San Diego Padres Top 35 Prospects

© Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the San Diego Padres. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.

Padres Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 C.J. Abrams 21.6 MLB 2B 2023 60
2 Luis Campusano 23.6 MLB C 2022 55
3 Robert Hassell III 20.8 A+ RF 2023 50
4 MacKenzie Gore 23.2 MLB SP 2022 50
5 James Wood 19.7 A CF 2026 50
6 Jackson Merrill 19.1 A SS 2026 45
7 Samuel Zavala 17.8 R RF 2026 40+
8 Jarlin Susana 18.2 R SP 2027 40+
9 Steven Wilson 27.7 MLB SIRP 2022 40+
10 Reiss Knehr 25.5 MLB MIRP 2022 40+
11 Eguy Rosario 22.7 AAA 3B 2022 40
12 Brandon Valenzuela 21.6 A+ C 2023 40
13 Victor Acosta 17.9 A+ SS 2025 40
14 Robert Gasser 23.0 A+ SP 2025 40
15 Garrett Hawkins 22.3 A SP 2025 40
16 Ryan Bergert 22.2 A+ SP 2025 40
17 Corey Rosier 22.7 A+ CF 2025 40
18 Joshua Mears 21.3 A+ LF 2024 40
19 Efraín Contreras 22.4 A+ SP 2022 40
20 Korry Howell 23.7 AA CF 2022 40
21 Yendry Rojas 17.3 R 3B 2027 35+
22 Brett Sullivan 28.2 AAA C 2022 35+
23 Kevin Kopps 25.2 AA SIRP 2025 35+
24 Jackson Wolf 23.1 A+ MIRP 2025 35+
25 Esteury Ruiz 23.3 AA CF 2023 35+
26 Max Ferguson 22.7 A 2B 2025 35+
27 Jairo Iriarte 20.4 A MIRP 2024 35+
28 Pedro Avila 25.3 MLB SP 2022 35+
29 Kyle Tyler 25.4 MLB SP 2022 35+
30 Ray Kerr 27.7 MLB SIRP 2022 35+
31 Marcos Castanon 23.2 A 2B 2026 35+
32 Charlis Aquino 20.5 A SS 2024 35+
33 Chase Walter 23.8 A+ SIRP 2024 35+
34 Nerwilian Cedeno 20.2 R SS 2024 35+
35 Angel Felipe 24.7 AA SIRP 2023 35+
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60 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Blessed Trinity HS (GA) (SDP)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 45/55 30/50 80/80 35/45 45

The gun-slingin’ Padres tend to push their prospects up the minor league ladder more quickly than other teams. They sent the electrifying Abrams to Double-A San Antonio at the start of 2021 after the 20-year-old had barely played full-season ball in ’19, his draft year. Abrams responded by hitting .296/.363/.420 during two healthy months with the Missions. Then he fractured his left leg and sprained his MCL in an infield collision with Eguy Rosario in late June, ending his year. There was hope that Abrams would recover in time for a Fall League assignment, but he only played during a narrow instructs window and suffered another injury, this time a bruised shoulder. That didn’t stop the Padres from pushing the envelope again in 2022, as Abrams opened the year with the big league team; at that point, he had played just 42 games above A-ball. His relative inexperience showed during a month-long debut stint while the Padres waited for some of their veterans to come off the IL, as Abrams hit .182 during that span. Given the context and sample size of that performance, there isn’t much to draw from his struggles.

The catalytic qualities that make Abrams an exciting young leadoff hitter were often evident even amid these performance woes. Still a hit-over-power prospect by a comfortable margin, Abrams has started to fill out without losing any of his impact speed, as he’s running in the sub-4.2s coming off his injury-addled 2021. Abrams’ swing is geared to lift pitches down-and-in. He can flatten his path and get to pitches in other parts of the zone, but tends to spray those pitches the other way. As he continues to fill out and get stronger, he might be able to put balls out to left field and do a ton of damage in the opposite field gap. Both the way Abrams’ bat traverses the zone and the way his head kicks back like the butt of a shotgun when he really lays into a ball evoke Kenny Lofton, and Abrams also turns a fair number of bunts and infield choppers into base hits, à la the should-be-HoFer. While he hadn’t generated a ton of early-career data because of the pandemic and injuries, it’s becoming clear that Abrams’ approach is more expansive than is ideal. He tends to offer at pitches out of the strike zone that can dilute the quality of his contact. That will need to improve for him to attain his ceiling as one of the more dynamic leadoff hitters in the sport.

On defense, Abrams’ hands, actions, and arm accuracy are all below average. They’re not so bad that Abrams definitely has to move off the infield, and aspects of his defense (especially his arm utility) have improved since high school even though he has missed a lot of reps. Over the last decade or so, speedy infield prospects with similar issues (Billy Hamilton, Roman Quinn) have tended to end up in the outfield, but to this point, Abrams has only played a smattering of big league innings in right, with the vast majority coming at shortstop and second base. Regardless of where he ends up, it’s a virtual lock to be an up-the-middle position, where Abrams’ contact ability should be enough for him to be a good everyday player, while his looming power is what could make him a huge star.

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Cross Creek HS (GA) (SDP)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 232 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 55/60 40/50 40/40 35/45 55

COVID-related chaos and injury led to premature big league time for Campusano in both 2020 (just one game) and ’21, when the catcher spent the first month of the season with the big club, effectively skipping Double- and Triple-A. He couldn’t make that leap and went just 3-for-38 before heading down to Triple-A El Paso for the rest of the 2021 season. Still just 22 all year, Campy hit an encouraging .295/.365/.541 with 15 homers while with the Chihuahuas, good for a 122 wRC+ in a Triple-A league with lots of hitter-friendly parks. While he has more risk than is typical for a prospect who has performed to this level at Triple-A, Campusano has rare offensive ability for the catcher position and an All-Star ceiling if some of his ills are cured with continued adjustment in the big leagues.

