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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Anderson Espinoza, rhp|
|2. Manuel Margot, of|
|3. Hunter Renfroe, of|
|4. Cal Quantrill, rhp|
|5. Adrian Morejon, lhp|
|6. Luis Urias, 2b/ss|
|7. Jacob Nix, rhp|
|8. Michael Gettys, of|
|9. Dinelson Lamet, rhp|
|10. Josh Naylor, 1b|
Everything that could go wrong for the Padres did go wrong in the major leagues in 2016.
The Padres not only suffered their sixth straight losing season, but posted their worst record in that time with a 68-94 mark. First-year manager Andy Green injected energy and optimism into the clubhouse, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the calamities that struck the franchise.
After a 16-4 shellacking at the hands of the Mariners on May 31 that dropped the Padres’ record to 20-33, executive chairman Ron Fowler publicly called the team “miserable failures” on their flagship radio station.
And so began a fire sale, with veterans James Shields, Matt Kemp, Fernando Rodney, Melvin Upton, Andrew Cashner and Drew Pomeranz all traded by August, starting the latest rebuilding process in a franchise history full of them.
Even the fire sale didn’t go smoothly. Major League Baseball suspended general manager A.J. Preller in September for 30 days after ruling he did not properly disclose relevant medical information to the Red Sox in their July trade of Pomeranz. Another trade with the Marlins was modified after righthander Colin Rea, one of the players the Padres traded, suffered a torn UCL in his first start with Miami. The two parties reworked the deal to return Rea to the Padres and promising righthander Luis Castillo to the Marlins.
Things got even worse after the season, when team president and CEO Mike Dee was fired without explanation.
With the front office in disarray and the major league product delivering its worst performance this decade, the season’s lone positives could be found on the farm. Homegrown prospects such as outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Michael Gettys, second baseman Luis Urias and righthanders Jacob Nix and Dinelson Lamet all took significant steps forward in their development. Offseason acquisitions such as outfielder Manuel Margot, second baseman Carlos Asuaje, lefthander Logan Allen and righthander Enyel de los Santos showed promise.
Most importantly, the midseason trades of veterans yielded an intriguing haul of prospect talent, led by righthander Anderson Espinoza, first baseman Josh Naylor, righthander Chris Paddack and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
The Padres furthered bolstered their system with three of the 2016 draft’s top 25 picks, and then shattered spending records during the international signing period. San Diego spent upwards of $60 million signing international amateur talent, including penalties for overages, and brought in eight of the top 50 international prospects in the class, including three of the top six.
The injection of talent from all avenues turned the Padres system into one of the game’s deepest. Now, the team must develop it to end years of poor performance and reverse the entrenched skepticism in San Diego.
1. Anderson Espinoza, rhp |
Born: March 9, 1998. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Signed: Venezuela, 2014. Signed by: Eddie Romero/Manny Padron (Red Sox).
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: While some teenage international standouts fly under the radar, Espinoza is one whose promise has been evident for some time. Considered the top available pitcher by a wide margin in the 2014 international class, he signed with the Red Sox for $1.8 million. If Espinoza felt any pressure from the lofty expectations he never showed it, zooming all the way from the Dominican Summer League to low Class A in 2015, his age-17 season, and ranking as one of baseball’s top prospects one year after signing. The Red Sox were reluctant to part with him but ultimately did in a one-for-one swap for Drew Pomeranz two days after Pomeranz pitched in the 2016 All-Star Game as a member of the host Padres.
Scouting Report: The lean Espinoza is not physically intimidating but possesses a strong lower half and electric arm speed that allows him to nonetheless pitch with elite velocity. He is not dissimilar from fellow 6-foot flamethrower Yordano Ventura in that regard. Espinoza’s 95-98 mph four-seam fastball possesses so much late tail away from lefthanded batters that Padres broadcaster and former major league pitcher Mark Grant confused it for a two-seamer—a mistake made by others before him—and Espinoza commands it masterfully to both sides of the plate. His main secondary pitch is a mid-80s changeup that is above-average on a bad day and “simply fantastic” in the words of one opposing scout on a good one. His upper-70s curveball lacks consistency but still flashes plus with 11-to-5 movement. Spotty command of his breaking pitches led to Espinoza getting hit more often at low Class A in 2016 than his pure stuff indicates he should, and he also struggled with trying to be too fine at times rather than attacking hitters. He admitted being a bit shell-shocked after being traded and struggled in his first few outings in the Padres system, but he adjusted and finished strong with 10 strikeouts and just two runs allowed in his final two starts at Fort Wayne. He continued that with a dominant 1-2-3 inning in the Padres’ futures game at Petco Park on Oct. 7, where he struck out two Rangers batters. His exceptional performance on a big stage at Petco was nothing new for Espinoza, who draws raves for his ability to reach back and find something extra in big moments. He possesses exceptional makeup and intelligence, signified both by his poise on the mound and the fact he learned English almost fluently by age 18, less than two years after first coming to the U.S.
The Future: Ventura is a common comparison for Espinoza in terms of size and raw stuff, but Espinoza does it easier and possesses superior makeup and maturity that should help him surpass the Royals righthander. He has all the tools to become a front-of-the-rotation ace and will look to solidify that profile atop high Class A Lake Elsinore’s rotation to begin 2017. If he stays healthy and all goes according to plan, Espinoza should be in line to make his Padres debut by 2018 as a 20-year-old.
|Fort Wayne (LoA)||1||3||4.73||8||7||0||0||32||38||1||8||28||.290|