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San Diego Padres Top 10 Midseason Prospects

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Fernando Tatis Jr. (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

As the Padres hurtle toward their eighth straight losing season, the franchise is again looking to the future.

But it’s no longer the long-term future they are looking at. It’s the short-term.

Padres managing partner Peter Seidler has repeatedly said he expects the team to contend for the postseason by 2019. General manager A.J. Preller boldly stated that this year would be the last the Padres would pick in the top 10 of the draft.

The expectation is things will turn upward, and shortly.

To that end, the Padres traded All-Star closer Brad Hand and rookie reliever Adam Cimber to the Indians for a hitter who can help them soon in top prospect Francisco Mejia. Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen are two other relievers popular in trade discussions, but both are signed into 2019 and could be kept with the Padres attempting to compete by then. Tyson Ross is another starter they have to dangle to contenders.

The Padres are past the mass asset-collection stage of their rebuild, and have moved onto the "shaping the big league roster” stage.

Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, Hunter Renfroe, Dinelson Lamet, Franchy Cordero, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi and Phil Maton have all been brought up to play their first full major league seasons the last two years. Combined with the franchise-record $144 million contract given to Eric Hosmer last offseason and the contract extension for Wil Myers, the Padres have an under-30 group of players they believe will be their talent base to contend. Now it’s a matter of filling in the gaps, with Mejia, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias, on standby in the high minors.

With a farm system that’s already one of the best in baseball, the Padres feel no pressure to add more high-upside, low-level prospects. Now it’s about finding players who will help them contend for the postseason, and soon.

1. Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS
Double-A San Antonio
Age: 19
Strep throat and mechanical issues in his swing precipitated a slow start for Tatis, but after getting healthy and making tweaks to his head position, leg kick and bat placement, he took off. Tatis hit .327/.400/.572 after May 1 and was on pace for his second-straight 20 homer, 20 stolen base season before he fractured his thumb sliding headfirst into second base in late July, a season-ending injury. As important as his offense, Tatis improved his body composition to become faster and more dynamic in the field. He is now a plus runner with the chance to be a plus shortstop defensively, silencing most concerns about him moving off the position.

low Class A Fort Wayne
Age: 19
Gore had two separate disabled list stints for blisters on the pad of his left middle finger but he’s made his last eight as scheduled and posted a 2.70 ERA. Gore is sitting 91-95 mph with a plus changeup as before, but the blisters caused both his slider and curveball to play down, closer to average, early in the season. Avoiding a recurrence of the blisters will be key to Gore staying on the mound and sharpening his breaking balls.

high Class A Lake Elsinore
Age: 19
Morejon improved his physical conditioning and now stands a sturdy 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, with an uptick in his stuff as a result. Morejon is sitting 93-95 mph and touches 97 in his starts, and he found consistency with his release point on his curveball a few starts in and began snapping it off as a plus offering. Combined with both a knuckle-change and traditional changeup he can throw for strikes, Morejon is now considered by many to be on par with Gore as the best pitching prospect in the system with his four-pitch arsenal and advanced pitchability.

4. Francisco Mejia, C/OF
Triple-A El Paso
Age: 22
Mejia started slowly but got hot once the weather warmed up, batting .328/.386/.505 from May 4 until his trade from the Indians to the Padres on July 19. Mejia remains a potential .300 hitter with double-digit home runs and a lot of doubles as a switch-hitter, an extremely valuable hitter the Padres needed to contend. Defensively he continues to draw mixed reviews behind the plate and played an increasing amount of left field this season, but the Padres plan to send him out as a catcher and will evaluate him closely in El Paso.

5. Luis Urias, 2B
Triple-A El Paso
Age: 21
Urias has battled keeping his leg kick under control at times this season, sending his strikeout rate up, but he has found his groove recently. He’s getting on base at a .392 clip as the youngest everyday player in Triple-A and TrackMan data shows him hitting the ball harder than ever. Defensively Urias is playing both middle infield spots well, showing above-average at second base and average at shortstop. When Urias is at his best, he still has all the ingredients of a future premium hitter.

6. Chris Paddack, RHP
Double-A San Antonio
Age: 22
Paddack’s numbers in his return from Tommy John surgery look like something out of a video game: 6-2, 2.08, and an 95-to-7 strikeout-to-walk mark, but his below-average curveball raises concern about how he’ll perform at higher levels. Paddack is pitching at 90-93 mph and reaching back for 95-96 when he wants, has advanced fastball command and his changeup is one of the best in the minors. His third pitch development is just way behind, to the point it limits his ceiling. Paddack has limited pitches to try and improve it, with his pitch count presently capped at 85.

7. Logan Allen, LHP
Double-A San Antonio
Age: 21
Allen rolled an ankle shagging fly balls during batting practice in early June and missed three weeks, but returned at the end of the month and has continued a dominant run through Double-A. Allen has smoothed out his delivery and made it less herky-jerky, helping him throw his three above-average pitches for strikes more consistently and be more pitch efficient. As such, he leads the Texas League in strikeouts (113), and has lasted six or more innings in 12 of his last 13 starts.

