2021 San Diego Padres Top Prospects For Dynasty Leagues
Ah, the Padres. For the last several years, the San Diego Padres have been one of the top organizations in baseball when it came to prospect talent, both in terms of quality and quantity. That remains the case here in 2021, but this is very much a new-look San Diego Padres Top prospects list. From last year’s top-25, 15 either exhausted their prospect status or were traded in one of AJ Preller’s many moves over the last 12 months. Even with all that talent now in other organizations, this is still a very intriguing list.
For all other team top-20s, click here.
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San Diego Padres Top Prospects For Dynasty Leagues
1. CJ Abrams, SS
You can make a case that CJ Abrams is one of the most exciting prospects in baseball. After the Padres selected him 6th overall in the 2019 draft, Abrams dominated in rookie ball to the tune of a .401/.442/.662 slash line in 156 plate appearances with 23 extra-base hits and 14 steals. That earned him a late-season cup of coffee in the Single-A Midwest League for two games. With Abrams, you come for the hit tool and speed, and stay for the additional power projection.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) January 30, 2021
Abrams has displayed plus bat speed from the left side thanks to his quick hands and direct path to the ball. He’s consistently been able to barrel up pitches and drive the ball to all fields, but more in the line drive variety than over the fence pop. For now, that is. While Abrams will never be a “masher”, there’s definitely some additional power projection in this profile as he matures physically as I mentioned in my profile of him.
If Abrams can get to fringe-average power and settle in as a 15-homer hitter annually, that’s just going to boost his already impressive offensive profile to new heights. Abrams is a plus hitter with double-plus speed and has a great chance of landing in the leadoff or #2 spot in the lineup down the road with plenty of big bats behind him in that San Diego lineup. Peak projections for Abrams are downright gorgeous and make Abrams one of the top-6 dynasty prospects in the game.
2. MacKenzie Gore, LHP
Some have ranked Sixto Sanchéz as the top pitching prospect in baseball after his impressive debut, but for me, that honor still goes to MacKenzie Gore. The big question on everyone’s minds as the 2020 season was winding down was, “Where the heck is MacKenzie Gore?” The Padres were contending and it came as a major surprise that they didn’t bring up Gore in some capacity, even out of the bullpen. Why didn’t he come up? I’m not sure we’re ever going to get a concrete answer to that. There were some rumblings that his velocity was down a tick, but I’m not going to dock him for that with how unusual the 2020 season was.
With Gore, all the “frontline starter” boxes get checked off. The former #3 pick in 2017 possesses four pitches that grade as above-average to plus or better and Gore has shown advanced command, poise, and feel for pitching. He’s not just taking the mound and flashing impressive stuff inconsistently. Gore can command all of his pitches well and does a great job at limiting walks, posting a 7.3% walk rate thus far.
As for the arsenal, Gore usually will sit in the 93-96 range and can touch higher with good finishing life. The secondaries consist of a curveball, slider, and changeup, all three of which can and will be used as out pitches. For me, the slider is a touch ahead of the curveball, but all three secondaries grade as 55 or better with the changeup and slider showing plus potential. There’s so much to be excited about here in Gore’s profile and we should get to see baseball’s top pitching prospect debut at some point this summer.
3. Robert Hassell III, OF
The more I watch Robert Hassell in the box, the more impressed I become. Hassell was arguably the top prep hitter in the entire class, especially when it comes to the hit tool, which is an easy plus here. Just watch Hassell swing the bat for a moment, it’s a thing of beauty. Quick hands, strong hip rotation creating solid torque, and clean and concise mechanics join forces to create plus bat speed and a downright beautiful swing. Hassell never appears uncomfortable in the box and can drive the ball to all fields with exceptional barrel control. This is a potential .300 hitter in the making.
— Robert Hassell III (@robert_hassell3) January 29, 2021
Moving past the hit tool, there’s plenty more to like in Hassell’s offensive profile. He’s highly athletic and profiles as an above-average runner that can likely stay in this range even with added physical bulk. The power is what currently lags behind, but with Hassell’s bat speed, torque, and swing path, above-average power is definitely in play as he matures. That would mean a 60-hit, 55-power, 55-speed outfielder with a .300/20/20 upside.
Hassell’s price tag seems reasonable in FYPDs right now, going anywhere from 10-18 or so. But don’t expect the price tag to remain reasonable as he gets into minor league action and showcases his immense offensive talent in games. Fast forward a year and we could be talking about a top-25 overall dynasty prospect.
