A Comprehensive Look at How the Padres Minor League System Blossomed Before Your Eyes

(Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres have the best farm system in all of major league baseball. That was not an easy thing to create, and there were several stages to this. Let’s examine exactly how the team accomplished its task.

There were several moments in time that are factors in constructing the current San Diego Padres.

The Padres attempted to compete before the 2015 season and tried to go for it all. The franchise spent money and emptied their farm system in the process.

The critical thing to remember about this time was that the Padres set themselves up for multiple future picks. A.J. Preller and his staff inherited a decent farm system, but it was made up of players they did not select. It was necessary for the team to restructure, and they certainly did that. The result is a number one farm system and perhaps the best we have seen in major league baseball for a long time.

Here is a look at what A.J. Preller has done since he took over the Padres in regards to obtaining young talent.

Addition of major league talent for the 2015 season

Justin Upton (Hudson Potts)

The Padres dealt Max Fried, Mallex Smith, Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson to the Braves for Upton and Aaron Northcraft on December 19 of 2014. By completing the trade before the start of the 2015 season, the Padres qualified for a compensation pick if Upton left via free agency after the 2015 season. He did just that, and the Padres were awarded the #24 pick in the draft. They turned that pick into Hudson Potts.

Ian Kennedy (Eric Lauer)

Yes. Ian Kennedy earned the Padres a compensation pick. The Padres offered him a qualifying offer after the 2015 season. He declined the offer and signed with the Kansas City Royals for five-years and $70 million. That earned the Padres the #25 pick in the June draft which they turned into Eric Lauer.

Craig Kimbrel

The Padres dealt the all-star closer after the 2015 season for a group of prospects. Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra were the prized acquisition in the deal, but Logan Allen could be the best of the bunch. The Padres also acquired Carlos Asuaje in the trade, but he was released this past winter. Getting four players who will play in the major leagues for a closer is a pretty good deal no matter how you slice it.

The 2016 amateur draft class

Cal Quantrill (8)

The Padres have been wise not to rush Quantrill is his development. The former Tommy John surgery recipient needed time to get his feet under him. His velocity is up this spring as he continues to throw in the mid 90’s. More importantly, he is spinning the ball better out of his hand. If not for a full Padres system, he might have already made his major league debut. 2019 should be a coming out party for Quantrill.

(Hudson Potts) Credit: Journal Gazette

Hudson Potts (24)

Losing Justin Upton hurt, but Potts has softened that loss. The Padres surprised many when selecting Potts with the #24 pick. They did it to save some money, but at the same time, Hudon Potts has easily justified his high selection in the draft. He has plus power and incredibly made it to Double-A at the age of 19. With the addition of Manny Machado, his future is cloudy, but there is a lovely ceiling with this third baseman.

Eric Lauer (25)

Ian Kennedy for Eric Lauer sounds good in the long run. Kennedy had an impressive end to his Padres career so its not crazy that a team overpaid for his services. Lauer was polished out of Kent State and progressed through the system quickly. He has a great thirst to get better and could be a fixture in the rotation for a long time.

Buddy Reed (48)

Reed is just scratching the surface of his ability in the game of baseball. The switch-hitting outfielder showed glimpses of being a potential superstar last season in Lake Elsinore. He also played well on the national stage at the MB Futures Game. He flashed a great smile and incredible athleticism in the game. Reed has a high ceiling.

Reggie Lawson (71)

The young right-hander has made slow and steady improvements in the game. He just turned 21 and will be in Amarillo (most likely) for the 2019 season. He is right on pace with his development featuring a powerful fastball/slider combination and a developing change. Lawson might get lost in the system, but in time you will know his name.

(Reggie Lawson) Credit: M.Kreg/EVT News

Mason Thompson (85)

Thompson is a big pitcher and battling some mechanical issues. He showed potential in Fort Wayne in 2018 but will need to refine his repertoire. In time Thompson could very quickly reach his ability. He may take a little bit to bloom, but there is a lot to like with this tall right-hander.

Joey Lucchesi (114)

The Padres have already gotten their money’s worth out of Lucchesi. He shows excellent tenacity on the mound as was easily the Padres best pitcher last year. Selecting him with the 114th pick in the draft shows the type of scouting and developing the Padres are capable of now.

