Over the course of this week, Padres Prospectus will announce their Top 50 prospect list, unveiling ten prospects at a time along with some brief commentary from our writing staff. One of the reasons that sites like MLB Pipeline and Minor League Ball only list top 20-30 prospects is because it can be a bit of a crap shoot once you get past that number; nevertheless, we’ve compiled our rankings by trying to strike an appropriate balance between the floors, ceilings, and past performances of prospects in the organization.
With that being said, there are a few guys omitted from the list that could have just as easily ended up on on tail-end depending on the evaluator(s).
**Players in Extended Spring Training and Instructional Leagues will be listed as unassigned.
10. Jorge Oña – OF, Fort Wayne TinCaps (Single-A)
Oña is another product of Preller’s 2016 international class, signing for a whopping $7 million bonus. While he’s expected to need significant seasoning in the minors, he’s thrived for the TinCaps this season with a .289 average and a .356 on-base percentage. The power hasn’t fully arrived yet for the 6’, 220 lbs. outfielder, but he could very well develop into a 25 home run player as he continues to develop. – Travis Barnett
9. Jacob Nix – SP, Lake Elsinore (High-A)
Jacob Nix was General Managert AJ Preller’s second ever draft pick. While his first, Austin Smith, has been disappointing, the 3rd round selection has only impressed with an advanced mix of pitches. Jacob Nix is probably best known for the Brady Aiken drama by the Houston Astros, Since Aiken did not sign due to a failed medical, the Astros lost the allotted bonus-pool money for the top overall pick, and the Astros could not give Nix their promised above-slot bonus. After lawsuits and drama, the Padres were happy to pick up Nix with their second pick in the draft, as Nix obviously has the talent of a quality major league starter.
Nix has had success in Lake Elsinore this year, with a good K/BB rate and ERA. At 21 years old, Nix is a clear candidate to move up the system quickly, and many believe he can be a solid mid-rotation arm for many years. – Chad Hamner
8. Josh Naylor – 1B, Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A)
Despite being selected by Miami in the first round of the 2015 draft, they shipped him off to the Padres in the Andrew Cashner deal at last season’s trade deadline. He’s limited to first base defensively (and might be reduced to a trade piece to the AL at some point), but considering power is his calling card, he should produce more than enough offensively to warrant every day playing time. Also, he’s shown more disciplined approach at the plate this season at Lake Elsinore, bringing his walk rate to 8.4 percent after hovering around 5 percent at Fort Wayne in 2016. –Travis Barnett
7. Eric Lauer – SP, Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A)
With a sparkling 2.15 ERA, Eric Lauer leads all pitches in the California League, which probably shouldn’t be all surprising since he led division one baseball in that area during his final season at Kent State. The lack of a true “out-pitch” may limit his projection, but he’s continually shown an ability to succeed by utilizing his entire arsenal and attacking the zone. As such, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he ends up in San Antonio sooner rather than later after that dominant first half. – Travis Barnett
6. Fernando Tatis Jr. – SS, Fort Wayne TinCaps (Single-A)
While there are plenty of A.J. Preller deals that are open to second-guessing, the trade that sent James Shields to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr. definitely isn’t one of them. Aside from Shields’ difficulties once he left San Diego, Tatis Jr. has gone from an unheralded international signing to one of the top bats in the Padres system. While some have projected that he’s too tall at 6’3” to stick at shortstop, he’s been making highlight reel plays in Fort Wayne, all while providing power as an 18-year-old at Single-A. The son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis, his ceiling is as high as any in the Padres organization. – Marcus Pond
5. Luis Urias- 2B/SS, San Antonio Missions (Double-A)
Luis Urías has the best hit tool in the Padres system. The Mexican second baseman has already won a full season MVP award (2016 – California League) and represented his country in the World Baseball Classic. He has an excellent eye and has walked more than he’s struck out during his minor league career. He has shown flashes of power, especially at the beginning of the season, but his swing this year has been on more of a line drive plane. He may experience some stumbling blocks as one of the youngest players in Double-A, but his patience and bat-to-ball skills make him a likely candidate to be the Padres second baseman of the future. – Marcus Pond
4. MacKenzie Gore – SP, Unassigned
Mackenzie Gore is the most recent addition to the Padres top tier prospects. Taken 3rd overall in the recent 2017 draft, Gore is an athletic LHP from North Carolina who has shown the ability for four above-average pitches – a 92-97 fastball he can command very well, a slider, a curve, and a changeup. Some prospect evaluators believe that Gore is the best pitching prospect in the draft, despite Hunter Greene’s ridiculous fastball and Kyle Wright’s polish. High school pitchers are notoriously risky, and many flame out. However, when these kinds of prospects achieve their potential, they are immensly valuable. See: Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and San Diego County’s own Cole Hamels.
Make no mistake about it – Mackenzie Gore has ace potential. For most teams, this would make Gore their far-and-away best prospect – the fact that he is not the top Padres prospect speaks more to the strength of this system than the talent of Gore. At the time of writing, Gore has yet to sign, but that’s not much of a concern as many top picks have yet to sign and it is extremely rare for a first round pick to not sign with their team. It is unlikely for Gore to throw many professional innings this year, if any at all, due to the amount of care that goes into such fragile prep arms. However, Gore is an extremely exciting prospect and could be a household name in only a few years. – Chad Hamner
3. Adrian Morejon- SP, Tri-City Dust Devils (Low-A)
Widely regarded as the top international free agent pitching prospect of the 2016 class, Morejon is an 18-year-old lefty from Cuba that signed with the Padres for $11 million. Before even throwing a professional pitch (besides a brief stint with a Cuban pro team as a 15 year old), Morejon was ranked in Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list (#98). However, many of the other notable prospect rankings stated that they couldn’t rank Morejon properly due to being unable to evaluate him in person. On the other hand, the ones that do see Morejon in person always fall in love with his advanced pitching ability and relative polish for a young international player. Morejon has plenty of work in front of him, but he has every chance to be a front-of-the-rotation southpaw. – Chad Hamner
2. Cal Quantrill – SP, Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A)
After working his way back from Tommy John Surgery that cost him over a year of baseball at Stanford, Quantrill has taken the minor leagues by storm. His diverse repertoire, which has helped him pitch his way to the California League All Star team, gives him a relatively high floor as a rotation arm, but the Padres are hoping he reaches his potential as a possible number two pitcher. – Travis Barnett
1.Anderson Espinoza – SP, Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A)
While other outlets have dropped Espinoza few place on their list, he still tops our rankings as the premier prospect in the Padres’ system. His fastball regularly sits in the mid-upper 90’s, reaching triple digits with relative ease. Additionally, both of his secondary pitches project to be plus even nineteen year old needs to develop some consistency with them. If that happens, there’s little skepticism among scouts that he has the potential to be a front of the rotation arm.
He’s missed most of the season with injuries, but as Padres Prospectus shared last week, he expects to return in the near future. – Travis Barnett