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|1. Anderson Espinoza, RHP|
|Born: 03/09/98||Age: 19||Bats: R||Top CALs: Andrew Bellati, Michael Feliz,
Julio Teheran, Zach McAllister, Jesus Tinoco
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 160||Throws: R|
Background: Ranked atop my list of The Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2016 in last year’s book, I couldn’t stop myself from gushing about the supremely talented right-hander, writing the following: “The actual numbers by themselves are mindboggling: 58.1 IP, 65 K, 14 BB, and a tidy 1.23 ERA. It’s obviously a small sample size, but the soon-to-be 18-year-old is just scratching the surface of his seemingly limitless potential. Remember. This. Name.” So how’d I do? Well enough to convince the Red Sox to swap the teenager for 2016 All-Star Drew Pomeranz in mid-July, though that wasn’t as easy as the typical trade. The Padres’ brass apparently didn’t fully report some health concerns about the big lefty before the trade and MLB stepped in and suspended San Diego’s General Manager A.J. Preller for 30 days – a move that I cannot recall ever happening.
Anyway, Espinoza, a 6-foot, 160-pound right-hander out of Venezuela, flashed more than the occasional glimpse of dominance working as just one of three 18-year-olds to throw 100 innings in either Low Class A league. He finished the year with 100 strikeouts, 35 walks, and an aggregate 3.04 FIP between both organizations.
In terms of a game-by-game dominance, Espinoza fanned 11 and walked just one while scattering five hits across five innings against the Augusta GreenJackets in early May. And he also had three separate starts in which he allowed two or fewer hits in at least five innings: April 8th against the Tourists, May 25th against the Tourists, and a May 30th contest versus the RiverDogs.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him in last year’s book:
“New Sox General Manager Dave Dombrowski is going to have to write his predecessor Ben Cherington a rather lengthy thank you note for inking the supremely talented hurler. While the data is still rather limited – just under 60 innings of work – Espinoza’s ceiling could be as high as any hurler in the minor leagues, including that of Julio Urias. Equipped with a bazooka for an arm and blessed with what appears to be pinpoint control, Espinoza is likely going to be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping the kid stays healthy.”
Continuing where I left off in his “Background Section” from above, perhaps the most impressive statistic I could rattle off about Espinoza is this:
- The lanky right-hander made 25 appearances between his time with Greenville and Fort Wayne. Of those 25 games, Espinoza walked two or fewer batters 21 times.
Again, there are very few young arms in the minors – and maybe even the majors – that could match Espinoza’s potential as a legitimate ace. But potential is just that – potential, not results. He’s going to have to navigate his way through the injury nexus, but he has a chance to be special.
Ceiling: 5.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|2. Manuel Margot, CF|
|Born: 09/28/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jae-Hoon Ha, Gerardo Parra, Jose Tabata, Albert Almora, Dustin Fowler|
|Height: 5-11||Weight: 180||Throws: R|
Background: Eight months before sending All-Star Drew Pomeranz to Boston in exchange for Anderson Espinoza, the Red Sox and Padres hooked up for another major deal: the teams agreed on a five-player trade that shipped Craig Kimbrel to Bean Town for a package of four prospects headlined by the gifted center fielder. Margot, who was acquired along with Logan Allen, Carlos Asuaje, and Javier Guerra, spent the entire 2016 season playing for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas – despite only seeing a total of 64 games at the Class AA level. And after a bit of a slow start in April – he batted an empty .270/.317/.392 – Margot found his footing against the Pacific Coast League pitching, slugging a robust .309/.357/.431 with 17 doubles, 11 triples, five homeruns, and 25 stolen bases over his final 104 contests.
And just for fun, here are those numbers pro-rated over a full 162-game schedule: 27 doubles, 17 triples, 8 homeruns, and 39 stolen bases.
For his career, Margot is sporting a solid .288/.350/.424 triple-slash line with 91 doubles, 35 triples, 29 homeruns, and 162 stolen bases in 466 total games.
Projection: There’s an awful lot to like about Margot as a prospect: steady contact rates, a promising hit tool with the ceiling as a .300 hitter, above-average or better speed, decent patience at the plate, a long track record of steady success against significantly older pitching, and developing power that’s likely to reach 15 or so homeruns in a couple seasons.
He’s been aggressively pushed through the minors, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle for a year or so against MLB pitching as he continues to mature. But I’d expect him to have an offensive ceiling somewhere around .300/.340/.430 with 25- to 30-stolen bases.
According to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, Margot’s been a stout, stout center fielder.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|3. Cal Quantrill, RHP|
|Born: 02/10/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 165||Throws: R|
Background: Taking pitchers that recently underwent – or need – Tommy John surgery has become quite fashionable over the past couple of years: the Nationals grabbed Lucas Giolito and Erick Feede in the first round in separate drafts, the Dodgers grabbed Walker Buehler early, and last season the Mets took Anthony Kay and immediately sent the lefty under the knife for elbow surgery. But what makes the Padres’ infatuation with Quantrill so interesting is that they grabbed him with the eighth overall pick last June – despite the former Stanford Cardinal not throwing a meaningful pitch since early 2015. Cal, the son of former big league reliever Paul Quantrill who led the big leagues in appearances for four straight years, was in the beginning of a breakout 2015 season. Through three starts, the younger Quantrill threw 18.2 innings with a 20-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a sophomore. Following his selection last June, the 6-foot-2, 165-pound right-hander made stops at three different levels in the low minors, throwing a total of 37.0 innings with an impeccable 46-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio between the Arizona Summer, Northwest, and Midwest Leagues.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the hard-throwing right-hander prior to the draft:
“Ignoring high school data, which is unreliable at best, we have 129 innings of data to go off of – except that it’s pre-injury data. During his freshman season the big right-hander tossed 110.2 innings – certainly a reasonable, far from problematic total for a 19-year-old – while fanning 98, walking 34, and posting a tidy 2.68 ERA. Fantastic, fantastic production from any pitcher – regardless of age – in the PAC12.
Injury-inhibited pitchers like Erick Fedde, Lucas Giolito, Jeff Hoffman were all first rounder picks despite elbow injuries, so it’s very likely Quantrill goes somewhere between picks 15 and 25 come this year’s draft. As far as upside, he looked like a #2/#3-type arm as a freshman – hopefully he makes a full recovery.”
It certainly looks like he made a recovery, doesn’t it? Quantrill was nothing short of brilliant during his abbreviated debut. If this swing-and-miss ability coupled with strong walk rates is as good as it was in 2016, Quantrill could find himself as a very good #2.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|4. Hunter Renfroe, RF|
|Born: 01/28/92||Age: 25||Bats: R||Top CALs: Matt Spencer, David Winfree, Q. Latimore, Caleb Gindl, Ryan Patterson|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: Playing in the offensive-friendly Pacific Coast League, Renfroe set career bests in doubles (34) and homeruns (30) while tying a previous high with five triples. The former 2013 first round pick, 13th overall, hit an impressive .306/.336/.557 with a 131 wRC+ total.
Projection: Over the previous four years, I’ve written enough on Renfroe’s prospects as…well…a prospect. So let’s take a look back beginning with his pre-draft evaluation coming out of Mississippi State University when he was a major “pop-up” guy during his junior season:
“Having spent some time behind the plate as well as on the mound, Renfroe is certainly one of the more athletic prospects in the collegiate class. But with that being said, there’s a rather sizeable risk given that his production is relegated to this year. Still, though, he could be an above-average regular, maybe similar to a Hunter Pence or so.”
I followed that up by writing the following in my 2015 book:
“Fast forward two years and Renfroe certainly looks like a potential above-average regular. He really seemed to tire down the stretch, hitting .218/.298/.300 over his final 29 games. He offers a pretty solid offensive package: better than average pop, a little bit of speed, decent walk rates, and the ability to hit .280-ish.
CAL remains unconvinced at this point, largely from his initial struggles in Class AA, but I pegged Renfroe as a three-win player in 2013 and, truthfully, he hasn’t done anything to dissuade me from that up to this point.”
And, finally, here’s what I wrote in last year’s tome:
“Here’s the thing about Class AA: it’s the single most difficult challenge for a minor league prospect. It’s literally the make it or break it level – bar none. So, with that being said, it’s not overly surprisingly when a player struggles in their first initial run at the level, a la Renfroe, which he certainly did. But here’s the thing: something clicked in the former Bulldog after disappointing for more than 100 games in the Texas League and he put together a rather impressive run once the calendar flipped to June last year, hitting .283/.337/.494 in 276 plates.
For those counting at home, he finished the year by slugging .296/.342/.531 with 16 doubles, five triples, and 18 homeruns in his last 88 games. And let’s not forget that after leaving college Renfroe spent all of 112 games before making his way up to Class AA. It looks like he just needed a bit of time to get acclimated to the league.
He’s not going to be a perennial All-Star caliber bat, but he should settle in as a slightly better-than-average regular.”
Needless to say, I’m think he’s going to end up as an above-average regular. The Padres have finally cleared the way for him to patrol right field in Petco Park. In terms of offensive ceiling, I’d put him somewhere around a .280/.330/.435-type hitter.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|5. Chris Paddack, RHP|
|Born: 01/08/96||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Nestor Cortes, Brent Honeywell, Brady Lail, B.J. Hermsen, Jhonatan Ramos|
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: What’s the going rate for a rate for half a season worth of innings from an aging 39-year-old reliever? How about a promising 20-year-old arm, who was dominating Low Class A. Hell, it was more like making the level look silly. Taken in eighth round out of Cedar Park High two years ago, the Marlins inked Paddack to a deal with a pretty hefty bonus: $400,000. And after a promising debut in the Gulf Coast League, Paddack, who would throw 45.1 innings with a remarkable 39-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, was nearly unhittable during his first nine starts of 2016. Between both organizations Paddack would throw 42.1 innings while fanning an absurd 71, walking just five, and posting a barely-there 0.85 ERA. Unfortunately for both the organization and Paddack, the promising right-hander succumbed to Tommy John surgery late in the season.
Projection: Just to kind of put some context around Paddack’s domination, consider the following:
- Among all MiLB arms with at least 40 innings last season, Paddack’s strikeout percentage, 46.4%, ranked first.
- Again, among all MiLB arms with at least 40 innings, Paddack’s strikeout-to-walk percentage, 43.1%, also ranked first.
- In fact, here’s a list of players to post a strikeout-to-walk percentage above 43% since 2006: Chris Paddack.
I wish I could use some better phrasing to describe just how good Paddack was before the injury, but I’m simply at a loss for words. I sincerely hope he makes it back to full healthy following the elbow surgery because he could be a lot of fun to write about in the coming years.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|6. Eric Lauer, LHP|
|Born: 06/03/95||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Roman Madrid, James Brandhorst, Keegan Akin, Edwin Quirarte, Matt Andriese|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 205||Throws: L|
Background: There’s unhittable then there’s Eric Lauer-unhittable. Over his final two seasons at Kent State University, the lanky lefty racked up 228 strikeouts and just 54 walks en route to tallying an impeccable 1.27 ERA. But it was his work during his junior season which separated the barely hittable from the completely unhittable. In 15 starts for the Golden Flashes, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Lauer threw a career-high 104.0 innings and allowed just eight earned runs – just eight! – while fanning 125, and walking just 28 which was good for a 0.69 ERA. One of oddities about Lauer’s final run with KSU: he allowed eight earned runs but surrendered four homeruns. The Padres grabbed him with the 25th overall pick and unleashed him on the lowest levels of the minors. He threw 31.0 innings between the Arizona Summer, Northwest, and Midwest Leagues, tallying a 2.03 ERA with 37 strikeouts and just nine walks. For the record, three of the seven earned runs he allowed came in his first two appearances in pro ball.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the dominant southpaw prior to the draft:
“Just to add a little context in terms of Lauer’s ridiculously dominant junior campaign, consider the following:
- Between 2011 and 2015, only four Division I left-handers – Jeff Degano, Brandon Finnegan, Kyle Freeland, and Danny Hultzen – have thrown 90+ innings, average more than 10.75 K/9 and fewer than 2.5 BB/9. Three of those players – Finnegan, Freeland, Hultzen – were high first round picks, and Degano was the Yankees’ second rounder last year.
So, needless to say, the Elyria, Ohio, native has a really good shot at hearing his name called in the opening half of round one. The control/command is solid, probably averaging around 2.8 to 3.2 walks per nine innings. His ability to miss bats, which has been at a premium at the collegiate level, will likely hover around 8.3 K/9 in the professional ranks.
Lauer has the ceiling of a good #3 arm.”
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|7. Adrian Morejon, LHP|
|Born: 02/27/99||Age: 19||Bats: N/A||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 5-11||Weight: 165||Throws: L|
Background: The Padres just didn’t get a little sip on the international market last season. No, they wanted the whole damn glass when they signed the Cuban-born 18-year-old to an $11 million pact.
Projection: So the last available data on Morejon is when he popped up in the Cuban National Series at the ripe ol’ age of 16. He threw 24.0 innings of, admittedly, pretty poor baseball (until you consider his age and level of competition). Other than that, though, there’s nothing available. I’m certainly intrigued. I can’t wait to see him in 2017. By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the club aggressively challenge him. Low Class A wouldn’t be out of the question either.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|8. Luis Urias, 2B|
|Born: 06/03/97||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: Breyvil Valera, Hanser Alberto, Wilfredo Tovar, Alejandro Villalobos, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa|
|Height: 5-9||Weight: 160||Throws: R|
Background: Pop Quiz #1: Among all qualified 19-year-olds in any High Class A league, Gleyber Torres, the Yankees highly-touted shortstop, posted a 120 wRC+ and Rafael Devers, an equally highly-touted infielder, posted a 113 wRC+; name the only teenager to post a better Weighted Runs Created Plus mark? The answer: Luis Urias, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound second baseman in the Padres’ farm. Pop Quiz #2: Since 2006, there have been just four other qualified teenagers in High Class A to post at least a 130 wRC+; Name them. The answer: Cody Bellinger (2015), Addison Russell (2013), Xander Bogaerts (2012), and Domingo Santana (2012). Kind of puts things into perspective a bit, no?