The headline trait here is Campusano’s plus-plus bat speed, which enables him to hit some epic pull-side homers and gives him 25-homer potential. When he connects with a full-effort cut, he has the look of Willson Contreras, who has performed like a 55-grade player to this point. An overly-aggressive, pull-heavy approach leaves Campusano vulnerable to well-located breaking balls, which he tends to swing inside. Breaking balls that don’t quite finish out away from him get sent into orbit, though, as do fringe fastballs that catch too much of the zone. While he looked like a well-rounded offensive force in A-ball, Campusano is now tracking like a power-over-hit sort barring further adjustment. He has below-average plate discipline, but it’s not so bad that we consider him at risk of taking a path similar to that of new org-mate Jorge Alfaro. The offensive bar at catcher is so low (collectively, big league backstops hit .228/.304/.391 in 2021) that Campusano projects to clear it pretty easily even if his current issues persist.

While he’s improved enough defensively to be a passable upper-level catcher, Campusano is still not a good defender. He now receives on one knee (even with runners on), which has helped him more comfortably frame pitches toward the bottom of the strike zone, but it borrows from his ball-blocking ability and can slow his exchange on throws to the bases (his raw arm strength is above-average). With the missed 2020 season in mind, it’s feasible that Campusano can still improve as a defender. The rule of thumb is to take the long view with catchers and give proper weight to the scarcity of offensive performers at the position. This young slugger is now in a 40-man mix with Alfaro, Brett Sullivan (further down this list), and Austin Nola, an established big leaguer who has experience at other defensive positions. Because his 2022 focus is likely to be on becoming a better defender in El Paso, Campusano will probably graduate as an injury replacement this season, and then establish himself as a true everyday catcher with impact power later in his tenure with the Padres. The universal DH, as well as Austin Nola’s versatility, perhaps give them some interesting options to find playing time for Campusano and Nola in a way that eases the burden on both of them and masks Campy’s issues.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Independence HS (TN) (SDP)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 45/50 30/50 55/55 40/50 60

Hassell arguably wielded the most advanced bat of the 2020 draft’s high school hitters, spraying contact to all fields against upper-echelon prep pitching during his pre-draft summer. It was particularly impressive considering he often also pitched on the showcase circuit. Hassell hit with substantially more power during 2020 instructs, then arrived to ’21 spring training (where he got a lot of run with the big league team) with a really steep, uphill swing. He swung through a lot of fastballs with lateral action during minor league spring training, but that seemed to be remedied during the 2021 regular season. Hassell raked at Low-A in the old Cal League, where he hit a ton of doubles, swiped 31 bases in 37 attempts and didn’t strike out very much, doing so just 17% of the time with a swinging strike rate a shade under 10%, which is comfortably better than average. He struggled in a very short High-A run toward the end of the season, but came out the gate red hot in 2022, which is atypical in the Midwest League, where the weather often tamps down early-season offense.

The visual evaluation of Hassell’s feel to hit remains very strong. He’s a little bit upright in the box but has a well-timed stride and great-looking swing that is typically on time despite a little bat wrap. He hits the ball on the ground quite often, but things didn’t go well when he seemed to be trying to lift the ball more during the spring. While ideally he’d hit for more home run power than he seems capable of right now, the current makeup of Hassell’s contact still profiles in center field. Somewhat stiff in the lower half, Hassell is not the sort of high-end speedster ideal for center, but his strides eat up space and his first step is pretty good. He has looked more comfortable going back on balls lately than he did as an amateur, but closing the deal, especially approaching the wall, can still be an issue as Hassell is apt to lunge for balls late and often catches the ball way out away from his body. Some of those details might polish up, but for now we’re projecting Hassell in right field rather than center. He’d have a lesser chance to be a star there but still projects as a solid everyday player. A tempestuous, competitive guy, part of why we’re betting on Hassell is because he is a fierce competitor who seems hellbent on succeeding.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Whiteville HS (NC) (SDP)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 197 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/55 50/50 45/50 35/40 93-97 / 99

Gore’s saga as a prospect is rapidly approaching a hopeful end and a transition into a stable big league rotation role. Three of his last four seasons had been tumultuous and strange. He dealt with blisters throughout the 2018 season, then turned in one of the most dominant minor league campaigns of the last several years in ’19, during which Gore was in the top five in minor league ERA, swinging strike rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. He made 15 starts in the Cal League that season, and surrendered just nine runs. But in 2020, even when the Padres badly needed pitching at the end of the season, Gore languished away at the alternate site, struggling to synch up his mechanics. That carried into 2021, when Gore’s season stopped and started a few times as the club tried to pare down his complex delivery to make it more consistent. Gore initially seemed athletic enough to maintain his deceptive, intricate mechanics, which featured him utilizing a huge leg kick while simultaneously raising his hands well above his head, then taking a huge stride down the mound and a long, plunging arm action way behind his body. Changes to his leg kick and arm action were evident throughout 2021. At times Gore’s arm action was shortened to look much like Lucas Giolito’s and the pace of his delivery from the windup changed, while his leg kick was reduced from the stretch. But these changes weren’t a remedy for his command issues, as he walked 34 hitters in 61 innings throughout the year.

While he now seems to have permanently eliminated the glove raise above his head, Gore came to 2022 camp with something more closely resembling his old delivery, and his command has stabilized enough for him to have cracked the Padres’ big league rotation as of list publication. Gore’s fastball shape and velocity are enough survive him having imprecise command, but his secondary stuff lacks elite, natural nastiness and is more dependent on location to be effective. Each of his three secondary offerings has big league utility, with his upper-70s curveball functioning as a get-me-over pitch and his upper-80s slider having the right kind of angle to miss bats against hitters of both handednesses when it finishes to Gore’s glove side. He lacks precise feel for consistently locating his changeup, but it has enough action to miss bats on the occasions that he does, and while a lot of them tend to sail on Gore, he almost never misses with the pitch in vulnerable areas of the strike zone.

