That’s right, Padres time! Over the last few years, the Padres have risen to become one of the gold standards when it comes to farm systems. We’ve already seen some of that talent recently with several top San Diego prospects debuting at the Major League level in the last year or two. Around this time last season, GM A.J. Preller said they were going to put their 25 best players on the opening day roster. He wasn’t lying either. When the opening day roster was announced, both Fernando Tatis Jr and Chris Paddack were on it. They also promoted Adrian Morejon from Double-A later in the season and have promoted fairly aggressively in general. That can be a risky tactic, but when you have prospects like this, it can work out.
All in all, this is arguably the most talented and deepest farm system in baseball. On both sides of the ball too. Even after dealing one of their top-5 prospects in Xavier Edwards earlier this offseason. But enough intro, we got a lot to cover here with this stacked system so let’s get right into it.
Overall System Grade: A
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: EL Paso – Pacific Coast League
Double-A: Amarillo – Texas League
Advanced Single-A: Lake Elsinore – California League
Low Single-A: Fort Wayne – Midwest League
Short Single-A: Tri-City – Northwest League
Rookie: Arizona League (2), Dominican Summer League
All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Eric Cross’ Top-500 Dynasty League Rankings & 2019 FYPD/J2 Rankings.
Also, make sure to check out the Fantrax Dynasty Baseball Podcast weekly with Nathan Dokken, Van Lee, and Ron Rigney!
Top-25 San Diego Padres Prospects – 2020
1. MacKenzie Gore, LHP
All hail Gore the great! On the pitching side of things, 2020 is going to be the Gore tour in the National Leagues as the stud southpaw is likely to make his Major League debut early in the season. Yes, even with only five starts and 21.2 innings at the Double-A level. The San Diego Padres have shown that they aren’t afraid to promote aggressively and did so last season by placing Fernando Tatis Jr and Chris Paddack on the opening day roster. Now, it takes a special kind of prospect for this to work, and without question, MacKenzie Gore is special.
There's a reason why I said MacKenzie Gore is a CY Young caliber SP prospect.
⚾ FB (65) | CB (60) | SL (55) | CH (60)
⚾ CMD (55/60) | CTL (55)
⚾ Strong/athletic/projectable frame (6'3/195)
Gore checks off all the boxes of a future ace & a perennial CY contender. #Padres
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) January 10, 2020
As I said in my tweet, Gore checks off all the boxes of a future ace and perennial Cy Young award contender. We’ll get to the arsenal in a second, but let’s start with everything else. At 6’3/195, Gore already has a strong frame with some physical projection still left on it. He’ll work out of a 3/4 arm slot with his pattened higher leg kick and arm raise to start his delivery. Gore uses a strong push off to create plus extension towards the plate with exceptional arm speed. It’s a very athletic delivery, but one he’s shown he can repeat consistently.
Alright, time to talk about this beautiful and dynamic arsenal. Gore already sits in the 93-96 mph range consistently with his fastball and could realistically end up in the 95-98 range with some added bulk. The fastball also features strong riding life and Gore can turn it over into a two-seam around 92-94. Offsetting the fastballs are a trio of secondaries that all project as 55-grade offerings or better. In fact, his slider is the only one I’d grade as 55 with Gore’s big curveball and changeup both projecting as plus pitches or better. And to put a nice, little bow on this arsenal, Gore has a good feel for all of his pitches and possesses above-average to plus command and control. C’mon MacKenzie, that’s just not fair.
As promised, here's MacKenzie Gore *carving* for a three-pitch strikeout, the finale of which was a 96 mph heater. #Padres #Filth #WorthThe445WakeUpCall pic.twitter.com/TUq6BZBJYm
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) March 20, 2019
With this arsenal, command, and pitchability, Gore has a ridiculously high upside to go along with one of the highest floors around for current pitching prospects. He’s my #1 overall pitching prospect right now and inside my top-10 overall. TINSTAAPP be damned!
2. CJ Abrams, SS
There might not be a more exciting prospect from the 2019 draft class than C.J. Abrams. The highly-athletic shortstop prospect was taken 6th overall and wasted zero time making the Padres look like geniuses for taking him there. In his professional debut in the Arizona League, Abrams annihilated opposing pitching to the tune of a .401 average with 23 extra-base hits and 14 steals in just 32 games before he was promoted to the Single-A Midwest League for a couple of games. You can’t ask for a much better start than that to begin your professional career.
