Putting the Padres’ Farm System into Perspective

Credit: USA Today Sports

The hype surrounding the San Diego Padres’ farm system is undoubtedly the most exciting thing about the franchise right now.

The first wave of young talent has already arrived in the big leagues.

Guys like Dinelson Lamet, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero and Austin Hedges have all had varying degrees of success in the major leagues, but all stand a chance of becoming a part of the Padres’ long-term future.

Below the big-league surface, however, lies even more “hot talent lava” waiting to erupt. Thursday’s acquisition of catcher Francisco Mejia now gives the Padres a total of 10 prospects inside MLB Pipeline’s top 100 in all of baseball. 10 percent of the top 100 prospects in baseball belong to the San Diego Padres. That’s rare.

Yet, there are both skeptics and believers of the ground-up rebuild that A.J. Preller is authoring. I would say the overt skepticism largely comes from a lack of understanding of prospects and the kind of impact they have on the long-term success of the major league team. I would say the overt belief stems from a tendency to get ahead of oneself—the reality is, a good percentage of prospects will not pan out.

In this article, I want to put the Padres’ number-one ranked farm system into perspective by comparing it to top prospects of years past.

To determine value, I will use career Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which admittedly is not a perfect stat, but is clearly the best stat available that consolidates an entire player’s value into one number. It is also important to note that WAR is a cumulative stat, so players from 2012 will presumably have a higher career WAR than players from 2016, for example.

The current 2018 list for the Padres is as follows, per MLB Pipeline. The number preceding the name is their rank among the top 100 prospects in baseball:

3. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS

13. MacKenzie Gore, LHP

15. Francisco Mejia, C/OF

29. Luis Urias, 2B/SS

32. Cal Quantrill, RHP

33. Michel Baez, RHP

42. Adrian Morejon, LHP

75. Anderson Espinoza, RHP

95. Chris Paddack, RHP

97. Logan Allen, LHP

Now, let’s see who occupied those spots on previous years’ lists, starting with 2012 and finishing with 2016.

2012

3. Wil Myers, OF: 9.2 WAR

13. Francisco Lindor, SS: 21.6 WAR

15. Jameson Taillon, RHP: 5.8 WAR

29. Nick Franklin, SS: 1.4 WAR

32. Hak-Ju Lee, SS: Has not reached MLB

33. Anthony Rendon, 3B: 18.6 WAR

42. Zach Lee, RHP: -0.2 WAR

75. Jessie Biddle, LHP: Has not reached MLB

95. Yordano Ventura, RHP: 7.1 WAR

97. Jeurys Familia, RHP: 7.0 WAR

2013

3. Miguel Sano, 3B: 5.2 WAR

13. Gregory Polanco, OF: 5.0 WAR

15. Dylan Bundy, RHP: 5.9 WAR

29. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP: Has not reached MLB

32. Alex Meyer, RHP: 0.1 WAR

33. Jon Gray, RHP: 6.3 WAR

42. Jesse Biddle, LHP: Has not reached MLB

75. Hak-Ju Lee, SS: Has not reached MLB

95. Dorssys Paulino, SS: Has not reached MLB

97. Tyler Glasnow, RHP: -1.6 WAR

2014

3. Kris Bryant, 3B: 21.3 WAR

13. Corey Seager, SS: 13.7 WAR

15. Joc Pederson, OF: 6.4 WAR

29. Josh Bell, 1B: 1.3 WAR

32. JP Crawford, SS: 0.7 WAR

33. Jose Berrios, RHP: 2.6 WAR

42. Braden Shipley, RHP: -0.1 WAR

75. Lance McCullers, RHP: 5.6 WAR

95. Trea Turner, SS: 9.3 WAR

97. Matthew Olson, 1B: 5.1 WAR

2015

3. Lucas Giolito, RHP: 0.4 WAR

13. Rafael Devers, 3B: 1.2 WAR

15. Steven Matz, LHP: 5.4 WAR

29. Gleyber Torres, SS: 2.1 WAR

32. Brett Phillips, OF: 1.3 WAR

33. Adalberto Mondesi, SS: -0.2 WAR

42. Carson Fulmer, RHP: -0.8 WAR

75. Jorge Polanco, SS: 3.4 WAR

95. Kyle Zimmer, RHP: Has not reached MLB

97. Anthony Alford, OF: 0.1 WAR

2016

3. Lucas Giolito, RHP: 0.4 WAR

13. Anderson Espinoza, RHP: Has not reached MLB

15. Clint Frazier, OF: -0.3 WAR

29. Francis Martes, RHP: -0.9 WAR

32. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF: 6.5 WAR

33. Jose De Leon, RHP: -0.8 WAR

42. Kevin Newman, SS: Has not reached MLB

75. Erick Fedde, RHP: -0.5 WAR

95. Matt Chapman, 3B: 8.1 WAR

97. Isan Diaz, SS/2B: Has not reached MLB

There’s a couple thoughts about this information that I believe are important. For one, this is in no way an exact science.

