3. Jairo Iriarte
It'll take a strong effort from Jairo Iriarte to show that he's worthy of an Opening Day roster spot. But the San Diego Padres have a long history of dismissing those so-called timetables, and judging their young prospects strictly on merit. While Iriarte would seem to be a better midseason call-up, he's already on the 40-man roster.
The Padres don't have to make a corresponding move in order to add Iriarte to the active roster. They've done that already. In order to protect one of their top young prospects from last year's Rule 5 Draft, Iriarte was added to the roster back in November. That's one hurdle cleared. Now, it's up to the pitcher himself.
And that'll be the hard part. Iriarte, if he were to make the Padres Opening Day roster, would effectively skip Triple-A altogether. The 22-year-old also has fewer than 30 innings at the Double-A level, but his stuff plays in the big leagues already.
Last season, while splitting time between High-A Fort Wayne and Double-A San Antonio, Iriarte went 3-4 in 28 games with 128 punchouts in just over 90 innings of work. A 33.2 percent strikeout rate will make every GM and manager in the league take notice.
Though not viewed as a Top 100 prospect, the Padres still have high hopes for Iriarte. Some view the right-hander as a reliever in the future, but Iriarte closed out his 2023 campaign with three straight starts and 24 strikeouts over 13.2 innings pitched.
Iriarte will definitely be considered a long shot to gain a foothold in the Padres Opening Day rotation, but don't sleep on the youngster when the Padres descend upon Peoria next month. With so much turnover in the pitching staff and a new manager at the helm, watching who emerges to anchor the back of the rotation will be one of the more intriguing storylines this spring.