Image credit: MacKenzie Gore (Photo by Mike Augustin/Four Seam)
Following today’s updated Padres prospects ranking, Jeff Sanders answered your questions below.
Nick R. (San Diego):
- Where do you see Victor Acosta starting 2022 with a normal start time and what’s his ceiling?
Jeff Sanders: Acosta just missed the top-10. He had a great year in the Dominican Summer League, as did Samuel Zavala and Daniel Montesino. Really one of the better DSL teams the Padres have had in a while. Look for that great to get started in the ACL this summer as they are all 17-18 years old. As far as Acosta’s ceiling, he’s drawn comparisons to Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that’s who he’ll become, but more of the style of player he is.
Nick R. (San Diego):
- How does James Wood’s ceiling compare to a similarly built Aaron Judge’s?
Jeff Sanders: Like Judge, he’s a big guy — 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds. The Padres are playing him in center field right now because he runs well, but clearly you don’t see guys that big playing center field. He’s got to make more contact, shorten the swing, etc., but he projects to be a 30-35 homer bat in the middle of a lineup.
- Two parter on Abrams: Any level of concern about the frequency of injury? Second, rate the likelihood of CJ getting dealt as a premium chip that gets the (long-suffering) Padres the package they think will help them complete a pennant run?
Jeff Sanders: The Padres will say there’s no concern, but there’s certainly a trend. He had a shoulder injury at the end of his draft year, the collision at second base this summer and then another shoulder injury sliding into the base. The collision at second base was clearly a freak injury, but the Padres would really like to see him play a full season and get at-bats. As far Abrams as a trade piece, it’s Preller, right? Who knows how many of the top-30 prospects would have been dealt if there wasn’t a lockout. That said, I think Abrams is in the class of player the Padres want to build around.
The Friggin Friar (Otay Crossing):
- The Pads’ pitching development has left something to be desired. Can you share any optimism on the ultimate roles and projections for the Gore/Paddack/Morejon/Weathers/Baez cohort?
Jeff Sanders: It’s a show-me league right and quite frankly they haven’t shown a ton lately. Paddack’s elbow was a concern at the end of the season. Baez and Morejon are coming back from Tommy John. Weathers was pushed aggressively and paid for it the second half. He’s young with a bulldog mentality. I see him remaining a mid-rotation prospect after some further seasoning in Triple-A. Gore is the real wild-card. The Padres remain high on him but he’s got to get on the mound this year and show what he was showing in 2019. The velocity is back but he needs to get his command back in check if he’s going to blossom into the front-of-the-rotation arm he’s been billed as.
The Friggin Friar (Otay Crossing):
- I can’t recall ever seeing a hit tool grade as low as Joshua Mears’ 30 and still feature in the Top 10 and a projected future lineup. Who was the last prospect that actually made The Show with a hit tool that bad?
Jeff Sanders: The grades are a collaboration at Baseball America. I know the Padres would grade the hit tool better than that, but my conversations in the organization have been centered around how best to get him to get to unlock his plus-plus power consistently. He, too, needs to stay on the field as he dealt with a shoulder, a concussion and later a broken nose sustained in instructs. As far as the last prospect with a 30 grade hit tool to make the majors, that’s probably a better question for some of the veterans at Baseball America.
Tirso Ornelas (Still top 30?):
- Hi Jeff, thanks for chatting with us today. A lot of shine has rubbed off my prospect luster but am I still in the Padre’s top 30? I should be in AA and still only 22 for all of the 2022 season. How do the Padres view me now?
Jeff Sanders: You’re a pretty polarizing player in the organization, to be honest. Some don’t think you’re a prospect anymore. Some look at your left-handed swing, your build and can’t help but continue to dream on your ceiling. Leading the High-A Central in doubles certainly keeps you in the conversation (you’re in the 31-40 range this year), but you’re a career .357 slugger and you’ve been in the system since July 2016. Time to show more if you’re going to be a power-hitting right fielder.
- What are your thoughts on Justin Lange? How close is he to the top 10?
Jeff Sanders: Good stuff. Maybe one of the best fastballs in the system when right, but he’s been inconsistent with the command. A knee slowed him in 2021, too. He’s in the 15-20 range.
- Thanks for the chat! How close was Eguy Rosario to making the top 10?
Jeff Sanders: I’ve got Rosario in the 15-20 range. His 2021 season was quietly underrated. Did a lot of things well. Hit for power, stole some bases and really held down shortstop at Double-A San Antonio after Abrams’ season-ending injuries.
- Given the addition of Alfaro and the presence of Nola and Caratini, how does Campusano get playing time in 2022? Nola can play around the field and the DH spot is likely to be an option, but Alfaro sure doesn’t look like much of a reliable hitter or OF/3B option. Is Campusano (or Caratini) a likely trade candidate—or are they just being extremely patient with his development now?
Jeff Sanders: Tricky question. I think the Padres would love to have the DH in play to help ease Campusano into the catching equation. Campusano has been attached to trade rumors before so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was included in a deal, but they are old at the position and don’t have anyone else all that close to knocking on the door.
- What’s your take on RHRP, Jose Quezada? Interesting back story. 5’9″, came to the US at 16 from Mexico speaking zero English, to live with a host family in Colorado of all places, just for an opportunity to play baseball. Gets a scholarship to Texas Tech and is a top 10 round pick. Lead all Padres relievers in saves (4th in all of MiLB) and was invited to the AFL.
Jeff Sanders: I had Quezada in the 31-40 range. He’s got a great, horizontal-breaking change-up that’s becoming a real weapon. He was, however, a bit of a head scratcher, a classic closer whose struggles tended to come when he wasn’t in high-leverage situations. That was a real focus as he moved from Double-A San Antonio to Triple-A El Paso.
