2. Chris Paddack (RHP)
Another prospect that the Padres acquired early on his professional career, Paddack came over from Miami in exchange for Fernando Rodney. However, after throwing just fourteen innings with Fort Wayne in 2016, Paddack required Tommy John surgery which has often been a career ender to prized pitching prospects.
Paddack recovered from surgery and came back this season, splitting time between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. He blew the baseball world away and made a thunderous return to his top prospect status as he struck out 120 batters against just six walks in 90 innings between the two levels (one of those walks was intentional). In just under 180 professional innings he has an ERA of 1.82 and much of his success can be attributed to his devastating fastball and changeup pairing.
Paddack’s absolute dominance in 2018 has rocketed him through prospect rankings and he looks to start this season in Triple-A. If that command can continue in El Paso, it shouldn’t be very long before we see him pitching in Petco Park and he should be getting plenty of opportunities against major league talent this season. At a time when starting pitching appears to be the most glaring weakness on the Padres projected opening day roster, having someone like Paddack waiting just around the corner shows that San Diego is on the verge of something great.
1. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS)
Who else could have taken the top spot? The arrival of the number two prospect in all of baseball has been long awaited by Padres fans. For years now, the team has watched a rotating cast of aging, veteran shortstops take their turn at a premium defensive position for the Padres and, in return, have been given some very bad results. The Padres should see some consistently solid play on both sides of the ball at shortstop and, when partnered with Eric Hosmer, Urías, and the newly acquired Manny Machado, at third the Padres look to have one of the best infields in baseball by the end of 2019.
When the Padres first acquired Tatís from the White Sox for James Shields, he had yet to take a professional at-bat but since then he’s been nothing short of unbelievable. Through three seasons he has a .280/.358/.487 slash line and has delivered countless defensive highlights as well as some eye-opening offensive performances including a record-setting 21 home runs for Fort Wayne in 2017. His production has led to him rocketing his way through the Padres system including a promotion from Fort Wayne straight to San Antonio, skipping over Lake Elsinore entirely.
Going into spring training, Tatís will be competing for the shortstop job but regardless of his production this spring it’s far more likely that he goes to El Paso for at least the first twelve days of the season to not lose a full year of control over the potential superstar. At 6’3″ and 185 lbs, Tatís is a bit larger than the prototypical shortstop and there has been some speculation from outside the organization that he may eventually make the move to third. Tatís has repeatedly said that he’s committed to doing what it takes to stay at short and the Padres backed his commitment by signing Machado to a decade long deal to be the third baseman. Baseball is also in an age when shortstops are starting to get bigger and hit for more power and it’s no longer a position for stringy, glove-first slap hitters.
Tatís is just the latest in an evolving shortstop class that includes players like Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Didi Gregorius. Whenever he does end up taking his first at-bat in a Padres uniform, you can be sure that Padres fans around the world will have their eyes glued to the television if they’re lucky enough to be there in person.
This is just the most recent wave of top Padres prospects expected to arrive and doesn’t include players like Cal Quantrill and Austin Allen, who may also be making their MLB debuts this season. For the foreseeable future, the Padres are expected to have some of the top talents in baseball crashing in waves on the shores of San Diego and, in the coming seasons, players like Xavier Edwards, Anderson Espinoza, and Luis Patiño may find themselves on this list.