Here are the Padres' 2024 Top 30 prospects

March 6th, 2024

Jackson Merrill has been one of the talks of Padres Spring Training camp as he fights for a Major League spot as a 20-year-old. Consider the journey the farm system has been on since he was taken 27th overall in the Draft less than three years ago.

Since July 2021, the Padres have traded six players (including two Top 100 prospects at the time) for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, drafted two future Top 100 prospects in a loaded 2022 class, signed the top international prospect in 2023, traded Soto away for five players (including one Top 100 prospect) and signed the top international prospect in 2024.

Put it all together, and San Diego’s Top 30, as released by MLB Pipeline on Wednesday, boasts five Top 100 talents (tied for second-most among 30 farm systems) with more potential additions along the way.

Even Merrill’s exceptional hit tool, which has put him on the cusp of the Majors in the first place, has been eclipsed by Ethan Salas’ advanced profile as a 17-year-old catcher, making the backstop the top prospect in the system. Nos. 3 and 4 Robby Snelling and Dylan Lesko, respectively, have shown promising results (in the case of Snelling) and potential top-of-the-line stuff (in the case of Lesko) in their first full seasons as 2022 top-40 Draft picks. Right-hander Drew Thorpe is coming off a season in which he was the MLB Pipeline Pitching Prospect of the Year in the Yankees system and came over in the second Soto blockbuster to round out the San Diego Top 100 contingent.

Shortstop Leodalis De Vries hopes to follow the path set by Salas from the international realm to full-season ball, and he’s already brought his five-tool skillset stateside for Spring Training work. He, 19-year-old outfielder Samuel Zavala and upper-level right-hander Jairo Iriarte could all join the Top 100 early in 2024, while utilityman Graham Pauley and Jakob Marsee could see the Majors before they reach a similar status.

Through development, the Draft and international investment, the Padres haven’t allowed their farm system to ever reach the depleted status many assumed it would when the front office damned the torpedoes in 2022. Instead, that farm enters 2024 as one of the most high-ceilinged in the game with the hope for more excitement to come, even if Merrill graduates ahead of schedule.

Here’s a look at the Padres’ top prospects:
1. Ethan Salas, C (MLB No. 8)
2. Jackson Merrill, SS (MLB No. 12)
3. Robby Snelling, LHP (MLB No. 36)
4. Dylan Lesko, RHP (MLB No. 56)
5. Drew Thorpe, RHP (MLB No. 85)
Complete Top 30 list »

Biggest jump/fall

Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2023 preseason list to the 2024 preseason list:

Jump: Graham Pauley, 3B/2B (2023: NR | 2024: No. 11)
Pauley was lost in the shuffle of that 2022 Draft class as he joined the Padres as a 13th-rounder out of Duke. But his short, sweet swing certainly played in pro ball, and he showed enough power and speed to become San Diego’s only 20-20 Minor Leaguer last year, picking up 23 homers and 22 steals at Single-A, High-A and Double-A. With his offensive potential, Pauley will keep moving around defensively in order to keep his bat in a lineup as much as possible.

Fall: Jay Groome, LHP (2023: No. 9 | 2024: NR)
Groome was in competition for a Major League spot last spring but is still awaiting his MLB debut after posting an 8.55 ERA with 137 strikeouts and 112 walks in 134 2/3 innings in hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The left-hander only sat in the low-90s with his pair of fastballs and didn’t miss as many bats he needed to with his secondaries either. The 25-year-old remains on the 40-man roster but was already optioned early in camp this time around.

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: 65 -- Jackson Merrill
Power: 60 -- Ethan Salas
Run: 80 -- Dillon Head
Arm: 70 -- J.D. Gonzalez
Defense: 65 -- Ethan Salas
Fastball: 65 -- Jairo Iriarte (Dylan Lesko)
Curveball: 60 -- Randy Vásquez (Robby Snelling)
Slider: 60 -- Alek Jacob (Adam Mazur, Ryan Bergert, Randy Vásquez)
Changeup: 70 -- Dylan Lesko (Drew Thorpe)
Control: 60 -- Drew Thorpe (Adam Mazur)

How they were built
Draft: 18 | International: 7 | Trade: 2 | NDFA: 2 | Rule 5: 1

Breakdown by ETA
2024: 12 | 2025: 9 | 2026: 5 | 2027: 3 | 2028: 1

Breakdown by position
C: 4 | 1B: 1 | 2B: 0 | 3B: 3 | SS: 2 | OF: 4 | RHP: 13 | LHP: 3