Earlier this season, I made a decision. Rather than spending three hours watching a below-average baseball team win or lose meaningless games, I decided to instead focus my attention on the farm. Every day, I’ve checked every teams’ box score and read the recap. Any highlight that Tri-City or Fort Wayne posted, I gobbled up. I started counting the number of Petco and non-Petco homeruns hit by Hunter Renfroe. I read and reread almost any Padres prospect resource I could find: old Madfriars posts, Fangraphs’ fringe prospect writeups, random blog-form scouting reports on super fringe Padres prospects, and all the basic resources. Anything that gave me more information on potential future Padres, I read it. I wanted to know as much as I possibly could about the guys who might be on the team when we’re actually good again.
And about two weeks ago, I realized that all this research had paid off. I knew who Eguy Rosario, Phil Maton, and Gabriel Arias were, and I knew which order I’d prefer them: Arias, Rosario, Maton. So, I decided to make my own prospect list.
The thing is, when I got to prospect number 20, I realized there were at least fifteen additional prospects that would ordinarily make the Padres top 20 list. A top 20 became a top 35. And then 50. And, finally, 75.
A few quick notes on how I ranked players…
Everything comes back to World Series odds. A player with some probability of being a high impact player will be ranked above players with a high probability of making the Major Leagues as a replacement-level player. That’s why several relatively unheralded DSL players rank above Auston Bousfield, for example.
At the very end of my initial ranking, I rigged a python script to perform the same ranking exercise that Baseball Reference does. Do you prefer player A or player B? Based on each choices, the two players’ ELO rating was updated, and a new pair of players was given for me to pick between. After a few hundred of these rankings, I have a pretty robust order that I believe in. If a player is ranked above another it means that, yes, I would trade the lower ranked one for the higher ranked one. This wasn’t rushed.
Probably the biggest snub, or the player some would find surprisingly absent, is Ryan Butler. He ranked 7th on Madfriars’ preseason top twenty list, but is not in my top 75. Butler was suspended for 50 games this season, is already 24, and has only demonstrated consistent value as a reliever. I think he could end up as a pretty shitty starter, if he makes it that route, or as a decent 7th inning reliever. For a guy with a suspension hanging over him and no demonstrated success past Lake Elsinore, I’m not buying.
There are also players not on this list that could still end up on the senior squad. The obvious cases are the replacement-level callup types – Mazzoni and what have you – but the potentially useful ones are recent late-round college selections. Absent enough data, it’s hard to value David Bednar more than one of the other top 75. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Bednar ended up a useful major leaguer. I’m just not handing out a top spot on the strength of 20 innings in Tri-City without a strong scouting report or signing bonus.
I’m sure there will be numerous disagreements on these rankings, and I’d bet that most will be focused on how much I’ve valued youth. Four of my top twenty are recent international signings, with another four recent draftees. To be fair, it’s not youth itself I’ve valued, but the uncertainty associated with many very young prospects. We can’t rule out that A.J. Brown will win an MVP award because we just don’t have the data to dismiss the premise. We can, however, dismiss Nick Schultz even though I think there’s a much higher probability of him getting a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues. This doesn’t mean every young prospect made the list; many, like Alan Garcia, have had a poor enough start that the uncertainty has been drastically reduced, even at such a small sample.
And then there’s eligibility. I didn’t set any rigid guidelines, but my gut. Jankowski and Rea aren’t really prospects anymore. Schimpf and Dickerson are already on the senior squad. Hedges has spent the whole year in AAA, so I’m counting him as a prospect. It’s not rocket science and it shouldn’t matter much anyway.
Finally, I do plan on updating this list periodically. I think the standard top ten and twenty lists sorta suck for the most hardcore fans, especially since they almost always exclude international signings, recent draftees, and other players that have a legitimate chance to make it. At the very least, I hope this lets Padres fans familiarize themselves with players they may otherwise not know.
I don’t suspect the top four names will be controversial.
Margot is advanced, multi-faceted, and has no glaring weakness to his game. I value his daily productivity and proximity to the senior squad above Espinoza’s upside, and it wasn’t that close for me. Besides, it’s not like Margot’s upside isn’t absurd itself; he may end up with plus defensive metrics, plus baserunning metrics, a .375+ OBP, and moderate pop.
Padres fans are well familiar with Hedges and Renfroe, and while both have flaws, they also have (prototypical Preller) loud tools. Loud tools with production at AAA will get you high on a prospect list.
Fifth is where I think most Padres prospect lists will start to diverge. I ranked Paddack here, pre-injury, due to a few factors: unrivaled dominance at the minor league level, positive scouting reports and videos, and age. Future Cy Young winners dominate the minors like Paddack has. Getting him for Rodney was an absolute steal that I still don’t quite understand. If he requires Tommy John, I’d knock him down to 9th on my list.
Two other recent acquisitions follow Paddack, in Quantrill and Morejon. The high-upside chatter, along with their market costs – a 1st and the largest international bonus for a pitcher – solidify these rankings. While Morejon hasn’t thrown a professional inning for us, it also means he hasn’t thrown a bad professional inning. He’s a potential ace until we have evidence to the contrary.