Also drafted in 2016- Dan Dallas (7), Jesse Scholtens (9), Nate Easley (23), David Bednar (35)


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12 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Look at How the Padres Minor League System Blossomed Before Your Eyes

  1. Owen Miller?

    Yeah, the Padre farm system is stacked so deep and wide with high ceiling prospects, I know a few may be overlooked. However, for a guy who went from short season Tri-City to AA (playoffs) in his first, SHORT year (i.e. he was still playing college ball last spring), and slashed .336/.386/.460/.846 his first year of professional baseball, I would think he would rate somewhere on your list. Plus, he played a very polished plus-level shortstop, a premium position. Add in a little power which should reasonably come as his game matures, and he’s Tatis II. The only real “knock” on Miller is that he’s an “old guy” at age 22, in a system filled with platinum prospects aged 18-19 years old, but that should be offset by his substantial college experience.

    He may not necessarily be a “high floor, high ceiling” prospect, but he’s very likely a “high floor, mid-ceiling, ready for the show within 1-2 years) prospect.

  2. This was nice. Like taking a trip down memory road. (Oh yeah, I remember that trade!) Thanks for writing it!

    I spotted a typo. You call Mejia a pitching prospect. (I make typos like these all the time!)

  3. Great article, but one question. Why isn’t there any mention of Osvaldo Hernandez. He had a very big year last season at Ft Wayne, but seems to be overlooked by all. Is there something I am missing about him?

  4. Love this article! Being a Padre fan in South Dakota is challenging! It appears the system is balanced throughout with pictures and infielders. Hope the talent assembled can acquire the “hit” tool. I’m looking forward to getting down to Omaha to watch our AAA’ers perform this summer. Been a Padre man from their inception in 69. Feel great about the future….KEEP THE FAITH,,,,,

  5. Trea Turner has posted 10 WAR combined for very little cost. Is currently projected to do double Myers projection in 2019. Is 3 years younger than Myers and plays a premium position. Myers has only 6.8 WAR during the same time, his cost is 5 times that of Turner. Ross is a starting pitcher who is projected for 0.4 WAR this year coming back from injury. Both G. Reyes and J. Castillo are RP who are both projected to pitch most of the season in the minors again. Both combined gave a 0.0 WAR projection.

    1. @SDDon

      “Turner … posted … Myers has only … ”

      I’m still trying to relate this post to the rest of article. Maybe he posted it to the wrong article by mistake, i dunno ….

      Nothing in the post about the spectacular job AJ Preller & the Padres baseball ops department has done to turn a Padres “top farm system” of 2013 with low depth and filled with low-floor, low-ceiling prospects into arguably one of the best minor league systems of high floor, high ceiling prospects, with depth in these prospects going 3, 4, and even 6 deep.

      An oversight, I suppose. Regards, and have a fun baseball year rooting for …whatever team you root for!

  6. Great Job with this breakdown ?. An excellent look at how all these moves paid off. Really enjoyed it and the prospect breakdowns as well.

  7. I have the answer to why we never had a great farm system. Look at the general managers who have been involved in the organization. Expansion teams don’t usually get good farm systems, and the Padres were a collective of castoffs in 1969. Ballard Smith, was not a great GM, Jack McKeon was a “trader” for talent, Kevin Towers was a core player and build around type. Others have had little success. The history of misses vs hits in the systems history is well noted too. Mike Ivie, and many others were busy, bad trades that sent talent for poor returns, and talent that didnt have the ability to go as far as expected in the game. We have had a poor history, but we have a guy now, who has proven himself able to get talent, and now we need to have it pan out and earn our needed respect in the game. Look at the organizations that have perennial resources, all have had GM’s that were proven. Yes, poor decisions are also inevitable, but maybe those days are few and far between. Preller has a good eye, the team has more revenue than ever before, and the reputation for being a winning team instead of an also ran is now realistic and inevitable, finally. I am in Louisiana, but follow the Padres, as I go back to the PCL days with my dad in 1963 went to my first game. I was there opening night in 1969, I lost my taste for baseball with the strike, and just got back I to the game in 2005. I didn’t follow them from 87 till 2005, but I am now on board for the long term, and I am really excited and optimistic.

    1. @Dave from the great state of Louisiana

      I’m as much of an AJ Preller booster as anyone. He is uniquely talented, and more than that, he’s bold.

