On January 27th, 2018, MLB Network and MLB pipeline revealed their Top 100 MLB Prospects for the 2018 season.
The San Diego Padres were well represented, having seven prospects ranked in the top 100, second to only the Atlanta Braves. These prospects include Fernando Tatis Jr.(#8), Mackenzie Gore (#19), Cal Quantrill (#40), Luis Urias (#36), Michel Baez (#42), Adrian Morejon (#50), and Anderson Espinoza (#89).
A big surprise for this incredibly deep and talented farm system is that Anderson Espinoza, once a top pitching prospect, was still considered by the MLB.com crew to be a top 100 prospect. Most Padres fans have probably forgotten about Espinoza by now. Once considered an absolutely brilliant move by A.J. Preller in a trade for all-star Drew Pomeranz, Espinoza’s tenure in San Diego has been plagued by injuries and, some might say, disappointment. After recovering from a torn UCL that would require Tommy John Surgery, the 19-year-old right-hander sat out all of 2017 in order to make a full recovery.
There is no doubt, however, that Anderson Espinoza still has the talent to be the real deal.
The scouting report on the young Venezuelan is still quite impressive. He stands at 6’0” and weights in at about 190 pounds, thirty pounds more than what he was when the Padres acquired him. His mechanics are silky smooth, throwing from a ¾ arm slot that he can repeat consistently. This is important because young pitchers with advanced mechanics at a young age tend to improve these mechanics as they get older, often leading to throwing more strikes and being an overall more effective pitcher.
Espinoza’s arsenal consists of three pitches: fastball, changeup, and a curveball. His fastball is absolutely electric, having the potential to sit at 95+ MPH consistently, and with a good run to it. When healthy, scouts consider his changeup to be one of the best in the entire minor leagues. An incredibly deceptive pitch that is thrown the exact same way as his fastball, Espinoza’s changeup has great downward movement that leads to a ton of ground balls and strikeouts. His curveball is definitely not as advanced as both his fastball and changeup, and should be considered a “project” pitch for now.
The talent that Espinoza has overall as a pitcher, however, gives scouts reasons to believe that this curveball can develop into a strong third pitch. There is clearly no doubt that, when healthy, Anderson Espinoza has the stuff to be an extremely effective starting pitcher, but the most important thing for him right now will be to stay healthy. After suffering a significant arm injury at such a young age, precautions will need to be taken to ensure that Espinoza is fully healthy before he starts to hit the ground running again in order to avoid anymore arm injuries.
What the Anderson Espinoza ranking tells me is this: this dude is an incredibly talented baseball player. The fact that he has not played a game since 2016 and is still considered to be a top 100 prospect should scream to you that the talent is absolutely unreal. Many scouts do believe that Espinoza will bounce back from his Tommy John surgery well, but 2018 is going to be an absolutely crucial year for him. If he can get on a big league mound at one point, and prove that his arm is fully healthy and that his stuff is still there, Anderson Espinoza is surely going to turn some heads. On the contrary, if he continues to suffer from nagging arm injuries, Espinoza could be on his way to being a legitimate bust in the eyes of most.
Personally, I agree with MLB.com listing Espinoza as a top 100 prospect. I am extremely sold on the fact that, when healthy, he could potentially be the second best pitcher in the entire Padres’ farm system behind Mackenzie Gore. A guy who once had “ace of a pitching staff” written all over him comes into 2018 with a lot to prove if he can get back on the mound.