4. Ha-Seong Kim, 2B/SS
Even though the Padres seemed set at 2B and SS with Jake Cronenworth and Fernando Tatis Jr, they still went out and signed Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year contract. Depth aside, this was a good deal for the Padres in my eyes. Kim is still only 25 and has excelled in the KBO over the last six seasons, posting a .294 average overall with a 162-G pace of 24 homers and 24 steals. As we’ve seen before, expecting these stats in the Majors would be foolish. Even the biggest KBO stars have struggled once they came to the Major Leagues. However, Kim does possess some intriguing skills that could allow him to make a solid fantasy impact from the start.
I’m not expecting Kim to be a 20/20 asset with the Padres, but 15/15 or 15/20 is certainly possible. Kim has around average raw power with a swing that can generate natural loft due to the swing path and is an above-average runner. He should be able to hit for a respectable average as well and displayed a rock-solid approach in the KBO that could help ease his transition to MLB. If you keep your expectations in check, Kim could be a nice dynasty investment.
5. Luis Campusano, C
Luis Campusano is a difficult prospect to value in dynasty leagues right now. That has nothing to do with his skills either. Back in October, Campusano was arrested in his home state of Georgia on a felony marijuana charge. While that situation does cloud things a bit, Campusano remains one of the top offensive catching prospects in baseball and a borderline top-100 overall dynasty prospect that has a chance to stick behind the plate longterm.
Campusano has quick hands and a fluid swing with plus bat speed. His lower hand slot creates a slight uppercut swing path and his power has been developing each year as a professional. After two straight seasons with a sub-30% flyball rate, Campusano began driving the ball in the air more consistently in 2019, really unlocking more of his above-average to plus raw power. Catchers that have an above-average hit tool and above-average to plus raw power don’t come around too often.
6. Ryan Weathers, LHP
A second-generation pitcher and former Gatorade Player of the Year, Ryan Weathers profiles more as a stable, high-floor arm than one that is going to pitch anywhere near the top of a rotation. Weathers’ best weapon is his above-average to plus command and control profile. In his 29 professional starts, Weathers has posted a tidy 4.6% walk rate along with a 3.78 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Within his arsenal, a three-pitch mix, Weathers’ changeup is a legit plus offering with solid velocity separation, fade, and sink, and both his fastball and slider can be considered slightly above-average as well.
Here is my first K.pic.twitter.com/h9Uqstk4s8
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) October 7, 2020
What has really impressed me is Weathers’ velocity gains in 2020 after seeing his fastball velocity dip from the low-90s into the upper-80’s in 2019. He’s back to where he was and was even hitting 96-97 out of the Padres pen in the playoffs. With his velocity back, Weathers now features three legit offerings that he can attack hitters with and the slider has proven to be a decent swing and miss offering. As I mentioned, the upside isn’t elite, but Weathers could develop into a reliable mid-rotation starter. After making that abbreviated MLB debut in the postseason last year, Weathers will likely return to the minors to begin 2021.
7. Joshua Mears, OF
In last years top-25, I ranked Joshua Mears 21st and said the following… “If you’re looking for a prospect later in this top-25 that could rise up into the top-10 by this time next year, Joshua Mears would be a great pick.” Granted, 14 of the 20 players above him either graduated to the Majors or were traded, but here we are!
With Mears, his calling card is his plus or better raw power. He was able to flash that briefly in 2019 after being selected in the 2nd round, cranking seven homers in 43 games in the Arizona Rookie League. While the power is an asset, there are questions surrounding the rest of Mears’ offensive profile, mainly the hit tool. Mears hit tool grades as below-average presently, and there are some chase issues that will need to be ironed out as well. If he can develop a fringe-average hit tool to go along with that power and around average speed, Mears could make a fantasy impact down the roar.
8. Victor Acosta, SS
Once again, the Padres secured one of the top prospects in this year’s international when they signed Dominican shortstop, Victor Acosta. The 5’11 Acosta is a switch-hitter with a quick and compact swing from both sides. He’s definitely a hit over power profile, with above-average contact skills and a line drive, all-fields approach. Acosta also is an above-average to plus runner with 20+ stolen base upside to pair with a likely high average.
The hit tool, speed, and ability to stick at short make for a great foundation, but what really could make Acosta shoot up rankings is the power. While he’s below-average there currently, the bat speed, upside, and physical projection offer hope that he could be an average to above-average power bat in time. The upside here is appealing and Acosta should be targeted anywhere after the top-50 in your dynasty league’s FYPD.