Logan Allen, despite a recent injury, has both good numbers and scouting reports. At a young 19 while left-handed, and having only allowed a single homerun professionally, his slot is well-deserved. If he ends up requiring surgery (on his current injury), I actually wouldn’t knock him back too far; he’s young enough to miss a year and still be a significant prospect.
Gettys has really turned it on and may end up being Byrnes’ longest Padres legacy. Gettys’ tools fit in with Preller’s type and now, having produced in Lake Elsinore, he’s leaping up prospect lists. Or will when they come out this next offseason. I could actually understand someone ranking him fifth in the system.
Urias is a bit of an unknown for me, but his numbers and age are impossible to ignore. He just turned 19 at Lake Elsinore, has an OBP and OPS that look good anywhere, has an even walk/strikeout ratio … and plays second base. By Fangraphs’ updated KATOH rankings, he’s the 47th best prospect in baseball. I’m not that bullish, as the scouting reports don’t entirely corroborate his numbers, but I think there’s a chance he’s a special player.
There were justifiable complaints when the Padres selected Lauer, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a legitimate prospect. Against inferior competition thus far, he has ten strikeouts and one walk in seven innings. Left-handed with absolutely absurd collegiate numbers; he left Kent State with a lower ERA (0.69) than WHIP (0.74) over 100+ innings as a junior. He just turned 21, but fits into the 2019 “plan”.
Franchy has taken the biggest leap of ant Padres prospect this year, continuing his trend of being a volatile asset. But his A+/AA numbers at just 21 are impressive: he has 20 doubles, 11 triples, and 9 homeruns in 2016. The bat always made scouts swoon and it appears he has finally put it together. While he has played some CF and is a former SS prospect, he’s probably a corner outfielder with athleticism at the MLB level.
Guerra has taken a step back in 2016, no question. But the raw power – 16 doubles and 9 homerund – and arm are still there, and he’s not even 21. Let’s not write him off just yet.
Ona and Almanzar continue what will be a trend in these rankings. High-upside players, even with little or no experience, litter my prospect list. It’s highly likely neither of these guys plays in MLB, but it’s many times more likely that one of these two win an MVP award over, say, Austin Allen or Carlos Asuaje. There’s a reason that these international signings – Ona from Cuba, Almanzar the #2 in Baseball America’s int’l free agent list – got a large signing bonus and heaps of scouting praise, and I’d gladly trade any of the lower ranked prospects for either of these two.
Lamet is a good bet for the Padres 2018 rotation and could be a contributor even sooner, given his current production close to the majors and our absolutely awful rotation. Lamet can touch the high 90s with an above-average slider, and has only been in the professional ranks since 2014, when he signed with the Padres out of the Dominican.
Next, we have three very different shortstops. Rondon has been a minor disappointment since entering out system as part of the Huston Street deal, but given that he his “barrel-to-bat skills are outstanding” according to Baseball Prospectus, and that he’s starting to display some extra base power, he’still a good prospect. He could be the Padres shortstop as early as 2017.
Potts was a comp first round pick for the Padres this year. With a reasonable start in the Arizona League under his belt at the age of 17, there’s a lot to look forward to here.
Arias, like Almanzar, was highly ranked in Baseball America’s int’l free agent list. The number four slot is the same one Anderson Espinoza occupied when he was signed by the Red Sox. Again, the upside of a top international free agent justifies the rank.
Mason Thompson was the Padres third round pick this year. He is coming off Tommy John surgery and may have been a first round pick had he been healthy. He signed a lucrative, above-slot bonus contract and has ace potential.
|21||Fernando Tatis Jr.||3B||Rk||17.6|
Tatis was the centerpiece of the James Shields trade. He wasn’t highly touted as an international signing last year, but he has performed well since signing given his age and level, knocking ten extra base hits in his first 100 AZL ABs. (Keep in mind that XBH are more rare at this level.)
Nix is most well known for being the dude that got screwed by the MLB system when the Astros failed to sign Brady Aiken, since it meant that their above-slot agreement with Nix couldn’t be honored. The Padres took him last year and he has performed well, showing great control for his age/level. His upside isn’t nearly as high as the other arms above him, but he has a decent chance of being a mid-rotation starter. Others are higher on him than I am.
Buddy Reed was one of the Padres’ second rounders this year. He’s raw but very athletic. He’s ranked here purely on upside, as several outlets had him just outside the top ten of this year’s draft prospect list back in April.
Asuaje will be playing in Petco soon. I’m unsure if he’s anything more than a good version of Alexi Amarista, but his plate discipline and lower strikeout rate bode well for his chances of becoming a high OBP sleeper at second or third.
Giron has had a really bad 2016. Don’t go look at his statline. But he’s still 19 and has favorable scouting reports. I’m not sure he sticks at shortstop given those same reports, but he could end up a plus defensive 2B or 3B while providing some offense as his frame fills out. Still a long way off, but hard to ignore a toolsy 19 year old middle infielder at Fort Wayne.