When the group of us who worked on the preseason Top 100 discussed the struggling or injured pitchers who were on the bubble, we were unanimously scared of Gore, whose issues lasted long enough for us to consider it more of a trajectory than a swoon. That has turned out to be wrong. It still looks like Gore will have stretches of strike-throwing inconsistency from time to time, but not enough to prevent him from being a mid-rotation starter.

5. James Wood, CF

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from IMG Academy (SDP)
Age 19.7 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 60/70 20/60 60/50 30/55 40

Wood was a divisive amateur prospect, with some scouts seeing him as a center field prospect with 70 raw power projection and others seeing him as an eventual first baseman with hit tool risk. So far in pro ball, Wood has been incredible. After initially showing feel for opposite-field-only contact on the complex, he began to turn on balls more frequently this spring and has been hitting line drive lasers to all fields, with his peak exit velocity topping out at 112 mph off the bat. That’s a plus metric for a big leaguer and is ridiculous for a 19-year-old who hasn’t totally grown into his body. Even though Wood is so big, he has feel for tucking his hands in and getting the barrel to pitches on the inner half of the plate (he sometimes struggles to cover the outer third), often staying inside them and driving them to the opposite gap. While there’s definitely some swing-and-miss risk here, it’s more due to pitch recognition than Wood’s lever length, which is extraordinary for a prospect his size. Wood has a real chance to both hit and hit for power, and while his swing isn’t geared for consistent lift at this point, he has the raw strength to do damage anyway; this might be an “if it ain’t broke” situation that doesn’t merit proactive mechanical intervention.

It’s tough to gauge where Wood’s eventual defensive home will be. He takes a little while to get his legs churning but once he’s moving, he’s a plus runner and has generated some home-to-first times in the neighborhood of 4.1-4.2 seconds. His huge strides enable him to cover a ton of ground in center field and he is a not only a viable defender out there right now, but he looks like a future plus glove. Still, this is a 6-foot-7, 240-pound teenager who might add weight commensurate with his frame as he matures, and the way that shakes out will have a significant impact on his defensive future. That said, Wood is already defying convention by looking as good as he does out there at his current size. The broad strokes of this report read a lot like that of Adam Dunn at the same age: a XXL frame with unusual top end speed and athleticism for his size and a chance to fill out in a way that causes him to tumble down the defensive spectrum, but with enough power to support such a fall. If we’re using the performance of other tooled-up teenagers in full-season ball as a barometer for where Wood fits on the overall prospect continuum, he belongs within the Top 100.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from Severna HS (SDP)
Age 19.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 30/45 20/40 50/45 45/55 55

A rare underslot first round high schooler, Merrill looks the part at shortstop, with a good first step, actions, and internal clock, and enough arm strength for the left side of the infield. He also has precocious feel for contact, especially in the bottom of the strike zone. He isn’t a huge-framed, projectable young hitter, and while Merrill will occasionally take a big rip, his approach to contact is often of the all-fields, punch-and-poke variety. So his approach isn’t geared for power, and he isn’t likely to grow into impact thump, but his lack of room for mass also arguably makes it more likely that he actually stays at shortstop since he’s unlikely to outgrow it. Early indicators suggest Merrill might make enough contact to profile as an everyday shortstop even if he doesn’t end up with meaningful pop. He hits while bent at the waist, his torso hanging over the zone, enabling him to cover the plate with gentle lift that helps him pepper the gaps. Merrill may eventually be challenged by upper-level pitchers who can really bring it at the letters, but as of list publication, he’s swinging and missing at a paltry 5% of pitches, the best mark in the Padres system. He could ride his defensive ability and bat-to-ball skills into an everyday role, though the lack of power and physical projection will make it tough to be a star.

40+ FV Prospects

7. Samuel Zavala, RF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Venezuela (SDP)
Age 17.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/60 40/50 20/45 50/50 30/50 60

Zavala doesn’t have your typical, overt physical projection, but he has precocious feel for the barrel and is a skilled young hitter who has done nothing but rake on the Arizona backfields since signing. While of medium build, he has plus body composition and gets the most out of the physicality he does have. His short levers allow him to wait an extra beat to select balls and strikes, and he often allows pitches to travel deep into the zone before unloading on them, generally making pretty looking opposite field contact. Zavala was one of a group of select Padres prospects who faced upper-level Diamondbacks players during an unscheduled morning game in the spring. One of the Snakes pitchers in that game was Oliver Pérez, whose career has lasted longer than many of those Padres prospects have been alive. Of all the young hitters who faced Pérez, most of whom were fooled by his funk and tricks, Zavala clearly looked the most comfortable and poised. He could probably hold his own in full-season ball right now, and might have a potent enough hit/power combo to profile in an outfield corner. Close in age to the incoming high school class, Zavala has the equivalent of a second round draft grade here.

8. Jarlin Susana, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 18.2 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/70 50/60 30/45 20/45 96-99 / 101

While he was still an amateur, Susana had a very, very late velocity spike and progressed from throwing in the mid-80s to the mid-90s in a very short period of time. Because he popped up late relative to his peers, most of the pool money for when he was first eligible to sign (two Januarys ago) had already been committed and he opted to wait a year so that more teams could pursue him with a meaningful bonus. The Padres signed him for $1.7 million and pushed him to camp in Arizona during 2022 minor league spring training, much earlier than other teams are moving their recent signees (though of course, he’s a little older).

