A look at the progress of the San Diego Padres farm system thus far this season, as well as the development of some of the organization’s most highly touted prospects.
The San Diego Padres farm system has been almost completely rebuilt during the last two years under General Manager AJ Preller. Now fully committed to a complete rebuild, Preller has spent between 80 and 100 million in international signings as well as multiple high draft picks over the last two player drafts. These new players have filled the lower levels of the minor league system with high risk, high upside possibilities.
With many of these prospects in the lower levels, Padres fans have been told to be patient while the major league team struggles through 2 or 3 non-competitive years while awaiting the development of the prospects the team believes will bring a championship to San Diego.
So what should we all do during these non-competitive years?
Many have chosen to stay away from Petco Park until a better team is on the field. That is obvious from the drop in attendance from last years All Star Game season. It is true that the current major league club is often difficult to watch, especially with the state of the starting rotation.
With the recent and probable future team struggles fresh on our minds, now seems a good time to take a look into the minor league system with an update on the progress of some of the prospects down on the farm.
Fort Wayne Tin Caps- 17-32 record, 16.5 games back of the lead. The low single A team in the Midwest League.
Fernando Tatis Jr has made the James Shields trade one of the smartest things Preller has done so far. Or so it appears at this time. Dominant in low A in 47 games played, the 18 year old was the youngest player of the week in the minors in 2017 when he earned that honor last week. His .462 average with 3 HR upped his season to a .272/.350/.444 line with 6 HR and 25 RBI with 19 BB and 57 strikeouts. He has played a solid shortstop and his 6 ft-3 in,185 lb frame is still athletic enough to allow him to continue at his preferred position. He has the skill set to stay at short but will his body grow beyond the position? That remains to be seen but his promotion to Lake Elsinore has to come at some point this year.
Right fielder Jorge Ona, a Cuban prospect signed during the massive international signing class, is 20 years old, 6-0 and 220 lbs. In his 31 games and 123 at bats he has 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR and 15 RBI in his first exposure to American baseball. He is hitting .309/.360/.431 during the beginning of the season.
Third baseman Hudson Potts, the 18 year old 24th selection in the 2016 draft, has grown an inch and added weight since his signing last year. At 6-3 and 205 lbs , he possesses all the tools to be a successful major league player. The development will be something that we will follow closely. Currently 162 at bats into the 2017 season, Potts has 8 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR and 16 RBI with a .241/.360/.431 line with 6 BB and 55 SO. Obviously it is too early to determine how he will develop but has shown positive early signs.
Left handed starter Logan Allen is 2-2 with a 1.76 ERA in 41 IP with 51 SO and 15 BB. Obtained by the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel trade, Allen was the 8th round pick of 2015 for the Red Sox and is currently the 19th rated prospect in the Padres system (per Baseball America). Kyle Glaser, in his Prospect Handbook evaluation, projects Allen as a back of the rotation major leaguer with a deep pitch mix and above average command. He has a mid 90’s fastball with a plus curve that he can mix with his changeup and throws all for strikes. Elbow soreness has slowed his progress but has just turned 20 so is not behind for his age.
Left handed starter Jerry Keel was a 9th round selection in 2015 for the Padres. At 23 yrs of age, 6-6 and 240 lbs he began the season with Fort Wayne and pitched his way to a promotion. His 3-2 record with a 2.96 ERA with 50 SO and 0 BB pushed him to AA San Antonio, bypassing the prospect loaded Lake Elsinore Storm, on May 26th. He has had one start for the Missions and pitched 6.2 innings with 5 SO and 0 BB and no runs allowed.
Lake Elsinore Storm- 24-26 record, last place 3.5 games back in the Cal League. San Diego Padres high single A team.
First baseman Josh Naylor, acquired by the Padres in the Andrew Cashner trade, is19 yr old, 6-0 and 225 lbs. In 39 games with the Storm he has 12 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR and 35 RBI with 13 BB and 34 SO. Even with his stocky frame he has stolen 5 bases without being caught. His hitting line of .327/.362/.528 ranks second in the Cal league. His body build limits him to first base or DH but his power potential is felt to be elite. He is the 10th ranked prospect for the Padres, per Baseball America.
Catcher Austin Allen was drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 draft. At 6-4 and 225 lbs , Allen is considered a bat first player with fringe average ability behind the plate. He throws right and bats left with power and good discipline but projects as a platoon catcher long term per Baseball America Prospect Handbook (Kyle Glaser). He has 10 2B, 3 HR and 20 RBI for a .267/.357/.397 line.
Third baseman and DH Ty France played 30 games for the Storm with a .288/.389/.360 line and 15 RBI before being promoted to San Antonio. Drafted in the 34th round of the 2015 draft out of SDSU, France is able to play all four corners of the field and has even pitched two innings since being promoted to AA. Possessing average defensive skills, he is known for being skilled at getting on base and is a possible utility player going forward. Since his arrival in San Antonio he has a .393/.431/.574 line in 16 games.
Pitching prospects are so deep at Lake Elsinore that they are working with a 6 or 7 man rotation. Four of them are considered top prospects for the Padres and the competition among them should follow them up through the system.
RHP Jacob Nix (6-3, 200lbs) just joined the Storm after a prolonged stint in spring training due to a groin injury. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft, the 21 yr old is the 7th ranked prospect in the system per BA. He has three quality pitches with a 93-97mph fastball and projects as a mid rotation starter at the least.
RHP Cal Quantrill (6-2, 165 lbs) was drafted 8th overall in the 1st round of the 2016 draft. The son of former Blue Jay reliever Paul Quantrill, he has a strong pedigree and advanced development. He required Tommy John surgery in college, missing his sophomore and junior seasons. He has three above average pitches and just needs to work on his command to advance quickly through the system. He is 3-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 8 games with 46 SO and 15 BB.
LHP Eric Lauer was drafted 25th overall in the 1st round of the 2016 draft as a bookend to Quantrill. He is the 13th ranked prospect in the system per BA. Not possessing outstanding stuff, Lauer has good command with his mix of pitches and has advanced maturity on the mound. He is projected to progress quickly but is only seen as a back of the rotation starter.
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LHP Joey Lucchesi was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft and is the 24th ranked prospect in the system per BA. The 23yr old was a late developer in college and has steadily improved starting with his senior year. He has plus command with his three pitch mix. He has a funky delivery that BA writer Kyle Glaser compares to Clayton Kershaw. Although not considered a dominant starter at this point, he has shown advanced development at Lake Elsinore with a 3-2 record and 2.51 ERA in 9 games and 46.2 IP with 55 SO and 15 BB. Both he and Eric Later are in the top four pitchers in the Cal league for ERA.
RHP Jesse Scholtens was the 9th round pick in 2016 and is not ranked in the system. He began the season in Fort Wayne and pitched 36.2 innings with a 1-2 record and 2.45 ERA with 37 SO and 1 BB. He is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA with the Storm in 17 IP with 20 SO and 0 BB. He shows excellent command which started with his first partial season in the system in 2016. He pitched 27.1 innings for the Tin Caps with 36 SO and 1 BB for a 1.65 ERA. He has a three pitch mix with average command in his college scouting report. The projection at that time was for a bullpen arm at the major league level. Time will tell if Scholtens can progress beyond that.
These are just the highlights for the two A teams in the Padres system. There are other highly ranked players on these two teams that have not started the season quickly. As the season progresses we will have further check-ins to see how our prospects are progressing.
Part 2, coming next week, will cover the prospects in AA and AAA. Some of these players could possibly be seen at the major league level before the end of the season, as was recently witnessed by the promotion of Dinelson Lamet from El Paso.