It is a widely accepted fact that the San Diego Padres have one of, if not the best, farm system in baseball. Even with young studs like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack graduating from “prospect” status, up-and-comers like MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patino, and Luis Urias still, rank among the best in the system.
But what about the players who aren’t ranked at the top of lists by prospect gurus? Many a player go unranked on the Padres’ farm system, but not because they lack talent. Far from it, as a matter of fact. Many players go unnoticed due to the sheer depth of the system, which can be attributed to the strong scouting department of San Diego.
These five players, while not getting the fanfare that some of the big dogs of the system have the potential to be impactful players in a San Diego jersey when their time comes.
Luis Torrens (C, Amarillo Sod Poodles)
Remember when the Padres acquired Torrens from the Cincinnati Reds after the Reds selected him from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft? The then 21-year-old Torrens struggled mightily in his first year on the bigs, hitting a mere .163/.243/.203 with seven RBIs. Behind the dish, Torrens only threw out 21 percent (5-for-24) of runners attempting to steal.
However, it was expected for Torrens to struggle as most Rule 5 picks do. After the 2017 season, the Venezuelan catcher was sent down to Lake Elsinore to continue his development. Facing minor league pitching, Torrens looked much sharper, batting .280/.320/.406 while dropping his strikeout rate from 21.6 percent in the majors to 15 percent at the High-A level. He has continued that development at Double-A Amarillo, hitting .301/.383/.448 with three home runs and 27 RBIs.
Most impressive is his increasing walk rate. In a San Diego uniform, Torrens only walked at an 8.6 percent clip, and the number trended downward at Lake Elsinore, carrying a 5.0 percent walk rate. However, in Amarillo, Torrens is showing much better discipline at the plate, as he is walking at an impressive 12.2 percent rate. The power has also started to surface as his .147 ISO is miles above the .041 ISO he posted in the majors. Even behind the plate, Torrens has shown marked improvement, throwing out 17 out of 32 baserunners while allowing only three passed balls, down from 21 last year at Lake Elsinore.
His improvement has earned him a role as a starter in the Double-A All-Star Game. Thanks to proper development, Torrens could find himself back in a Padres jersey and ready to produce.
Ivan Castillo ( INF, Amarillo Sod Poodles)
Castillo is a 24-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic who, since signing a minor league contract with the Padres, has done nothing but hit at Double-A Amarillo en route to earning a nomination for the All-Star Game. Castillo started his professional career with the Cleveland Indians, spending six years with the Tribe until being selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the minor league portion of the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. After being released by the Jays, he was picked up by San Diego and assigned to Amarillo.
As soon as he arrived, Castillo has been on fire at the plate, hitting an impressive .344/.373/.505 at the plate with a WRC+ of 136. A versatile infielder, Castillo can play any position in the field but has mostly played second base and shortstop this season, only committing two errors in 235 innings in the infield. The Dominican infielder is quick on the basepaths as he has collected seven stolen bases in 10 chances.
However, Castillo has seen his walk rate drop this year (4.5 percent) while his strikeout rate has jumped from 12.2 percent in 2018 to 15.3 percent in 2019. Castillo carries a BABIP of .391, which is a sign that some regression will be on the way, but if he continues to hit the way he has at a higher level, Castillo may have a comfortable position as a versatile utility infielder with a good bat and speed at the big league level.
Efrain Contreras (RHP, Fort Wayne TinCaps)
Contreras is a 19-year-old right-hander that is oozing with potential. One of nine 19-year-olds on Fort Wayne’s roster, Contreras was signed out of Mexico in 2017 and spent a majority of his time in 2018 with the Arizona Rookie League Padres. After a quick six inning cameo at Tri-City at the end of the year, Contreras was aggressively promoted to the Low-A TinCaps and has thrived in his new location. In 12 starts, Contreras has a 3-3 record, a 3.47 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 57 innings.
Contreras has a physically strong frame for a 5-foot-10, 19-year-old pitcher while possessing a mid-90’s fastball with an above-average changeup. His curveball also has the potential to be plus as he continues to fine-tune the pitch in the minors.
Advanced metrics back up the young righty as well. Contreras carries a 3.25 FIP and a 3.28 xFIP on the season. He carries a 64:13 K/BB ratio, which has lead to a 10.11 K/9 and a walk percentage of 2.05. Contreras has the physical stuff as well as the analytical numbers to back up his performance at Fort Wayne, but he is still very young and will get plenty of time to develop in the minors.
Taylor Kohlwey (OF, Amarillo Sod Poodles)
Kohlwey was called up to the Sod Poodles after a scorching start at Lake Elsinore where he hit .387/.444/.532 in 62 at-bats. Since the call-up, Kohlwey has slowed down a bit with a .256/.350/.389 batting line while hitting at the top of the lineup. The 24-year-old was selected in the 21st round of the 2016 MLB Draft and has slowly climbed up the ranks of the Padres minor league system throughout the years. While the 6-foot-3 outfielder doesn’t have any tools that’ll pop out to one’s eye, he does all the little parts right.
Kohlwey seems to be locked into a corner outfield spot or first base at the time being. His walk rate has continued to climb up as he ages, with a 9.6 percent walk rate in 2019, but his strikeout rate has remained pretty high at 21.2 percent, but that number is slightly lower than in 2018. If Kohlwey can hit at Hodgetown the way he hit at Lake Elsinore, Kohlwey could become a solid fourth outfielder for the Padres when he fully develops.
Steven Wilson (RHP, El Paso Chihuahuas)
Lake Elsinore has had a solid bullpen this year as both Elliot Ashbeck and Evan Miller closed down many a ballgame. However, there is another name that has been severely underlooked who, until recently, was pitching lights-out relief for the Storm. Recently called up to Triple-A El Paso is Steven Wilson, who pitched 29 innings of 0.93 ERA ball. Wilson mostly served as a bridge to Miller in the bullpen but found himself in El Paso after a call-up.
And for good measure. Wilson was absolutely dealing at Lake Elsinore. The eighth round pick in 2018 collected a 43:4 K/BB ratio and only gave up three runs in total. A FIP of 2.05 and xFIP of 2.25, while not as good as his ERA, still reflect how dominant Wilson has been. While he was slowed down slightly by a 10-game suspension for a foreign substance on his glove, it didn’t stop him in Lake Elsinore.
How he survives in the hitter’s paradise of the Pacific Coast League is all dependent on how he pitches, and whether it is a permanent stay or just a cameo appearance is to be determined, but should he continue to pitch like he has this season, a job in the San Diego bullpen is Wilson’s for the taking.