The Padres were already in the process of restocking the farm system as general manager A.J. Preller traded away a number of assets over the winter to supplement a big league rotation that had already lost Mike Clevinger to Tommy John surgery and wasn’t sure what it would get from Dinelson Lamet. Shortstop Victor Acosta ($1.8 million) topped the Padres’ latest decorated international class. The Padres then swung big in the second round of the amateur draft and added Kevin Kopps, the Golden Spikes winner, in the third round after grabbing yet another shortstop as a pop-up prospect in the first.
Even with top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore struggling mightily in his first taste of Triple-A and shortstop CJ Abrams lost for the year to injury, the feeling throughout the organization is that the farm system is getting plenty healthy as a new wave of prospects begins to rise.
At least for now.
Because Preller is again looking for arms to add to a pitching staff that’s hurting for innings as the Padres chase consecutive playoff berths for the first time since 2005-2006. He already made a splash, trading a package of prospects headlined by Tucupita Marcano to the Pirates in exchange for 2B Adam Frazier, and he might not be done.
Top 10 Prospects
1. CJ Abrams, SS
Age: 20 Team: Double-A San Antonio
Although he spent 2020 at the alternate training site, Abrams officially had eight at-bats above rookie ball when the Padres asked him to begin this year in Double-A. He was hitting .296/.363/.420 with 13 steals in 42 games when he was lost for the year to a fractured left tibia and sprained left MCL sustained during a collision at second base.
2. Luis Campusano, C
Age: 22 Team: Triple-A El Paso
Injury forced Campusano onto the big league roster on Opening Day, well before he was ready, as evidenced by a 3-for-34 start to the year in the majors. The NL’s starting catcher in the 2021 Futures Game hit seven homers with a .269/.338/.462 slash line at Triple-A through July 20 while continuing to make strides behind the plate.
3. Robert Hassell III, OF
Age: 19 Team: Low-A Lake Elsinore
Because of the pandemic, the eighth overall pick in 2020 did not make his professional debut until this year. He was everything the Padres imagined (.860 OPS, 4 HRs, 22 SB at Low-A through July 20) while spending most of his time in center field.
4. MacKenzie Gore, LHP
Age: 22 Team: Triple-A El Paso
The 2017 No. 3 pick is officially on the Chihuahuas’ roster, but he was sent back to extended spring training to correct both a recurrence of the blister that dogged him throughout 2018 and continue ironing out kinks in a delivery that has held back Gore since he reported to the alternate site in 2020. Gore’s stuff has taken a big step back this year (he’s sat 87-89 mph in some starts) and he had a 5.85 ERA in his first six Triple-A starts.
5. Adrián Morejón, LHP
Age: 22 Team: Padres
An $11 million signee out of Cuba in July 2016, Morejón appeared ready for a breakout season in 2021 but left his second start of the season with forearm discomfort and later had Tommy John surgery. Morejón has pitched just 32 innings in the majors (5.91 ERA) since making his debut in 2019.
6. Jackson Merrill, SS
Age: 18 Team: Rookie-level ACL Padres
NEW The 6-foot-3, 195-pound pop-up prospect paired 13 homers with a .500 batting average, 39 RBIs and 10 steals his senior year at Severna Park (Md.) High. The uptick in power coincided with packing on 30-35 pounds of muscle the previous offseason.
7. James Wood, OF
Age: 18 Team: N/A
NEW The Padres viewed the 6-foot-7, lefthanded-hitting Wood as one of the bigger upside plays in the draft. His long limbs add to swing-and-miss tendencies, but the Padres see the potential for an impact bat with speed for a corner outfield spot down the road.
8. Josh Mears, OF
Age: 20 Team: Low-A Lake Elsinore
Not only did the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Mears begin to flex his muscles in his first full season, but he showed good baserunning ability and experienced semi-regular action in center field as the Padres look to keep their options open with the high-upside second-rounder from 2019.
9. Justin Lange, RHP
Age: 19 Team: Rookie-level ACL Padres
A $2 million lottery ticket as the 34th overall pick in 2020, Lange’s calling card is a raw, power four-seamer (95-98 mph) with carry up in the strike zone. He made his long-awaited system debut in July.
10. Victor Lizarraga, RHP
Age: 17. Team: ACL Padres
Lizarraga is a projectable 17-year-old righthander with a three-pitch mix and a clean, repeatable delivery which should allow him to throw strikes. Scouts have noted that his fastball tends to flatten, however, which makes it more hittable than desired. He pairs the fastball with a mid-70s curveball and a solid changeup.
11. Reiss Knehr, RHP
12. Robert Gasser, LHP
NEW The 6-foot-1 Houston product struck out 104 batters in 85.2 innings in 2021. His four-pitch mix includes a fastball that’s been up to 96 mph. His competitiveness also earned high marks from the Padres organization.
13. Kevin Kopps, RHP
NEW Armed with perhaps college baseball’s best pitch in his cutter/slider, the Golden Spikes award winner led the nation with a 0.90 ERA and amassed a 131-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Padres expect Kopps to move quickly.
14. Euribiel Angeles, 2B
NEW The strong, righthanded-hitting infielder signed for $300,000 while the Padres were in an international penalty period. His short, compact swing led the system with a .349 batting average through July 20 after he jumped from the Dominican Summer League to Low-A Lake Elsinore. A high baseball IQ is one reason the Padres believe he’ll continue to meet challenges as he climbs the system.