As you probably could guess from the stats and verbiage I used above, Abrams is incredibly fast and a legit 80-grade runner. Assuming he continues to show good instincts on the bases, there’s no reason why he can’t be an annual 40-steal threat and one of the league leaders in steals year in and year out. And while the speed is impressive, the real beauty about Abrams as a prospect is that he’s far from just a speedster. He can provide a ton of value with the bat as well.
CJ ABRAMS HOME RUN!!! 3-3. You can hear his teammates staying quiet for when he gets to the dugout #ProspectOne @CJAbrams01 pic.twitter.com/cu0B4GJAoM
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) June 19, 2019
From the left side, Abrams has displayed plus contact skills with a quick and smooth swing through the zone. he uses a moderate leg kick to time pitches and has a stronger lower half than his size would suggest. There’s not a ton of loft at present, but Abrams does possess at least average raw power and could be a 12-18 homer guy with some added loft and bulk.
All the tools are here for Abrams to develop into a fantasy monster with a Trea Turner like impact. Whether that comes from shortstop is the question. But even if Abrams has to move to center field, this offensive profile makes him one of the most exciting prospects in baseball and one of the top dynasty prospects around already.
3. Luis Patino, RHP
Having two top-10 pitching prospects in the same system almost isn’t fair. In basically any other system, Luis Patino would be the top guy and get even more prospect love than he already receives in dynasty leagues, which is a lot. This is even a guy that has the chance to be the top pitching prospect in baseball in 2021 once Gore and others graduate to the Majors. There’s always been excitement surrounding Patino, but over the last year or two, Patino has made strides and really developed into one of the premier arms in the minors.
A big reason for that is the development of his secondary offerings, mainly his changeup. Patino now has three secondaries in his slider, curveball, and changeup that project as Major League average to plus offerings. He’s shown a good feel for all three and both breaking balls have good shape to them and miss bats regularly. Those two are still ahead of his changeup, but Patino developing that changeup into a 4th Major League average or better offering has been big for him. And like with Gore, Patino now uses a bigger leg kick in his delivery and is able to create solid extension toward home plate.
With all that said, I haven’t even gotten to Patino’s best pitch. Patino’s fastball sits in the mid-90’s and can get up into the upper-90’s with life. He’s able to generate that type of elite velocity with his arm speed rather than pure size and strength. Because if you missed it, Patino is only 6′ and 190 pounds.
Overall, Patino isn’t quite on Gore’s level. But honestly, who is? Patino’s command and control, while at least average, are a bit behind Gore’s as well. But does all that really matter in the grand scheme of things? No, not really. Patino is one of the most electric arms in baseball and a top-10 pitching prospect overall. Seeing him, Gore, and Chris Paddack in one rotation within the next year or two is going to be fun to watch as a baseball fan.
4. Taylor Trammell, OF
Say it with me, “Taylor Trammell is still a great prospect.” It’s funny what one down season can do to a prospect’s stock. Especially one that has been considered one of the top prospects in baseball over the last couple of seasons. The Padres showed their confidence in Trammell and his potential when they acquired him in the three-team trade with Cincinnati and Cleveland last summer. A change of scenery didn’t turn Trammell’s season around, but we can’t forget the raw tools he has that made him a top prospect.
First and foremost, Trammell is a plus athlete with plus or better speed. That speed has served him well on the bases and in center field, although, Trammell hasn’t been too efficient on the bases over the last two seasons. Still, there’s 25-plus stolen base upside here. Trammell shouldn’t have much trouble reaching that level either with his speed and high OBP. Even when his average dips to .234 as it did in 2019, Trammell was still able to record a .340 OBP thanks to a 13.0% walk rate. That type of walk rate has been the norm for Trammell who has a 12.2% career walk rate and hasn’t been below 12% in any season since his debut back in 2016.
While the speed and OBP are strengths, Trammell’s contact skills and power took a step back in 2019. After peaking with a .172 ISO in 2017, Trammell has declined there in each of the last two seasons down to .116 in 2019. In addition, his average estimated fly ball distance dropped nearly 10 feet last season. He’s also been very pull-happy, pushing 50% in each of the last three seasons. While Trammell has around average raw power, he doesn’t have the type of power to support a pull-happy profile like this.
Trammell has displayed above-average contact skills in the past, but he’s going to need to start using the whole field more to sustain the averages he had prior to 2019. As long as Trammell can get back up into the .270-.280 range, his OBP should be high enough to project him as a leadoff or #2 type hitter longterm. And when you factor in his speed, Trammell has the chance to be a dynamic leadoff hitter capable of .280/.380/15/30 seasons.
5. Luis Campusano, C
Typically, I usually don’t rank caching prospects very high in fantasy-focused lists. There is only a handful of catching prospects that I believe have the offensive skill set and pure upside to warrant a high ranking. Luis Campusano is one of them. While Trammell had a tough 2019, Campusano excelled and saw many of his tools and metrics take big steps forward. Most notably, his power. And yes, the California League is more of a hitter’s league, but improvements were made that support his power rise, proving this wasn’t just due to him receiving a boost from the league’s parks.
From 2018 to 2019, Campusano’s ISO rose from .079 to .186, slugging from .373 to .511, and his estimated fly ball distance grew nearly 20 feat from 279.3 to 297.5. On top of all the power gains, Campusano’s batting average, OBP, and strikeout rate improved for the second straight season and his walk rate rose 4% up to 10.7%. With the rising walk rate and dropping strikeout rate, Campusano’s walk rate now is nearly identical to his strikeout rate. You got to love a hitter than walks more than 10% of the time while keeping his strikeout rate very low.
Now, it’s not like Campusano has come out of nowhere. He was a 2nd round pick in 2017 as the first catcher off the board and 39th pick overall. His offensive skills and strong throwing arm were a big reason for that high draft slot and those offensive skills are now really beginning to blossom. I’m not expecting any of this to change either. Campusano has a fluid swing with plus bat speed and quick hands. He drops his hands a bit during load giving him a slight uppercut swing path. His above-average raw power really started coming out this past season just as he began getting more loft and driving the ball in the air.
This is a 55-hit, 55-power catcher in the making capable of hitting around .280 or so with 15-20 home runs annually. And while he’s not a standout defensive catcher, he’s shown adequate receiving skills and a strong arm which should keep him behind the plate moving forward. With Austin Hedges under contract through 2022 and Francisco Mejia on the roster as well, the Padres are going to have a tough decision on their hands fairly soon as Campusano should be ready to contribute at the Major League level before Hedges contract is up.
6. Adrian Morejon, LHP
With the dynamic duo of Gore and Patino in this system, Adrian Morejon has really flown under the radar. Yes, he’s still thought of highly in most places, but the spotlight seems to have dulled on him over the last 12-18 months. Morejon has never really dominated any level, but he’s more than held his own while being quite young for every level he’s been at. He even skipped Triple-A when the Padres surprisingly called him up from Double-A last season. In his two starts and three relief appearances, Morejon got smacked around, but the long-term outlook remains bright.
In another surprising decision, the Padres got Morejon some additional work in the Arizona Fall League. And by that I mean one start spanning two innings. I was actually in attendance for that start and came away pretty impressed, especially with his secondary offerings. Working out of a high 3/4 arm slot, Morejon has a smooth delivery with minimum effort. He’s shown that he can repeat his delivery and doesn’t let his mechanics get out of wack. And that higher arm slot allows him to get plenty of depth on both his curveball and changeup which are shown below. The first is a changeup away to strike out Jonathan India and the second a curveball to strike out Dodgers first-rounder, Michael Busch. For me, both pitches grade as plus with the CH bordering on double-plus.
In addition to the two secondaries, Morejon has a above-average to plus fastball as well that sits in the low to mid-90’s with some arm side run. It would be a locked-in third plus offering with better command and control, which has been the main thing holding Morejon back from really skyrocketing up prospect rankings into the top-50 overall. That type of potential is there if he can refine that command and pound the strike zone more. In my live look, he seemed to be trying to nibble around the corners too much, something that has limited Eduardo Rodriguez throughout his career.
Those concerns about him potentially being more of a reliever to due to his smaller size can be silenced with improved command. Morejon is still a buy for me in dynasty leagues as he’s still pretty young and has the upside of a high-end #3 starter.
