The Padres took a turn as America’s team this summer, partly because Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch when his team had a three-run lead, partly because the whole team pitched in to make the name Slam Diego stick, partly because we all love a rags to riches story, and the Padres’ future looks as rich as any club in baseball.
Plus they really went for it in 2020, trading away several key cogs from last year’s list: 5) Taylor Trammell; 6) Joey Cantilllo; 8) Gabriel Arias; 9) Owen Miller after moving 3) Xavier Edwards and Luis Urias during the off-season. Trades are fun. AJ Preller is fun. The Padres are fun.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. SS C.J. Abrams | 20 | A | 2023
Abrams is my favorite player in the minor leagues, featuring 80-grade speed, 70 hit and 60-grade raw power from a sweet lefty swing he can adjust mid-pitch thanks to incredible hands in the box. His hands at shortstop are not elite, but he’s not going to play there in the show, and that doesn’t matter much for our game anyway. I think he should move to center next year and learn to maximize his speed to play shallow and shrink the field. This takes a long time to learn. Drills can help, fungos can help, practice makes perfect and all that, but to really master and anticipate how the ball will come off the bat from centerfield, you really need in-game reps. If you watch Jackie Bradley Jr. play the position, he’s moving with the pitch and reacting as fast as Nolan Arenado at the hot corner. I take this detour because I think Abrams can be one of the game’s elite defenders but seems unlikely to get there the longer they leave him on the infield. It only matters for our game because it could take him a while to climb the ladder as an infielder, and then we could have another stall as he tries to change positions in the upper minors.
2. LHP MacKenzie Gore | 22 | AA | 2021
One of the bigger prospect miseries mysteries of 2020 was what happened to Gore at the training site. Perhaps the Pads simply didn’t want to start his service clock in a shortened season. Perhaps Gore was inconsistent enough that the front office thought he’d struggle if given the chance to face big league bats. Probably it was some combination. When he’s right, Gore is the best left handed pitching prospect in baseball thanks to a deceptive delivery that precedes plus command of four plus pitches (fastball, slider, changeup, curveball). One worry I have is that none of these pitches has the raw traits to dominate. His profile isn’t all that different from Brendan McKay’s in that way. He’s an elite prospect because he has elite pitchability with a diverse pitch mix. His stuff is excellent, certainly, but it might take him a while to learn how to best employ that stuff against the world’s best hitters.
3. RHP Luis Patiño | 21 | AA | 2020
I don’t have much to add except to add that I’m worried about the thickness here. Patino has added a lot of muscle the past few seasons, and I wonder how that will impact his ability to repeat his delivery. Every kind of outcome is on the table here, from dominant top-end starter to dominant back-end reliever to flashy tweener who struggles to find a long-term foothold.
4. OF Robert Hassell III | 19 | HS | 2025
Man, what kind of hassle is this guy’s name gonna be? A multi-Bob hassle, I guess.
Several scouts thought Hassell was the top prep hitter in the class, and San Diego must have agreed to pick him 8th in the 2020 draft, one spot ahead of Rockies OF Zac Veen. Although Veen was the more highly rated player, nobody blinked at San Diego’s decision because they’d been linked to Hassell for much of the process. He obliged by signing for $4.3 million, or almost a million less than the $5.18 million San Diego had for the draft slot–money they used to snag Cole Wilcox in the third round. All in all, it was a big win for the club even if I’d have taken Veen and been happy with whatever pitchers I could get. Hassell has a quick bat, a good idea at the plate and the kind of smooth uppercut lefty stroke that makes scouts smile. He also runs and throws well enough that he might get some run in center field early in his pro career to see how he handles the challenge.
5. C Luis Campusano | 22 | MLB | 2020
Though he’s blocked like a 55-foot curveball, Campusano played well enough at the alternate site to get promoted in 2020 despite zero experience above high A. He started one game and hit one home run then turned the job over to newcomers Austin Nola and Jason Castro. Puff puff pass indeed. Campusano is an elite hitter (zing!) who’d probably be higher on fantasy lists if he played any other position. In his last full season at high A, his BB/K rate was a sparkling 10.7%/11.7%, and his wRC was 148. He was 20 years old at the time, slashing .326/.396/.509. I wouldn’t target him specifically in trades but am curious about his cost of acquisition. Maybe he could be a second piece in a bigger deal? Can’t hurt to check in with his dynasty shareholders, who might be afraid to get burned but the club’s depth. Plus, some people pick up catchers specifically to trade them over the off-season in dynasty.
6. LHP Ryan Weathers | 21 | MLB | 2020
After gassing it up to a reported 97 miles per hour at the training site, Weathers made his major league debut during the playoffs, becoming the 2nd pitcher ever to do so and throwing 1.1 scoreless innings against the champs. The son of a big leaguer (some of you remember David, no doubt), Weathers went 7th overall in the 2018 draft and threw 96 quality innings in A ball the following year. A three-pitch lefty with plus command, Weathers has everything you’d want in a mid-rotation starter, but if he can maintain his mid-90s heat deep into games, he could become much more than that. He could be a popular late flier in 50-round, draft-and-hold leagues this winter.
7. OF Hudson Head | 19 | R | 2024
With plus hit and speed tools, Hudson Head was made for fantasy baseball. The 6’1” lefty is not yet accessing his plus raw power in games but has produced big exit velocities, and as you see above, he’ll still be 19 when at the beginning of April, so he’s got plenty of time. He brings solid defense to the corner outfield spots and had set the third round signing bonus record of about $3 million in 2019 before Cole Wilcox broke it in 2020. It’s a fun draft strategy for the Padres, exploiting the small-budget loophole to scoop up falling studs in the third round.
8. RHP Cole Wilcox | 21 | NCAA | 2023
Wilcox drew a hard line for teams to cross if they wanted to draft him this summer–that line being several million dollars or he’d go back to school for his junior year. San Diego saved money throughout the draft and stepped over the Wilcox line with the 80th overall pick. He’s 6’5” 220 lbs with fast-whip action on his high three-quarters delivery. He possesses three plus pitches at present (fastball, slider, changeup) but has also demonstrated an aptitude for tinkering, mixing in a jaw-dropping two-seamer in 2020. We’re pretty far out on the cutting edge of pitching science these days but don’t have much more than spin rate to measure a youngster’s ability to manipulate the seams and potential to learn new pitches, but Wilcox might have that adaptability trait that often separates the good from the great. Might be a bargain in first-year-player drafts if he gets lost among all the new pitchers entering the player pool.
9. SS Reggie Preciado | 17 | NA | 2025
An international signee last summer, Preciado is a 6’4” wide receiver type who’s getting stronger all the time. The switch hitter was the lynchpin of his international youth squads out of Panama, leading the underdogs to several big tournament wins. He signed for slightly less than classmate Ismael Mena ($1.43 v. $2.2 million), and both could really bloom in 2021, but Preciado has better contact skills and power topside, so he gets this spot for now.
10. SS Yeison Santana | 20 | R | 2024
Here’s what I wrote about Santana in last year’s radio flier blurb:
“Is that a 150 wRC+ in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Wait, that’s my pocket.
Yeison Santana is a smooth-swinger with time on his side, patience at the plate, and a great season at his back. Helium awaits if he finds his rhythm in the Midwest League.”
Tough to predict how someone so young will fill out (or has filled out since Fall 2019), but Santana looks like he’ll remain up the middle on defense. Hitting will be his carrying tool, and I think he’ll add power as he learns to leverage his plus contact skills.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.