      However, there’s not “a reason”, but several, the most significant two being:

      * Ownership: Other owners (like Moore) have talked the talk, but never really walked the walk. Moore (in my mind) was merely an investor passively interested in baseball as a vehicle for obtaining huge profits redeveloping choice property that he gained ownership or control over during the Petco Park development. Nothing wrong with a little capitalism, but that kind of capitalist isn’t dedicated to the Padres development as much as his own interests. He proved that when he walked away with over 10% of all future Padres broadcasting revenues for the next 20 years, when he sold the team. On the other hand, the owners group put together by Fowler and Seider are baseball people, interested in developing a winning franchise, to their own profit perhaps, but also to the profit of the fans of San Diego. They invested $80M in one year ALONE on nothing but PROSPECTS, more than several years team salary during the Moores/Moorad years, and actually, a total of $95M in that one year alone, for the Padres future years down the road. Of course, they’ve spent money in other significant areas, but the farm system doesn’t put people in the seats or revenue in the bank for YEARs, and it’s 100% at risk capital, i.e. it’s a crap shoot. That’s dedication like the fans of San Diego have never had before, and I (as another – now out-of-state fan), appreciate it.

      * Culture: What a GM can do is only partly constrained by the owners $$$ invested. It’s also constrained by the demands of the fans and expectations of the owners. It’s a tribute to both, and particularly the fans, that we have “kept the faith” and waited for the product to develop, without walking away. I rarely see that virtue attributed to the “laid back fans” in San Diego. Most GM’s worked towards “this year and maybe next”. AJ Preller has had a long term vision that he never waivered from. In fact, I think he went ahead with his “win-it-all-now” crap shoot of 2015 planning for the future, knowing that the current “top ranking” farm system was a mostly “low floor, low ceiling” system which held maximum value before any of the prospects stepped onto a major league ball field. He turned those prospects into stars to created better prospects. I’m sure he was looking at the 2016 International draft year when he interviewed for the job, and in fact, that was a major part of his presentation to the owners that got him hired pronto, hands down, unanimous vote.

      Yeah, I’ve “bought the kool-aid”. No, I have no expectation at all that the number prospects transforming into MLB players for this farm system will greatly exceed the norm. However, I can count, and the Padres have the numbers (i.e. high floor, high ceiling) to swamp the historical percentages. I certainly have a hope that we’ll see more than one or two super-star-studs coming out of the system. But I am certain that at least one or two will hit, and that a couple of dozen decent to high level major league players will come out of the system as currently stocked.

      Here’s a big difference: When Donavan Tate and Matt Bush were busts, we all felt like it was over, that the Padres entire future was doomed. When a high level prospect hits a bump in the road now, we think “Bummer, that’s a disappointment, maybe he’ll go back and work on the stuff, and have a decent future. Meanwhile, let’s look at what the other top 10 prospects are doing, should be exciting …. “. When we heard Cory Luebke was down for TJ surgery after a fantastic rookie year, we thought “oh boy, there goes our top #1 start of the future”, and when he had his second one, “oh no, that’s another two years until MAYBE we can win some games”. Now, we hear that a prospect has Tommy John, and it’s “bummer, but we’ll see ya when you’re back; it’ll be perfect when you hit the rotation because there might even be a spot available for ya then …”. I’m exagerating of course, but the point is no one, or two, or three prospects missing is going to crush the fans. When Drew Cumberland had to retire due to concussion syndrome, it was like “oh, no, we’ll NEVER have a good short stop now”. If we lost Tatis (God forbid), we actually have a half dozen talented SS prospects who could fill the position. Maybe not as well as Tatis, who could be something special, but Tatis by himself won’t make or break Padres teams for the next five years.

      Padres fans have never had that kind of hope, that kind of reasonable expectations for the team’s future. Time to drink the kool-aid, folks, and jump on board.

  8. One thing worth mentioning is the trade with Tampa and Washington. Maybe I am wrong, but – at the time – I wasn’t sure about unloading the talent we sent packing. Maybe Joe Ross and others will develop further, but none , save Trae Turner, have really developed. To have Wil Myers and Jose Castillo shows we at least broke even. Frankly, that’s better than I expected. In the other deals, Fried, etc. may still be coming, but you cannot criticize than talent acquisition over the past few years.

    A second point worth mentioning: I don’t understand why it took this long to adopt the philosophy and action the current registration e is carrying out. Four decades essentially of not valuing a farm system. ? Thankfully, future days appear much much better!

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