Despite only getting semi-brief look in Low Class A two years ago – he appeared in 51 games but managed to hit .290/.370/.326 – Urias looked quite at home against the significantly older competition that the California League offers up.
For his career, the pint-sized second baseman is sporting an impressive .317/.395/.397 with 37 doubles, seven triples, six homeruns, and 26 stolen bases.
Projection: Obviously, Urias has a couple things going against him – mainly his lack of size and a perceived lack of power. But I think it’s important to point out that between May 2nd and July 6th, a span of 58 games, he slugged .339/.412/.449 with an Isolated Power of .110. It’s still a below-average mark, until you consider his age and level of competition.
It’s also equally important to point out that, according to StatCorner.com, once you adjust for Lake Elsinore’s pitcher-friendly park Urias’ overall numbers in High Class A jump to .332/.399/.454 with a .122 ISO.
Finally, since 2006 there have been four other 19-year-olds to bash their way through High Class A. Now of those four, three have spent significant time at the big league level. Here’s their respective career wRC+ totals: Bogaerts (102), Russell (93), and Santana (103).
Needless to say, but I like Urias’ odds more than the typical person does.
One final thought: according to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, Urias has been a stout defender the past couple seasons at second base.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|9. Josh Naylor, 1B|
|Born: 06/22/97||Age: 20||Bats: L||Top CALs: Jose Osuna, Nick Longhi, Jorge Bonifacio, Jonah Mieses, Nick Delmonico|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 225||Throws: L|
Background: Another prospect acquired in a midseason swap. This one, though, sent Andrew Cashner, Tayron Guerrero, and cash for Josh Naylor, Carter Capps, and Jarred Cosart. In a bit of an odd twist – though, maybe not, considering what came about after the Drew Pomeranz trade with Boston – San Diego originally sent right-hander Colin Rea to Miami, but an elbow injury in his first Miami appearance led the Marlins’ front office to think they received damaged goods. So the Marlins traded Rea back to San Diego for low level right-hander Luis Castillo. Did you catch all that? Good. Miami originally grabbed the bulky first baseman with the 12th overall pick two years ago. And after a dominant showing in the Gulf Coast League – he slugged .327/.352/.418 – Naylor was pushed up to the Sally to begin his first full season. He responded well, hitting .269/.317/.430 with 24 doubles, two triples, nine homeruns, and a surprising 10 stolen bases (in 13 attempts). After the late July trade, San Diego aggressively pushed the teenager up to High Class A for the remainder of the year. He would bat a disappointing .252/.264/.353 to go along with a lowly 62 wRC+.
Projection: On one hand it is bit surprising that the Padres opted to push the then-19-year-old first baseman up to High Class A – especially considering that he was heading to a new organization and his overall production didn’t really warrant it. But on the other hand he was swinging a hot bat over his last 14 games in Miami’s organization (.377/.382/.491).
Naylor’s yet to tap into his raw power – which isn’t concerning given his age, level of competition, and surplus of doubles. His eye at the plate is below-average and the hit tool is a bit underdeveloped at the moment as well. The lefty-swinging first baseman also struggled against southpaws last season, so it bears watching in the future.
His overall production, in terms of wins above replacement, I wouldn’t expect him to be more than a 2.0-win player because the bat doesn’t profile as elite and he mans a position were defensive ability isn’t highly valuable.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|10. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS|
|Born: 01/02/99||Age: 18||Bats: R||Top CALs: Rony Cabrera, Yonathan Periaza,
Junior Lake, Jeudy Valdez
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: Padres General Manager A.J. Preller agreed to an ill-advised four-year contract with veteran right-hander James Shields in February 2015. Preller was then able to convince the White Sox – somehow – to take the aging veteran off of his hands as well as part with Tatis, a promising young shortstop. Of course, the money the Padres kicked in – a reported $38 million – helped a lot as well. Anyway, Tatis, the son of former big league slugger by the same name, was signed by the White Sox on July 2nd, 2015, for $825,000 but didn’t make his anticipated debut until last season. The younger Tatis hit a respectable .273/.312/.426 with 13 doubles, one triple, four homeruns, and 14 stolen bases to go along with a 108 wRC+ as a 17-year-old in the Arizona Summer League. The Padres also pushed him up to the Northwest League in mid-August for 12 games.
Projection: Very little data to go off of, but I’d be surprised if the 6-foot-3, 185-pound kid sticks at shortstop as he continues to grow and mature. With that being said, Tatis displayed a solid offensive toolkit: decent eye, solid-average power with the ability to blossom into an above-average skill, and some speed (though, I suspect he’ll slow down with age).
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com