What’s Brewing On The Farm: We’re Back

what's brewing on the padres farm system

Through a winter of despair comes a beacon of hope . . . it’s prospect week here at Padres Public!

Today we’ll have a cumulative top 10 list and some Big Picture discussion. Throughout the rest of the week, we’ll discuss specific players more in-depth, re-heating the cooling winter hot stove with some overdue prospect fodder.

First, the prospect list. As most all reputable prospect outlets have released top prospects lists (we’re still waiting for Keith Law and a few others), we decided to combine them together with a top-secret algorithm and spit out an overall top 10. Without further ado, using the lists from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Chris Crawford, FanGraphs, Mad Friars, and—yes—Padres Public, voila:

1. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
2. Manuel Margot, OF
3. Hunter Renfroe, OF
4. Cal Quantrill, RHP
5. Adrian Morejon, LHP
6. Luis Urias, 2B
7. Jacob Nix, RHP
8. Chris Paddack, RHP
9. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
10. Michael Gettys, OF

Update: I totally forgot 2080 Baseball’s list, which you can read here (h/t to @TooMuchMortons). It will be included on the finalized version of the cumulative top 10.

A Pitcher at No. 1?

TINSTAAPP—There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect—is obviously an oversimplification, but it still makes plenty of sense, especially today, when pitchers undergo Tommy John surgery at the same rate you or I might get our teeth cleaned.

Espinoza is very much a prospect, duh—and an exciting one. He does tangible prospect-y things, like ramp up the fastball into the high 90s. And he’s also only 18, with the mound presence of someone much older.

Of the six lists that comprise our secret sauce top 10, four of them ranked Espinoza as the no. 1 prospect in the system. Only Baseball Prospectus and our own list ranked Margot ahead of him. It’s a testament to just how well-regarded Espinoza is in the prospect world, because those four sites certainly know the inherent risks that accompany a young pitcher.

Me? I’d still take Margot at no. 1, for the simple reason that his job doesn’t involve hurling a baseball 95 miles per hour with regularity. While injuries can wreak havoc on the careers of non-pitchers, it’s generally a much smoother trip to the majors. Plus, Margot’s just about ready for the big leagues right now; with a good spring training, he could prompt an Opening Day nod. There’s just that much less risk in the profile, and it still comes with the upside of an everyday center fielder.

But Espinoza—shall he successfully navigate all that seeks to harm his right arm—might have the highest ceiling of anyone in the system. It’s not a bad one-two punch, either way.

The Big 5

Of the five players in our cumulative top 5, none of them ranked worse than sixth in any individual list. In other words, there’s not much separation of opinion on these guys. Espinoza and Margot are the clear top two, and the other three guys are pretty evenly mixed behind them, with Renfroe getting a bit more love than both Quantrill and Morejon (call it the Western Metal Effect).

After that, there’s—not surprisingly—a bit more variation in opinion. In a couple of lists, for example, Fernando Tatis Jr. (more on him later this week) is comfortably in the top 10, whereas he misses the cut entirely on others (some lists go 20-deep). Luis Urias is ranked as high as fifth (us) or sixth (BA, Crawford) and as low as 12th (FanGraphs).

Hey, We’re Not Too Bad

As we hopefully made clear when we released our list in October, we’re not experts. We do get out and watch some games, we crunch some numbers, and we follow these guys closely. But a huge chunk of our information comes from the prospect sites referenced in this article, and we’re humble enough to understand that our top 20 list is, in many ways, just an accumulation of information we’ve sought out—from our own eyes (occasionally) and calculators and web browsers.

But I think we did a darn good job, either way. Our list came out before any of the national publications, and we nailed eight of the 10 prospects who made the cumulative top 10. The only players we missed on were Tatis Jr. and Jacob Nix, placing pitchers Eric Lauer and Dinelson Lamet in their place (and we had those two at nine and 10, respectively).

Not bad.

