San Diego Padres Top 30 Prospects

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An extensive look at the San Diego Padres top-30 prospects.

There is absolutely no doubt that the San Diego Padres are currently living in the best time of the organization’s history in terms of prospects. There are dozens upon dozens of players within the system, who will eventually be Major Leaguers.

If you are a fan of the team- rejoice. The Padres have a seemingly bright future.

A highly-regarded system is not a guarantee of success, but it is a step in the correct direction — Especially for a franchise that has been mostly neglected throughout its existence.

In culminating this list, many components are considered. Players, professional evaluators, and scouts’ opinions are all factored in developing this top 30 list. It is truly a tedious task.

You can argue about the names that did not make this post as the Padres have many on the cusp of prospect relevancy.

Let’s take a look at the list, featuring a few key quotes from the experts as well as the players who take the field with these men.

30- Anderson Espinoza- RHP 03/09/1998
Acquired: Trade with Boston 07/14/2016
Highest Level: Single-A Fort Wayne
2019 Stas: (Injured)

A second Tommy John surgery in less than 21 months has many questioning the future of this talented right-handed pitcher. Espinoza possesses lightning-quick arm speed and two plus breaking pitches, but has never pitched higher than low A-Ball. The positives are that he will still be 22 years old when returning (hopefully) at some point during the 2020 season. There are significant concerns with Espinoza as he is not a massive pitcher in terms of size. Some feel a bullpen role is in the future for this hurler once he returns to action. His fastball velocity is in the upper 90s, and he has relatively smooth mechanics.

Credit: MiLB

There are very few pitchers who have enjoyed successful careers after two Tommy John surgeries. Health will always be a concern moving forward with this pitcher, but he should have enough drive and motivation to be a reliable pitcher at the highest levels. Espinoza is very passionate about the game of baseball and wants to be successful. Hopefully, the injury issues will be a thing of the past for this talented right-hander.

Quotes from a teammate:

Brad Zunica: (1B) “It takes a special person to be able to go through what he has. Speaks volumes to who he is as a person, not to mention he has electric stuff when he is healthy.”

Jacob Nix: (RHP) “Espy is a great guy, great teammate. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with him in the last few years in rehab. He’s been dealt some tough cards the last few years, but he does a great job of keeping his head up and putting the work in. I remember in Fort Wayne one game, in particular, he was 95-99, and it was some of the easiest pure stuff I’ve ever seen.”

An experts evaluation:

Wilson Karaman: (Baseball Prospectus) “He hasn’t thrown a pitch since we named him a top-25 prospect in baseball on our 2017 list. Whatever he is whenever he shows back up is what he is, and we’ll all go from there.”

29- Omar CruzLHP 01/26/1999
Acquired: 2017 International F/A

Highest Level: Single-A Fort Wayne
2019 Stats: (2-3) 2.73 ERA/1.16 WHIP  56 IP/76 K

Signed in 2017 out of Mexico, Cruz is steadily climbing the ranks of the Padres’ farm system. The left-handed pitcher is not blessed with great size, but he gets a lot out of his six-foot frame. Right-handers (.228) hit worse off of him in 2019 than lefties (.250) as he has an outstanding curve that dives out of the zone. He will need to refine his changeup to add to his arsenal.

Credit: TinCaps

Omar Cruz is consistent and does nothing flashy. The southpaw gets the ball and throws it for strikes and is reliable at a very young age. That in itself deserves a lot of recognition. In almost 100 innings pitched at the minor league level, Cruz has allowed only one single home run. He will struggle at times in the upper minors, but the Padres have the confidence that he will rebound and use the tough times as a building block for development. There is a high baseball IQ from him as he knows how to pitch.

Quotes from a teammate:

Michael Curry: (OF)  “He is a good kid. He works fast and throws strikes. He is a guy you can always rely on. He will keep you in the ballgame. He is very uplifting.”

Lee Solomon: (INF) “It has been fun watching Omar develop. You can see the flashes and how he is able to get the swing and misses. Not to mention, he is a great clubhouse guy, like one of my favorite teammates in the last two years.”