Let me start with Michael Kelly. He was a comp pick back in 2011 and, until this year, pretty much stunk. Just last year, he walked 31 and struck out just 57 in over 90 innings. Not great. But the scouting was always there on him and the 2016 numbers show considerable growth. He has pitched in Elsinore, San Antonio, and El Paso in 2016, with a nearly strikeout-per-inning pace at AAA. He’s about to turn 24 and is a rotation candidate for 2017. If he can continue to grow as he has in 2016, he’ll be a useful major leaguer.
And then we have four relatively unknowns. Rosario (a recent international signing), Lawson (a high draft pick in 2016), and Ornelas (another international signing) have all not played yet. Munoz, as the top international free agent out of Mexico in 2015, had the highest signing bonus in the Padres’ international free agent crop last year, and debuted in the Arizona League this year. Thus far he has struck out 17 in 11 innings.
|31||Enyel De Los Santos||SP||A+||20.6|
De Los Santos had an excellent start to the season in Fort Wayne before hitting the proverbial wall in Lake Elsinore. My main concern with him is how hard he is hit. Nine homeruns allowed in under ninety minor league innings is not something you frequently see in players that eventually pitch well at the Major League level. He’s still young with some positive scouting reports, so there’s certainly hope. But getting lit up the way he has been in Lake Elsinore is not a good look.
Tre Carter was the Padres’ 11th round pick, signing an above-100k bonus (therefore counting against the pool). I read one report stating that he was perhaps the highest upside player in the entire draft. He’s an absurd athlete and is the type of prospect I thoroughly enjoy following.
VanMeter has had a very good 2016 at Lake Elsinore, showing pretty much everything you want at the plate: power, a healthy amount of walks, not too many strikeouts. He was a high school pick back in 2013 and is starting to put it all together. Still just 21, I wouldn’t be upset if others ranked him considerably higher.
Yo, who the hell is Eguy Rosario? He’s the top performing Padre in the Dominican Summer League, leading the team in pretty much every meaningful category besides homeruns. He was an international free agent signing (400k) by the Padres last year, and the most I can find on him is that he drew interest in the same showcase that featured Fernando Tatis Jr. Nonetheless, his start in the DSL is promising, and his spray chart there shows a lot of pulled balls, suggesting bat speed may be a strength.
Perhaps my biggest overrank is Jerry Keel, at least on the surface. Why does a soon-to-be 23 year old in A ball rank above high upside prospects? Groundballs. More than pretty much any prospect in the minor leagues, Jerry Keel keeps the ball down. To-date he has allowed just 2 homeruns in over 100 professional innings, with only a handful of doubles and triples. He registers over three times as many grounders as flyballs, giving him this ridiculous spray chart in 2016:
I’m sure it’s not an entirely accurate map, given f/x data at the A level, but the volume of infield groundballs to other batted balls is staggering.
A lot of low minors arms here. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these arms, except maybe Cosme, ends up in a top ten in the next two years.
France would be rated significantly higher if he was doing what he’s currently doing in AA or AAA. A 20% walk rate with other good numbers across the board stands out, but as a 34th rounder who has only succeeded below AA, it’s tough to put him higher until we see it.
There’s a lot of unproven upside in this range. If Zunica could improve his plate discipline, he could really shoot up this list. Ilarraza was one of the larger international signings before 2016, while two 2016 ones join him.
Austin Allen has had success at the plate, notably to start the season, but he’s 22 in A ball, with questions about his glove behind the plate.
A.J. Brown was another late 2016 draft pick to sign a 100k+ signing bonus. Despite signing, the Padres are allowing him to play football for Ole Miss simultaneously.
|62||Rafael De Paula||RP||AA||25.3|
|64||Jose Carlos Urena||RF||A||21.5|
Four Arizona League prospects, followed by some of the upper minors relief pitching.
Suwinski and Dallas are 2016 draft picks, while Perez and Lezama came the international route. Suwinski apparently has a big bat, while Lezama has shown incredible plate discipline at his age: 43 walks to just 24 K in the DSL and AZL.
It’s true that the Missions are the weakest of the Padres minor league affiliates. However, they’ll probably produce most of the Padres’ 2018 and 2019 bullpen. Even though some of these are slam dunks for MLB value, I have a hard time putting 0.5 or 1.0 W.A.R., highly replacable players higher on my list.
This is a hodge podge. Four relief pitchers, several of whom you’ll see in San Diego soon. Two close to MLB fringe types in Bousfield and Lindsey, but with enough upside to warrant the tail-end of the top 75: Bousfield with the glove and Lindsey with a little pop at second.
Melean signed the highest signing bonus for a position player in the 2015 international class, but has thoroughly sucked in the DSL. He’s almost 18, so that’s worrisome, but I’m not ready to give up all hope just yet. He got over 500k from A.J. Preller, so he deserves more than 100 ABs in the DSL before completely writing him off.