The Non-Top 10 Top 10

Arguably the most exciting thing about the Padres system is its depth. I don’t mean like the seventh guy in the system, necessarily—I mean like the 17th or 27th or, shoot, 55th guy in the system. The Padres have acquired (or retained) a ton of interesting talent. Using the information from the lists above and some further subjective input, here’s a potential top 10 list that doesn’t include any of the actual top 10 players:

1. Jorge Ona, OF
2. Logan Allen, LHP
3. Franchy Cordero, OF
4. Carlos Asuaje, IF
5. Dinelson Lamet, LHP
6. Javier Guerra, SS
7. Josh Naylor, 1B
8. Gabriel Arias, SS
9. Eric Lauer, LHP
10. Hudson Potts, SS
11. Mason Thompson, RHP
12. Wait, Do I Have To Stop, SS

You’ve got a couple of toolsy outfielders, three talented shortstops, a young lefty starter, a near-ready utility infielder, a first baseman who was drafted 12th overall in 2015.

I’m not going to pretend I know enough about every system in baseball to properly compare, but I’m guessing if you took away the Padres top 10 prospects, they’d still slot in like 25th in organizational rankings, ahead of teams like the Angels and Diamondbacks.

It’s a ridiculously deep system, with a nice mixture of high-upside projects and safer bets.

The Non-Top 10 Non-Top 10 Top 10

Alright, what the heck. Let’s keep going:

1. Mason Thompson, RHP
2. Luis Almanzar, SS
3. Jeisson Rosario, OF
4. Reggie Lawson, RHP
5. Phil Maton, RHP
6. Enyel De Los Santos, RHP
7. Austin Allen, C
8. Andrew Lockett, RHP
9. Jose Rondon, SS
10. Hansel Rodriguez, RHP

Still might beat out the Angels.

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  • Bielsa Widow

    Or maybe Espinoza’s at number one with the inherent risk already baked in because he is that good at throwing a baseball.

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was trying to say here: “It’s a testament to just how well-regarded Espinoza is in the prospect world, because those four sites certainly know the inherent risks that accompany a young pitcher.”

      It’s a totally defensible position, and all these prospect sites referenced know way more than I do. I’m just saying that if Margot and Espinoza are close as prospects (and I think they are), I’d side with Margot. But I love Espinoza, too.

  • Drakos

    He hasn’t released his Padres Rankings yet, but based on his top 100 we know Keith Law’s top 5 for the organization:
    1. Espinoza
    2. Quantrill
    3. Margot
    4. Tatis Jr.
    5. Morejon

  • GT500KR

    Dustin and Anderson, sittin’ in a tree….kidding.

    Everyone should be glad the farm is so highly regarded now. But to keep things in perspective, in 2012:

    Keith Law, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus put us at #1.
    BA had us #3.

    The players that earned us such accolades? Rizzo, Liriano, Kelly, Spang, Hedges, Gyorko, Wieland, Erlin, Ross, Sampson.

    We were also very highly ranked in the early 2000s, a group that ended up being Peavy, Lawrence, and nobody else.

    I like the farm system, I really do. But I’ve seen people claim that it’s never been this good before, which isn’t true, or that we’re so deep that even attrition can’t stop us from dominating in the near future, which is also false and, even if it wasn’t, is just asking for fate to crush our dreams.

  • ballybunion

    I wish the “experts” would rate prospect by year to reach the majors, with each year-list becoming more iffy due to track record and projected progress. Espinoza and Morejon have expected ETAs in the 2022-2024 range, while Margot and Renfroe are surer things, since they’re likely 2017 starters. If you rank them by ETA, you can see how Preller stacked the farm for a continuous feed of top-level prospects.

    Those who question “this is the best farm evah” need to look at that, as well as glowing scout reports on the Peoria rookie class of international 16 year olds. The attrition rate will be huge, but the sheer numbers of sky-high ceiling players that survive to short season and long season Low-A means there’s a lot more talent coming 6-8 years down the road.