7. Hudson Head, OF
The Hudson Head prospect stock is heading in the right direction already. See what I did there? A 3rd round pick out of the Texas High School ranks, Head is already looking like a steal for the Padres. Now, that hasn’t come through in terms of big statistical production yet, but Head wowed scouts in the Arizona League, flashing his all-around skillset. Included in that is Jason Pennini, current pro scout for the Minnesota Twins and former co-founder of Prospects Live, who said Head “may have been the steal of the draft.” That’s high praise and certainly one I believe in myself.
#Padres 3rd-round #MLBDraft pick Hudson Head with a triple in AZL action tonight. pic.twitter.com/1qCnJK2o5J
— William Boor (@wboor) June 29, 2019
When you watch Head, one this that is immediately obvious is his electric bat speed from the left side of the plate. He starts with a slightly-opened stance and hands behind his head. His hand movement through load is quick and fluid before exploding through the zone. Quick-twitch is a great way to describe Head at the plate. There’s also some natural loft created by his swing, which combined with his above-average raw power, could lead to 20-25 home runs down the road with the speed to match it, especially if he adds a little bulk to his 6’1 frame.
This is a prospect to target now before the price tag inevitably begins to soar. Head has the tools to develop into a 55-hit, 55-power, 55/60 speed outfielder that can hit near the top of the order. He truly looks like a future #2 hitter to me. Think with your head and try to acquire Head in dynasty leagues. Okay, I’ll stop. Let’s head on to the next prospect.
8. Gabriel Arias, SS
Now we’re getting into the section of my rankings with three of my favorite prospects in the system that I expect to rise up rankings in a big way in 2020. Let’s start with Gabrial Arias. After modest production in his first two professional seasons, the 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop broke out in a big way in 2019. In 120 games, Arias slashed .302/.339/.470/.809 with 21 doubles, 17 home runs, and eight steals. Again, some might say it was a California League boost, but as I said with Campusano above, it’s not all due to that. And additionally, Lake Elsinore was the least hitter-friendly park in the hitter-friendly league.
Did you see who was 8th above? The above image shows the top estimated fly ball distances for prospects under 20 years old. You have a lot of the usual suspects near the top and then Mr. Arias sneaking in at #8. In 2019, Arias’ estimated fly ball distance rose nearly 20 feet while his fly ball rate and ISO also rose a fair amount. His groundball rate, in turn, dropped from 53.7% to 44.4%.
Known for his defensive skills when signed back in 2016, Arias’ offensive skills are now beginning to catch up. He’s displayed above-average contact skills and close to plus raw power from the right side. A slight change in his swing mechanics seems to have done wonders for him as Lance Brozdowski of Prospects Live displayed very well below.
Below is what I'm seeing with Gabriel Arias' swing. Hardest to show is the new control with his momentum build–consistently has weight centered.
Bat position adjusted, using a true two-strike approach. All seem, to me, like adj. to cut swing and miss. #Padres #SpringTraining pic.twitter.com/yhY4gfrHRn
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) March 17, 2019
As Lance mentioned, the two-strike approach changed. Arias has always had plenty of swing and miss tendencies, but that seems to be heading in the right direction, dropping from 29.4% to 25.0% in 2019. He’ll need to continue improving his plate discipline and remaining more patient at the dish if he wants to fully capitalize on his offensive tools. The end result could be a 55-hit, 55-power, 50-speed shortstop, with .280/20/10 upside, and maybe even a bit more power into the mid-20’s.
9. Tucupita Marcano, 2B
Tucupita Marcano is a hard prospect to rank as the pros and cons are very pronounced here. To start, Marcano possesses two plus tools in his hit tool and speed. From the left side, Marcano has a very controlled and compact swing with exceptional barrel control and strike zone awareness. His 8.9% strikeout rate was the highest of his three-year professional career. The HIGHEST, not the lowest. In fact, 2019 was the first season when Marcano struck out more than he walked.
While I mentioned his plus speed, that comes with a caveat. That caveat being that Marcano is still very raw as a base stealer. He’s only converted on 60.6% of his attempts in his career and got caught over 50% of the time last season. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, if you’re running consistently into outs, the green light isn’t going to shine on you tht often. He’s still young and has time to adjust and improve, but that is an area that’s going to need some major refinement if Marcano is going to take full advantage of his plus speed.
Another aspect that will determine just how impactful Marcano can be in the fantasy world is how much power develops. He’s flashed at least some raw power, but a linear swing path and ground ball heavy approach limit what power he does have. Lastly, Marcano isn’t a great defender and doesn’t have a concrete long-term defensive home at the moment. There’s still a lot of work to be done here, but the upside is intriguing if Marcano can put it all together.
