in the Top-30, Campusano was a 2nd-round pick out of high school in Georgia in 2017. He drove in 25 runs in 37 rookie league games and behind the plate has a well-above-average arm. The 19-year-old will be handling ace-in-training MacKenzie Gore in Fort Wayne this season.

25)    RHP Mason Thompson – Low-A Fort Wayne

Thompson got his TJ surgery out of the way early, having it done his junior year of high school. He came back to throw just one inning as a senior but his previous workload convinced the Padres to make his a 3rd-round pick in 2016 and sign him for more than $1 million above slot (similar to what the Friars did with catcher Austin Hedges). The 20-year-old Thompson struck out 28 in 27 innings for the TinCaps a year ago and barring injury this will be his first full season of baseball since 2014.

26)    RHP Pedro Avila – High-A Lake Elsinore
Avila was part of the trade that sent catcher Derek Norris to the Nationals just in time. He started last season with the Storm but struggled and was demoted to Fort Wayne, where he found his stuff again. Avila struck out 117 hitters in 85.2 Midwest League innings, including a league-record 17 in one start. The 21-year-old will get another shot in Lake Elsinore and hope to move the other direction this time.

27)    INF Luis Almanzar – Unassigned
Yet another member of the 2016 International sign-a-palooza, Almanzar played 67 games for short-season Tri City as a 17-year-old last season. His best asset at the moment might be his above-average infield arm which plays well from either shortstop or 3rd base. He’ll likely go back to the Dust Devils to start this year.

28)    RHP David Bednar – High-A Lake Elsinore
Bednar is one of those guys who pops on the scene from kind of out of nowhere. He was a 35th-round draft pick out of Lafayette College two years ago where he was mostly a starting pitcher. The Padres moved him to the bullpen and he immediately found his calling. Last season he went from Fort Wayne to Lake Elsinore throwing high-leverage innings and keeping the ball in the park. Over 61.1 innings he allowed just two home runs. If he keeps up his trajectory he could be a Kirby Yates type of late-inning reliever.

29)    C Austin Allen – AA San Antonio
There is zero doubt that Allen can hit. Last year as a 23-year-old in the California League he slugged 22 home runs with an .849 OPS in 121 games. The question will be whether or not the left-handed bat stays behind the plate. He has worked hard to become an average defensive backstop but his future may ultimately be at 1st base.

30)    OF Michael Gettys – AA San Antonio
Padres fans have been hearing about Gettys for a few years now. He can run like a deer, has a howitzer for an arm, and launches baseballs over the moon with raw power. So why is he just now, in his 4th full professional season, advancing past single-A? Because his strikeout rate is obscene. Gettys led the California League with 191 punchouts in 457 at-bats last year. If he can improve his approach and put the ball in play more it won’t take him long to make it all the way to the big leagues.

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