Blake Hunt: (C) “Cruz is another favorite of mine to catch for countless reasons. He commands the ball well throughout the zone with plus secondary pitches. It’s easy to tell when you watch him pitch that he handles adversity in stride and has unlimited amounts of confidence. One of the best curveballs I’ve been able to catch.”

An experts evaluation:

Kyle Glaser: (Baseball America) “He’s got that “invisi-ball” fastball he just throws by hitters even though it’s 89-91. He can spin a curveball. There’s a nice foundation; he’s just a very young kid with strength and velocity gains that need to be made. It’ll take time.”

28- Osvaldo Hernandez–  LHP  05/15/1998
Acquired: 2016 International F/A

Highest Level: Single-A Lake Elsinore
2019 Stats: (0-2) 3.38 ERA/1.179 WHIP  37.1 IP/ 28 K

Hernandez was expected to help anchor the Lake Elsinore Storm’s rotation to begin 2019, but he was unable to answer the bell. The lefty made it to the Cal League eventually, showing a plus pitch mix. Hernandez also pitched for the Javelinas this fall. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down, and that usually results in good things. The lefty can keep hitters off-balance, where he shows an improved changeup. There are no issues with his pitch mix, as Hernandez has a strong ability to utilize all his pitches.

Credit: Jerry Espinoza

He is not a man with great size, so there are some concerns about his longterm durability. Hernandez will need to stay healthy to sustain himself on top of this list. There are just too many young arms in the mix behind him. He could be a factor in the bullpen eventually if he is unable to progress in the rotation.

Quotes from a teammate:

Joey Cantillo: (LHP) “Commands and purely pitches as good as anyone I have ever seen.”

Lee Solomon: (INF) ” A really funny guy. I like him very much.”

An experts evaluation:

Jeff Paternostro: (Baseball Prospectus) “The velocity has dipped a bit since he signed, topping out at 90 by the end of the year, He’s a short lefty and has gotten stockier, so I don’t know if it’s coming back. But he’s a lefty with a feel for four pitches. That is absolutely not going to stand out at all in a system this deep, but there’s a shot for a sixth starter/swingman type.”

27- Jorge Oña– OF 12/31/1996
Acquired: 2016 International F/A

Highest Level: Double-A Amarillo
2019 Stats: .957 OPS (.348/.417/.539)  5 HR/18 RBIs  11 BB/26 K

There is a lot of power potential in Ona’s bat, and he began to unlock that in 2019. The stout right-handed hitter recorded a .539 slugging percentage last year in Amarillo in 25 games. The Cuban outfielder slugged five homers in 89 at-bats producing a .957 OPS. It all started to make sense for the young outfielder, but a shoulder injury sidelined him as he missed most of 2019. Not the best timing for the soon to be 23-year-old.

Credit: Sod Poodles

Ona is expected to be at full strength next season and should be able to continue his progression in his craft. He is built like a tank, though not blessed with a lot of height. The outfielder has defensive issues, and shoulder surgery could limit his arm strength. There is power in his bat, but he may never be a massive power threat at the Major League level. The Padres added him to their 40-man roster this month, and he should be very close to a major league debut.

Quotes from a teammate:

Brad Zunica: (1B) “Great guy who gets along with everyone. A beast in the batter’s box. Puts together great at-bats night in and night out.”

Blake Rogers: (RHP) “Sucks, he had his season cut short since his swing looked the best since I’ve played with him. The results showed it.”

An experts evaluation:

Jeff Paternostro: (Baseball Prospectus) “He might have been on the verge of a coming-out party as a national prospect—or at least in terms of standing out more in this system— before the shoulder injury. That clouds everything for the time being. The profile remains a tough one, given that it is corner outfield, and not an asset defensively even there, so Ona will really have to hit when he comes back.”

