Padres Forecast: How Long Does It Usually Take for Top Prospects To Arrive?

Credit: Ryan Cox

The Padres have a loaded farm system.

This is not breaking news to Padre fans unless you have been locked inside of the Hotel Del Coronado for a year. Much of the 2017 season was spent excitedly watching prospects succeed all over the minor leagues, from Tri-City to El Paso.

The Friar faithful may have to find their joy in that for at least one more season before things really start to change at the big league level. With names like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mackenzie Gore, among many others, popping up all over top prospect lists everywhere, Padres fans are wondering “when will we get to see these guys in Padres threads?”

Patience is not usually an inherited virtue of humans and most of us lack a measurable amount of it. So waiting three or four years for your favorite prospect to finally step onto a major league field can be painstaking.

Allow me to maybe speak some ease to your mind. Let’s dive into the numbers. In a previous article, I analyzed how much of a “sure thing” Fernando Tatis Jr. really is. I used that same database of ten years of Top 10 prospects to find out how long it takes each of those prospects to make the big leagues after they are drafted.

Now, I am not naive enough to think each timeline will be the same. This is usually a case-by-case scenario, or at least organization-by-organization. Every front office does it a little differently. Let’s look at the facts. How long does it take a top prospect to go from being drafted to making his major league debut? Here is what I found.

I realize there may be some outliers with international free agents and amateur signings. International signings like Yu Darvish or Aroldis Chapman go right to the big leagues, and in other occasions it takes a long time since the player was signed when he was 17 or 18 years old. I took this data into account and ran numbers with and without those types of signings.

The Numbers 

Some outliers were Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish, and Masahiro Tanaka going straight to the big leagues, and also guys like Carlos Santana and Oscar Taveras taking six years after being signed out of the international pool. The fastest an international top prospect rose to the big leagues besides those Japanese pitchers was Yoan Moncada, the young Cuban infielder who made his debut one year after being signed.

Among the all top 10 ranked prospects from 2007 to 2016, it took an average of 2.8 years to go from drafted or signed to their major league debut. The average for international free agents was higher, at 3.6. The average for prospects that were strictly drafted out of the United States or Puerto Rico was 2.6 years. Since the Padres have so many top pitching prospects, I also researched how long it takes for drafted pitchers and it was the fastest of all the categories at 2.4 years from draft to big league debut.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

This article has 3 Comments

  1. I think we as an organization can do a better job of getting our prospects ready to succeed once they get to San Diego. I look at the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox as teams that have had great success with developing great young players who then form a strong nucleus for many years.
    I don’t think we want to rush any of the arms we have currently in A ball till we have given the more advanced arms a shot. The value of the first wave will be discounted if they are not given time to produce first. We have 10 total arms with rotation projections in the minors, you only have 5 spots available which means we will maybe drop a couple into the bullpen but you will need to trade 3 or more. WE need to develop those trade chips also, because not every position player prospect is going to turn out the way we need them to. IMO, our system is very weak on LH hitters, and high average, high OBP, with power types who play on the corners (LF, RF, 1B, 3B). I hope we start addressing that need with this years draft.

    1. I agree a lot needs to go right for Gore. But it’s not totally out of the question. Lots of top lefty pitching prospects soar through the minors. It might depend on where the Padres are at in 2019. If they are in the hunt, they might bring him up.

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