All of the general managers in Major League Baseball have one goal: build a championship caliber team. Whether it be paying millions of dollars in free agency or drafting well and developing prospects, some GM’s will do whatever it takes to bring that championship trophy to their city.
The New York Yankees were the first team to implement the idea that spending millions of dollars in free agency was the way to build a title contender. Over the years we have seen similar teams implement this same tactics, for example the Dodgers over the past few seasons. These teams all have one thing in common however: They all play in large markets. Having massive amounts of money dedicated to a payroll will only bring success if that team plays in a big market.
However, the last two World Series champions have shown us a new method that can surely lead to championships: Homegrown development of prospects. Both the Cubs and the Astros were, at one point, the worst teams in baseball. All of this paid off, as they developed young, talented prospects that would eventually lead them to their own respective championships.
After a failed attempt to mirror a huge market team by spending millions of dollars and decimating an entire farm system, the Padres’ front office has taken this same approach. General manager A.J. Preller quickly traded all of his assets away and rebuilt one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball into one that can now be regarded as one with extreme depth. Will all of these prospects pan out? Certainly not. However, the Padres farm system is so full of young talent that success is bound to happen shortly.
In this article, I will be breaking down each of the Padres top 30 prospects according to MLB.com. I’ll be taking a look at each of these prospects, how long until they reach the big league level, their upside, and possible projections for them at the big league level.
1. Mackenzie Gore, LHP
I’ll put this as simple as I can: I don’t remember the last time the Padres had a prospect with as much upside as Mackenzie Gore. This year’s number three overall pick, the 18 year old left hander out of Whiteville, North Carolina is already extremely decorated. The 2017 National Gatorade Player of the Year, Gore posted an UNREAL 0.19 ERA his senior year of high school. Many professional scouts actually regarded Gore as the best prospect in this previous draft. Gore’s fastball presently sits at around 94-95 mph with an absolutely devastating curveball that he has developed into his ace-level pitch. Gore combines these two plus pitches with a quality-level slider and changeup.
He does have an extremely high leg kick and a funky delivery that actually benefits him as hitters are easily deceived by this. Mackenzie Gore clearly projects as number one or number two starter at the big league level. This kid has ace-caliber stuff that will allow him to have huge success at the next level. He is only 18 years old, so I think that we will see Gore in San Diego towards the end of 2019, if not the beginning of 2020. He should have no problem carving up hitters in the minors and is expected to make a quick jump to the majors. The Padres got their ace of the future in Mackenzie Gore.
2. Cal Quantrill, RHP
On top of already having an ace-caliber prospect leading this list, the Padres have the potential to pair him with another player that projects to be an impact pitcher at the big league level. Coming out of Stanford, Cal Quantrill was a hard throwing right handed pitcher that was an early first round talent. Had it not been for an unfortunate injury to his arm that required Tommy John surgery, Quantrill would have easily been one of the best pitchers in all of college baseball. The Padres have been very careful with Quantrill and his arm, but the 22-year-old right hander seems to be healthy and ready to roll with the club.
Quantrill possess a three pitch mix, each of which scouts believe has the potential to be true impact pitches. His fastball sits around 94-96 mph and he locates it well. His slider needs work, but since Quantrill has good movement on his pitches and has that “feel” on the mound, there is no reason to believe that this can’t develop in time. His money pitch is certainly his changeup, as scouts believe that Quantrill may possess one of the best changeups in the entire minor leagues. To me, Cal Quantrill looks like a number two or three pitcher at the big league level. IF he can stay healthy, there is no question that this kid is going to be something special. I am almost certain that he will be pitching at Petco Park next season, but if not, 2019 is the latest we will see him in action.
3. Luis Urias, SS/2B
Since Luis Urias introduced himself to professional baseball, you could make an argument that he has been the best pure hitter in the minor leagues the last two seasons. In his first season with the Lake Elsinore Storm, the 19-year-old Urias won the Single-A batting title and also took home league MVP honors. Then, after being promoted to Double-A, Urias put up an all-star campaign and was one of the league’s best pure players. He is a Gold Glove caliber middle infielder that the Padres hope can pair up with Fernando Tatis Jr. to represent their middle infield of the future.