26- Jacob Nix RHP 01/09/1996
Acquired: 2015 Draft- Third Round

Highest Level: Major Leagues
2019 Stats: (1-3) 1.85 ERA/1.19 WHIP 24.1 IP/29 K (minors)

A sore elbow sidelined Nix early in the 2019 season, and that was frustrating for the young pitcher. Opting for platelet-rich plasma injections instead of Tommy John surgery, Nix rehabbed for most of 2019. In total, he made two starts in the minors and threw a little in the Arizona Fall League. An incident in Arizona with the law ended his season.

Credit: AP

The right-handed pitcher armed with a plus curve and a decent changeup is still considered a prospect. The slider will be scraped as that is the pitch that Nix believes injured his elbow. The 6-foot-4 pitcher does not have a high-velocity heater, but he does spot his 92-94 mph fastball effectively. If he can further refine his mechanics and develop a strikeout pitch, Nix could be a factor in the rotation for the Padres. If not, he has the moxie and personality to be a productive member of the bullpen. Nix is a character and well-liked by his teammates.

Quotes from a teammate:

Travis Radke: (LHP) “Definitely one of the best curveballs in the organization. Ther hardest player to play catch with, which says something about his movement and depth.”

Elliot Ashbeck: (RHP) “A very talented pitcher.”

An experts evaluation:

Wilson Karaman: (Baseball Prospectus) “Curve’s tighter/harder than it was, so maybe he can find some whiffs with it? I don’t know, the UCL and the…off-field unpleasantness…make him a real wonky player to project on, but he’s still big and only about-to-be-24, so there’s plenty of time for him to figure it out. Maybe he moves somewhere else this offseason? Seems like a change-of-scene kinda dude.”

25- Ismael Mena– OF  11/30/2002
Acquired: 2019 International F/A

Highest Level: Has yet to make debut
2019 Stats: Has yet to make debut

Signed for $2.2 million in July of 2019, Mena represents part of the future for the San Diego Padres. The left-handed-hitting outfielder draws a Gregory Polanco comp as he provides a rare combination of power and speed. The lanky Dominican is a 70-grade runner presently. The swing is pretty where he barrels balls up and drives them from gap to gap.

Credit: JDB

Mena just turned 17, and will likely not debut in the States until 2021. There are reports of a very high baseball IQ so that he could spend time in Arizona with the AZL Padres in 2020. The defense from Mena is exciting, as well. He projects as a centerfielder where he shows a plus arm and the range to cover the ground. There is potential here for a Gold Glove when it is all said and done. The 6-foot-3 outfielder could very easily get bigger, and that is a scary thought.

Quote from a teammate:

Ripken Reyes: (INF) “He threw me out from twice from leftfield to home so that should tell what type of arm strength and accuracy he has.”

An experts evaluation:

Jim Callis: (MLB Pipeline) “One of the best athletes and runners in the 2019 international class, Mena sounds very exciting. He has projectable power tool as well as a high baseball IQ. Jesse Sanchez heard comps to a young Gregory Polanco.”

24- Joshua Mears– OF  02/16/2001
Acquired: 2019 Draft- Second Round

Highest Level: AZL Padres
2019 Stats: .794 OPS (.253/.354/.440) 7 HR/24 RBIs  23 BB/59 K  9 SB

This 18-year-old is built like a tank. The 6-foot-3, 230 lbs outfielder is a home run threat from the right side of the plate. Mears displays light tower-type power that is fun to watch. There are some concerns about his hit tool, though it is not as bad as most reported initially. There are some moving parts to his swing that need to be refined as the strikeout numbers are a bit too high.

Credit: Tacoma News

Despite the large frame, Mears shows plus speed on the bases. There is work to be done with his defense, where he has issues reading the ball off the bat. He presently has average arm strength but has shown some ability to be a decent thrower in time. The big outfielder is very raw, and that is a term that will be used to describe him for the next few seasons. In a few years, he could be a top prospect in the system.

Quotes from a teammate:

Ripken Reyes: (INF) “An absolute beast. I am excited to see him play a full season because I think he can hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. He is that dangerous. The best part is he is an even better kid off the field.”

Taylor Lomack: (OF) “He can really swing it. He has a lot of power and is an awesome person to be around.”