Already 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Susana is a developmental leviathan with both extreme risk and upside. He has been sitting 96-99 mph and has touched at least 101 several times during spring training and extended, and while he’s only doing it for a couple of innings at a time, sometimes it’s coming early in the morning or in day time temps approaching 105 degrees. His slider quality comes and goes but when it’s right, it is already a plus pitch in the upper-80s. His three-quarters arm angle creates suboptimal fastball shape, but its tailing action pairs well with his slider and can blow up hitters in on their hands, especially when he’s started them with an in-zone slide piece for strike one. It’s not a given that the physically-mature Susana will be able to sustain this level of arm strength when he’s working a full slate of innings, but from a stuff standpoint, he is already in the Brusdar Graterol area and has that kind of late-inning relief floor if he can. His low-90s changeup is currently below average, and it might be a couple of years before he faces hitters who he can’t just pave over by throwing hard. It’s going to be important for the changeup to develop and give Susana enough repertoire depth to start, since it may be tough for him to have two distinct breakers with his current arm slot. The track record of teenage pitching prospects who are already this big and throw this hard at this age isn’t great, but Susana has huge upside if he can stay healthy.

9. Steven Wilson, SIRP

Drafted: 8th Round, 2018 from Santa Clara (SDP)
Age 27.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 221 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 50/50 30/30 40/45 94-97 / 99

Once a 23-year-old senior sign who missed a year of college ball due to Tommy John, Wilson has rapidly emerged as a potential impact bullpen piece thanks largely to his fastball, which tops out at 97 mph and benefits from its other traits, which give it upshot angle and huge carry. The Padres accelerated Wilson’s developmental track in 2019 by skipping him over Double-A, and he was dominant as Escogido’s closer during the winter of ’20 and then again last season at Triple-A , where he struck out 63 batters in 39 innings. His fastball is a dominant offering and should help Wilson be more than just a middle-inning reliever even though his secondary stuff is just okay.

10. Reiss Knehr, MIRP

Drafted: 20th Round, 2018 from Fordham (SDP)
Age 25.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/50 50/55 40/45 40/45 92-94 / 96

A late pick in 2018, Knehr (people within the org pronounce it like Greg Kinnear’s last name) pitched well in the low-minors during his first two pro seasons and then was a scout favorite during the Padres’ heavily-targeted ’20 instructs period ahead of several big trades. Knehr is now in the upper-levels of the minors and had a 29-inning travel mug of coffee with the big club in 2021. He’s funky, deceptive, and his changeup has bat-missing action. He only tops out around 96 mph, but he hides the ball well and his fastball has enough movement to stay off barrels. It rides in on the hands of righties and moves enough to induce the occasional chase from lefty batters, though the changeup is more often Knehr’s putaway pitch. He can also get whiffs with his breaking ball, but he doesn’t have consistent feel for locating that pitch to his glove side, and it often backs up on him. It can freeze righty hitters (who have noted his fastball tail and think they’re about to get plunked) by diving into the zone for called strikes. Throw in an upper-80s cutter and Knehr has the well-composed repertoire of a No. 4/5 starter but without the command to weaponize all of his pieces. He could have a sizable short-term impact as a bulk middle-inning reliever who mixes his pitches evenly, and makes quick, unpredictable work of a lineup once through. The walks would be more palatable in that role and it would still give Knehr the innings foundation to be a starter if his command clicks. It’s feasible things might break late for Knehr in that area, as he’s coming from a smaller program and missed a year of development due to the pandemic.

40 FV Prospects

11. Eguy Rosario, 3B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 22.7 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 45/45 30/40 40/40 50/50 50

Throughout the early parts of his pro career, the Padres assigned Rosario to play several levels above what is typical for his age even though he wasn’t always performing on paper. He finally repeated a level in 2019 and began to take off statistically, posting above-average offensive lines in each of his last two full seasons. Rosario set a career-high in homers (12) and steals (31) in 2021 while at Double-A and the Padres added him to the 40-man roster after they have chosen not to (and Eguy went unselected in the Rule 5) in the prior two offseasons. Rosario is built like a Mini Cooper, a sturdy but short 5-foot-9 with the requisite big league strength and physicality despite his stature. He has typically been a contact-oriented hitter who is tough to make swing and miss, but his peak exit velos were in line with the big league average in 2021 and he’s swinging and missing at an uncharacteristically high rate to start this season, often chasing breaking stuff. While he could play shortstop in an emergency, he’s a much better fit at 2B/3B and has the offensive ability to play a righty-hitting bench infield role. ZiPS likes him a good deal more than that, projecting him to perform more like a 45 FV prospect.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (SDP)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 45/45 30/40 30/30 40/50 60

Valenzuela’s athleticism and physique are uncommon for a catcher. He’s a contact-oriented switch-hitter who tracks pitches well and has good feel for the strike zone. It looked like Valenzuela had begun to swing with more verve and force early in 2021, but his peak exit velos are still toward the bottom of the big league scale. He isn’t a lock to be added to the Padres’ 40-man after the season because he’s still in A-ball and the Friars have a ton of guys ahead of him on the depth chart, but well-built players with a foundation of skills rather than tools are often a threat to breakout as those more overt physical tools come with maturity, and we may be seeing the early stages of that here. We like Valenzuela as a slow-burning backup catcher prospect with a chance to find more power (and upside) deeper into his 20s.

13. Victor Acosta, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 17.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 35/50 20/45 60/60 45/60 60

As is often the case for a switch-hitter this age, Acosta’s two swings are fraternal rather than identical twins and they vary in their efficacy. His barrel drags through the zone from the left side, making it hard for him to turn on pitches and causing him to pepper the opposite field, while his righty swing lacks vitality. But Acosta is a dynamic athlete with the athleticism and arm strength to play anywhere on the infield. He has plus defensive feet, hands, and actions, making him a likely long-term fit at shortstop, though he saw some time elsewhere in big league spring games (due to the lockout, teams’ extended spring training groups often played the last few innings after minor league camp broke before big league camp did). There are still paths to an everyday big league role for Acosta, but based on early backfield looks, they just aren’t likely to be carved by his hit tool. Instead, he’ll have to punch above his weight from a power standpoint, which is feasible given how explosive the little Acosta seems to be. He’s more likely a switch-hitting utility man.