His plate discipline is fantastic, as in 2016 Urias walked (40) more times than he struck out (36). Like most successful hitters, Urias has already learned to use all parts of the field and has power despite his small frame. Had the West won the AFL All-Star game, Urias certainly would have been the MVP. He blasted an absolute laser of a ball over the left field fence and made good defensive plays while he was in the game. Urias should make the jump to the big league level in 2018 and I can see him being the Padres second basemen of the future. Urias is just simply too good of a hitter to not have some level of success at the big league level, and to me, he could be a true number one or two hitter in Andy Green’s lineup for the next few seasons. This kid is young, talented, and is ready to make an impact with the Padres.
4. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
Name one player in the entire minor leagues last year that was more impressive and exciting to watch then Fernando Tatis. Coming over to the Padres in the James Shields trade, most Padres fans were more excited to have Shields off the team than getting Tatis in return. What they did not know is that in return for one of the worst pitchers in baseball, the last few seasons, the Padres would get what they believe to be their next star. Tatis Jr. absolutely exploded, belting 21 home runs and recording 69 RBI in 117 games with the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Following his promotion to San Antonio, the 18-year-old shortstop had success helping the Missions become one of the best teams in the entire Texas League.
It’s hard to not see some Carlos Correa in Tatis, as he is a shortstop with a big frame that has gap-to-gap power and should eventually move over to third base. Tatis has progressed immensely thus far, but there is no need for the Padres to rush him and potentially ruin his progression. They are in no hurry to contend and need to make sure that he truly develops into what he can be: a star at the next level. Given his young age, I think we could see Tatis late in 2019, but by the latest 2020. If the Padres are smart, they will give him time to develop and grow into his talent. Coming off one of the most impressive minor league seasons in a long time, we should all be excited for the progression of Fernando Tatis Jr.
5. Adrian Morejon, LHP
If Adrian Morejon being at number five on this list doesn’t prove how loaded this farm system is, I really don’t know what will. For a guy that would be the number one or two prospect for the majority of team’s in the league, Morejon is oozing with talent and potential to be a superstar. An 18 year old defect from Cuba, Morejon was signed for $11 million dollars by the Padres at only the age of 17. Making his minor league debut this previous season, Morejon showed promise, striking out 35 batters while walking only THREE in 35.1 innings with the Tri City Dust Devils.
Morejon’s fastball currently sits around 92 mph, but has touched 96 and is expected to improve. Being able to throw all of his pitches (curveball, knuckle-changeup, and fastball) for strikes are what make Morejon such a talented pitcher. Many scouts believe that Morejon is on pace to become a true number one or number two pitcher in the Padres rotation. Seeing the jump from Tri-City to Fort Wayne so quickly, I see no reason why Morejon shouldn’t be able to finish the year in Double-A next season. At this rate, look for him to earn a spot on the Padres rotation in 2019 during spring training. You heard it here first, Adrian Morejon will be an ace-caliber pitcher with the San Diego Padres.
6. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
You’ve got to be kidding me right? A young, 19-year-old right handed starting pitcher that’s fastball sits around 96-97 mph with a plus curveball and changeup is number six on this list? Once seen as the “prized prospect” in the Padres farm system, Espinoza’s young career has already been plagued by forearm injuries that sidelined him for almost all of last season. Coming over from Boston in the Drew Pomeranz trade, Anderson Espinoza was expected to be the future of the Padres rotation. An absolutely flame throwing right handed pitcher from Venezuela, Espinoza screams “impact player” to me. Unfortunately for him, it will all go down to how well he can recover from an unfortunate elbow injury in his throwing arm. This is a case where the Padres should ease him back very slowly and not try to push him too fast.
Similar to Fernando Tatis, they are in no hurry to contend and shouldn’t want to ruin an extremely talented player simply because they did not allocate enough time to his recovery. This may be a bit of a hot take, but I can ultimately see Espinoza being more effective out of the bullpen at the big league level than as a starter. Due to his already weakened arm, I don’t envision him having much success having to throw six or seven innings every five days. Rather, the hard throwing right hander can come in for an inning or two and shut opposing teams down when the Padres need him to. With obviously his arm needing to recover, I think we may not see Espinoza reach the big league level until 2020, if he ever does surface to the top at all. I sure hope Espinoza can stay healthy because the talent is there and he is ready to just simply burst onto the scene.
