Padres' farm system looking up in midseason rankings

August 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell's Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Padres are making a habit of rebuilding their farm system on the fly. Last summer, they dealt away a sizeable chunk of their highly regarded prospect pool in deals to acquire Juan Soto and Josh Hader (among other players). Not for the first time, they were tasked with a major overhaul of their farm.

Again, they appear to be in the process of doing exactly that. At least, that’s the takeaway from last week’s MLB Pipeline midseason re-rank of every organization’s top prospects and the Top 100 overall.

No, the Padres aren’t quite back to the level of young talent they employed pre-2022 Trade Deadline. But they clearly have the makings of an impressive group, particularly at the lower levels. MLB Pipeline’s newest Top 100 features five Padres prospects, including two in the Top 10.

Here’s a look at the Padres’ top prospects:

1. Ethan Salas, C (No. 5 overall prospect)
2. Jackson Merrill, SS (No. 9)
3. Robby Snelling, LHP (No. 64)
4. Dylan Lesko, RHP (No. 67)
5. Samuel Zavala, OF (No. 100)
Complete Top 30 list »

Biggest jump/fall from preseason list

Jump: Brandon Valenzuela, C (Preseason: NR | Midseason: 9)
Valenzuela has struggled a bit in adapting to the Double-A Texas League, but there’s no denying the strides he made in High A, slashing .279/.372/.456 at Fort Wayne while playing excellent defense before earning a midseason promotion.

Fall: Jay Groome, LHP (Preseason: 9 | Midseason: NR)
A first-round Draft choice in 2016, Groome -- acquired from Boston in the Eric Hosmer deal -- threatened to crack the big league roster out of camp. But he’s struggled at Triple-A El Paso this season, posting an 8.08 ERA.

New to the list

Here are the players added to the Top 30 from outside the organization:

8. Dillon Head, OF (Drafted in first round)
13. Homer Bush Jr., OF (Drafted in fourth round)
17. Blake Dickerson, LHP (Drafted in 12th round)
22. J.D. Gonzalez, C (Drafted in third round)
24. Sean Reynolds, RHP (Acquired in trade with Miami)
29. Kannon Kemp, RHP (Drafted in eighth round)

Potential impact callup
Right-hander Jairo Iriarte (No. 6 prospect) was enjoying a breakout season with a 3.10 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 61 innings at High-A Fort Wayne when he was promoted to Double-A San Antonio in mid-July. He’s pitched in relief ever since, perhaps to ease a move to the Majors. San Diego has shown a willingness to jump pitchers from the Texas League to the Majors this season. Iriarte’s fastball can touch the upper 90s, and he has a slider and a changeup that could transition well to the bigs in short stints. -- Sam Dykstra, MLB Pipeline

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: 55 – Ethan Salas (Merrill, Lamar King Jr.)
Run: 80 – Dillon Head
Arm: 60 – Salas (Eguy Rosario, J.D. Gonzalez)
Defense: 60 – Salas (Head)
Fastball: 70 – Sean Reynolds
Curveball: 55 – Dylan Lesko
Slider: 60 – Robby Snelling
Changeup: 70 – Lesko
Control: 55 – Adam Mazur (Snelling, Lesko, Garrett Hawkins, Alek Jacob)