14. Robert Gasser, SP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Houston (SDP)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 55/60 40/50 35/55 90-93 / 96

Gasser is an athletic, low-slot lefty with an ultra-short arm action and command of three pitches. He has east/west touch-and-feel, especially for his slider, which has big length and great back-foot angle against righty batters. He can generate swings and misses in the zone with the slider, as well as the fastball, with the heater aided more by its flat angle than its velocity. Pitchers with a lower arm slot and loose, athletic deliveries tend to develop good changeups as well, and Gasser already has some feel for locating his, though it has below-average movement. Again, athletic lefties with short arm strokes tend to find a changeup eventually. He projects as a quick-moving backend starter.

15. Garrett Hawkins, SP

Drafted: 9th Round, 2021 from University of British Columbia (SDP)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 40/45 45/55 30/50 91-93 / 96

Hawkins was the first NAIA player drafted in 2021 even though he was difficult to scout with British Columbia due to border restrictions throughout ’20 and ’21. He was instead mostly seen during the 2021 MLB Draft League, during which Hawkins pitched for Trenton. He had a great post-draft summer on the complex and actually generated offseason trade interest. He’s had a little uptick in velocity so far in 2022, working 91-93 mph and touching 95-96 at peak, but Hawkins’ fastball carry is what’s driving his heater’s effectiveness. His delivery is similar to that of Ubaldo Jiménez, with a vertical arm slot created in part due to his big, open stride. Hawkins still finds a way to create tumble on his changeup from this slot and his slider has vertical action; both are about average. Hawkins hasn’t thrown a full slate of innings since 2019 and it’s important to think about his newfound arm strength with this in mind, but he has a starter’s toolkit and lots of background traits (cold weather, small program, fewer reps due to COVID) that indicate he may just be scratching the surface.

16. Ryan Bergert, SP

Drafted: 6th Round, 2021 from West Virginia (SDP)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 45/50 55/60 35/50 89-92 / 94

Bergert missed his draft year recovering from Tommy John surgery but was back for a few innings after the draft. Pre-surgery, he had a low-90s fastball and good breaking stuff, generating most of his whiffs with breakers in the 78-83 mph range. While his breaking ball has enough depth to play as a chase pitch when it’s located, his changeup is now his nastiest offering, falling through a trap door and disappearing beneath the barrels of left-handed hitters. While he needs to build innings, Bergert appears to be fully healthy coming off of TJ and he has a starter’s complement of pitches. He doesn’t have big upside, but he could quickly be in position to tussle for a spot at the back of the Padres rotation.

17. Corey Rosier, CF

Drafted: 12th Round, 2021 from UNC Greensboro (SEA)
Age 22.7 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 184 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 40/40 30/35 70/70 40/55 30

Rosier began his college career at Chipola Junior College in Florida and ended it with one season at UNC Greensboro, where he hit .354/.434/.604 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. The Mariners drafted him in the 12th round and quickly traded him to the Padres as part of the Adam Frazier deal. Rosier has several catalytic qualities: he’s a 70 runner with a good idea of the strike zone and he’s difficult to make miss within it. Rosier hasn’t really been tested by opposing pitchers yet and he’s approaching 23 while playing in A-ball. He has the speed for center but is currently in left in deference to Robert Hassell III; he played a mix of left and center in college. On tape, he isn’t especially comfortable circling under balls, but Rosier does have huge gap-to-gap range and is capable of making the occasional spectacular play. He has the tools of a fifth outfielder, but it’s possible that against upper-level pitchers he’ll prove he has the contact skills to support a bigger role.

18. Joshua Mears, LF

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Federal Way HS (WA) (SDP)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 70/70 35/60 50/40 40/50 55

Mears hit a ball 117 mph during a 2021 big league spring training game, shedding some light on exactly how much power he has. And while we are extremely skeptical that he will make enough contact to profile as a corner outfielder, he deserves more time to iron that stuff out and has huge ceiling if he can. Remember that this guy wasn’t yet committed to a college when he arrived at Area Codes in 2018, then proceeded to have one of the best weeks of any of the players at the showcase and left knowing he had earned much more than a scholarship. There’s a big gap between where Mears’ feel to hit is right now and where it needs to be for him to profile. It’s so much power that he could conceivably play a role even if he strikes out a lot, assuming he walks. He’s walked at an above-average clip so far in pro ball and while he’s striking out a ton, he’s getting to enough of his thump in games to post above-average offensive lines at his level. Mears’ hands load super low and his swing is geared for extreme pull-side lift, which is a good fit for his physical skill set. The hit tool component is going to settle well short of what is typically playable in a corner, but Mears could still play a power-hitting part-time role if he continues to get to power the way he has so far.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (SDP)
Age 22.4 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 40/45 50/60 35/50 92-94 / 97

Contreras showed a huge velocity boost during 2020 instructs, where he was up to 97 mph and sitting 93-95 during early innings before settling in the 92-94 range deep into outings. He had previously been 90-92 and worked a lot with a plus changeup, and he averaged 10 K/9 and just over 2 BB/9 against low-level hitters at that velocity. During that same instructs window, he blew out and needed Tommy John; he would miss all of 2021. The Padres added him to their 40-man to prevent other teams from picking him in the Rule 5 (though we didn’t end up having one) and stashed him on the IL while he finished rehab. (The Padres were burned a little in this case since they added Contreras to the 40-man before they knew there wasn’t going to be a Rule 5 Draft, and now he’s occupying a 40-man spot despite looking unlikely to impact the big league team this year.) Contreras re-entered affiliated ball in early May of 2022 and made a couple appearances in the weeks leading up to list publication, during which he again sat 92-94 mph, with his changeup not quite as dynamic as it was at peak. It’s too early to worry about that, as we’re only talking about a few innings at this point. The takeaway is that Contreras’ arm strength has basically returned post-op. This doesn’t appear to be one of those cases where a guy totally reshapes his body during TJ rehab and comes back shot out of a canon in the direction of the big leagues. Instead, it looks like Contreras will spend his first option year trying to find that changeup and pitch his way into five- and six-inning shape so he can compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Drafted: 12th Round, 2018 from Kirkwood JC (IA) (MIL)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 50/50 35/40 70/70 45/60 45