An experts evaluation:

Jim Callis: (MLB Pipeline) “Mears’ value obviously is centered around his power, and his size and strength give him a lot of it. He’ll have to cut down on his strikeouts as he advances, but the good news is that he’s not the type of guy who has to sell out to hit home runs. He won’t be a Gold Glover but should be able to play an outfield corner.”

23- Tucupita Marcano– INF  09/16/1999
Acquired: International F/A

Highest Level: Single-A Fort Wayne

2019 Stats: .660 OPS  (.270/.323/.337)  2 HR/45 RBIs  35 BB/45 K  15 SB

Marcano signed for the bargain price of $320,000 during the 2016-17 spending spree by the Padres, which is far less than the club gave Luis Almanzar ($4 million). Not all highly touted prospects pan out in the international market, and you can always find sleepers as well. Marcano has very little power, but there is a lot to like about his ability to put the ball in play. He continues not to strike out and is improving his walk rate as well.

(Tucupita Marcano) Credit: AP Photo

The middle infielder is still only 20, so there is some thought he could develop into an average power threat when it is all said and done. The slender left-handed hitter has a quick swing and an ability to barrel up the baseball consistently. For the power to come, he will need to hit the weight room. He could remain at shortstop for the Padres where he shows decent footwork, but that remains to be seen. There are some arm strength concerns with Marcano, who might ultimately play second base at the higher levels of the minors.

Quotes from a teammate:

Joey Cantillo: (LHP) “Has amazing energy and heart for the game. I love having him behind me because of the way he plays the game.”

Lee Solomon: (INF) “Tucu is a real gamer. The kind of guy you want at the plate with the game on the line. He is so fun to watch. I love that kid.”

An experts evaluation: 

Lance Brozdowski: (AP sports and Baseball Prospectus) “Xavier Edwards and Marcano came into Fort Wayne to start 2019 with what I thought were intriguing and relatively similar skill sets. Edwards’ rise encouraged many so much the Marcano train took a back seat. He has the potential to be a future plus contact hitter with plus speed, but his power development caps the upside. Marcano sits at the top end of the second basemen Preller still has after shipping Urias to Milwaukee. I imagine his advanced pitch recognition makes him an oft-discussed trade chip. If he’s moved before hitting Double-A, I would not be surprised.”

22- Esteury Ruiz-INF  02/15/1999
Acquired: Trade with Royals 07/24/17

Highest Level: Single-A Lake Elsinore
2019 Stats: .657 OPS (.239/.300/.357)  6 HR/36 RBIs  26 BB/101 K  34 SB

After breaking out of sorts in 2017, Ruiz took another step back in 2019 for San Diego. The power-hitting infielder only managed six homers in the California League and slugged an abysmal .357 for the season. The Dominican battled core injuries throughout the year, and that clearly sapped his power at the plate. There is a lot to like about his ability, but he has had two down years in the Padres’ system. Some are concerned. He may need to rethink his approach at the plate.

(Esteury Ruiz) Credit: AP Photo

Bat speed is not an issue for the infielder as he generates plenty to provide a power potential. Minor plate discipline issues are concerning as he can get antsy on outside pitches and expand the zone. Ruiz stole 34 bases last year, where he shows explosive footspeed around the bags. Defensively, a lot of work needs to be done. Stiff hands and poor footwork lead most to wonder if he will be able to play the second base position at the highest levels. He is available in the 40-man draft but is a major project.

Quotes from a teammate:

Lee Solomon: (INF) “A great guy who has a real special bat.”

Olivier Basbae: (INF) “Is part of the fun group I like to play with. Will work hard each day to get better.”

An experts evaluation:

Lance Brozdowski: (AP sports and Baseball Prospectus) “Ruiz was well above the average player in the Midwest League during 2018. He consistently stole on pitchers not focused on checking runners, made contact with almost everything hard, and still posted a strikeout rate above 25%. He was valuable to the TinCaps in a league that suppresses offense, but his long-term value is capped due to his defensive deficiencies and poor strikeout-minus-walk rate. Maybe shifting and the ever-changing value of defense at second base can allow him to sit at the keystone, but his ultimate destination is in the outfield where he can use his speed. Ruiz is an offense-first utility man at best.”

