Austin Allen– C, High-A, Lake Elsinore Storm
121 games, 516 plate appearances, .283/.353/.497, 127 wRC+
In 121 games played in Lake Elsinore in 2017, catcher Austin Allen did little to disprove the notion that he is the opposite of Austin Hedges. A bat-first player with a still developing glove behind the plate, Allen continued to mash in 2017. After a successful offensive season spent mostly in Fort Wayne in 2016, Allen changed his offensive profile this year.
Despite seeing a slight decline in his batting average and on-base percentage, Allen saw a pretty significant jump in his slugging percentage. Although his wRC+ took a slight hit from last season, his ISO jump from .105 to .214 was a welcome improvement. On top of that, Allen improved behind the plate, although he threw out about the same number of baserunners at just shy of 21 percent. There is still a lot of work to do for Allen to prove he won’t need to move off of the catcher position, but if he continues to hit like he did in 2017, he could hit enough to be a first baseman.
Brad Zunica– 1B, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
84 games, 330 plate appearances, .250/.361/.504, 142 wRC+
Following a season in which he put up a 105 wRC+ in over 400 at bats in Low-A Fort Wayne, first baseman Brad Zunica repeated the level in 2017 to a great degree of success. He saw increases in his offensive profile across the board, as his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage all saw significant jumps. He also hit more home runs in 26 fewer games, and more than doubled his walk rate while cutting his strikeout rate by nearly six percentage points.
It’s clear Zunica lacks the profile of Josh Naylor, who is younger and already playing in Double-A, but Zunica showed a lot of consistent improvement during the 2017 season. Going forward, the strikeouts are still a concern, but Zunica has shown enough power to still make him an intriguing prospect going forward.
Esteury Ruiz– 2B, Rookie League, AZL Padres
31 games, 134 plate appearances, .300/.364/.475, 127 wRC+
Considering this is a list of the best prospects from the Padres’ season, I thought it wouldn’t be fair if I included Esteury Ruiz‘ numbers from when he was on the AZL Royals. If you throw in his numbers with the Royals, Ruiz slashed .350/.395/.602 for the season with a 162 wRC+. His numbers with the Padres’ AZL team weren’t nearly as impressive as those overall numbers, but Ruiz was still a very productive hitter in his time in the Padres’ system. It’s going to be quite a few years before we find out if Ruiz will really pay off as a major contributor, but his offensive profile has all the makings of a big leaguer. If Ruiz can add some more size, and thus more power, he could be a truly dangerous offensive threat up the middle.
Hudson Potts– 3B, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
125 games, 522 plate appearances, .253/.293/.438, 103 wRC+
In what was a tale of two seasons, Hudson Potts had one of the more interesting years of any Padres’ prospect. I have talked at length about Potts’ season in the past, but it deserves some more love here. In the first half of the season, Potts looked lost, slashing .226/.259/.360. However, in the second half, Potts made great strides in his offense, slashing .278/.325/.512 with 14 home runs compared to just six in the first half. Potts still had a bit of a strikeout problem throughout the season, but the power spike was a welcome addition to Potts’ offensive profile. With a solid glove, and now some power in his bat, Potts now profiles as a potential option at third base long term in San Diego.
Fernando Tatis Jr.- SS, Double-A, San Antonio Missions
131 games, 575 plate appearances, .278/.379/.498, 145 wRC+
I have run out of superlatives to describe the season that Fernando Tatis Jr. had. We have already discussed Tatis at length here at EVT, but it bears repeating given just how great Tatis was in 2017. I will be the first to admit I was wrong when I said that I would have Luis Urias as my number one prospect for the Padres over Tatis. Right after I made that claim on a mid-season podcast, Tatis continued to tear apart the Midwest League before finding his way to the Texas League as an 18-year-old. You can’t take anything away from Urias, but Tatis had a season to remember in both Fort Wayne and in his late-season taste of San Antonio. Tatis improved at the plate in almost every month of the season, all while maintaining a great glove in the field. He may not be a superstar in the big leagues yet, but he is the closest thing the Padres have at this point.
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