Howell began the 2021 season on a tear and it looked as though something may have clicked for the toolsy former JUCO draftee, but his on-paper production took a dive after he spent 10 days on the shelf in June with an ankle injury. He slashed .210/.317/.399 split between High- and Double-A after that, which was still a league-average batting line. It came with a 34% strikeout rate, though, and ultimately the Brewers decided to leave Howell off their 40-man roster and expose him to the Rule 5 Draft that never was. Howell got consistent center field reps early in the 2021 season and at times made spectacular plays out there, before re-integrating the three infield positions he played early as a pro into his duties later in the summer. He has continued to play everywhere but first base since coming over from Milwaukee (along with Brett Sullivan) in the Victor Caratini trade. Howell doesn’t have traditional infield arm utility, and he tends to hurriedly skip two- and three-hoppers over to first base when he’s asked to make tough throws. While he could become a special outfield defender with continued reps, his limitations on the infield prevent him from projecting as a super utility type in the truest sense. He still has plenty of on-roster utility (speed, the raw power to run into one on occasion, being a defensive upgrade in the outfield) as a bench player.

35+ FV Prospects

21. Yendry Rojas, 3B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Cuba (SDP)
Age 17.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 45/55 25/55 40/40 20/40 40

A physical lefty stick who just signed in January and hasn’t yet come stateside, Rojas’ carrying tool is his bat. Though he’s worked out at shortstop in the past, he may end up trending way down the defensive spectrum due to his size and lack of arm strength. On his way there, he’ll likely become a versatile defender, with a combination of second, third, and left field looking most likely.

Drafted: 17th Round, 2015 from Pacific (TBR)
Age 28.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/55 35/35 30/30 30/30 40/40 40

Sullivan had a career .271/.317/.426 line across nearly 600 minor league games in Tampa Bay’s system. He covers the plate well and makes a lot of contact, especially for a catcher, but he was squeezed out of a deep Rays farm system that was lousy with backstops, and signed a big league deal with Milwaukee ahead of the lockout after departing Tampa via minor league free agency, then was traded to San Diego early in 2022. While his arm is accurate, Sullivan’s slow exchange tends to cause him to pop close to 2.1 seconds, below average for the position. The receiver, who takes the one-knee approach, is also a below-average defender overall. He also has some experience in left field, however, giving him an interesting wrinkle of versatility. If either of the catchers on San Diego’s active roster suffers a long-term injury, it’s possible Sullivan will get the call to be the backup to ensure Luis Campusano continues to get regular reps in El Paso.

23. Kevin Kopps, SIRP

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from Arkansas (SDP)
Age 25.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
30/30 60/60 60/60 87-92 / 94

Kopps, a Golden Spikes finalist, was a dominant multi-inning fireman at Arkansas and posted a 0.89 ERA in 2021 as a fourth-year junior working about 90 innings across 33 relief appearances. He doesn’t throw especially hard (mostly 89-92 mph), but he has a plus slider that he executes with remarkable consistency. He’s a quick-moving, high-probability middle-relief prospect.

24. Jackson Wolf, MIRP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2021 from West Virginia (SDP)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
40/45 55/60 35/55 88-92 / 95

Wolf is a funky, low-ish slot lefty with uncommon athleticism and flexibility for a 6-foot-7 guy. His stuff is below-average, with his fastball only sitting in the upper-80s most of the time. His slot creates tailing action on his heater, his slider has big, long, glove-side break but could use more power, and Wolf has consistent arm-side feel for his change. Wolf’s command, deceptiveness, and fiery on-mound presence are what galvanize the entire package. This sort of east/west attack, especially when it relies on this kind of arms-and-legs deception, fits in a long middle-inning role.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (KCR)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 169 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 50/50 40/40 70/70 35/45 40

There was a time when Ruiz was drawing Alfonso Soriano comps (partly because of his power and speed, but also because of his bad second base defense) and was a Pick to Click who we expected would be a Top 100 prospect within a year. Then he began striking out at an untenable rate and had a three-year stretch where he hit about .240, falling to the bottom of the org’s prospect list. Ruiz righted the ship a little bit in 2021, cutting his strikeout rate by six percentage points and posting something close to a league-average batting line at Double-A. The Padres sent him back to San Antonio to begin 2022 and he’s been on an epic tear, walking twice as often as is normal for him while posting a .490 wOBA. There are still swing-and-miss issues lurking beneath the surface here, especially against high fastballs. Ruiz is still likely to have a well-below-average hit tool, but he has enough power to be dangerous and is especially adept at hooking breaking balls that don’t finish down the left field line. Ruiz’s impact speed has helped him transition from second base to left field, and now to center field, where he began to see time in 2021. He has barely played 50 career games in center, and he often shows the discomfort and tentative body language of someone new to the position while circling fly balls, but he definitely has the long speed to play there with time, and that speed plays on the bases as well; Ruiz stole 23 bases during the first month of play in 2022. His speed is so disruptive that it alone should give him big league utility as a top-shelf pinch runner, with the chance that he might run into one off the bench the cherry on top of an up/down outfielder sundae.

26. Max Ferguson, 2B

Drafted: 5th Round, 2021 from Tennessee (SDP)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 20/30 20/30 70/70 45/60 45

The narrow, speedy Ferguson had a rough pre-draft spring and fell to the fifth round after he looked like a potential first rounder as an underclassman. He has 40 bat speed but is extremely patient, and he’s a plus second base defender and has the wheels to play center field, which he did a little bit of in college and is poised to do more of in pro ball. Ferguson desperately needs to get stronger. He is on the field with Jackson Merrill a lot and you’d never be able to guess from afar which of them was recently in high school and which had access to an SEC weight program the last several years. Even with his hit and power tools projecting well below average, there is a weird collection of premium skills here that might still have on-roster utility.

