The Padres entered 2020 intent on finally making the most out of their elite farm system. Did they ever.
En route to their first postseason appearance in 14 seasons, San Diego called up 10 players from its 2020 preseason Top 30 prospects list. As the Padres reshaped their roster into a bona fide 2021 World Series contender, they traded 15 players from that list.
That's right -- San Diego literally dealt half of its 2020 Top 30 prospects over a few months from ‘20 into ‘21.
And despite that remarkable turnover, it remains one of the sport's strongest farm systems -- ranked sixth in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.
That's partly due to the Padres' ability to hang onto some of their elite young talent, despite the flurry of moves that brought Mike Clevinger, Austin Nola, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove to San Diego. Left-hander MacKenzie Gore and shortstop CJ Abrams were the Padres' top two prospects a season ago, and they still are. Catcher Luis Campusano and left-hander Ryan Weathers remain as well.
But it's also a testament to the organization's remarkable ability to restock the cupboard on the fly. The San Diego system remains deep -- not as deep as it once was, but deep nonetheless -- thanks to a handful of high-upside international signings and some shrewd Draft picks.
"It definitely feels good that we've been able to hold onto some of the guys at the top of our system," farm director Sam Geaney said just before Spring Training. "Some of the higher-end talent still remains, and it's fun for us, as a development group, to get our hands dirty and move onto the next group and see who we can lift up and who can step up."
Using prospects as trade capital, the Padres have built themselves a contending roster for the immediate future. But general manager A.J. Preller has spoken often about his desire to keep the team’s contention window open for as long as possible. The best way to do that, he often says, is to build a consistent pipeline of big league-caliber talent.
That talent -- Preller has proven -- sometimes never sees the field in San Diego. But that won't make the Padres any less greedy in finding and developing young players.
Despite all the turnover – all the trades and the callups and the attrition – the Padres’ farm system sits precisely where Preller wants it to be: as one of the sport’s best.
"Even after all the trades, you look up, and I've been impressed with some of the young players that have come up," said San Diego manager Jayce Tingler. "We've got a really, really deep system. It's a credit to our scouts and player development."
Here's a look at the Padres' Top 30 prospects
1. MacKenzie Gore, LHP (MLB No. 6)
2. CJ Abrams, SS (No. 8)
3. Luis Campusano, C (No. 45)
4. Robert Hassell, OF (No. 62)
5. Ryan Weathers, LHP
Complete Top 30 list »
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2020 preseason list to the 2021 preseason list:
Jump: Mason Thompson, RHP (2020: NR | 2021: 11)
Thompson’s meteoric rise is partly a product of trades that sent other prospects elsewhere. But it’s also a testament to the way he’s overcome a handful of injuries and suddenly looks like a dominant bullpen arm. The Padres drafted Thompson envisioning him as a starter, and he still owns a four-pitch mix. But he’s impressed team officials since his transition to a relief role, sitting 95-98 mph with a power slider that has become his go-to putaway offering.
Fall: Esteury Ruiz, RHP (2020: 27 | 2021: NR)
Ruiz's fall, from 27th to unranked in the low 30s isn't exactly precipitous. If anything, it reinforces the Padres' ability to restock their system from the ground up in the wake of all the trades they've made over the past season. Ruiz’s tools remain tantalizing. But after his lost season in 2020, it’s fair to wonder whether Ruiz – who arrived from Kansas City in the 2017 trade that also netted Matt Strahm – will ever cut his chase rate enough to realize his potential at the plate.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 60 -- CJ Abrams (Robert Hassell)
Power: 60 -- Joshua Mears
Run: 80 -- Abrams
Arm: 60 -- Eguy Rosario (Luis Campusano)
Defense: 60 -- Abrams
Fastball: 65 -- Dauris Valdez (Anderson Espinoza, Justin Lange)
Curveball: 60 -- Efrain Contreras (Mason Fox)
Slider: 60 -- MacKenzie Gore
Changeup: 60 -- Gore
Control: 60 -- Ryan Weathers (Gore)
How they were built
Draft: 15 | International: 14 | Waivers: 1
Breakdown by ETA
2021: 11 | 2022: 7 | 2023: 3 | 2024: 5 | 2025: 4
Breakdown by position
C: 2 | 1B: 0 | 2B: 1 | 3B: 1 | SS: 2 | OF: 6 | RHP: 13 | LHP: 5