The San Diego Padres have arguably the best farm system in all of baseball. The elite prospects are heavy at the top but trickle down, giving them some great depth in the organization.
We had the opportunity to see a few this season, while others are on the cusp of their debut. Let’s take a look at a few things we learned from the Padres system.
Injuries are no fun
Fernando Tatis, Jr. made his Double-A debut at the ripe old age of 19 and quickly showed he was amongst the cream of the crop in the minor leagues. By July he was slashing .286/.355/.507 showing a nice blend of contact ability, power, and speed, with 22 doubles, four triples, 16 home runs, and 16 stolen bases. Unfortunately, that’s where the season ends. It seemed that Tatis, Jr. was on his way to an MLB debut in September, but if the thumb surgery heals, there’s little reason to not expect him in the bigs at some point in 2019.
Luis Urias, long one of the more impressive hitting prospects in the minors, well, we finally got our first glimpse of major league Urias. It was short lived, however, as Urias was shut down 12 games into his MLB career with a hamstring injury. Urias got off to a slow start in 2018, but exploded in the the second half looking much more like the contact-minded hitter he was. He should be ready to roll in 2019 and not look back.
Plenty of pitching to go around
There is plenty of intrigue amongst the Padres pitching prospects. Names like Mackenzie Gore, Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, and Logan Allen have long been on the radar, but 2018 brought new star power to the forefront.
Chris Paddack broke out in a big way. The 6’4”, 22-year-old righty led the minors in FIP in 2018. He can work the strike zone very well with a three-pitch arsenal and posted a lower FIP than ERA in the California League, an accomplishment in itself. He was even stronger once promoted to Double-A posting a 0.72 WHIP as he didn’t allow many base runners. His final numbers from 2018 sparkled: 2.10 ERA, 1.94 FIP, 0.82 WHIP and 120:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 90 innings pitched. Now healthy, he could make a quick rise to San Diego next year.
Jacob Nix also looked much improved in the minors in 2018, though it didn’t translate at the big league level. He’ll never be a big strikeout guy, but he’s walked just 55 batters in 278 career minor league innings. Luis Patino is also now officially on the radar. While the 18-year-old is way down the ladder, he showed an uncanny ability to control the strike zone, striking out 10.58 per nine while walking just 2.59 per nine. Throw in the fact that we may finally see Anderson Espinoza throw a pitch in what seems like an eternity, and the future is bright on the bump for sure.
It’s Francisco Mejia time now... or never?
The Padres got even more top heavy when they acquired the star catching (we think) prospect at the deadline for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. He made his Padres debut with a bang, launching two home runs in his first start in a Friars uniform. It went down pretty quickly from there.
Mejia has been up and down, and behind the plate and in the field. He has rare switch-hitting hit tool for a catcher, and we know that it played well in the minors as the list of accolades, including the 2017 Eastern League Rookie of the Year, speaks to that. The Padres seem prepared to keep him at catcher, something the Indians didn’t seem to have any intentions of doing. That said, the Indians tinkering with him at other positions showed they believed in his bat as well, and tried as hard as they could to get that bat in the lineup.
Mishandled or not, Mejia has a new future. He’s only 22, but it seems like we’re at the point where we are all ready to see if he is a big league catcher or not. This coming season should show that.
Third baseman Hudson Potts continues to show the power is a fun tool to watch with him. He showed a better all around ability to hit in the California League (as many a prospect has before him) roping 35 doubles, 17 home runs, and an .847 OPS. He fell off in his first taste of Double-A and is out to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League, but don’t be surprised if he gets some big league licks in 2019.
Josh Naylor had the best overall season of his career. He felt like a prospect many had begun to give up on, but he had a nice overall 2018 in Double-A. Overall, he slashed .297/.383/.447 with 22 doubles and a career best 17 home runs. No longer seen as a first baseman, he does have corner outfield potential, especially when he draws walks and limits swings and misses as he does.
What to make of Buddy Reed? Reed lit the world on fire in 79 California League games, but fell off the map in 43 games in San Antonio. He has a nice blend of speed and pop and continuing to trend upward in 2019 would be huge for the Padres outfield future.