27. Jairo Iriarte, MIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (SDP)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 55/60 50/55 30/40 92-94 / 95

Iriarte has exciting secondary stuff, but he will either need to command his fastball much more consistently or find another several ticks of velocity to offset his loose feel for location. His slider has huge two-plane sweep, and his changeup has power action even though it’s quite hard, often in the upper-80s. His low-90s fastball has hittable shape, which makes it vulnerable when it isn’t well-located, which is often the case. At a very athletic 20-years-old, there is theoretically time for Iriarte to develop, but 2022 is also his 40-man evaluation year. The Padres could perhaps shift him to the bullpen late to see if his velo really pops in that role — if it does, he might be in play to be a risky 40-man add — or they could play things slowly and develop him as a starter all year. As he’s probably too raw to go in the Rule 5 if they choose the latter path, it makes more sense to shift him to relief once Iriarte is closer to the big leagues.

28. Pedro Avila, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (WAS)
Age 25.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 45/45 55/55 45/45 91-95 / 96

Tommy John kept Avila out for all of 2020 and he’s been off and on the 40-man since then, but he is still a prospect-eligible spot starter with average fastball velocity and a good changeup. He’s been sitting 92-94 mph when either starting or working in long relief at Triple-A and during his couple of big league innings, and his changeup (which sometimes has cut action and looks like a slider on your TV) is pretty comfortably his best offering. His mid-70s curveball and mid-80s slider are well-differentiated from one another but not all that nasty, and unless Avila has an unexpected velo spike in a single-inning relief role (he has thrown harder than this at times in the past), his role is that of a spot starter.

29. Kyle Tyler, SP

Drafted: 20th Round, 2018 from Oklahoma (LAA)
Age 25.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/50 45/45 45/45 50/50 92-95 / 96

Tyler gained about three ticks on his heater and slider in 2021, which helped him blossom from an org guy into a legitimate relief prospect. Then his velocity was back down in the 91-92 mph area at the start of 2022; the Angels DFA’d him in April and the Padres claimed him off waivers. The righty comes at hitters straight over the top with a cutter that carries more than you’d guess based on the pitch’s spin rate and efficiency, and he pairs it with a vertically-oriented, almost 12-6 slider. His game basically boils down to tunneling those two offerings, as the other three pitches are mostly ornamental. He projects as an up-and-down spot starter or long reliever.

30. Ray Kerr, SIRP

Undrafted Free Agent, 2017 (SEA)
Age 27.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/50 45/45 40/40 30/30 94-97 / 99

Kerr was an athletic, developmental pitching prospect signed as an undrafted free agent by the Mariners in 2017. He had a huge velo spike in 2019 as he moved into the bullpen, but he struggled with strike-throwing and secondary consistency. He sat 95-99 mph in 2021 and was traded to San Diego as part of the Adam Frazier deal, then came out in ’22 with a little less arm strength, sitting more 94-96 and peaking at 98. Kerr’s approach to pitching is to pepper the zone with his secondary stuff early in counts and then blow the fastball past hitters to finish the plate appearance. His low-80s curveball has come to the forefront after Kerr’s split/change seemed most promising upon his initial entry into pro ball. His velo and command have consistently been inconsistent, enough to consider inconsistency an aspect of Kerr’s profile. He is ready for an up/down relief role.

31. Marcos Castanon, 2B

Drafted: 12th Round, 2021 from UC Santa Barbara (SDP)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 45/45 30/40 30/30 30/40 40

Castanon had a huge chunk of his sophomore and fourth-year junior years knocked out due to injury and had his junior season disrupted by the pandemic in between. When healthy, he rakes. He has fantastic hitter’s timing and an athletic cut that makes the most out of his compact frame. He has enough power to be dangerous and enough feel to hit to get to that power in games. Castanon has a very stiff lower half and is a below-average defensive second baseman overall, though at times he shows you the slick actions he’s developed in lieu of having typical middle infield athleticism. It’s a tough profile, but we like Castanon’s feel to hit enough to consider him a much more notable sleeper than the typical Day Three college draftee.

32. Charlis Aquino, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 20.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 35/50 30/45 45/50 45/55 60

One of many interesting $300,000 signees from the Padres’ two IFA periods following their 2016 spending spree, Aquino is a high-variance shortstop prospect with a very projectable frame. He’s been one of the more physically immature players at Padres camp each of the last couple of years, but he has the range, athleticism, and actions to stay at shortstop, and his broad shoulders portend the kind of mass and strength that could enable him to make meaningful contact. This is the holding pattern Aquino has been in for about two-and-a-half years now, and he needs to start performing at an affiliate to hang on to the main section of this list.

33. Chase Walter, SIRP

Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (SDP)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 260 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 30/40 94-96 / 98

Walter sits 96-98 mph out of the bullpen when healthy. His breaking ball shape varies pretty significantly, looking like a lateral slider sometimes and a power overhand curveball at others. Regardless of its shape, Walter’s breaking ball bends in at 84-87, and the ones that have more of a curveball look to them are plus. He looks like a potential quick-moving reliever, but began the 2022 season on the shelf with a shoulder injury.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 20.2 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 40/45 30/40 55/55 40/45 45

Cedeno is a twitchy, compact middle infielder who swings harder than you’d expect someone his size to swing. His short levers make him tough to beat with fastballs, but he lacks deft feel for the barrel and tends to swing through the center of the zone. While we over-projected on Cedeno’s hit tool in the past, he’s still a viable middle infielder with sneaky pop, though one who has now been left back on the complex after being crowded out by the middle infielders currently at Low-A (Aquino, Ferguson, Merrill). He’s an interesting change-of-scenery candidate with long-term utility man projection.

