On Saturday, MLB Pipeline unveiled their top 100 MLB Prospects, and the San Diego Padres have six players in the Top 50. These players were Adrian Morejon (number 50), Michel Baez (42), Cal Quantrill (40), Luis Urias (36), Mackenzie Gore (19), and Fernando Tatis (8), and with Anderson Espinoza coming in at number 89, the Padres have seven players listed in the Top 100. The Padres seven players on the list was second only to the Atlanta Braves, who had eight players, and were tied with the Chicago White Sox.
Starting off the list is Anderson Espinoza, who fell from number 72 to number 89 this year. The Padres acquired the 19-year-old hurler from the Boston Red Sox for Drew Pomeranz, but he wasn’t able to pitch due to elbow soreness hounding him throughout the year, which ultimately required Tommy John surgery, pushing his timetable to pitch to late 2018 at the earliest.
There is still reason to be excited for him, however. He throws a fastball with late movement that can touch triple digits and can sit at 94-97 mph. He has good secondary stuff as well, as he throws a sinking changeup that deceives hitters due to Espinoza’s arm action making it look like a fastball, while his curveball has potential to be good. He repeats his mechanics well, but the surgery will force him to build back his prospect stock. He is still young though, and could still make an impact once he is fully healthy.
Adrian Morejon jumped up 19 spots this year to slide into the top 50. The 18-year-old left-hander was signed out of Cuba for $11 million and was slated at number six on MLB Pipeline’s top 10 left-handed prospects, and there is a reason people are excited for the young man. After impressing at short season Tri-City, Morejon was pushed up to Low-A Fort Wayne. While his numbers weren’t great there, he will most likely repeat there after an offseason of training and coaching.
Evaluators believe that Morejon could be a number one or two starter in a big league rotation. The young man will be turning 19 in February and will most likely begin the season back at Fort Wayne. With the aggressive nature of promoting prospects, however, Morejon could see himself donning a Lake Elsinore jersey by the end of the year if everything goes right.
Michael Baez leaped up the boards this year, jumping up 52 spots from his previous ranking of 94. The now 22-year-old Cuban righty is a behemoth on the mound at 6’8 and 220 lbs. Baez dominated Fort Wayne with his bear-like frame on the mound. San Diego made a great investment in him, spending $3 million to acquire his services during their 2016 spending spree.
Baez will pitch from a three-quarter arm slot and his size enables him to easily sit in the upper 90’s with his fastball, which is complimented by a biting slider that fits in well with the fastball, and his changeup, while developing, has the potential to be a plus pitch. He will have to learn to consistently repeat his pitching mechanics thanks to his size, but with the pinpoint control (8 walks to 82 strikeouts) and sheer velocity, Baez has the stuff to fit in the rotation. Expect to see him at Lake Elsinore.
Two spots above him is fellow right-hander Cal Quantrill, a 22-year-old pitcher whom the Padres selected eighth overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. Quantrill found himself at Double-A San Antonio after impressing in his professional debut, even representing the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game.
Quantrill is a natural competitor and shows it on the mound. Quantrill throws a fastball that will sit around 92-96 mph and compliments it with a changeup that some scouts consider to be one the best in the minors. He also has a slider that is inconsistent, but can get the job done, and his curveball is improving. He spots all of his pitches well and has also been invited to spring training. While it is highly unlikely that he will make the big league club out of spring training, Quantrill will most likely start at either San Antonio or Triple-A El Paso, with a potential big-league call-up if everything goes right.
Luis Urias is next up on the list at number 36. The 20-year-old infielder was signed out of Mexico in 2013, and has done nothing but hit at every level he has played at. He was an All-Star at San Antonio and turned in a brilliant performance at the Arizona Fall League. Another player invited to major league spring training, he is knocking on the door for a major league job.
What stands out the most about Urias is his approach to hitting. He combines an excellent knowledge of the strike zone with an eagle eye at the plate that helps him recognize pitches with ease. This earned him the Texas League’s highest on-base percentage (.398) and got him more walks (68) than strikeouts (65). His compact swing lets him spray the ball around the field, and his underrated power may not get him a lot of home runs, but will net him plenty of extra base hits.
He is no slouch on defense as well, as scouts raved about his glove at second base while he impressed many with his work at shortstop. He offers more upside at second base, but he will be able to handle shortstop in short bursts. He will most likely start the season at El Paso and could earn a call-up to the big league club by mid-season.
Mackenzie Gore has been one of the most hyped up prospects in a very long time, and it’s not hard to see why. To say the 18-year-old North Carolina native dominated high school competition would be an understatement, and the Padres were giddy with excitement to pick him third overall in the 2017 MLB Draft and signed him to a $6.7 million deal.
Gore can throw his fastball at around 92-95 mph that will only get faster as he ages. Opposing batters will have to pick their poison when it comes to his secondary stuff, as he can strike batters out with a mid-70’s curveball that falls off the table, or they can go down via a hard slider that sits in the low-80’s, while his tumbling changeup will fool batters sitting on a fastball. Gore’s delivery includes a big leg kick that gets good extension toward the plate and causes good deception to batters on either side of the plate. He has a swagger on the mound that feeds into his competitive nature and he will most likely start at Fort Wayne, but don’t be surprised to see him blitzkrieg his way through the minors.
The highest ranking is owned by Fernando Tatis Jr at number eight, who was acquired from the White Sox in the James Shields trade in what is looking more and more like highway robbery committed by general manager A.J. Preller. Tatis handled the Midway League with ease and bypassed High-A completely in favor of Double-A San Antonio.
Tatis is truly a special player. He has the bat speed and hitting ability to become a force and shows maturity that defies his age. This maturity came in handy when making adjustments to his swing and plate approach early in the season, and these adjustments helped him pick up 75 walks and a .390 OBP at Fort Wayne. The power will play at any level and he combines that with speed and baserunning smarts, hitting 21 home runs and stealing 29 bases at Fort Wayne.
Tatis is a solid defender at shortstop, but at 6’3” at the age of 19, he is only going to get taller. A move to third base is possible, but the Padres are sure to give him a starting nod at the shortstop position when he comes to the big leagues. He will start at Double-A, but a September call-up could be in the making if he takes the next step in his development.
The Padres clearly have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and all of it can be chalked up to A.J. Preller and his team of scouts identifying and acquiring talent. Preller desires to bring “waves of talent” to the major league club, and it can already be seen in the progress. MLB.com prospect guru Jonathan Mayo praised the team, saying that “The Padres didn’t have the most guys in the Top 100…but six of their seven were in the top 50, which bodes very well for their future” while also adding on that he “could easily see them being No. 1 when all is said and done.”
The Padres have one of the top farm systems in all of baseball, and the fruits of Preller’s labor will soon be harvested into quality major league baseball players as well as quality baseball that hasn’t been seen for many years.