Padres Prospect Samuel Zavala Nears Rare Air


Image credit: Samuel Zavala (Larry Goren/Four Seam Images)

When Baseball America unveiled its updated Organizational Talent Rankings, the Padres checked it at No. 7 overall. In any scenario, that’s impressive.

After dealing away prospects like James Wood, Jarlin Susana and Robert Hassell III in the Juan Soto trade last summer, and then further chipping away at their depth at this deadline by sending prospects Jackson Wolf, Estuar Suero, Henry Williams and Jesus Rios away in various deadline deals, the accomplishment is further magnified.

It also means the prospects they’ve kept and have acquired since then have performed and raised their stock. Catcher Ethan Salas, shortstop Jackson Merrill and pitchers Dylan Lesko and Robby Snelling each rank among the top half of BA’s current Top 100, and righthander Jairo Iriarte checks in at No. 100.

Outfielder Samuel Zavala might be the next to join them, thanks to a special season in the Low-A California League. Right now, the 19-year-old outfielder is hitting .271/.421/.459 with 22 doubles, 14 home runs and 20 stolen bases. If he hits one more home run before the season concludes, he’ll join a club dotted with future big league stars.

Since 2006, here are the teenagers who’ve hit 20 or more doubles and 15 or more home runs and stolen 20 or more bases.

2006 — Andrew McCutchen, Colby Rasmus
2007 — Greg Halman
2010 — Nick Franklin
2011 — Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper
2012 — Alen Hanson
2013 — Addison Russell
2017 — Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Khalil Lee
2022 — Carson Williams, Jasson Dominguez, Adael Amador

On its own, that’s great company, but Zavala’s season has one more wrinkle that makes it even more special. The Padres prospect has done all that, but has also drawn an eye-popping 86 walks, good for a rate of 19.1% of his plate appearances. Zavala’s walk total is just two behind Mariners prospect Harry Ford (and tied with Fort Wayne’s Jakob Marsee for the organizational lead).

So, how many seasons from the group of players above also included 80-plus walks? Only one. Rockies top prospect Adael Amador, who in 2022 hit .292/.415/.445 with 24 doubles, 15 homers and 26 stolen bases at Low-A Fresno. Amador’s season was made even more special by the fact that he struck out just 67 times in 555 plate appearances; by contrast, Zavala has whiffed 120 times in 448 PAs, good for a rate of 26.7%.

Among teenaged minor leaguers this year, Zavala’s 4.359 pitches per plate appearances ranks third, behind the Tigers’ Cristian Santana and Pittsburgh’s Termarr Johnson. His 1,953 overall pitches seen is second only to Seattle’s Cole Young.

Zavala has shown patience and impact this season. There’s a long way to go in his development, but he’s on the doorstep of a special year.

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