Earlier today, MLB Pipeline updated their top-30 prospect lists for each organization, adding draft picks and any recent international signees.
After trading an abundance of young talent at the trade deadline for Josh Hader, Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Brandon Drury, the once touted Padres’ prospect pool is depleted. The Friars’ farm system ranks towards the bottom of the league, which is obviously what you’d expect given the sheer amount of players they gave up.
Before we dive any deeper, it’s important to note that prospects are just that – prospects. Farm system rankings aren’t the end of the world when your big league team is competing for a championship. Though they’re young and controllable, prospects aren’t sure things by any means and dipping into that pool to acquire proven, quality talent is something all competitive teams do.
Also, to find the full top-30 list as provided by MLB Pipeline, click HERE.
With that being said, the Padres only have two prospects slotted inside the top-100. Jackson Merrill, who was their first-round selection in last year’s draft, slots in as the new top prospect in this organization, while 23-year-old Luis Campusano rises a few spots to second.
Merrill signed for underslot last year, popping up late in the draft cycle and allowing the Padres to sign James Wood, who was a key piece in the Juan Soto trade deal. Merrill has enjoyed plenty of success at the lower levels thus far, slashing .352/.401/.503 with 14 extra-base hits across 145 at-bats this year. A left-handed hitting infielder that stands at a highly projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, Merrill has plenty of room for added strength to go along with an advanced hit tool. He has a chance to be a top-50 prospect down the road, certainly playing his way into that conversation come next update.
Campusano has been a name-to-know prospect in this farm system for quite some time, as most believed he’d be contributing as an everyday backstop at Petco Park by now. He’s had his ups-and-downs throughout his professional career, particularly behind the plate, but he’s still extremely young, and continues to show flashes of impact-type production at the plate. Over the last two seasons, and 587 at-bats, at the Triple-A level, Campusano is slashing .300/.367/.513 with 27 home runs and 36 doubles.
Outside of those two, the Padres added four players in the recent MLB Draft that slot inside their own top-10 personally, all of which are pitchers. Their first-round selection was Georgia prep Dylan Lesko, who some have touted as one of the best high school pitching prospects in recent memory. Lesko underwent Tommy John surgery this spring, causing him to drop right into the Padres’ lap at 15th overall and sign for slightly under slot value at $3.9 million.
Regardless of the injury, Lesko’s talent is undeniable and it shouldn’t take him long to ascend to the top of this list once he’s fully healthy. He features a low-to-mid-90s fastball that’s ran into the upper-90s previously, pumping it around the zone with room to hold velocity as a 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame fills out. Lesko’s bread-and-butter pitch is a true swing-and-miss changeup, with darting tumble in the low-80s that projects as a plus, if not double-plus, pitch down the road. He’s improved the aptitude to spin his breaking ball as well, producing high raw spin and occasional raw, downer spin at upper-70s velocities. Once it’s all said-and-done, the Padres may have ultimately gotten one of the best values in the entire draft with Lesko.
Their second pick from July’s draft checks in below Lesko at fourth overall in left-handed pitcher Robby Snelling. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound southpaw was a dual-sport standout at the high school level and his commitment to NCAA powerhouse LSU pushed up his asking price, causing Preller and company to dishout a $3 million overslot bonus to ink him up.
Snelling’s upside on the mound is undeniable, especially since he’s never focused solely on one sport with football in the mix. He’s previously bumped his fastball into the upper-90s and he also spins an upper-70s breaking ball that projects to miss bats at a high rate moving forward. Control and feel for himself on the mound is a work in progress, but southpaws with this type of arm talent who can also spin at a high level don’t grow on trees.
Both Adam Mazur (7th) and Henry Williams (9th) had first-round buzz heading into this draft cycle last year, falling in the draft for different reasons and finding themselves in the Padres’ organization. Mazur’s certainly a stuff-over-polish type of arm, featuring a mid-to-high-90s fastball with a firm swing-and-miss slider and mid-80s changeup to pair. He’s struggled with walks in the past, but lowered his BB/9 to 2.9 this past season, showing improvements in that regard. Should he continue to make strides from a strike-throwing standpoint, Mazur’s going to be a steal and outproduce his second-round value.
As for Williams, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound right-hander made six starts for Duke in 2021, punching out 45 batters over 37 innings to a 3.65 ERA. He went down with Tommy John surgery in December and the Padres signed him for $800,000 in the third round. A strike-thrower, Williams’ fastball previously played in the low-90s, bumping into the mid-90s on occasion. His secondaries, a slider and changeup, have flashed potential, but they’re developing pitches that need more consistency to be effective against professional pitching. The Padres’ player development will play a huge factor as to what Williams becomes once he returns from injury, but there’s definitely clay to mold with the former Blue Devil.
Here are a few more nuggets on prospects in this system:
+ Samuel Zavala: San Diego’s prized international signee in the 2021 period inked a deal with the Friars for $1.2 million. Currently 18-years-old, Zavala debuted stateside this past season with Lake Elsinore, slashing .245/.361/.449 with five extra-base hits over 49 at-bats. He’s a 6-foot-1, 175-pound left-handed hitter.
+ Eguy Rosario: Signed by the Padres out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Rosario’s been playing professional baseball since 2016 and he’s only 22 years old, having his most productive season to date at Triple-A this year. He’s slashing .295/.380/.519 with 19 home runs and 72 RBIs. An average defender that’s proved he can hit, Rosario can be a bench piece that’ll contribute for the Padres as early as next year.
+ Jay Groome: A first-round pick in 2016 and once highly touted pitching prospect, Groome has fizzled out since joining the professional ranks for both on-and-off the field issues. He came over to the Padres in the Eric Hosmer trade with Boston, and though he’s been in the minors for five seasons now, Groome is still only 23 years old. He’ll likely be a depth reliever should he stick with the organization down the road.
+ Jagger Haynes: An upside left-hander that San Diego took with their final pick of the 2020 COVID shortened draft, Haynes likely flies under the radar on prospect lists. A small-town kid from North Carolina, Haynes has yet to pitch in professional ball due to an injury that’s kept him on the 60-day injured list since August of last year. He’s primed to make a jump once he returns to the mound, however, and may be the “prized” sleeper prospect in this organization.
There’s no denying that the Padres’ farm system is weak right now, but thankfully San Diego has the right man at the helm to build it back up. President of Baseball Operations AJ Preller is widely regarded around the league as one of baseball’s best pure scouts and he’s already built this prospect pipeline back once.
After milking the farm in his first season at the helm, Preller grew one of the deepest farm systems ever, allowing him to make the flurry of moves he’s made over the last few years. He’ll have the resources to do so again, through the draft and international market, and with him running the show it’s likely San Diego’s prospect pool improves sooner rather than later.