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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.