10. Reginald Preciado, SS
Remember when I said that three of my favorite breakout/rising prospects were in this middle section? Here’s the third one. To start, Reginald Preciado is a 6’4, 16-year-old shortstop. If that doesn’t get your blood flowing, I don’t know what will. Of course, size isn’t everything, but you got to love this type of projectable frame. And from what I’ve seen so far, Preciado has some solid skills on both sides of the ball.
At the plate, Preciado is a switch hitter that has displayed plus bat speed and a good feel for hitting from both sides of the plate. At present, he has more power from the right side, but just wait. I’d be shocked if bulk wasn’t added over the next few seasons. We’ll have to wait and see, but the potential for plus power is certainly in the conversation,
Preciado is also an above-average athlete with decent range at short and at least average foot speed. With his current size and age, questions about if he can remain at shortstop will always follow him. But even if he gets forced over to the hot corner, Preciado has the raw tools to project just fine there.
11. Edward Olivares, OF
After a lackluster three years in rookie ball, Edward Olivares broke out in 2017 and has never looked back. Over the last three seasons, two with San Diego and one (2017) with Toronto, Olivares has averaged around 16 home runs and 25 steals while hitting between .269 and .283. The 2019 season went down as the best of Olivares’ career with a .283/18/35 line in 127 Texas League games. Even with his power trending up, there still might be a tad more power to be had. Olivares’ fly ball rate has been hovering in the low to mid-30% range over the last several seasons. With his raw power, I believe he could get into the low-20’s if he starts driving the ball in the air more.
While I don’t question the power growth or the plus speed he’s shown, I do question if the average can remain at this level. Olivares has shown average to above-average contact skills, plus bat speed thanks to quick hands, and doesn’t strike out too often, but his aggressive approach is one that can be exposed by the best pitchers in the world. Even if Olivares’ average dips more into the .250-.260 range, his 20/25 upside is worth targeting in dynasty leagues.
12. Ryan Weathers, LHP
The 2018 Gatorade National Player of the Year and second-generation pitcher, Ryan Weathers has one of the highest floors you’ll find in this system. He doesn’t have the upside to match the guys above him, but Weathers’ combination of arsenal, command, and pitchability gives him the upside of a solid mid-rotation arm. Weathers isn’t overly tall at 6’1, but has a strong frame, especially in his lower half. His delivery is smooth and repeatable from a slightly lower 3/4 arm slot but lacks a ton of extension.
As for the arsenal, Weathers works with a fastball/curveball/changeup mix with all three projecting as Major League average or better offerings. None of them truly stand out as a plus pitch, but Weathers has shown a good feel and above-average command of all three, which all project as 55-grade offerings. With this type of arsenal, command, and size, Weather looks like a workhorse #3 starter in the making that should make his debut in San Diego by 2022.
13. Esteury Ruiz, 2B
You can pretty much copy and paste the first sentence from Marcano’s section here. Over the last few seasons, Esteury Ruiz has flashed an enticing skill set, but is still very raw as a prospect. To start, Ruiz is a plus athlete with easy plus speed and sneaky above-average raw power. The speed hasn’t had any issues translating into game action, but the power output has been inconsistent, pretty much ever since he came to San Diego from Kansas City. He’s shown above-average raw power in batting practice, but outside of 12 homers in 2018, that power has rarely shown up.
That’s not for a lack of loft though. Ruiz has a slight uppercut swing path with plus bat speed and has regularly had a fly ball rate above 40%. No, what has held him back is his aggressive approach. Ruiz doesn’t walk a whole ton and tends to chase more pitches outside of the zone than he should, which led to a 15.1 SwStr% in 2019. If he can be more patient and wait for a pitch to drive, I believe we could see Ruiz get up into the teens for home runs to pair with 30-plus steals. Even if the contact skills don’t progress much and the average remains below .260, there’s still some solid upside here.
14. Ismael Mena, OF
In a system chalked full of talent throughout, Ismael Mena just might have the biggest breakout potential in 2020. The 6’3 Dominican outfielder is highly athletic with double-plus speed and plus range in the outfield. Even if he adds bulk as he gets older, I can’t see Mena sliding down below at least plus speed in the future with 25-plus SB potential. He’s far from just a speedster too. Mena has shown good bat speed from the left side of the plate with a fluid swing. Although, his swing can get a tad long at times. But that’s nothing that can’t be cleaned up over time.
