The San Diego Padres Top-10 prospects

Credit: USA TODAY/Charles Curtis

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(Jackson Merrill) Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the San Diego Padres top-10 prospects in the system. 

Once again, the San Diego Padres possess one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.

Here is a look at the team’s top-10 prospects.


#10- Jairo Iriarte RHP- (22-years-old) 2023 totals-  3.49 ERA/1.284 WHIP – 90.1 IP- 128 K/45 BB

This Venezuelan native is hoping to break into the major leagues fairly soon. He features an impressive repertoire and the ability to strike out a batter. His fastball and slider combination is one of the best in the system, but Iriarte is prone to wild spells. His command and control need refinement, and that is the only thing limiting his ability to pitch in the majors. He walked 45 batters in just over 90 innings, translating to a walk every other inning pitched. That needs to improve.

This right-handed pitcher also has some work to do with his change-up, which is presently below average. If he wants to pitch at the major league level effectively, he will need to find a third selection and totally refine his mechanics and such. There is plenty of upside with Iriarte, who made it to the Double-A level last season. He will need to work hard to make it to the Padres in 2024, but that is not out of the question. He will get a decent look in Peoria in the following weeks as the major league coaching staff makes some adjustments to his mechanics.

ETA- 2024 is possible, but a 2025 debut seems more likely


#9- Graham Pauley  INF/OF- (23-years-old) 2023 totals- .308/.393/.539  .931 OPS- 23 HR/94 RBIs  22 steals

Pauley can play second base, third base, and corner outfield. The left-handed swinger broke out in 2023, producing a .931 OPS for three different teams in the system. The Padres selected Pauley in the 13th round of the 2022 MLB Draft out of Duke University. His first full year of professional baseball was a success, and many expect the versatile player to take his game to the next level in 2024. There is power to his swing indicative of the 23 long balls he achieved this past year in the minors.

(Graham Pauley) Credit: Missions

Pauley generally puts the ball in play and has excellent instincts on the basepaths. The infielder/outfielder only played in 20 games at the Double-A level and is probably too inexperienced to break camp with the team. However, the Padres promote young players pretty aggressively, and Pauley is an older prospect. Any type of positive start to his season could result in a promotion to San Diego. He is another young player who will be in camp this spring and could earn a job. Anything can happen, especially when you factor in his position flexibility and the needs of the Padres at the major league level.

ETA- He should debut at some point in 2024


#8- Samuel Zavala OF- (19-years-old) 2023 totals- .243/.391/.406  .797 OPS- 14 HR/77 RBIs  21 steals

This young hitter shows a great eye at the plate and a thirst for the game. Sammy Zavala is a ball player. You can sense he loves the game and is hungry. In 2023, he played solely at the Single-A level. Given his age, he may begin the 2024 season in Fort Wayne, but he is capable of playing in San Antonio at some point this coming year. Zavala is a plus defender with the ability to play centerfield if needed. The left-handed swing is pretty, and there is some real upside with this young Venezuelan outfielder.

This winter, Zavala added some muscle in order to maximize his power potential. It would not be shocking to see him eclipse 20 homers on the season. If he can maintain his current speed ability and combine that with added power, he will be a valuable corner outfielder moving forward. The Padres will allow Zavala to grow in the minors, and there is no need to rush him to San Diego. He already shows a plus eye at the plate and an understanding of the strike zone. The team will hope his offensive tools improve with more seasoning.

ETA- 2025 at the earliest. But he is close. 


#7- Jakob Marsee  OF- (22-years-old) 2023 totals-  .274/.413/.428  .840 OPS-  16 HR/46 RBIs  46 steals

This left-handed hitting centerfielder had an excellent 2023 season and burst onto the top prospect’s radar. Marsee was awarded the Arizona Fall League MVP, producing a 1.215 OPS in 24 games this winter. Marsee has excellent speed, as he stole 14 bags in those 24 games with the Javelinas. In total, he swiped 46 bags between Fort Wayne and San Antonio during the regular season in 2023. Marsee is also showing power, as he slugged 16 homers this past season.

(Jakob Marsee) Credit: MiLB

The glove plays well in center field, where he gets excellent reads and jumps on flyballs. The young outfielder does not have a plus arm but gets great leverage on his throws. He could arguably already play center at the major league level now. The 22-year-old is progressing with his swing, and Marsee shows a terrific eye at the plate. He walked 98 times in 2023 in 568 plate appearances. The lefty gets on base, can play defense, and has excellent speed. He could very well be the centerfielder of the future for the Padres.

ETA- There is a strong chance Marsee sees action in 2024 for the Padres


#6- Leodalis De Vries  INF- (17-years-old) 2024 will be his professional debut

The No. 1 international prospect from the 2024 class, De Vries, was a huge addition for the Padres. A.J. Preller and the Padres cored again as this young infielder comes with a huge amount of hype. The switch-hitter will begin the 2024 season in the DSL and should make his way to Arizona at some point in 2024 and play for the AZL Padres. There is a small chance De Vries will show up in Lake Elsinore at some point in 2024, but it will a lot for that to happen.

His swing is fluid from both sides of the plate, and he shows really good power. He displays excellent plate discipline and is an excellent runner. De Vries is a five-tool talent with the defensive game to stick at shortstop moving forward. The Pares are surely anxious to see him perform in professional baseball. There is a tremendous upside with him, but at the same time, there is some uncertainty. The 2024 season will give us an excellent chance to evaluate this prospect moving forward and gauge his overall ability. He has a chance to be something special.

ETA- Given his age and lack of experience, 2026 seems like the earliest we will see him at Petco Park. 