21- Reggie Lawson– RHP  08/02/1997
Acquired: 2016 Draft- CBB
Highest Level: Double-A Amarillo
2019 Stats: (3-1) 5.20 ERA/1.40 WHIP  27.2 IP/36 K

Lawson elected not to undergo elbow surgery after going down early in the 2019 season with elbow troubles. The big pitcher rebounded late in the year and threw well in the Arizona Fall League to end his season. His velocity sits in the low to mid-90s typically, but he can ramp up when needed. The fastball plays, and his improved curveball and changeup are also making strides.


At 22, there is still plenty to be excited about when it comes to Lawson. Known for his work ethic, Lawson is a clubhouse favorite. The California native is very athletic and is only now beginning to get his legs underneath him. If the elbow troubles are a thing of the past, he has a very high ceiling and could be a factor for the Padres very soon.

Quotes from a teammate: 

Blake Rogers: (RHP) “Has one of the most dominant fastballs and his secondary stuff has really sharpened since the start of 2018. He is only going to get better.”

Jacob Nix: (RHP) “Busts his ass day in and day out and is a freak athlete.”

Elliot Ashbeck: (RHP) “On of the hardest workers I know. The Fall League was the best I have ever seen him throw.”

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An experts evaluation:

Jeff Paternostro: (Baseball Prospectus) “Another one who is difficult to eval given the elbow issue. He looked fine in the AFL, but I’ve always gotten strong reliever vibes due to the command issues, and durability concerns will only increase that likelihood. It could be power stuff with the fastball/curve let loose in short bursts, though.”

Kyle Glaser: (Baseball America) “It’s just about consistency and health with him. He looks the part; he flashes the stuff, now he needs to take the jump forward and be more consistent with his strike-throwing start to start. The elbow strain he needed a PRP injection bears watching as well.”


23 thoughts on “San Diego Padres Top 30 Prospects

  1. enjoyed this post… wish The Padre website had this kid of info on players. even mlb doesn’t give thorough analysis. very cool now the timing is a little late thanks to Preller tading…. so would love to see update and reaction of trade pieces plus thoughts on further moves and or speculation it is really exciting time for us PADRE lifers keep up the great work

  2. Long time Padres fan from Belgium over here. I was looking for a new website to get my Padres news fix from after Gaslamp Balk was gutted by the vox media overlords. This looks like a great website. Awesome read and an ideal way to get up to speed with the overflowing Padres minor league system.

    Thank you!

  3. Reading through this again, two guys im super excited for is campusano and cantillo! Definetly keeping an eye on them this year.

  4. Great analysis James. No less than 15 of these guys will start in MLB. I love this farm system. Really hope the MLB staff revamp is able to get the most out of them when they get to Petco, which has not happened ( see Hedges, Urias, Cordero, Renfroe).

  5. VERY good write up. Very helpful. Thank you for the time and effort, and the amazing depth of work. Did you have to make any adjustments with the trades (e.g. adding/subtracting) or were none of the players still considered prospects (e.g. AA; Urias; Grisham)?

    1. Still waiting for your empirical evidence that Preller has a reputation for cheating and has to overpay in trades (you’re not getting away).

      1. Ha ha ha…..if this is west coast Ryan then, wow, oh the irony when it comes to reputation!! Either way, don’t expect anyone to take you seriously. Your like that dude who walks into a room and ruins it for everyone, all while deeming himself to be the smartest and coolest guy ever. Yiiiiikes ?

        1. Throwing accusations at the GM and then jacknuggetly refusing to back them up like you have is a REALLY good way to get people to not take you seriously. Again, either provide proof or gtfo.

          Wrong you’re by the way.