Mena has shown a solid feel for hitting for someone his age and can make hard contact to all fields with close to average raw power at present. Still only 16, Mena has plenty of physical projection left on his 6’3 frame, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up as an above-average to plus raw power type to go alonge with his speed and above-average contact skills. There’s major breakout potential here making Mena a great dynasty target now before his price tag soars.
15. Owen Miller, MIF
In general, Owen Miller isn’t the flashiest player around. But man, does the guy just produce. If you looked up the word “gamer” in the dictionary, the description would simply say his name. A 3rd round pick in 2018, Miller hit .336 in 2018 and .290 last season while adding 13 home runs and five steals in 130 games. That stat line is telling and misleading at the same time.
First, Miller possesses above-average to plus contact skills with a quick and compact right-handed swing. He’s able to keep his weight balanced and hands inside the ball with an all-fields, line0drive approach. The power upside isn’t more than 12-15 taters annually, but his contact skills and feel for hitting should lead to high batting averages annually, likely in the .280-.290 range.
Then, on the flip side, Miller has much more speed than his five steals would indicate. That’s why you can never fully trust a minor league stat line. Miller’s speed grades as above-average to plus and I’d expect more stolen bases out of him moving forward. So, all in all, we have a rock-solid, yet unspectacular prospect that is more of a high-floor hitter than a high-ceiling one. Think something along the lines of Kevin Newman. The Padres have promoted him aggressively so far, skipping high-A altogether. Expect him to continue moving quickly with a late-2020 debut in the cards.
16. Hudson Potts, 3B
This is a prospect I want to rank higher. And frankly, he’d likely be top-10 in most farm systems. But there are some concerns around Hudson Potts that might ultimately limit his future value. With that said, one area I’m not concerned with is his power. While he hasn’t put up any big home run totals yet, Potts has consistently displayed plus raw power and has been steadily increasing his estimated fly ball distance, up to a career-best 318.3 feet in 2019. But a declining flyball rate has offset that and kept him right around 20 homers each season. If he can get that fly ball rate ticking back up near 40% or so, there’s 25-homer pop in Potts bat.
Outside of the power, that’s where it gets a tad murky. Both Potts’ contact skills and plate approach grade as below average. He can get overly aggressive at times and chase pitches outside the zone. In addition, Potts has a pull-happy profile and rarely goes the other way, which leaves him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half until he shows he can go the other way. I’m not sure this is more than a .250 hitter in the Majors and one that is currently blocked thoroughly at the hot corner by Manny Machado. Maybe Potts is a trade candidate over the next year or two.
17. Jeisson Rosario, OF
This is another prospect that would rank a few spots higher in most other farm systems. The Padres signed Jeisson Rosaion out of the Dominican Republic back in 2016 and the results have been mixed since. One area that Rosario has really stood out in is his plate approach. Rosario has consistently poster higher walk rates including a robust 16.6% rate in 2019. This type of approach has salvaged his OBP and even kept it high despite a .242 average in 2019.
If you’re looking for a good buy-low prospect in this system, Rosario is one of the top candidates. He’s displayed a good feel for the barrel with the ability to make hard contact to all fields. His power is more of the gap to gap variety at present, but there’s enough raw power to get into double-digit home runs if he begins driving the ball in the air more. Longterm, Rosario has the upside of a 50/55-hit, 45-power, 55-speed outfielder with .275/10/20 upside with maybe a touch more power and speed at peak
18. Joey Cantillo, LHP
After hinting at a breakout in the Arizona League in 2018, Joey Cantillo fully broke out in 2019. The big 6’4 lefty from Hawaii posted a 2.26 ERA and 11.6 K/9 across 22 starts, mostly in the Single-A Midwest League. So why isn’t he higher? Well, to be honest, I’m still not in love with his arsenal. Cantillo arsenal runs three pitches deep with an 89-93mph fastball, above-average changeup with fade and depth, and a fringey curveball. Fringy is putting it nicely too.
