In the spirit of not picking anything in the “B” range, I’m going with an A-.
I know, I know, maybe that’s aggressive, but I’ve been inching closer and closer to the front of the A.J. Preller bandwagon since the pains of 2015 have worn away. There are dings, of course—Yasmani Grandal-for-Matt Kemp was always terrible, the Wil Myers–Trea Turner trade didn’t look good then or now, and last year’s medical records snafu wasn’t a good look.
The positive marks are overflowing, however, and you can spot most of them somewhere at a Padres minor-league affiliate. MacKenzie Gore, for instance, looks like a steal, even though he was the third pick in this year’s draft. Fernando Tatis Jr. looks like a legit candidate for baseball’s best prospect come next season, perhaps flanked by the aforementioned Gore. And there are intriguing players littered throughout the system, many of whom were acquired to little or no fanfare, like Michel Baez, Hansel Rodriguez, Pedro Avila, and on and on.
Sometimes it seems really easy to build a good farm system—after all, a team like the Chicago White Sox built a super system in the blink of an eye. But the Padres haven’t had many Chris Sales or Jose Quintanas sitting around to deal, so it’s something of an accomplishment that they went from a middling system to a top one in a year or two. Players like Tatis and Esteury Ruiz were plucked in lopsided trades; Gore was a savvy (if obvious) draft pick; Baez, a 6-foot-8 flamethrower, was somehow snagged for a cool $3 million last winter.
In short, Preller & Co. have been great at finding good young talent. That alone is an exciting development, and we haven’t even touched on the solid work they’ve done scraping the bargain bin for big-league contributors (Drew Pomeranz, Trevor Cahill, Brad Hand, Jose Pirela, etc). They still have to prove they can put a winner together, but we’ll find out about that soon enough. I’m a big fan.