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#5- Drew Thorpe  RHP- (23-years-old) 2023 totals- 2.52 ERA/0.983 WHIP-  139.1- 182 K/38 BB

Acquired from the Yankees in the Juan Soto deal, some argue that Thorpe was the best player obtained. The prospect is nearly major league-ready and should be given an opportunity in 2024 to compete for a starting job in the spring. Thorpe has an excellent change, which is considered his best pitch. He gets plenty of swings and misses on the pitch. Despite the fact his fastball sits in the low 90s, he spots the pitch well and utilizes it well in his change-up. He pounds the zone, and that is a great thing.

(Drew Thorpe) Credit: MiLB

The Padres expect Thorpe to continue to progress as he is in camp with the major leaguers this spring. A third pitch will be important in the development of Drew Thorpe. He is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, as his curve-slider is a work in progress. The thought is that Thorpe can still be effective at the higher level because his change-up is so deceptive. He shows excellent control and could be effective in a high-leverage situation out of the bullpen if starting does not work out.

ETA- 2024 seems very realistic for this young pitcher. 


#4- Dylan Lesko  RHP- (20-years-old) 2023 totals- 5.45 ERA/1.545 WHIP-  33 IP-  52 K/22 BB

Injured during his senior season in high school, the Padres still selected Lesko with the 15th overall selection in 2022. Tommy John surgery forced the pitcher to miss the beginning of his professional career in 2023. His overall numbers were not impressive, but Lesko did show excellent arm strength once again, with a fastball sitting in the mid-90s with the ability to hit 97 or 98 mph. That was the most important thing about the 2023 season. Dylan Lesko showed his arm was back in shape.

Even though he hits the upper 90s with his heater, that is not his best pitch. His change-up is described as “Bugs Bunny-like” as it sits in the low 80s with excellent tilt. The right-handed pitcher gets constant ugly swings off the pitch, as hitters simply cannot recognize the pitch until it is too late. His curve is a plus pitch as well, and Lesko comes into 2024 with three above-average pitches. His health will be the hugest concern for the Padres moving forward. They will take their time with this pitcher, who has an ace-like upside. Of all the pitchers on this list, Lesko may have the most upside.

ETA- 2025 looks to be the earliest we will see this young pitcher. 


#3-Robby Snelling  LHP- (20-years-old) 2023 totals- 1.82 ERA/1119 WHIP-  103.2 IP-  118 K/34 BB

This left-handed pitcher has a very nice ceiling with the ability to be a front to mid-end starter in the majors for a long time. He is very athletic, and the former football star brings an intense mentality to the mound with him. Snelling mixes speed very effectively, where he constantly changes spin and shape on his breaking pitches. His fastball sits in the mid 90’s and he attacks hitters without fear. He strikes batters out effectively and generally attacks them with his assortment of pitches.

(Robby Snelling) Credit: MiLB

Last year, Snelling started the year in Lake Elsinore and made it all the way to San Antonio, where he recorded a 1.56 ERA in four starts at the Double-A level. There is a chance that he debuts in 2024 for the Padres. The team needs pitching, and Snelling continues to progress at a remarkable rate. He will be 20 years old for the whole 2024 season, so it would be an excellent accomplishment to debut this coming year. The lefty threw 103.2 innings pitched last season and the Padres would be wise not to allow him to exceed that total by much in 2024. That may be the biggest thing limiting him in 2024 at the major league level. He is really a polished pitcher with an excellent feel for the game.

ETA- 2024 seems possible, but he would have to force the Padres’ hand, given his age and lack of experience.


#2- Jackson Merrill  INF/OF- (20-years-old) 2023 totals- .277/.326/.444  .770 OPS  15 HR/64 RBIs  15 steals

This young shortstop was selected out of high school with the 27th overall selection in the 2021 MLB Draft. His left-handed swing is excellent as the young hitter uses the whole field with his approach. The power is improving as he ages and fills out. Once thought to be more of a contact hitter than a slugger, Merrill is showing the ability to go deep. His ground ball rate is down as Merrill simply put the ball in play in the air more in 2023. At the age of 20, there is a high upside to this 6-foot-3 infielder.

Defensively, Merrill is fluid and has a strong arm at shortstop. He is very athletic, and there are whispers that Merrill will see time this spring in the outfield for the Padres. He only got 187 at-bats at the Double-A level last season. but put up a respectable .782 OPS and showed his continued excellent feel for the bat. The Padres are not shy about promoting a prospect early in their career, and there is a strong possibility that Merrill will break into the majors at some point in 2024.

ETA- 2024. At some point, Merrill should debut with the Padres in 2024.


#1- Ethan Salas  C- (17-years-old)  2023 totals- .248/.331/.421  .752 OPS  9 HR/41 RBIs  5 steals

The No. 1 international prospect from the 2023 class, Salas looks to be on the fast track to stardom in the game. Blessed with a fluid swing and remarkable defensive abilities behind the plate, Ethan Salas will be a very solid player. The catching position is traditionally weak around the league, and the Padres have the very best of the prospect class. He does everything above average except for his foot speed, which is considered below average. But, as a catcher, speed is not a necessity in his game.

The left-handed swing is full of power potential as Salas barrels the ball consistently. The teenager put up a .837 OPS last season in Lake Elsinore and was quickly promoted to Fort Wayne and then San Antonio to close out the year. Salas struggled at the Double-A level with spin, and that is to be expected, given his age. His defensive game is close to being major league ready where he shows great receiving skills and the intangibles to thrive at the position. He is special. Padres fans will love the way he plays the game of baseball.

ETA- Perhaps late 2024, but 2025 seems more realistic.

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