          1. Dear AJ’s Mom/“Ryan”

            Reputation: “what somebody is known for”

            I am sorry to be the one to say this but your son is certainly known for cheating. No one else in MLB has officially been punished multiple times. Therefore he has a reputation for cheating. Sorry

            He also has a reputation for scouting international talent.

            And he has a reputation for getting taken in lopsided trades and signings, often in supremely stunning ways.

            So this explained by stunning incompetence, or he is weakened and compromised by his reputation, or both.

            I am sorry, but I hope he turns it around.

          2. Sorry mullethead but no matter how many times you repeat it, he has no reputation to be weakened and compromised by. I could just as easily say the Marlins are compromised for their reputation for cheating (Carter Capps, Chris Paddack)

      2. Wow, this is fun. Come here to read and comment, yet getting stocked, harassed, incessantly insulted, etc. And, no matter what answer is given, whatever truth, logic, and reason is displaying, receiving only nonsense and insulting responses. Nice.

        I answered you. Told you where to look. OTHERS answered you as well, and it is commonsense and perfectly logical that after getting caught and penalized, not once, but twice, for cheating, that a person would have a reputation for…………. cheating. Is there a world where multiple convictions for cheating gives a person a reputation for integrity? But, again, no amount of truth matters, only insults, harassing others, etc. At some point it becomes foolish to try to engage with this crude, oppositional-defiance-of-reality-and-common-decency act.

        How many times have you been kicked out of chat rooms and/or comment sections, or the like?

        1. You arrogant little infant. That is not proof. That is your inference of the trades. Inference isn’t proof. No matter how much you want it to be. By your logic I could say that the Red Sox and Marlins cheated us. Notice how all the Tommy John pitchers involved in the trades in question ended up in San Diego.

          If you try and lie about Preller and then crawl back into your little hole I will always drag you kicking and screaming out of that hole.

          How does it feel being so oblivious?

          1. We all appreciate your zeal to defend your son, Mrs Preller, but you continue to go way overboard. Maybe now is the time to stop enabling him and shielding him from the consequences of his actions.

          2. @LB stop using the same joke over and over again. It doesn’t work like the condom your dad used.

          3. Sorry Ma’am, you’ll have to do better. Do it for your son! Is that how you taught A.J. to act? Potty mouth much? Some moms will do anything for their kids, but this is crazy!!!

  6. Awesome content! It is amazing how many good prospects entered the Padre System in 2016 via the Draft, International and trades. Preller has been on fire with his drafts since 2016, gaining 2-3 very good players out of each. I also like that SS and OF he signed from International Free Agency this year. Preller is going to keep the Padre Farm stocked going forward even after the 25 man roster finally gets filled top to bottom with good players. When Preller took over the System wide talent level was very low, from the 25 man roster all the way to the DSL. There were a few decent prospects, but not enough to field a future WS Team. There are still a few weak spots on the 25 man roster but after 2020, those will be strengthened and by 2022, there will be intense competition to even make the 40 man roster. I can envision a day where Preller has multiple players stashed at AAA and AA who are in the 22 year old range (currently AJ pushes his 18-20 year olds very fast because the system was so empty at the upper levels. Those days are coming to an end), MLB ready and will be valuable as injury replacements or trade chips. Preller will repurpose his 25 man roster and upper Farm System players to restock the lower Padre levels and development more generations of elite prospects because he has put a dynamic player development system in place. People need to lay-off AJ about Myers and Hosmer’s contracts, everyone makes mistakes. At the time the vision was to build around the former rookie of the year (Myers) who had 30-30 potential, this was sound logical reasoning at the time. Regarding Hosmer, I think Fowler had a lot to do with this signing and the Padre inexperience with signing big FA contracts affected this deal.

  7. One of the best written articles I’ve read on EVT. I’m particularly impressed by the quotes from the players — that must have taken a lot of hard work to put together. Thanks for doing all this Mr. Clark! Since 2016, I’ve learned a great deal about the Padres farm system because of your articles and podcasts. Please keep it up!

    1. Thank you so much for the comments. I really appreciate it. Just trying to keep everyone updated on this team and its farm system.

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