15. Reggie Lawson, RHP
16. Victor Acosta, SS
Acosta was the head of the Padres’ 2020-2021 international signing class, garnering a bonus of $1.8 million. He’s a graceful defender who has the ingredients to be a plus defender. He’s a switch-hitter with quick hands and a pair of swings geared for slash-and-burn offense at the top of a lineup.
17. Samuel Zavala, OF
Zavala was one of the younger players available in the 2020-2021 international signing class, and was coveted for his potential for lefthanded power. As an amateur, scouts projected the type of hit and power tools befitting a corner outfielder.
18. Efrain Contreras, RHP
19. Eguy Rosario, 2B/SS
NEW The stout but quick righthanded hitter repeated the California League in 2019 (.742 OPS), but enjoyed a breakout campaign in his first year at Double-A (.816 OPS, 8 HRs, 18 SB through July 20). A projected utility infielder, Rosario will play a bit more shortstop now that CJ Abrams has been lost for the year.
20. Ethan Elliott, LHP
NEW At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Elliott’s abnormal extension from a three-quarters slot allows his 86-90 mph fastball to play well above its radar gun readings. He struck out 71 in 58 innings (2.95 ERA) at High-A Fort Wayne before a midseason promotion.
21. Brandon Valenzuela, C
22. Jonny Homza, C
NEW The converted third baseman was drafted in the fifth round out of South Anchorage (Alaska) High in 2017, the same year the Padres selected Joey Cantillo out of Hawaii. Homza had an .829 OPS through July 20 in what was his first full-season assignment.
23. Max Ferguson, 2B
NEW The Tennessee product, in the Padres’ view, could be one of the steals of the draft after an early season sickness caused a slow start to the year. He hit .253/.378/.461 with 12 homers in 2021.
24. Tirso Ornelas, OF
25. Brayan Medina, RHP
NEW Medina was selected as a potential breakout candidate before the season on the strength of a fastball already in the 92-94 mph range thanks to athleticism and arm speed. Some even believed he could hit 100 mph one day.
26. Adrián Martinez, RHP
NEW He pairs a 94-97 mph fastball with one of the better changeups in the system and a developing slider. He cut his hit rate to 7.7 per nine innings through 13 appearances at Double-A.
27. Matt Waldron, RHP
NEW A throwback the Padres’ way in the Mike Clevinger trade, the former 18th-rounder’s addition of an 80-84 mph knuckleball, which he throws more than 80% of the time, has reimagined what was rather a vanilla pitch mix for the righthander—an 89-93 mph fastball, a slider and a changeup.
28. Michel Baez, RHP
29. Jorge Ona, OF
30. Steven Wilson, RHP
Wilson shook off an arm injury and is back throwing 94-98 mph with a low-to-mid 80s slider he commands well. He is in position to make his major league debut as soon as he’s needed.
INF Euribiel Angeles is not only showcasing plus bat-to-ball skills as he jumps from the DSL to Low-A Lake Elsinore, but the Padres believe the 19-year-old will continue to develop in-game power. He has three homers, the first three of his pro career, among his 21 extra-base hits this season.
LHP Ethan Elliott has been a steady riser since the Padres selected him in the 10th round in 2019 out of Lincoln (Tenn.) Memorial, a Division II program. He’s held opposing hitters to a .207 batting average while averaging 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
RHP Anderson Espinoza, the Padres’ former top prospect, is sitting 94-97 mph but grappling with command at times at High-A Fort Wayne as he finally returns from back-to-back Tommy John surgeries. He was also suspended 10 games after umpires inspected him for foreign substances in July.
INF Jorge Mateo ranks third in the majors in sprint speed (30 feet per second) and is 6-for-6 in career stolen base attempts. Mateo, however, has a career .231 on-base percentage over 119 plate appearances, limiting his ability to allow his elite speed to impact games.
INF Ivan Castillo, the 2019 Texas League batting champion, slumped to a .205/.238/.256 slash line in June at hitter-friendly Triple-A El Paso. The 26-year-old was called up in May for infield depth as the Padres dealt with six players landing on the Covid-19 injured list.
LHP Ryan Weathers debuted in the NLDS against the Dodgers last October and has been an important arm in the majors this year while bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen. He is currently on the injured list with right ankle inflammation.
SS Ha-Seong Kim’s glove has been well ahead of his bat (.619 OPS) as the 25-year-old has provided plenty of impressive plays while seeing time at third, shortstop and second base off the bench.
SS CJ Abrams will miss the rest of the season with a fractured left tibia and sprained MCL. The expected recovery is three months, which should allow Abrams to be ready to go for spring training.
The Padres envision using LHP Adrian Morejón’s stuff in the rotation, but he’s still never thrown more than 66 innings in any season since signing out of Cuba in July 2016. Time will tell what Morejón’s role will be as he comes back in 2022 from Tommy John surgery.
Like Morejón, 25-year-old RHP Michel Báez was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. He threw just 4.2 innings in the majors in 2020.
OF Jorge Oña hit .348/.417/.539 in his first 22 games in the Double-A Texas League in 2019 before losing the rest of that season to shoulder surgery. He hit his first big league home run in 2020 but is on the 60-day injured list after having a bone spur removed from his throwing elbow.
RHP Efrain Contreras was poised to build on an impressive 2019 season spent in the Low-A Midwest League (3.61 ERA, 121 strikeouts, 1.18 WHIP, 109.2 innings) but lost 2020 to the pandemic and 2021 to Tommy John surgery.