35. Angel Felipe, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (TBR)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 20/20 94-97 / 98

The hard-throwing Felipe has premium arm strength and a bat-missing, mid-80s slider, but a stiff, upright delivery and his general lack of athleticism prevent him from repeating his delivery consistently. So variable are all of Felipe’s moving parts that he will show you 93 mph on one fastball and 98 on the next, with his heaters often sailing up and to his arm side. He’s a frustrating upper-level emergency option with the talent for a much larger role than that.

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Young Developmental Pitchers
Wilton Castillo, RHP
Henry Baez, RHP
Jagger Haynes, LHP
Joshua Paulina, RHP
Riley Yeatman, RHP
Victor Lizarraga, RHP

Castillo is the oldest of this group at age 22, but he’s arguably the most projectable at a wispy 6-foot-7. He has been sitting 92-94 mph in extended spring training and will show you an average mid-80s slider. Both offerings are harder now than in 2021. Baez, 19, has a fastball that peaks in the 96-97 mph range and a promising breaking ball, but he is likely a reliever. Haynes, 19, is a smaller, athletic lefty with a low release and a fastball with carry. The 2020 draftee recently had Tommy John. Paulina, 20, was a 2020 undrafted free agent straight out of high school in Bryn Mawr, PA. He’s more filled out, with low-90s stuff and a shapely breaker that could use more power. Yeatman has been sitting 86-89 and topping out at 91 in extended, but the 6-foot-5 Australian righty only turned 18 in February, and both his curveball and changeup have plus movement and give hitters fits. He obviously needs to throw harder. Lizarraga is pretty advanced for his age, but more velo hasn’t come even as he has started to fill out, and the line on his fastball is hittable at its present velocity.

Upper-Level Depth Types
Noel Vela, LHP
Tom Cosgrove, LHP
Evan Miller, RHP
Jordan Brink, RHP
Alek Jacob, RHP
Mason Fox, RHP

Vela, 23, sits in the low-90s as a starter and has a shapely breaking ball, and his arm speed portends a good changeup. He has relief-only control but might throw harder in that role. He spent the back half of 2021 at High-A and is back there to start this season. Cosgrove, 25 and currently at San Antonio, is an athletic lefty with an above-average fastball (it sits about 93 mph, and has above-average carry and flat angle) and a slider that he commands, but that isn’t that nasty. Miller is almost the exact opposite: a sinker baller (he also sits about 93 mph) whose plus slider (some scouts call it a curveball — it sits about 80) is the lone way he gets whiffs. He and Brink, 29, are at Triple-A. Brink is on his fourth org in four years, but he has the best arm strength of this group, sitting 94-96 mph and touching 98 in a fastball-heavy relief role. The 23-year-old Jacob is a super entertaining low-slot righty who is great at varying the pace of his delivery to disrupt hitters’ timing. Fox, 23, was in the mid-90s with big carry in the past, then his stuff took a dip and hasn’t fully recovered.

Complex-Level Sticks
Daniel Montesino, OF
Eddy Beltre, CF
Rosman Verdugo, 3B
Ruben Salinas, RF
Kashon Conliffe, LF

Montesino, 18, is a lefty-hitting M-80 with surprising power for a young guy who is barely six feet tall. He had Tommy John in March. Beltre, 18, is also on the smaller-framed side, but he can really run and had a great first pro season from a walk/strikeout standpoint. Verdugo, still 17, has the most polished feel for contact of this group and is playing shortstop in extended, but he may not fit there long-term. Salinas, 19, was a two-way amateur player who has barely played pro ball so far, in part because of the pandemic. He’s currently in extended playing the outfield and may revisit pitching during instructs. Conliffe, a 16-year-old Bahamian who is taking reps in Arizona, has some twitch and really gets his top hand through contact quickly.

System Overview

The Padres had some front office turnover and reshuffling after the 2021 season, most notably in their player development department, which is under new leadership. While San Diego has gotten players to the big leagues very quickly, they’ve often either struggled to sustain their initial success (Chris Paddack, some of the quick-moving college draftees like Nick Margevicius and Joey Lucchesi) or weren’t ready for prime time (Ryan Weathers), though it’s hard to point the finger at Dev for half successes. Mostly the Padres haven’t been able to develop pitchers out of nowhere, which is a core competency of most consistently competitive teams. They’ve looked toward Asia to fill some of these holes, and continue to draft funky, polished college pitchers (especially lefties, from Margevicius and Lucchesi to Jackson Wolf and Robert Gasser) who can race to the upper levels and provide the depth the club has sorely needed the last two years.

While San Diego have dealt away a lot of their promising young prospects over the last couple of years in an effort to add to the big league team, the org’s hit rate on high-stakes picks and signings continues to be high, with James Wood, Samuel Zavala and Jackson Merrill looking very promising early on, while Victor Acosta has held serve. Yes, the system is top-heavy, lacking the depth that once helped to make it one of baseball’s best — it isn’t the only measure of an org, but San Diego is about seven total prospects shy of the average system’s depth. And yes, the Friars need to find a way to develop viable big league pitching from within more consistently. But you can’t have a top-heavy system without potential impact players up top, and the Padres seem to find a way to draft and sign those.

The Padres are one of the teams that can still pretty neatly be described as “old school,” comfortably less reliant on data than the average team, especially as new technology emerges and teams dive deeper into that space. This sometimes means the Padres lack the tools and infrastructure to solve some of their problems, but from a player acquisition standpoint, there are probably some benefits to zigging while 26 or 27 other teams zag.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Lomo45
6 months ago

Makes me sad not to see Ethan Elliott on this list anymore. Any insight into why he retired from baseball?

realitypolice
6 months ago
Reply to  Lomo45

The injury to the shoulder. The likelihood of return healthy after a LONG rehab was low, and best case was pretty much being an old 26-year-old with low-80s velo with no meaningful experience in the upper minors.