That changeup is Cantillo’s best pitch, bordering on plus at times with solid depth and velocity separation from his fastball. Speaking of the fastball, it showed improvement, both in terms of command and velocity in 2019, but is still only an average pitch in my eyes. Rounding things out is a very inconsistent curveball that Cantillo hasn’t shown an overly good feel for. If he can continue the gains with his fastball and develop the curveball into at least an averge third offering, Cantillo could blossom into a mid-rotation arm. If not, he’s more of a back-end starter.
19. Jake Cronenworth, SS/RHP
Without question, Jake Cronenworth was the most difficult prospect on this list to rank an was in the Rays system as well before coming over to San Diego in the Tommy Pham trade. In 2019, Cronenworth was another two-way prospect in the Rays system and one that didn’t get nearly as much buzz as Brendan McKay. But unlike McKay, Cronenworth actually has some offensive upside with a nice little power/speed mix and at least an average hit tool. That was all on display last year with a .329/10/12 line in 91 games, mostly for Triple-A Durham. He’s more hit/speed over power at the plate, but there’s enough power to reach double-digits over a full season.
On the mound, Cronenworth has shown his worth as a reliever in 2019 with an above-average to plus fastball and curveball with depth. He’ll also mix in a serviceable cutter. He’s likely nothing more than a middle reliever, but when you add in the offense it gets a little interesting. With players like Cronenworth, their long-term role is always cloudy, but there are enough skills on both sides of the ball for you to at least monitor the situation.
He’s ready to contribute at the Major League level too. If there’s an injury to any of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr, or Jurickson Profar, Cronenworth could get a shot.
20. Michel Baez, RHP
Not too long ago, Michel Baez was considered a top-100 overall prospect by many. What the heck happened? Well, moving to a bullpen role certainly had something to do with that. There was always some bullpen risk for the big 6’8 Cuban right-hander and with his command not progressing, the Padres made the decision to put him in the bullpen this past season. Now, this isn’t necessarily a permanent decision, but for now, Baez will help the Padres out of the pen.
After his callup in 2019, Baez worked mostly with a fastball/changeup mix, throwing the duo a combined 91.9% of the time. His fastball averaged 96.1 mph with some riding life with the slider exactly 10 mph below that. The velocity separation and fade/depth make Baez’s changeup a plus pitch and maybe even his best pitch overall. And although he didn’t throw it much with San Diego, Baez flashed an above-average slider in the minors as well.
Moving to the bullpen certainly caps Baez’s upside in the short-term, but by no means is it time to give up on him in dynasty. With an arsenal like this, Baez still has the upside of a mid-rotation arm longterm. But to do so, he will have to refine his command, especially with his fastball. If not, Baez will likely remain in the bullpen where he has the stuff to pitch late in games.
21. Joshua Mears, OF
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. A 2nd round pick this past June, Mears is an athletic outfielder with a strong 6’3/230 frame. Double-plus raw power is his calling card and one he doesn’t have to sell out for. Mears will let his strength, quick swing, and hip torque create that power and has a swing that generates natural loft.
On the surface, Mears is a 30-homer bat waiting to happen. But there are come contact and swing and miss concerns that could hold that power back. There are no major mechanical issues, but Mears looks a bit awkward at the plate at times. If he can keep his strikeouts in check and not chase outside the zone too often, I could see Mears hitting in the .250-.260 range to go along with the 30 home runs. As as I said above, he’s not overly speedy, but there’s enough athleticism here to add a handful of steals annually as well. If you play in a deeper dynasty league, I’d take a stab at stashing him now.
22. Junior Perez, OF
Another potential big riser up this list in 2020, Junior Perez is a toolsy outfielder with major pros and cons. At 6’1/165, Perez has already flashed above-average raw power and should develop plus power as he matures physically and likely adds bulk. He also has a swing geared for power. Perez’s slight uppercut swing path and pull-happy ways mean a lot of balls getting hit hard in the air to left field. That’s been great for his power now, but will certainly be exposed as he climbs the ladder to higher levels. He’s also shown above-average speed to go with that power, although, he’ll likely lose a step with physical maturation.
With this profile and swing and miss concerns, Perez looks like a 45-hit, 60-power, 50-speed outfielder down the road. If he’s able to make strides with his approach and continue walking at a solid clip, there’s strong breakout potential here. In deeper dynasty leagues (400+ prospects rostered), Perez is definitely worth taking a look at.