9. Reggie Lawson, RHP
Outside of Gore, Reggie Lawson might just have the highest upside of any current Padres pitching prospect now that Luis Patiño is in Tampa Bay. A 2nd rounder back in 2016, Lawson toes the rubber at 6’4 and consistently added bulk and strength to his frame since being drafted. His fastball sits in the 93-96 mph out of a high 3/4 arm, touching higher, and features strong run and a nice downhill plane. Lawson’s best secondary is a mid-70’s curveball with great depth and 12-6 shape, grading as above-average and potentially plus in time. He’ll also mix in a serviceable changeup as well that has shown some improvement in the minors.
The key for Lawson is going to be the development of his command and control, both currently grading as below-average to fringe-average at best. The walk rate isn’t a major problem at 10.2%, but if Lawson can cut back on the free passes a bit and improve his command on all three offerings, he could develop into a back-end #3 starter or high-end #4 starter down the road. But unfortunately, Lawson needed Tommy John surgery and will likely miss part of 2021.
10. Tucupita Marcano, INF
Valuing Tucupita Marcano boils down to if you appreciate the type of player he is. If you don’t like Xavier Edwards or Nick Madrigal, you’re not going to like Marcano either as he has very minimal power upside and will likely never exceed five homers in any given season. But outside of that, the contact skills, plate approach, and speed are all above-average to plus. Through three seasons, Marcano has hit .279 with a 10.4% walk rate and a stellar 8.0% strikeout rate. His swing is quick, compact, and he’s shown that he can use the entire field. Marcano doesn’t try to play outside his strengths and knows that his contact skills and speed are the tools that will carry him. You won’t see Marcano trying to drive the ball in the air often and he’s settled in around the 30% range there with a groundball rate above 50%.
The one area within his strengths that is an issue is Marcano’s efficiency on the bases. Despite his plus speed, Marcano has only converted on 60.6% of his stolen base attempts and was caught in 16 of his 31 attempts in 2019. There’s a path to a .275 hitter with a solid OBP and 20+ steals, but Marcano profiles better as a utility infielder, especially in San Diego. A trade to another organization would help.
11. Justin Lange, RHP
You might be wondering why a 34th overall pick by the San Diego Padres isn’t higher in their own top-20. Well, I’m not entirely sure that Justin Lange is a starter long-term. But let’s look at the positives. Lange is a big 6’4 prep right-hander with an electric mid to upper-90’s fastball with explosive life. He’s added bulk and strength over the last year which has pushed his fastball velocity to new heights, including hitting triple-digits at times. He’ll also flash a hard, above-average slider at times, but is still learning how to command it. You can say the same about his fringe-average changeup that is a work in progress. Lange’s fastball/slider combination could be lethal in a late-inning bullpen role, but at this point, I’m questioning whether he’s a starter down the road. Both his command and control grade as below average as well.
12. Jorge Ona, OF
Although he only had 25 Double-A games under his belt, albeit impressive ones, the Padres called up Jorge Ona last season for his Major League debut. The strong 6′ outfielder flexed his power with a double and a 414-foot homer hit at 104.5 mph off Drew Smyly. That’s where the positives stop though as Ona struck out in seven of his other 13 plate appearances. Obviously, it’s a small sample size, but Ona has had some swing and miss issues in the minors to go along with his plus power potential. He’s also proven to be at least an average runner, but don’t expect more than 5-8 steals annually at most.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 11, 2020
If Ona can make consistent enough contact at the Major League level and drive the ball in the air more consistently, he could be a 25-homer bat. Expect him to start back in the minors due to all of the Padres depth, likely at Triple-A.
13. Tirso Ornelas, OF
We’ve reached the part of this top-20 where it’s solely upside plays and prospects I’m fading due to questions about their tools. The Padres signed Tirso Ornelas out of Mexico back in 2016, but the 6’3 outfielder has had a very pedestrian professional career thus far. When signed, Ornelas projected as an above-average power type with the potential for an above-average hit tool as well. He’ll still flash that power upside, but his swing lacks loft and has produced a higher groundball rate every season.
On the plus side, Ornelas has shown patience at the plate and has produced a 12.4% walk rate through 249 games. That raw power is still there, but it might take a mechanical adjustment to unlock it. Ornelas is someone I’m currently fading, but not writing off yet.
14. Brayan Medina, RHP
Along with Andry Lara, Brayan Medina was one of the two best pitching prospects in the 2019 international class. Signed for $700K out of Venezuela, Medina isn’t the biggest around at 6’1/180, but is able to deliver mid-90’s gas with strong armside life thanks to his arm speed. He’ll also mix in a slider and changeup that need further refinement, but both have flashed above-average qualities at times, especially the slider. There’s a path to two plus pitches here in his fastball and slider with a serviceable changeup complimenting them. Medina just needs the reps and game action, which has been hard due to not having a minor league season in 2020. He could be a solid riser in 2021 so keep an eye on him.
