The Padres made the jump from consecutive last-place finishes in the National League West to the second-best team in the entire NL, finishing the season at 37-23. It was their first winning season in a decade and netted the franchise its first postseason berth since 2006.
Once in the playoffs, the Padres knocked off the Cardinals in the Wild Card Series to advance to the NL Division Series, where the Dodgers swept them in three games. Despite the disappointing finish, the Padres showcased to a national audience one of baseball’s more exciting rosters -- a roster teeming with both young and veteran stars who have the club poised to contend for years to come.
San Diego’s turnaround at the Major League level can directly be attributed to a Padres farm system that spent two straight years atop MLB Pipeline’s farm system rankings and hasn’t ranked lower than fourth dating back to 2016. That streak is likely to end in 2021, though, after the Padres shipped out nine prospects from their Top 30 list in Deadline deals, along with a host of cost-controlled Major League players.
The good news is that the organization still has some of the best high-end talents in baseball with its five Top 100 prospects -- including three ranked inside the top 25 and another in the top 50 -- and continues to land potential impact prospects via the Draft and international market.
After picking in the top eight slots in every Draft since 2016, the Padres will be in a somewhat unfamiliar territory next season with the No. 27 overall pick -- the organization’s lowest first-round pick since 1997 (also No. 27).
FARM SYSTEM RANKINGS
2020 Midseason: 3 | Preseason: 2
2019 Midseason: 1 | Preseason: 1
2018 Midseason: 1 | Preseason: 1
2017 Midseason: 3 | Preseason: 4
2016 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2015 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
Only the top 10 systems were ranked from 2015 to 2019 preseason; the top 15 systems were ranked 2019 midseason.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
Trade: Jorge Mateo, SS; Matt Waldron, RHP
The Padres added a mix of high-ceiling bats and arms to their system in this year’s shortened Draft, nabbing a pair of left-handed-hitting prep outfielders (Hassell and Caissie) as well as a pair of hard-throwing right-handers with stuff (Lange and Wilcox). Five of the Padres' six picks now rank among the organization’s Top 30 prospects, with Hassell, Wilcox, Lange and Caissie -- all top 75-ranked prospects on the Draft Top 200 -- all inside the top 15. Acquired from Oakland prior to the season, Mateo was a fixture on San Diego’s 2020 Top 30 before graduating late in the season. Waldron joined the organization in August, the ninth and final piece in the Padres-Indians Trade Deadline blockbuster.
2021 IMPACT PROSPECT
MacKenzie Gore, LHP: Gore may not have reached the Majors in 2020 as many expected he would, but the former No. 3 overall pick ('17) was in the mix for a promotion until the very end of the season, even earning a spot on the team’s postseason taxi squad. While the 21-year-old left-hander has long exhibited ace potential, the Padres would like to see him establish more consistency with his secondary pitches from start to start before turning him loose at the highest level.
2022 TOP PROSPECT
CJ Abrams, SS: Following his selection by the Padres with the sixth-overall pick in the 2019 Draft, Abrams emerged as one of the Minors’ most exciting and dynamic prospects by producing a .401/.442/.662 line over 32 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League before finishing his pro debut at full-season Class A Fort Wayne. The 19-year-old shortstop stands out in all facets of the game with his elite athleticism and 80-grade wheels, while his quick left-handed bat and penchant for making hard contact has led scouts to project him as a future plus hitter who also hits for some power.
Hit: CJ Abrams
Power: Luis Campusano
Run: CJ Abrams
Arm: Eguy Rosario
Field: Robert Hassell
Best athlete: CJ Abrams
Fastball: Dauris Valdez
Curveball: Efrain Contreras
Slider: MacKenzie Gore
Changeup: Cole Wilcox
Control: Ryan Weathers
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
The strength of the Padres’ recent Drafts is reflected on their Top 30 Prospects list, where Draft picks account for six of the first seven spots and 11 spots in the top 15. No player in the latter group was taken beyond the third round, and four of the top six prospects on the list are former first-round selections. The Padres’ 2016-17 international spending spree continued to pay dividends, from the arrivals and contributions of Adrian Morejon, Luis Patiño and Jorge Oña (No. 20) to the inclusion of Gabriel Arias in the Mike Clevinger trade. Oña also is one of four international players on the Top 30 who signed for seven figures, joining Reginald Preciado (No. 11), Ismael Mena (No. 15) and Jordy Barley (No. 29). Esteury Ruiz (No. 19) and Anderson Espinoza (No. 21) were rising, high-ceiling prospects when the Padres acquired them in separate trades. Now 22, Espinoza hasn’t pitched competitively since 2016 but reportedly looks good after completing his rehab for a second Tommy John surgery.
TOP 30 BY POSITION
Despite having graduated or traded a significant amount of talent from their system in recent years, the Padres still house some of the very best prospects in baseball in Gore, Abrams, Patiño, Campusano and Hassell. The organization also features an increasingly deep group of young, athletic position players with loud tools, including 14 ranked in the top 20, and it has several promising rotation candidates with hurlers like Gore, Weathers, Wilcox and Lange rising through the ranks. But with the Padres’ competitive window now wide open after a breakthrough 2020 season, it also would surprise no one if they continued to trade from areas of strength within the system to bolster the Major League roster.