Down on the Farm: 2017 Recap- Arizona Rookie League Padres

Credit: MiLB

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Credit: MiLB

Three Takeaways

1. Rookie League is Flush with International Talent

If there was one thing that was on clear display for the AZL Padres and AZL Padres 2 this season, it was the plethora of international talent that made its mark on the Arizona Rookie League fields. From the big names such as Jeisson Rosario, Jordy Barley, and Tirso Ornelas to the not-so-big names such as Michell Miliano, Luis Patino, and Angel Santos. Beyond them, there were many other notable international signees from years past who also made their way to the AZL. With so much young talent at the lowest level of the minor league ladder, it’s very clear that the Padres’ farm system will have a very deep talent pool for years to come.

2. MacKenzie Gore is Legit

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from any minor league level this season is the development of left-hander MacKenzie Gore. Drafted third overall in this year’s MLB Draft, many thought Gore could be a truly special pitcher. For a system that is already loaded with pitchers, such as Cal Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi, Michel Baez, and Adrian Morejon, to name a few, the fact that Gore is considered the best of the crop at just 18 years old is pretty amazing. And in his short stint with the AZL Padres, he did not disappoint or fail to meet all those expectations. There’s still lots of years of development left to go, but Gore looks like a true top of the rotation-type of pitcher for the Padres long-term plans.

3. Lots of Top-30 Talent on Display

Beyond just international talent, the Padres had nine of their top 30 prospects playing a majority of their season in the AZL, with several others seeing some time with one of the two AZL Padres’ teams. Out of the group, all made positive developments in 2017, and look poised for bright futures at higher levels next season. If you wanted to see a top prospect, or really any interesting prospect, the AZL was the place to be in 2017. With quite a few exciting players on the DSL Padres team this season, 2018 should be another exciting season in the AZL for the Padres.

Player of the Year

Esteury Ruiz- 2B, AZL Padres
72-206, .350/.395/.602, 20 2B, 10 3B, 4 HR, 39 RBI, 13 BB, 54 K, 26 SB, 124 TB, 162 wRC+

After beginning his 2017 season on a tear with the AZL Kansas City Royals, during which he slashed .419/.440/.779 with a 213 wRC+ over his first 91 plate appearances, Ruiz found himself shifting Arizona Rookie League teams to the AZL Padres near the end of July. While he did slow up a little upon shifting teams, he still ended the season with the highest batting average in the AZL with the second-highest slugging percentage and second-highest wRC+. On top of all that, Ruiz also had the most doubles and triples of any player in the AZL. Offensively, Ruiz exceeded all expectations this season and he was clearly the leader of the AZL Padres’ offense.

At the plate, Ruiz showed a lot of talent, with an all fields approach. Not only was Ruiz able to show a lot of general hitting ability, with quick hands, good mechanics, and strong explosion in his legs, but he also showed a great amount of power with 34 extra base hits on the season, which placed him among the best in the league. On the other side of the ball, Ruiz did enough to show he can be an average to perhaps slightly above average defender as he progresses through the minor leagues. On the bases, Ruiz ranked as the second-fastest player in the league by Fangraphs’ SPD metric and he was also in the top five by Fangraphs’ wSB metric for stolen bases. At 18, there is still a long way for Ruiz to go before he becomes a big leaguer, but all the tools are there for him to be a bat-first second baseman with some great baserunning instincts. Ruiz should start next season in Tri City or Fort Wayne depending on how aggressive the Padres want to be with his assignment.

Mason House- OF, AZL Padres 2
48-164, .293/.354/.463, 6 2B, 8 3B, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 13 BB, 68 K, 3 SB, 76 TB, 121 wRC+

He may not have had the dominant season that second baseman Esteury Ruiz did, but outfielder Mason House was impressive in his own right for the AZL Padres 2 team. It’s still so amazing that the Padres have so much young prospect talent that they could field TWO Arizona Rookie League teams. Anyway, after being drafted by the Padres in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft, House wasted no time excelling as a 19-year-old in his first taste of professional baseball. In 2017, House did a little bit of everything, showing he can hit for both average and power as well as run the bases well and play solid defense out in center field.

House didn’t show a ton of over the fence power, but with six doubles and eight triples, which trailed only Esteury Ruiz among all AZL players, House showed he was more than capable of flashing extra base power. In the outfield, House showed he was a solid defender in center, although there is still a good chance he moves to a corner as he progresses through the minors and puts on more size. It’s early, but House is already looking like a solid third-round draft pick. Given his lack of experience against top-level competition in high school, the Padres may take it a little slower with House and start him next year at Tri-City.


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