Noah Syndergaard was ranked just one spot above Gregory Polanco in 2013, for example, and one slight tweak in that ranking could make the 2013 list look a whole lot better than it does as currently presented. On the other end of the spectrum, Travis d’Arnaud was ranked two spots ahead of Francisco Lindor in 2012. So, ranking isn’t everything.

Credit: Baseball America

There are countless factors that go into ultimately determining a player’s major league success, many of which have nothing to do with prospect rankings. The same slots that produced a class like 2014 with Kris Bryant, Corey Seager and Trea Turner have also produced a class like 2013 where Jon Gray is the best player on the list. Only time will truly tell how these players turn out.

I acknowledge that WAR is not a perfect stat, especially when valuing the younger guys in the 2015 and 2016 classes. Additionally, players come up to the big leagues at their own pace, so two players in the 2014 class may have varying levels of experience at the big league level, and thus have more or less opportunities to accrue WAR. We’re all baseball fans here, so I encourage you to look past WAR and form your own opinion on each player mentioned. A guy like Clint Frazier, for example, is obviously worth more than the negative WAR he has posted in his 183 career at-bats so far.

Lastly, take this information as you want. Whether these lists increase or decrease your enthusiasm for the “process” is not the point of this article. The true value in presenting these lists is in the perspective. It allows for a better understanding of what to realistically expect from this crop of prospects.

Either way, one thing is for certain—this franchise finally has a clear direction for the first time in a long time. A.J. Preller is fully committed to this method of team building. So here’s to hoping the Padres end up with a lot more Kris Bryants and Francisco Lindors than Hak-Ju Lees and Lucas Giolitos.

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Brady Lim
Born and raised in San Diego, CA. Currently living in Eugene, OR as a junior at the University of Oregon. Journalism major, Padre fan, music lover. Attended my first Padre game at the Q in 1998 when I was three months old. Follow me on Twitter: @BradyLim619.

This article has 3 Comments

  1. This is all well and good, but it’s painfully obvious that once a highly touted non-pitching prospect or well-known free agent is on the big-league club, he turns into an automatic out. Is there some culture with the Padres powers-that-be that mandates a position player must become a weak hitter? The Eric Hosmer signing is a prime example.

    Is it the hitting instruction/philosophy within all levels of the Player Development organization that needs to be re-evaluated? I’m a diehard Padres fan, but I’m also beyond mildly frustrated that the major league club is year in and year out, a pathetic hitting club.

    Thank you

    1. Thank you for the read, Jon. If we’re keeping it real, the Padres just haven’t had very many talented hitters. This farm system is the most talent the Padres have had in a really long time, and talent is ultimately the most important thing. Hosmer is obviously a good hitter and even more obviously is not having a good year, but to judge an 8-year contract on one first half seems crazy to me. Beyond that, what other examples like Hosmer do you have? The only other one I can think of in the recent past is Kemp, and it’s been well documented that he didn’t work to stay in shape in San Diego. Even then, 26 HR and 100 RBI for him in 2015. As far as the hitting instruction/philosophy thing, especially with young players, I think there’s definitely something to that. The constant turnover of hitting coaches at the big league level obviously stunts development when you’re reinventing your approach every season. In that respect, I do think the Padres need to find a guy they like and stick with him.

      1. Brady, very nice article. There is definitely cause for optimism, if for no other reason than the sheer volume of top prospects. Lots of pitchers, and a future DP combination we’re hoping are Trammel-Whitaker redux. The cause for concern, as Jon touched on, is the lack of hitters, and the approach of too many of them. A low average, low OBP, high strike out, decent power hitter is simply not very valuable. We’ve seen a steady parade of this type in recent years. Shimpf, Gyorko, Myers, Renfroe, Hedges, Villanueva. I don’t pretend to know whether this is due to poor guidance from hitting coaches or poor attitude on the players part, but it is a concern.
        The other concern is organizational approach. Roster construction seems to be a concept with which the front office is unfamiliar. It certainly seems that defense doesn’t enter into their player evaluations. Reminds me of Baltimore, or Seattle of a few years ago.

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