The Padres have the best farm system in baseball, which is great … but it’s about to make things a whole lot more complicated.
On Thursday the Friars made a series of moves that impact the farm. A quick rundown:
- Infielders Ty France and River Stevens were promoted from Double-A San Antonio to Triple-A El Paso
- Infielder Hudson Potts and pitchers Michel Baez and Elliot Ashbeck were promoted from Single-A Lake Elsinore to San Antonio
And on Friday one more thing will become official:
RHP Jacob Nix will be called up from El Paso and is expected to make his Major League debut on Friday night at Petco Park against the Phillies.
Nix was really good in nine starts at San Antonio (2.05 ERA, 0.91 WHIP) and in his only start with the Chihuahuas he tossed 6.0 innings of shutout ball. With all the holes in the Padres starting rotation they figured why not give the 22-year old, who was drafted in the 3rd round in 2015, a look now.
But there’s more to that decision than simply need for an arm coupled with recent high production … and this is where the complication comes in.
When they add Nix to the club the Padres will have a full 40-man roster. Those are the guys who are protected and will not be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft that takes place every December. Nix, ranked as the team’s 14th-best prospect, would have needed protection before that or risk being stolen by another team.
He is certainly not the only one.
Several of the club’s top youngsters will need to be placed on the 40-man roster this year, including (with MLB.com organization rankings in parentheses):
INF Luis Urias (4)
RHP Chris Paddack (5)
RHP Anderson Espinoza (11)
C Austin Allen (25)
OF Edward Olivares (28)
RHP Pedro Avila (29)
All of those guys will almost assuredly be added (or perhaps, in the case of Allen, Olivares and Avila, traded). But there’s another guy who is not considered a top prospect but might have fought his way into a spot and that’s France.
The former San Diego State star was a 34th-round draft pick in 2015, not the spot you expect to find a productive big leaguer, but he’s produced at every level. France was a Texas League All-Star and at the time of his promotion is 5th in the league in runs scored and 3rd in RBI.
Last year the Padres left OF Franmil Reyes unprotected and nobody bit at him. He’s turned more than a few heads with his raw power in a pair of call-ups this year. France might be 2018’s version of Reyes, a guy who was not on many Top-30 prospect lists that slips through the cracks and turns out to be a really good ballplayer, and San Diego could gamble that’s the case and leave him unprotected.
Things do not get any easier for the Padres after the 2019 season, either. How about this list of guys who will need to be on the 40-man roster then:
SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (1)
LHP Logan Allen (8)
RHP Cal Quantrill (10)
OF Buddy Reed (13)
1B Josh Naylor (15)
RHP Reggie Lawson (21)
OF Michael Gettys (former Top-30 prospect now at San Antonio)
So that's up to 14 players in the next two years that will need to (again, barring trades) be added to the 40-man roster and that doesn’t even take into account any MLB free agents the Padres want to sign or the fact that players on the 60-day disabled list do not have to be on the 40-man so Franchy Cordero and Dinelson Lamet will have to be added when they return from surgeries.
As has been the case since General Manager A.J. Preller arrived in 2014 this off-season is not going to be boring for the Padres. But this time the activity will be more based on making sure the system studs stay here than trying to re-stock what was a fairly empty cupboard.