Moving forward, let’s follow what Preller loves to do and look to the lower levels of the minor league system. Recently, Padres scouts have been seen scouting during Advanced A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes games. So let’s start there.
Caleb Ferguson is a 21-year-old lefty that was drafted by the Dodgers back in 2014. Ferguson had Tommy John surgery prior to the 2014 draft, but it did not affect his ability to make an impact once he was eligible to pitch.
The starter currently holds an 8-4 record over 19 starts and 20 appearances for the Quakes this season. He has an impressive 2.92 ERA and has struck out 99 batters and walked less than half that number at 45.
Ferguson has a fastball that has improved over the course of this season, and it is currently sitting in the lower-90’s and he can hit speeds up to 95-mph. MLB Pipeline suggests that his best pitch, however, is his curveball that hovers around the high-70s. Ferguson gets his curve to land in the strike zone and has the ability to bury it as a strikeout pitch that batters often reach at.
Ferguson isn’t the shiniest of prospects, but he does have the ability to be a strong back-end of the rotation piece. The Padres have tons of young pitching talent, Ferguson would be just one more guy to throw into the mix that will eventually lead to an ultra-deadly pitching lineup once they all develop.
Shifting gears, a position player the Padres can look at is 24-year-old shortstop Drew Jackson. Jackson is now in his second professional season with the Dodgers organization.
Jackson is not very well known for being good at the plate, but it’s his work in the infield that gives him the edge over so many other prospects. Scouts gave his running ability a 65 grade and his arm a 70 grade, for those who don’t know 50-55 is “average” for prospects. Jackson is most known for his range at short, his cannon of an arm, and his soft hands.
Although he isn’t the best at the plate today, that’s something for him to work out over the course of the next couple of seasons. Jackson has the ability to stick as an everyday player in the majors only if he can continue to dominate in the field. His low batting average and high strike out rate needs to be countered with above average, run saving defense.
I can see Jackson coming to the Padres, but only if he is included in a package deal. A.J. Preller is most known for “loving loud tool prospects,” and Jackson is just not that. But his defense could provide an anchor for the Padres at a position that is still up for grabs both in the minor league system and at the major league level.
I could possibly see Jackson being paired in a trade with 21-year-old right-handed pitcher Dennis Santana. Santana was originally signed as a shortstop, but was moved to the mound after it was clear he wasn’t going to figure out how to hit.
Santana has potential to either be a starter down the line or a middle reliever. MLB Pipeline mentions that his sinker hovers at a hot 93-95 when starting games, but slings it at an even higher 98 when coming out of the bullpen. Santana also works in an improving slider and changeup as secondary pitches, but as he continues to get reps his stuff gets better and better.
Santana has high upside as a hard throwing closer if his future team does decide the best spot for him is in the bullpen, but Santana really is pushing for a starting role.
He started in 14 of 17 games for the Quakes this season working to a 5-6 record with a 3.57 ERA. On the more impressive side, Santana struck out 99 batters and walked just 22 during his time in High-A baseball.
He has only appeared in one game for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers since being called up. He started and went 5 innings allowing four hits, two walks, and two earned runs while striking out six. An impressive start for the young Dominican as he looks to keep showing the coaching staff that he has real potential as a starter.
Brad Hand has a high price tag so any of the guys mentioned are going to have to be included into a package deal. We hear about all the potential top prospects Preller could potentially get in return, but there are plenty of guys down the ranks that have potential to do well in the Padres organization.