23. Tirso Ornelas, OF
We all have certain prospects that we just can’t quit, regardless of what their stat line looks like at the end of the season. Tirso Ornelas is one of those prospects for me. Even after 110 games of a .581 OPS last season. Basically everything has been trending in the wrong direction for Ornelas since being signed out of Mexico back in 2016, especially in the power department. Ornelas’ ISO dropped to a career-low .064 in 2019 and he ended the season with one lone home run. Part of that can be put on his higher ground ball rate, but in general, Ornelas just hasn’t been driving the ball consistently.
In case anyone was wondering, #Padres Tijuana, Mexico native Tirso Ornelas is still much taller than me.
Just turned 20 about a week ago. pic.twitter.com/sJBefRzlfg
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) March 16, 2019
With all that said, there are still some positives here. Ornelas doesn’t chase many pitches or have a super high strikeout rate. He also has kept his walk rate above 10% in all three seasons as a pro. His stats won’t suggest this, but Ornelas has displayed above-average power at times and is still 19 with some physical projection left. It’s all going to be on Ornelas to make more consistent contact and start driving pitches in the air more to take advantage of his raw power. This is about as prominent a buy-low as you can find in deeper dynasty leagues.
24. Reggie Lawson, RHP
When I was out at the Arizona Fall League in October, one arm I was pleasantly surprised with was Reggie Lawson. The big 6’4 righty only gave up one earned run in 11.0 innings of work and that was a home run to Jonathan India shown below. Outside of that, he was pretty dominant. Lawson worked mostly with his plus fastball/curveball combination and mixed in a few fringy changeups.
Jonathan India cranking a Reggie Lawson fastball middle-in out to left field for the HR. #MiLB #Reds #BornToBaseball #FriarFaithful pic.twitter.com/dpl5JcbSGg
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) October 10, 2019
That outing and pitch mix was pretty much on par with how Lawson has operated throughout his minor league. Both his low to mis-90’s fastball and big curveball are above-average to plus pitches, but lack of a consistent third offering and inconsistent command have always held Lawson back. If those can be refined, there’s #4 starter upside here. If not, Lawson’s fastball and curveball would look good in middle relief where he’d likely scrap the changeup. And honestly, that might be where his home is longterm as Lawson has dealt with numerous injuries over the years.
25. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
No matter how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to drop Anderson Espinoza from my top-25. By now, everyone should know the Espinoza story and how he hasn’t pitched in a minor league game since 2016. And just a reminder, it’s now the year 2020. That’s three straight seasons since Espinoza last pitched in a game due to two separate Tommy John surgeries.
Before the initial surgery, Espinoza was one of the most electric arms in the game with a fastball that pushed triple-digits and sat in the mid-90’s. That velocity came mostly from his lively right arm as Espinoza isn’t overly big at 6’0 and 160 pounds. He would also mix in a big curveball and fading changeup, both of which projected as or flashed plus. There’s obviously a gargantuan amount of risk here, but the upside warrants keeping him on your radar at least. And don’t forget, Espinoza is still only going to be 22 this upcoming season. There’s still hope.
Others to Monitor
Jorge Ona, OF: Ona possesses plus raw power, but the rest of his game is a work in progress and injuries limited him to 25 games in 2019. If he can make strides with the hit tool, there’s some nice offensive upside here.
Brayan Medina, RHP: If I didn’t rank Anderson Espinoza in the top-25, Brayan Medina likely would’ve snagged that last spot. Medina was a 2019 J2 signing for the Padres that shows a great feel for pitching with advanced command for someone his age. If he can develop the secondaries to pair with a plus fastball, Medina has the chance to really rise up prospect rankings.
Ronald Bolaños, RHP: Electric fastball, but a lack of reliable secondaries limits his upside. He projects as more of a middle reliever than anything else to me.
Mason Thompson, RHP: Ditto here for Thompson. The big right-hander boasts a mid-90’s fastball, but has struggled to develop his secondaries between injuries. A long stint of health could really help him gain some momentum.
Blake Hunt, C: Fits the back-up catcher mold to a tee. Hunt has above-average raw power with a strong throwing arm and solid defensive skills, but not sure there’s enough offensive upside to develop into a starter.
Media Credit: Robert Robinson, Chris Welsh, Minor Graphs by Prospects Live, William Boor, Lance Brozdowski, Emily Waldon, Josh Norris.
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