Ken (Lakewood CA):
- Hassell is very young, but he is looking more and more like he could be a real stud. Do you and the Padres agree?
Jeff Sanders: He’s certainly off to a great start, having been challenged with early inclusions in COVID camp and Cactus League action before officially beginning his minor league career this year in Low A. He has a great approach to build around, willing to hit the ball where it’s pitched, take a walk, etc., and is beginning to learn which pitches to turn on. Plays a great center field too. He’s someone to watch this year. I’m looking for him to start at Fort Wayne with a good shot at finishing the year at Double-A San Antonio.
Warren (New London):
- Tatis struggled at shortstop in 2021. Is it possible that he, rather than Abrams, might wind up at a different position? At the same time, Abrams seems like a natural center fielder. Could we ultimately see him in center and Tatis in right? Should I read anything into the “low motor” part of the writeup on Abrams?
Jeff Sanders: As we saw in 2021, all cards figure to be on the table by the time Abrams forces the conversation, but I think the default is going to be Tatis at shortstop. By my untrained eye, he was just a more energetic/engaged/infectious player in the middle of the field and there were people in the organization who agreed. As far as Abrams’ low motor, he simply makes things look easier than most. He saves his bullets as opposed to Tatis seemingly playing with his hair on fire for nine innings every day.
- Brandon Valenzuela seemed to have a breakout year. Where does he rank amongst padres prospects, and what’s his ceiling?
Jeff Sanders: I had Valenzuela in the 20 to 25 range. Good backstop, smart game-caller who’s becoming an asset for a pitching staff. Gets on base and becoming more of a power threat. The Padres want to see him get even more physical.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- So three of last year’s top ten Padre prospects (Patino, Wilcox, and Hunt) along with a lesser prospect went to the Rays for Blake Snell – a season later would you advice the Padres to do this deal again?
Jeff Sanders: Can I answer this question next year? I want to see if second-half Snell sticks.
- Follow up to the pitching development question: Have there been any coaching/development staff or organizational philosophy changes that would make you more optimistic about Padres’ pitching?
Jeff Sanders: We’ll have to see see how things pan out in spring training as far as philosophy goes, but hiring pitching Ruben Niebla away from the Indians has earned rave reviews throughout the industry.
Frederick G. (Boston):
- Hi Jeff, thanks for your time today. You had Abrams listed as the 2B in the future lineup for the Padres, is this the most likely position for him in the majors in your opinion? If you had to ballpark percentages he ends up at 2B, SS, or CF what would the be?
Jeff Sanders: I think it’s a coin-toss. If Hassell, Mears and Wood all develop and Tatis sticks at shortstop, Abrams heads to second base by default. He can play any of the positions, of course.
Molly (New Jersey):
- I was surprised to see Euribiel Angeles jump up into the top 10. How high do you think he could climb? Does he have another level to tap into as he matures? Thank you for taking my question!
Jeff Sanders: Hard to ignore the year he put together in Lake Elsinore. That said, also harder to go much higher as he’s likely utility man in the majors.
- How would you assess Preller’s trade record? A lot has been made about the prospects he dealt away, but I can’t fault him for going for it.
Jeff Sanders: A lot of the prospects he traded away had to be added to the 40-man roster the following offseason. You’ve also got to give to get. He’s certainly makes the offseason interesting.
Taylor (Seattle, WA):
- How close was Ethan Elliott to making the top 10? Can he be anything more than a back of the rotation arm? Thanks Jeff!
Jeff Sanders: I had him in the 20-25 range. Dealt with shoulder woes at the end of the year, but really one of the better breakout prospects in the system. By itself, his fastball is underwhelming at 88-91 but he gets ridiculous extension on the pitch and it gets on hitters. He’s got command. The Padres would like to see more velo if he’s going to be more than a back-end rotation / bullpen arm.
- How do you distribute the blame for the way the organization broke Gore at the alternate site in 2020? Is that on Preller’s core brain trust, the since-fired Sam Geaney,the since-fired Larry Rothschild, the player himself, or others?
Jeff Sanders: The first direct Gore question and it only took an hour. Not the way I thought this was going to play out. I’d push back against the organization breaking Gore at the alt site. He wasn’t all that crisp at spring training in 2020 and was bypassed by Weathers at the alt site. Of course there’s been a lot of heads banging against the wall on how to get him on the same track he was in 2019. A lot of tinkering, a lot of ideas exchanged with regards to his unique delivery. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy on Gore, the kind of pitcher who wants to pitch his way into rhythm. I think Ruben Niebla could be the best thing for Gore in 2022.
Robert (Chula Vista):
- I notice that the Padres don’t have a true 1B prospect as they usually focus on the middle of the field prospects as well as pitching. Do you see some of these prospects, like Tino Ornelas or Brandon Valenzuela moved to possibly to 1B since there seems to be a glaring weakness or do you see one or two unknown prospects that may develop into their future 1B in the coming years?
Jeff Sanders: The organization under Preller has certainly focused on up-the-middle players. They’re easier to move to less demanding positions. Of the prospects in the system, I think Daniel Montesino has best upside for a future first baseman. Taylor Kohlwey also handles himself well around the bag and quietly had a great year at Triple-A El Paso.
Robert (San Diego):
- Do you see the Don Welke Prospect game returning this year to Petco with the hiatas for the last few years? I think we definitely do miss it
Jeff Sanders: I hope so, but I think that’s pandemic-pending. Lot of complications with moving instructs from Peoria to Petco after the season. The Padres also hope to be a playoff team, so that’s another thing to think about as they put that schedule together.