15. Esteury Ruiz, 2B
Esteury Ruiz has been slipping down my rankings for the last two years and might slide right off this top-20 in 2022. After two good seasons in rookie ball in 2016 and 2017, Ruiz has struggled in full-season ball, slashing .253/.324/.403 in 2018 and then .239/.300/.357 in 2019. With below-average power, Ruiz was going to need to hit for average and get on base to keep from being a speed-only utility type, and that’s exactly how he’s trending right now. The approach isn’t great either as Ruiz has walked at only a 7.2% clip as a pro.
At this point, I’m not sure either his hit tool or power will develop to average, leaving just his plus speed as the only intriguing part of his profile. With so many middle infielders ahead of him, I’m not sure how Ruiz fits in long-term or if he’ll ever be more than a backup middle infielder.
16. Samuel Zavala, OF
If you’re looking for someone in the back part of these rankings that could be top-5 here in a couple of years, you found him. Signed for $1.2m out of Venezuela, Zavala has intriguing upside at the plate with his raw power leading the way. Zavala uses a bigger leg kick to time pitches and the swing can get a tad long, but once he gets moving forward, the bat speed is solid and he routinely will drive the ball in the air, especially to his pull side. As Zavala matures and adds bulk, plus or better raw power is in play here and the potential for an average to above-average hit tool as well. He’s going to need to hit though as he’s more of a corner outfielder long-term and doesn’t have a ton of speed. Still, the offensive upside makes him one to target in deeper dynasty leagues.
— Jeff Sanders (@sdutSanders) January 15, 2021
17. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
We went through a whole Presidential term without Anderson Espinoza pitching in a minor league game. That’s just crazy to think about. It also shows just how talented he is to remain on a list like this even after missing all this time. Granted, several recent trades made this happen, but that’s beside the fact. Reports from the alt site in 2020 were promising and it sounds like Espinoza still has the exciting three-pitch mix that made him a top prospect so many years ago. That arsenal being a mid-90’s fastball that can touch the upper registers, a slider, and a changeup, all of which flash above-average or better. It also sounds like he’s added some bulk too. The upside is still enticing and we can’t forget that he’s still only 22.
Here's just under one minute of crisp footage from Anderson Espinoza's inter-squad outing.
One inning, FB comfortably sat 94 mph, gave up HR to lefty. Lack of control, breaking ball slipped a few times. Biggest takeaway is facing live hitters and velo. #Padres #SpringTraining pic.twitter.com/MI6IxptJ5H
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) March 17, 2019
18. Jose Cordero, OF
This is 100% a projection/upside inclusion in this top-20. We’ve yet to see Jose Cordero in game action due to the never-ending pandemic, but the 2019 international signing has the upside to rise up prospect rankings over the next few years. Listed at 6’1/165, Cordero is a plus runner with a fair amount of physical left on his frame. His ability to rise up rankings will hinge on how his bat fairs once he finally gets into game action, but the speed upside makes him worth monitoring.
19. Mason Thompson, RHP
Big size, big fastball. That’s the easiest way to describe Mason Thompson, a 6’7 righty that the Padres drafted in the 3rd round back in the 2016 draft. Since then, the results haven’t exactly been impressive with a 5.08 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and 10.5% walk rate, but I really like the fastball and the secondaries have at least shown some promise. Thompson will sit in the mid-90s, touching higher, with a great downhill plane and armside run thanks to his arm slot. There’s some effort at release, but Thompson’s delivery is fairly clean and repeatable with phenomenal arm speed. He’ll also mix in a slider, curveball, and changeup, that have all flashed 50/55 at times, but none consistently. The key for Thompson will be improving those secondaries and establishing more consistent fastball command.
20. Hugo Sanchez, 3B
As usual, I could’ve gone several different ways with this spot, but Hugo Sanchez intrigues me more than the other options. A 3rd baseman signed out of Mexico at the age of 16, Sanchez is a lefty with solid power upside. He’s still filling out his frame, but has already flashed above-average to plus raw power and his swing path, mainly his lower hand slot, allows him to drive the ball in the air consistently. It remains to be seen how he can handle minor league pitching, but he’s one to keep an eye on in deeper dynasty leagues.
Media Credit: Chris Clegg, Jeff Sanders, Baseball-Reference, Prospects Live, Minor League Baseball, Robert Hassell, Lance Brozdowski, MLB Pipeline
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