7. Michel Baez, RHP
When I said that nobody had as impressive of a minor league season last year as Fernando Tatis did, I lied. His teammate Michel Baez may steal this one away from Tatis. Coming out of nowhere this season, Baez was 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA with the TinCaps. He struck out an absurd 82 batters in 58.2 innings and only walked eight, holding opponents to a .192 batting average. At one point, his ERA sat below 1.00 and he was absolutely dominating hitters left and right. He is an absolute flamethrower as his fastball sits in the upper 90s and he sometimes flirts with triple digits. His off speed stuff needs work, but Baez is a talented pitcher with a violent deliver and massive frame (6’8”) that will make adjustments.
Since he is just so big, concerns arise if Baez will be consistent with his delivery. This has me doubting if Baez can truly be a starter at the big league level, leading me to believe that he would be better in a back end bullpen role. Baez is already 21 years old and is still only pitching in low class A, so some concerns that he will develop on pace with the rest of this young care has to be brought up. Nonetheless, I would expect to see Baez in the Padres bullpen by July of 2020.
8. Eric Lauer, LHP
One of the pitchers that made up San Antonio’s “Big Three”, Lauer was one of the Padres first round draft picks this previous year. Lauer absolutely dominated his last year in college, posting a 0.69 ERA, the lowest for a Division 1 starter since 1979. The 22-year-old left hander has a big frame, standing at 6’3”, and coming out of college was known to be one of the most MLB ready prospects in the entire draft. Lauer has four pitches in his arsenal, all of which project to be effective big league pitches.
His fastball tops out at 94 that is paired with his “out pitch” in the form of a very effective slider. Lauer’s changeup and curveball are quality pitches, but he will need to become more comfortable with them in order to have success with these pitches at the big league level. I think Lauer has potential to be a back-end starter on a quality team and we could surely see him make his professional debut in 2018 with the Padres. Lauer did struggle with control at some points last season, but he is known for having solid command of the strike zone. Nonetheless, Lauer is a quality left-handed pitcher that has a high ceiling and should see some time on the mound in 2018.
9. Joey Lucchesi, LHP
Drafted behind Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer, Lucchesi had arguably better seasons than both of the first rounders. Coming out of Southeast Missouri, Lucchesi was 10-5 with a 2.19 ERA in his senior season. He led all of Division 1 baseball with 149 strikeouts as the 24-year-old left hander, becoming the highest drafted player ever drafted out of Southeast Missouri. He stands at a massive 6’5”, and similar to Mackenzie Gore, has a funky delivery that throws hitters timing off with ease.
Lucchesi’s fastball tops out at 96 mph with a swing-and-miss breaking ball and good feel for an advanced changeup. In 139.0 innings last season, Lucchesi went 11-7 with a 2.20 ERA and 148 strikeouts with only 33 walks. Due to quick progression, Lucchesi is the most likely Padres’ pitching prospect to hit the big leagues this year. Some Padres fans argue that Lucchesi should get a chance to compete for a role in the pitching staff this spring training, in which I would agree. The Padres have nothing to lose and Lucchesi has shown that he can accommodate to different levels well. However, to me, Lucchesi should come out of the bullpen as a long reliever. His stuff is good, but I am worried about how consistent his funky delivery will be and I think he would get the most out of his arsenal if he was to come in for one to two innings a game.
10. Josh Naylor, 1B
Coming over in the Andrew Cashner trade from the Marlins, Josh Naylor certainly has the most power out of any Padres prospect. The 20-year-old first baseman from Canada impressed last season, progressing through Lake Elsinore and making his way to the Texas League, where he was the youngest player in the entire league. A two-time “Futures Game” nominee, Naylor is a fantastic hitter. As we all know, he hits for power, but Naylor’s quick hands and good coordination allow him to spread the ball across the field. Despite a quite aggressive approach he doesn’t strike out a lot and has solid plate discipline for a power hitter. His power is something that I don’t think has even come close to reaching its potential as I truly think Naylor could hit 30+ home runs each year.
The biggest concern with Naylor is how good of an athlete he is and how much a lack of athleticism will affect his defense at first base. He really isn’t expandable, and with Wil Myers looking to be the Padres franchise player, it would take Myers being moved back to the outfield in order for him to see significant playing time at the big league level. Naylor is a fantastic prospect that I think the Padres could trade him in a few seasons to get some quality pitching when they are ready to make a playoff run. He should be big league ready by 2019, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in September of 2018. Naylor has good upside because he can hit the ball well to all fields, while hitting for power too. He fits better into a DH type of role, but the Padres got a steal in flipping Andrew Cashner for Josh Naylor and company.
PAGE 2 LINK BELOW