Here are the Padres' 2023 Top 30 prospects

March 3rd, 2023

The Padres pulled off one of the biggest blockbusters in Trade Deadline history last August, acquiring Juan Soto for a haul that included Top 100 prospects James Wood and Robert Hassell III and fireballing youngster Jarlin Susana.

So why doesn’t the farm system feel completely decimated? MLB Pipeline’s updated list of Top 30 San Diego prospects is still highlighted by some high-ceiling talents that could be part of the organization’s more-exciting-by-the-day future.

Start with Jackson Merrill, the top talent the Padres managed to hang onto despite all that wheeling and dealing. The 2021 27th overall pick showed an impressive all-fields offensive approach at both Single-A Lake Elsinore and the Arizona Fall League in his first full season, forcing evaluators everywhere to believe he could be at least a true plus Major League hitter someday. His jump to No. 19 in the Top 100 rankings reflected that growing industry consensus.

As has been a theme in A.J. Preller front offices, San Diego also took a big swing in the Draft by selecting Dylan Lesko 15th overall. The prep right-hander has a great three-pitch mix, featuring a plus-plus changeup, but underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2022. Early reports indicate that his rehab has gone well, and though the Padres will be patient with the Georgia native, Lesko could get back to showing potential top-of-the-rotation stuff on Minor League mounds by the season’s end.

The Padres kept the talent coming by adding Venezuelan catcher Ethan Salas for $5.6 million, and the enthusiasm is so high that the teenager can be a well-rounded backstop that he already slots in at No. 3 on the updated Top 30. No. 4 Samuel Zavala also received some Top 100 consideration after he posted an .896 OPS in 43 games in the Arizona Complex League and Lake Elsinore in his age-18 season. Pitchers Robby Snelling, Adam Mazur and Victor Lizarraga should make low-level rotations too heading into 2023.

Graduations and other trades certainly hurt the depth of the system, and if the Padres are to stay aggressive during this contention window, you can imagine that that depth will be tested further on the trade market in 2023. But for now, enough talent remains for the farm to provide additional hope for an already bright future in San Diego.

Here’s a look at the Padres top prospects:
1. Jackson Merrill, SS (MLB No. 19)
2. Dylan Lesko, RHP (MLB No. 100)
3. Ethan Salas, C
4. Samuel Zavala, OF
5. Robby Snelling, LHP
Complete Top 30 list »

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2022 preseason list to the 2023 preseason list.

Jump: Nerwilian Cedeno, 2B/3B/1B (2022: NR | 2023: No. 12)
The Venezuelan infielder had played only 18 stateside games entering 2023, in part due to a meniscus tear in 2022. He got additional 2023 playing time with Lake Elsinore, hitting .256/.362/.400 in 71 games, and added a bit more during a spin through the Arizona Fall League. While the numbers don’t pop, Cedeno still looks the part of a switch-hitter with enough bat speed to provide a decent performance at the plate over the long term. He should get opportunities at multiple infield spots moving forward, but he’s most valuable if he can make second base his long-term home.

Fall: Kevin Kopps, RHP (2022: No. 17 | 2023: NR)
Kopps was thought to be a potential quick-moving reliever as the 2021 Golden Spikes winner out of Arkansas. Instead, he remained at Double-A San Antonio for the entirety of the ’22 campaign and posted a 4.14 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 34 walks in 54 1/3 innings. The 6-foot right-hander thrived on his mid-80s cutter in school, but the one pitch wasn’t enough to dominate pro bats. Kopps will already be 25 entering his second full season, and he’s been passed by more intriguing relief options in the back half of the Top 30.

Top 30s

Best tools
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 -- Jackson Merrill (Ethan Salas)
Power: 60 -- Joshua Mears
Run: 70 -- Korry Howell
Arm: 60 -- Eguy Rosario (Yendry Rojas)
Fielding: 60 -- Salas (Howell)
Fastball: 70 -- Angel Felipe
Curveball: 60 -- Robby Snelling
Slider: 60 -- Adam Mazur (Jose Lopez, Angel Felipe)
Changeup: 70 -- Dylan Lesko
Control: 55 -- Dylan Lesko (Garrett Hawkins)

How they were built
Draft: 16 | International: 10 | Trade: 2 | Free agent: 1 | Rule 5: 1

Breakdown by ETA
2023: 6 | 2024: 7 | 2025: 7 | 2026: 6 | 2027: 3 | 2028: 1

Breakdown by position
C: 2 | 1B: 2 | 2B: 2 | 3B: 0 | SS: 3 | OF: 5 | RHP: 10 | LHP: 6