The 2016 San Diego Padres season left most fans with little to cheer about and watch as the team traded all their top talent for prospects. Rebuilding is once again in full effect and the strategy is pretty clear. A.J. Preller has reloaded the farm system via trades, the MLB Draft, and the International Draft. Last November’s trade of Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox has already paid off for A.J. and the Padres, as Manuel Margot and Carlos Asuaje helped lead the El Paso Triple-A farm club to the organization’s first Pacific Coast League Championship.
Some of the Padres’ brightest stars will be on showcase this Friday, October 7th at Petco Park. General admission tickets are free and can be picked up online. If you plan on going to the game, here are the top 5 players to keep your eye on.
1) Anderson Espinoza, Fort Wayne TinCaps (A), RHP, 18- 6’0” 160.
Acquired in a trade from Boston for Drew Pomeranz, the Venezuelan born fire-baller has shown good control, with a fastball that averages in the mid to high 90’s and has been clocked at 100 mph. The 18-year-old has shown improved command with a tight curveball and sinking change that could be excellent secondary pitches for him in the majors. Espinoza will need a couple more years to hone his craft before being called up to the majors, but a 2018 debut would not be out of the question.
2) Josh Naylor, Lake Elsinore Storm (A), 1B, 19- 6’0″ 225.
Acquired in a trade that sent Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea, and Tayron Guerrero to Miami, Naylor could be the big left-handed power bat that the Padres so desperately need. With power to all parts of the field, he projects to be a middle of the order power bat. As gifted a hitter as Naylor is, his defense and lack of speed will keep him down in the minors for the foreseeable future. With Wil Myers fully acclimated and having a full season under his belt at first base, Naylor will have plenty of time to develop his skills. 30 home runs per year would not be a reach for the Canadian native, nor would a major league debut in 2019.
3) Cal Quantrill, Fort Wayne TinCaps (A), RHP, 21- 6’2″ 165.
The 2016 first round draft pick, number eight overall, will be under a limited workload as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The former Stanford Cardinal has four pitches in his arsenal that include a 90-93 mph fastball, a plus curve, slider, and change up. Extra care will be needed to ensure that Quantrill recovers properly and to not have any setbacks that will hamper his ascension through the minor ranks. The 21-year-old should be a solid number two or three in the Padres rotation. Once fully recovered, he should make his major league debut in 2019.
4) Adrian Morejon, No Professional Experience, LHP, 17- 6’0″ 165.
The former Cuban 15-and-under World Cup MVP was the prize pick of the 2016 International Signings for A.J. Preller. The Padres were more than willing to pay the 17-year-old an $11 million dollar signing bonus and pay the luxury tax penalties that come with it. Morejon has the stuff that could make him the ace of the Padres staff. The lefty should start next season in Class-A Lake Elsinore, which would make a 2020 debut in the majors a strong possibility. With Morjon, Espinoza, and Quantrill, the Padres front end of the rotation should be set for years to come.
5) Javier Guerra, Lake Elsinore Storm (A), SS, 21- 5’11” 155
The fourth player acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, Guerra has soft hands and a rocket arm. A staunch defensive middle infielder can make the most difficult plays look easy. The Panamanian native will need to improve his approach at the plate and learn to be more selective, as he is often too aggressive in his approach. Two full years in the minors has yielded mixed results, 15 home runs in 2015, but that declined to nine in 2016. If Guerra can improve his plate discipline and can show more consistent results, a 2018 major league debut is possible.
A.J. Preller had most fans scratching their heads as we all wondered why he gutted our farm system to bring in All Star caliber players like Shields, Kemp, Upton, and Kimbrel. In retrospect, I believe his intentions were clear. Make over a farm system that has not had a homegrown talent since Jake Peavy or Chase Headley. The farm system is now reloaded and the 2020 opening day roster could be full of young talent. I like the direction this team is headed. The future is bright and the future will be on display Friday.
My 2020 Opening Day Roster Prediction
1B Wil Myers
2B Carlos Asuaje
SS Javier Guerra
LF Manuel Margot
SP Anderson Espinoza