8. Michel Baez, RHP
high Class A Lake Elsinore
Age: 22
Baez’s fastball has dropped from 94-98 mph to 91-95, and his curveball and slider have both gone backwards. He missed the start of the season with a minor back injury, but the reason for the decline of his stuff is mechanical. Baez is throwing across his body more, and both his arm speed and direction to the plate have suffered as a result. Still, he’s posted a 2.97 ERA in the California League, and there is a sense he is just a mechanical tweak away from returning to top form.

9. Cal Quantrill, RHP
Double-A San Antonio
Age: 23
Quantrill remains pitching at 90-95 mph and his slider has jumped to become a consistent strikeout weapon, but his changeup has regressed and his fastball command remains shoddy. Quantrill’s main problem is too many too many hittable pitches over the plate, and challenging batters with his fastball inside is a target area for development. Quantrill has had hot stretches where he still shows mid-to-front of the rotation potential, but consistency has eluded him.

10. Josh Naylor, 1B/OF
Double-A San Antonio
Age: 21
The Padres emphasized being "stubborn” in the strike zone with Naylor—meaning wait for a pitch he can drive rather than swing at anything in the strike zone—and he’s made the adjustment. With the new approach, Naylor has already surpassed his career-high for home runs by and posted an .881 OPS in the Texas League. Naylor’s transition to left field has gone less smooth. He moves decently well for his 250-pound size, but his reads and routes need significant work and he frequently uncorks wild throws.

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Baseball America Spring Training Prospect Report -- March 19, 2019

Alex Reyes and Dakota Hudson both post sterling stat lines, albeit in very different roles for the Cardinals, plus check-ins on three separate middle infield prospects.

RISING

  • RHP Luis Patino has increased his fastball velocity from 90-95 mph to 93-98 mph while adding a power slider in the 87-90 mph range. His curveball has also jumped forward and his changeup is flashing above-average, making him the rare 18-year old with power stuff and a well-rounded pitch mix.
  • OF Buddy Reed got lower in his stance, choked up and shortened his stroke to create a more direct swing path to the ball, and the result was more contact than ever and the lead in the California League batting title race before a promotion to Double-A San Antonio.
  • RHP Reggie Lawson introduced a changeup this season to give him a third pitch and has found consistency with his fastball command, giving him the foundation for a breakout campaign.
  • C Austin Allen came into camp leaner and gained a slight uptick in bat speed as a result, allowing him to get to his power against Double-A pitching and prove his bat plays at higher levels. His leaner frame has also allowed him to get out of his crouch faster and increase his caught stealing rate from 21 to 33 percent.
  • LHP Osvaldo Hernandez leads the organization in ERA (1.97) as a "kitchen sink”– type pitcher. The crafty 20-year-old Cuban throws just about every pitch in the book, headlined by a low 90s fastball and a true 12-to-6 curveball.

FALLING

  • SS Gabriel Arias developed a bat wrap after finding power in the Australian Winter League, and the result has an enormous amount of chasing and overswinging. He’s batting .217 with one home run.
  • 3B Luis Almanzar continues to show a polished approach at the plate but lacks the strength to drive or impact the ball when he gets his pitch. He’s batting .173 and has enormous gains to make in both his strength and bat speed.
  • RHP Mason Thompson lost a few ticks of velocity after repeated arm injuries and now sits 89-92 mph, with his curveball and changeup inconsistent. He had a 5.30 ERA as a starter in low Class A and went back on the disabled list July 20 with a triceps strain.

HURTING

  • SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (fractured thumb) will miss the rest of the season but will be back for the start of 2019.
  • LHP Adrian Morejon (flexor soreness) has not pitched since June 15 but the Padres don’t consider it serious and expect him back before the end of July.
  • RHP Anderson Espinoza (Tommy John surgery) has played catch up to 120 feet and is scheduled to get on a mound for the first time in the coming weeks. Fall instructional league remains the tentative target for him to return to full action.
  • RHP Andres Munoz (elbow) had a platelet-rich plasma injection in March was held back in extended spring training to recover. He made his season debut on June 15.

GRADUATING

  • LHPs Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer have both moved into the Padres rotation and are taking regular turns. Lucchesi was 4-5, 3.34 and Lauer was 5-6, 4.87 at the All-Star break.
  • OF Franchy Cordero took over as the Padres starting left fielder before a forearm injury sent him disabled list in May. A bone spur was found in his elbow during rehab in late June and he will miss extended time after having surgery.
  • 3B Christian Villanueva won the Padres starting third base job and leads all rookies with 19 home runs, although after a hot April he hit just .197/.235/.399 from May through the All-Star break.
  • RHP Adam Cimber won the final bullpen spot on the Opening Day roster and delivered a 3.15 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 10 walks in 48.1 innings, making him a target for the Indians to acquire along with Brad Hand.

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