I’d like to take this time to personally thank Padres general manager A.J. Preller for keeping those of us who dwell in prospect land on the edge of our seats over the past week. Normally, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is kind of slow, but San Diego’s two deals to get Blake Snell from the Rays and Yu Darvish from the Cubs kept the MLB Pipeline crew very busy.
A total of seven ranked prospects on the Padres, four to the Cubs and three to the Rays, were traded to get the two big league starters. All seven are now on their new teams’ Top 30 lists. Not surprisingly, most of the questions I received this week were about those prospects and the Padres system, so I stuck mostly with that theme, though I did make some time to visit with an old friend to close things out in this final edition of the Pipeline Inbox for 2020. Happy reading and Happy New Year!
Which of the seven Padres prospects that were moved the last couple days have the best odds of making the majors, and who has the highest ceiling?
-- Underdawg MLB (@underdawgMLB on Twitter)
Given that all seven are Top 30 guys, you could argue that all of them have a chance to be big leaguers, though perhaps that’s giving us too much credit in our rankings, and we all know that some Top 30 guys don’t make it.
The easy answer to both questions for me is Luis Patiño, now the Rays’ No. 3 prospect and No. 23 on the Top 100. It’s cheating a bit because the right-hander already made his big league debut -- before he turned 21 -- with the Padres. He appeared in 11 games total, all but one in relief, then had three total outings in the postseason, all coming out of the bullpen.
He’s pretty much ready to contribute and I think his ceiling is still that of a frontline starter, even if his time in the big leagues was a bit uneven (Keep in mind, he’d never been a reliever before). In addition to that really high ceiling, his floor is also high, because if all else fails, that power stuff will look very, very good coming out of the bullpen.
As far as the other six prospects, I’d really keep an eye on Cole Wilcox, now No. 8 on the Rays’ list. The Padres took him in the third round and set a record by giving him a $3.3 million bonus to keep him from heading back to the University of Georgia. He has first-round kind of stuff and the kind of 6-foot-5 frame teams love. There are some questions about his delivery and command he’ll have to answer to remain a starter, but he’ll get big league hitters out in some role.
Going by upside, I’d probably rank the remaining guys in the way they’re ranked on the Cubs’ Top 30: Reginald Preciado, Owen Caissie, Ismael Mena and Yeison Santana, with the other prospect who went to the Rays, Blake Hunt, bringing up the rear.
Is the 2025-26 season a realistic timeline for newest Cubs prospects Ismael Mena, Reggie Preciado, and Yeison Santana?
-- Logan R. Whaley (@loganRwhaley on Twitter)
I think that’s a conservative estimate, with one caveat. We currently have ETAs of 2024 for Preciado and Mena (not to mention Caissie) and 2023 for Santana. Santana is the one of this trio who has actually played, having signed back in 2017 and playing well in the Dominican Summer League in 2018 and in his United States debut in the rookie-level Arizona League in 2019. I could see him being ready for full-season ball in 2021. Preciado and Mena, who each got seven figures to sign in July 2019, have yet to play an official game, but both reportedly performed well at instructs this fall. (Preciado also came to the end of play at the alternate site this summer with impressive added strength.)
Now for the caveat. No one has any idea what the lost 2020 season will do for really young players. Had there been Minor League games this year, Preciado and Mena would have at least gotten their feet wet in the Dominican Summer League and perhaps Santana would have played in a short-season league or even touched full-season ball this year. Could that negatively impact their development and progress? It’s possible. These players are talented enough for it not to be an issue, but it could slow them a bit, perhaps making your 2025 estimate a bit more realistic.
The Padres had the 5th best farm system. After the trades where are they now?
-- Tom E. Snyder (@tomesnyder on Twitter)
This question was very popular, and for good reason. Obviously, after trading seven ranked prospects away, the Padres are going to fall. But to be honest with you, I don’t think they’d fall too far.
At the top, they only traded away one Top 100 prospect in Patiño. And yes, he has the chance to be very, very good. But they still have MacKenzie Gore (the top pitching prospect in the game), dynamic shortstop CJ Abrams (the No. 6 overall pick from the 2019 Draft), catcher Luis Campusano (No. 46 on the Top 100) and 2020 first-rounder and outfielder Robert Hassell, currently No. 74 on that list.
And there’s plenty of depth. Right behind that quartet is lefty Ryan Weathers, who took enough of a step forward in 2020 to get called up to the big leagues, making his debut in the postseason. And even the seven guys added to replace the traded prospects (HUGE shout out to Mike Rosenbaum for being all over these changes) are interesting. So if I were to venture a guess, I still think they’re probably in the top 10, but if you wanted to be safe, putting them in the 8-12 range would be OK with me.
What were your thoughts on Pat Light back in 2012?
-- Pat Light (@Pat_Light on Twitter)
And now to the old “friend.” Us New Jersey natives have to stick together, so when Pat sent this one in, I had to answer. And I had to go digging.
Back in 2012, Pat Light was a junior at Monmouth University. In those days, I was doing this stuff solo and I remember being excited about a guy in the Garden State, at a smaller college, who was on the Draft radar. And he was smack in the middle of our Draft Top 100, at No. 54. Here’s what I wrote about the right-hander, who was listed at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds at the time:
It’s been a while since the New Jersey college scene provided any top-notch Draft talent, but that will change in 2012, thanks to this big right-handed pitcher.
The Monmouth product looks the part, with a long, lean frame, an ideal pitcher’s body. He has the stuff to match the frame, too. Light's fastball sits in the 92-93 mph range, but he can reach back for a 95-96 mph when he needs to. The heater has pretty good movement, and with his downhill plane and arm angle, there’s the potential for him to sink the ball more in the future. His breaking ball is a little slurvy and will need to be tightened up a bit, but it has the potential to be at least a solid average pitch. He uses a split grip for his changeup, and it lags behind.
While Light's overall command right now isn’t great, it shouldn’t be an issue going forward, and he’s fearless on the mound. If he can improve those secondary offerings, Light has the chance to be an excellent starting pitching prospect. If not, he has the stuff and mentality to succeed in a bullpen as well.
The Red Sox took Light No. 37 overall in the 2012 Draft (the one headed by Carlos Correa). He did get the chance to start in 2013 and 2014 in the Red Sox system, but a move to the bullpen allowed him to reach Triple-A in 2015 and a strong showing in the Puerto Rico Winter League that offseason helped catapult him to the big leagues in 2016. He made his debut at the end of April that year and appeared in two games with Boston and was pitching very well in Triple-A when he was sent to the Twins on Aug. 1.
He appeared in 15 big league games with Minnesota, but never returned to that level again, going from the Twins to the Pirates to the Mariners. He last appeared in a pro game pitching for Triple-A Tacoma (Seattle’s system) in 2018 and now hosts a podcast and lives in yes, you guessed it, Jersey.