Padres' depth evident in prospect rankings

January 29th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Few general managers in recent memory have been as active on the trade market as A.J. Preller has over the past five months.

The Padres’ GM swung nine major trades in that span, several of them blockbusters. In doing so, Preller sent 30 players elsewhere, almost all of them young and with upside, including some highly touted prospects.

Such a flurry of activity would have decimated a lesser farm system. But not the Padres’, which seemingly features a revolving door of Major League-caliber talent -- whether it's used in San Diego or shipped elsewhere in a trade.

“It's gratifying,” Padres farm director Sam Geaney said, “that even when we come up for air after all of these trades, to see that we still do have a talented system and a highly thought of system.”

On Thursday, MLB Pipeline unveiled its Top 100 Prospects list, and the Padres still feature four ranked players, including two in the top 10. Left-hander MacKenzie Gore checks in at No. 6. Shortstop CJ Abrams is No. 8, catcher Luis Campusano is No. 45 and outfielder Robert Hassell is No. 62.

Only two players dealt by the Padres during their spree crack the list -- right-hander Luis Patiño at No. 19 and outfielder Taylor Trammell at No. 100.

Throughout the overhaul of their big league roster, the Padres’ front office has been hesitant to part with its high-end prospects, preferring instead to package multiple players from deep within the system. They shipped six players to acquire , four to acquire , five to acquire and five to acquire .

In those trades, the Padres sacrificed a number of players they felt could become regulars on other teams. But they got big leaguers in return and have built a roster that's mostly under contractual control for the foreseeable future. Those same prospects might not have gotten opportunity in San Diego.

It was tough to sacrifice center fielder Hudson Head. But the Padres have . It was tough to part with shortstop Gabriel Arias. But the Padres have . Even Patiño -- the departure that stung most -- doesn't have an immediate path to playing time in this Padres rotation.

“A lot of these guys are going to be very successful with their new organizations,” Geaney said. “But we always knew this was a possibility -- that, hopefully, we could assemble a deep group of talented Minor League players. Some would come up and help us in the Major Leagues. But there's a lot of other organizations out there that may potentially have interest. We saw that over the last six months or so.”

Yes, the Padres’ system has taken a hit recently. But in their eyes, it was well worth it for the big league talent they’ve acquired. The Padres will enter the 2021 season as bona fide World Series contenders.

Now the goal is to revamp their system, and they might have the pieces in place to do so.

“It definitely feels good that we've been able to hold onto some of the guys at the top of our system,” Geaney said. “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.”

If, ultimately, there's an overabundance of big league talent, well, that's the point. Preller began building the sport's deepest farm system five years ago, so he'd eventually have the sport's deepest Major League roster.

"To be honest, the bar is set high,” Preller said earlier this month. “If you want to play shortstop in this organization, you've got to be an elite player. ... It makes your standards higher and raises that level of competition. We've seen that reflected in some of these moves."

Geaney echoed that sentiment.

“It's going to raise a very, very high standard for guys going forward,” he said. “Guys are going to have to very much earn their way to a roster spot on what should be a very talented Major League club.”

That’s the challenge for Gore and Campusano, who will have a chance make an impact in 2021. Abrams and Hassell are a bit further away, but Preller has shown in the past that he's willing to push his prospects quickly.

"In terms of the young players and when their time frame is, we've shown [that] if somebody's ready and we feel like they've checked the boxes … we're going to let those guys compete," Preller said. "The message to the young players in the organization is, ‘The bar's set high. The standard's high.’ But, honestly, there's a lot of belief and faith in that group. …

“If they create their opportunity, we're open to having them be a part of this thing."