    • GT500KR

      The 2012 rankings were based on a spectrum of players close to the majors and a lot of depth, as well.

      But the more important point is that it’s the same experts, either the same orgs like BA or the actual same guys, doing the rankings then and now. If they said we were awesome then and it turned out now to be true, there’s reason to temper expectations.

      John Sickels, 2012: Incredible depth after the winter trades pushes this system almost to the top.

      BP, 2012: No system in baseball can boast of having as many players at the upper levels who project as average or better big leaguers.

      BA, 2012: San Diego already had one of baseball’s deepest farm systems before it acquired Alonso, Grandal and RHP Brad Boxberger.

      Law, 2012: In terms of total future value of players likely to play significant roles in the big leagues, they’re ahead of everyone else. There are so many prospects here with high floors that they are well-positioned to compete even with modest major league payrolls during the next five to six years.

      We’re at the tail of Law’s five to six years. We haven’t competed at all in that span. If people want to believe that THIS time, unlike the past, the farm system rankings will inevitably and inexorably turn to gold, so be it. Disappointment never killed anybody.

      • These are fair points, no doubt. I guess I’d just say that you *want* to keep building a good farm system regardless of past failures. Sometimes it’s going to work out, sometimes it isn’t. Keep building a good one enough times, and one of those times it’s going to work out. Definitely a lot of work for this regime still to do. It seems like they’ve proven they can find talent, now they have to prove they can develop it. (I’m optimistic, but there are definitely a number of ways it can go wrong.)

      • GT500KR

        Absolutely agree, they have to keep trying. They’re not doomed to failure. I wouldn’t even say the past systems failed. The front office and some fans had unreasonable expectations. I was guilty of it; I mused on a rotation of Peavy-Tankersley-Perez-Howard-Cyr in 2000, I imagined Jaff Decker hitting 30 bombs with a 380 OBP.

        Preller’s strongest attribute seems to be his ability to establish rapport with international kids, and while that is a big damn deal, is there any real evidence that the current regime has an advantage when it comes to identifying talent?

        On the int’l front, almost everyone we signed was well-known and highly ranked. What we did differently was spend like drunken sailors, for which I’m grateful.

        In the trades, every prospect watcher and scout knew Espinoza and Tatis Jr. Maybe the kid we got from Toronto for Upton will be a gem that only Preller could see, although it cost us fifteen million or so.

        In the draft, Potts was the only kid who lends any credence to the “Preller sees talent where others don’t” narrative.

        I’m not knocking Preller at all. He seems tireless and he’s retained the backing of a flighty owner like Fowler, and that’s not nothing. He’s not pussy-footing around with the rebuild, either, which former GMs like Towers and Byrnes could never bring themselves to do. It’s just that some people (not you) are anointing him as a genius far too early.

      • I think you can make an argument that Tatis Jr. was a really savvy grab. Did anyone really see him as a potential top 100 prospect at the time, like he already is now (per Law, at least)? The Quantrill pick got some criticism at the time as well, but now it looks like his upside is on par with just about anybody in that draft. You mention Potts as another good one. Time will tell on others.

        But I’m with you overall. Although I’m pretty high on the baseball ops side right now, with Preller leading the way, I’ll admit there’s certainly plenty of work to do.

      • GT500KR

        Not many players his age, regardless, are cast as top 100 picks. But Tatis got a lot o’money from the White Sox. He was the 30th ranked int’l prospect by MLB.com, although BA didn’t rank him at all. I’d comfortably call him a known rather than an unknown.

        Law on Quantrill: “A potential 1-1 (No. 1 overall) pick had he stayed healthy through the draft, the 6-foot-3 right-hander could be huge value.” You’re right that some looked askance at picking an amateur with TJ, but I don’t recall any questions about his talent.

        I’m really glad they’re drafting tools and not just performance, like the Alderson regime did. You’ll miss drafting tools too (Donovan Tate!), but you have a better chance of getting a star instead of just winning AA league championships.