After accumulating a bevvy of prospects the Padres are ready to turn the corner, going from rebuilding franchise to title contender. That hasn’t led to a dismantling of their system, and you can argue that they’ve struck a balance as they continue to add young talent (i.e. Taylor Trammell) while also focusing on the big league roster.
Who are the impressive prospects that could lead them into the future? Who has the highest upside? Let’s break it down:
1) MacKenzie Gore – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – A-
Selected third overall in 2017, Gore reached Double-A in ’19 (5 starts) and while he struggled (4.15 ERA) it gives an indication of how close he is to arriving in the Majors. Overall he threw 101.0 innings, showing strikeouts and elite control:
- Strikeouts – 12.03 K/9
- Walks – 2.50 BB/9
At High-A he did not generate many groundballs (37.7%) and overall owned a 0.73 GO/AO. That could point to future home run issues as he faces more advanced hitters (his HR/9 at Double-A, albeit in a small sample, was 1.25). Is that a significant red flag? No, as he owns an elite arsenal and the other skills play up more than enough to offset it.
The southpaw pitched all of 2019 at 20-years old, so he’s clearly still learning/developing his repertoire. Expectations are that there’s even more here, but as is the future is bright. He’s one of the elite pitching prospects in the game.
2) CJ Abrams – Shortstop
ETA – 2022
Grade – B+
Abrams was selected sixth overall in the 2019 draft, though you could argue that he’s the most intriguing prospect in the class. He has blazing speed (in his first taste of professional baseball he went 15-for-21 on SB attempts), and while the power isn’t there yet as he matures and develops he should become a 10-15 HR hitter.
The question is going to be his approach, as you have to wonder if he’ll be exposed against more advanced pitching (over 156 PA at Rookie Ball):
- Strikeout Rate – 9.0%
- Walk Rate – 6.4%
- SwStr% – 17.7%
It’s a small sample size and we need to give him time to adjust to professional pitchers. That said it’s still something to monitor.
3) Luis Campusano – Catcher
ETA – 2021
Grade – B
Campusano is clearly the Padres’ catcher of the future, and one of the elite catching prospects in the game. Playing at High-A he hit .325 with 15 HR over 422 AB in ’19, showing off an impressive approach:
- Strikeout Rate – 11.7%
- Walk Rate – 10.7%
- SwStr% – 11.4%
Obviously the potential is there for him to see his strikeout rate rise against more advanced pitching. By all reports he does a good job of commanding the strike zone, so it’s not a significant concern, and having added 31 doubles and 1 triple the now 21-year old should continue to develop his power stroke. He still needs to prove he can handle catching duties at the highest level, but the expectation is that he will be able to. You put that all together and it’s an impressive package.
4) Taylor Trammell – Outfielder
ETA – 2020
Grade – B
It was a bit of a surprise when Trammell was traded to San Diego at the Trade Deadline, as part of the three-team blockbuster that sent Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati. Overall 2019 was a bit of a disappointment, even though he “improved” after the trade, as he particularly struggled to make contact (SwStr%) at Double-A:
- Reds – 13.2%
- Padres – 11.2%
There’s no questioning Trammell’s speed, and he does have the potential to be a 10-15 HR hitter at the highest level. He needs to fine tune his approach to get there, however, or he’s going to get fully exposed against more advanced pitching. As it is he hit .234 last season, making it difficult to showcase his greatest asset. The upside is there, and though he turned 22-years old in September it is important to continue showing patience.
5) Adrian Morejon – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B-
Injuries continue to hang over Morejon, despite making his MLB debut in 2019, as he battled injuries early in the year before a shoulder impingement shut him down in August. Even though it was a small sample size at Double-A (36.0 IP), the skills he showed were impressive:
- Strikeouts – 11.00 K/9 (courtesy of a 12.3% SwStr%)
- Control – 3.75 BB/9
- Groundballs – 50.6%
It’s possible his future lies in the bullpen, given the control and recent questions about his ability to stay healthy. Even he were forced to move to a relief role permanently he could develop into a Craig Kimbrel type closer from the left side, though time will tell.
The Next Five:
6) Luis Patino – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-) – In 18 appearances at High-A (87.0 IP) Patino showed elite swing and miss stuff (15.2%), but there are three significant questions hanging over him:
- Control – He posted a 3.52 BB/9 at the level, before walking 4 over 7.2 IP at Double-A
- Home Runs – He posted a 38.4% groundball rate, which has continued to regress as he’s advanced
- Workload – Standing just 6’0” and 192 lbs., will he be able to hold up to a full workload
He turned 20-years old in October so there’s still plenty of time, but there are significant questions that need to be answered before fully buying in.
7) Edward Olivares – Outfielder (Grade – C+) – Playing the year at Double-A Olivares hit .283 with 18 HR and 35 SB over 488 AB. After getting off to a slow start to his career he’s really put things together recently, as he’s shown an ability to make consistent contact since the Padres acquired him prior to ’18 (17.7% strikeout rate at High-A in ’18, 17.8% in ’19). Last year’s 9.2% SwStr% backs it up, and as he’s watched his power develop to go along with his speed, the stock has started to soar. He is “older”, having turned 24-years old in March ’20, but he could be a 20/20 performer with a solid average.
8) Hudson Head – Outfielder (Grade – C+) – It’s easy not to get overly excited about Head, given that he was a third round draft pick, is a long ways from arriving in the Majors (he’ll turn 19-years old in April) and struggled to make consistent contact in his first taste of professional baseball (22.7% SwStr%). Of course he also showed he had an idea when he’s in the batters box (10.6% walk rate) and he’s a five-tool prospect who should develop both power and speed. Don’t be surprised to see him improve his grade into the B/B- range in short order.
9) Owen Miller – Second Baseman/Shortstop (Grade – C+) – Over 560 PA at Double-A he hit .290 with 13 HR and 5 SB. Obviously the power and speed isn’t going to blow you away, though a 10/10 player is quite possible (with the potential for maybe 15/10). His best asset is his approach, as he posted an 8.3% SwStr% (leading to a 15.4% strikeout rate) and 8.2% walk rate. That should play as a .280+ hitter at the highest level, and if he can develop even a little more power (28 doubles and 2 triples), the outlook would be that much more promising. Even as is the numbers would play at second base.
10) Joey Cantillo – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – He doesn’t get the same publicity as other pitchers, as he doesn’t throw particularly hard (reports have his fastball sitting in the low-90s). However the now 20-year old (he pitched all of ’19 at 19-years old) showed an ability to generate ample swings and misses (14.4% SwStr%) and control it well (2.48 BB/9) over 98.0 innings at Single-A. The question is going to be whether he can maintain these numbers against upper level hitters, especially since some of his success could come from deception in his delivery. We’ll start to learn more about him in ’20, but he could either take a huge step forward or disappear completely from radars.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: