San Diego Padres – 2018 UTR Organizational All-Stars

**A few years ago a friend of mine who follows our work here at the website presented me with an interesting question. He asked:    
 
 “Is it easier to make your [OAS] choices when an organization is ranked real high or when a system is near the bottom of the [organizational] rankings?”
 
I started to answer, then stopped, realizing that this wasn’t as easy a question to answer as I thought. Of course each organization has its own collection of players, which adds up to certain strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes UTR kids stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes not so much. We take it year-by-year, and every minor league organization forces us to take a slightly different approach. Therefore, Jim and I run each player in consideration through a large collection of factors in order to create our lists. Then, to answer the initial question, it is not easy nor is it difficult.
 
It’s extremely rewarding. The more prospects the better. The more players we have to sort through, the better choices we make; and the better choices we make, the better it is for readers. Now, with the Padres, it wasn’t difficult. In fact, I don’t even like using the word “difficult.” I’d rather refer to it as “timely” because the more prospects you have to sift through, the longer it takes. But if it’s taking longer, that means an organization is deep. And there is no system deeper than the San Diego Padres. With this year’s Padres, there is no weakness. No matter what you’re looking for, they have it: hitting, pitching, power, speed, velocity, breaking stuff. The list could go on and on.
 
Yet, as you’ll see below, regardless of how deep San Diego is, Jim and I are still sticking to our UTR guns. If a top prospect stood out, you’ll see their name below. If a prime UTR killed it on the field, ahead of his top prospect mates, you’ll read his name below.**

Top Lineup –

CBrandon Valenzuela – I wouldn’t call it a mute point, but this year’s Padres OAS choice at catcher has a huge hill to climb. When you have the likes of defensive whiz Austin Hedges, 2018 trade acquisition Francisco Mejia (from Cleveland in the Brand Hand, Adam Cimber deal) and 2015 – 4th rounder out of Florida Institute of Technology Austin Allen ahead of you on the depth chart, you know you’re in for a long haul. That won’t stop us though. We look at what 2018 brought us and let that do our talking, but we can’t shy away from the current landscape. We use the phrase “raising the floor” a lot, and that’s what 2017 international signee Brandon Valenzuela could do moving forward. San Diego signed the 18-year-old switch-hitter out of Mexico and assigned him to the Dominican Summer League to start his career. I wouldn’t say he lit the world on fire, but he served the DSL squad very well ranking second in hits (50) and RBi (27), and fourth on the team in runs scored (34), doubles (7), batting (.253), slugging percentage (.323), OPS (.702) and total bases (64). On the defensive side, he spent time at first (6 games) committing three errors, but as the DSL Padres starting catcher, he registered only one error all season. (.997 fielding percentage). However, he’ll have to improve on the 22 passed balls he suffered. There’s a lot to like here. He’s a big kid (6’3”- 195 lb.) and all he has to do is simply work on his all around game. No glaring weakness. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Valenzuela in either the AZL or possibly SS Tri-City this coming season.
 
1BBrad Zunica – At first glance, the Padres first base depth is an intriguing bunch. You have 34-year-old former major leaguer Allen Craig and 28-year-old Aderlin Rodriguez, both of whom will probably spend all of 2019 with Triple-A El Paso because, after all, San Diego has 29-year-old former Kansas City Royal Eric Hosmer signed through the 2025 season. Luckily, and I say that tongue in cheek, the organization lacks any real blue-chipper at the position. The collection of underbelly prospects San Diego has at first base all resemble each other fairly well: a lot of power and a lot of strikeouts, which is typical for the position, but not desired quite honestly. And so, with a grain-of-salt approach, Brad Zunica gets the nod (again)  this year. Not that this is a bad thing. You can’t argue with the 2015 – 15th round draft pick out of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (FL). Since his debut in 2016, Zunica has been one of the more consistent first basemen at the plate, yet due to the overwhelming quality of prospects in the system overall, Zunica remains (more or less) under-the-radar. Last year with HiA Lake Elsinore, the huge 6’6”- 245 lb. lefty batted .251 with 20 doubles, 55 runs scored and 60 RBi; and his 17 home runs tied him for the team lead with third baseman Hudson Potts. You’d think however, that playing in the Cal League would inflate his numbers, but Zunica performed consistently well averaging 14 home runs, 16 doubles, 46 runs scored and 56 RBi his previous two seasons. With the bevy of first basemen in the system, most fall in the vicinity of “One to Watch” territory than Organizational All-Star. Which positions Zunica rather well in that if adjusts to Double-A pitching, it will be one step closer to majors and possibly becoming Hosmer’s primary backup in 2020.
 
2BTucupita Marcano – This is absolutely no jab at the San Diego Padres front office. However, every fan is entitled to their own opinion, but am I the only one confused by the Padres late-December signing of second baseman Ian Kinsler? This is nothing against him as a player, a veteran leader in the clubhouse and even statistically. He’s averaged a .271/.339/.443/.782 slash line with 22 homers, 36 doubles and 22 bases over his 13 year career. What’s not to like? Well, the issue is that Luis Urias and Fernando Tatis Jr. each have absolutely nothing left to prove in the minors, therefore why not release the hounds, let them begin their quest to shore up the middle of the Padres infield for the next decade or so? No matter how you look at it, it’s a great problem to have. So, to “complicate” matters, let’s throw Esteury Ruiz, Eugy Rosario and this year’s OAS choice Tucupita Marcano into the mix. Sure, I like Ruiz and Rosario’s power and how compelling it is to see teenagers competing at such a high level (Ruiz; 19 in LoA; Rosario; 18 in HiA), but what Marcano brings to the table is exactly what you want from a second baseman. He hit a combined .366 this year between the AZL (Padres2) and SS Tri-City (Northwest League) and committed one error all season at second base. He doesn’t possess much power evident by his nine extra base hits on the season, however, he stole 15 bases and drew nearly double the amount of walks (30) then he struck out (15). Marcano is a hitting and on-base machine and given what he’s displayed over the last two seasons, there’s zero reason to believe he won’t continue growing. Marcano sit at the top of the list when it comes to must-track Padres prospects heading into 2019.
 
3BHudson Potts – Now this free-agent signing made sense. San Diego surprised few by signing stud infielder Manny Machado to a 10 year-$300M contract in late February. This shores up the position until 2028 (contractually that is), yet, on the other side, adds a wrinkle in the plans of any up-and-coming third baseman in the system. Including this year’s OAS Hudson Potts. Make no mistake though. The signing had nothing to do with Potts ability to mash a baseball. The 2016 – 1st rounder out of Carroll HS (TX) started 2018 with HiA Lake Elsinore, played 106 games there, then received a promotion to Double-A San Antonio to finish out the year. Despite the bump in levels, the 19-year-old Potts still ended the season as Lake Elsinore’s team leader in home runs (17), and finished within the Cal League top ten in doubles (35), homers, total bases (202) and slugging percentage (.498). As of now, with Machado entrenched at third, and Potts standing within the organization, I suspect he could be the topic of potential trade talk should San Diego find themselves in the postseason hunt sooner rather than later.  Or the organization can continue developing him, and move him around the diamond in a possible super-utility role, as Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser compares him to 10-year major league veteran Trevor Plouffe. This situation allows us here to use 2019 to monitor the third base depth with the hopes that another young hitter can emerge.
 
SSXavier Edwards – Going back to Tucupita Marcano’s bio above, it appears the Padres will begin the season with Ian Kinsler at second with top infield prospect Luis Urias starting at shortstop. Again, for me personally, this is a head-scratcher, as minor league #1 overall shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. will likely spend the first few months of the season in Triple-A in order for the Padres organization to gain an extra year of control. From an organizational standpoint, I understand. But from a at-the-gate/fandom point of view, promote the kid now, plant him at shortstop and fill Petco Park to near capacity every single night. Anyway, that’s just me. With Tatis Jr. literally at the screen door of major league super stardom, on the UTR side of things, it’s wide open; and despite the small 2018 sample size, 2018 – 1st rounder Xavier Edwards left us with no choice. Drafted out of North Broward Prep HS (FL), the 5’10” – 155 lb. switch-hitter spurned a commitment to Division I powerhouse Vanderbilt, and signed with the Padres for $2.6M. He was assigned directly to the Arizona League; and what the Padres drafted is what they got on the field: a mature approach at the plate, plus-plus speed, promising power and a gifted defense. In 21 games, Edwards hit a white-hot .384 with 12 stolen bases, 19 runs scored and a 13:10 BB:K ratio. Defensively, Edwards had to make adjustments to pro ball, suffering four errors in 15 games. This didn’t deter the organization from a promotion, sending him to SS Tri-City, where he kept right on rolling, batting .314 with an additional 21 runs scored, 10 stolen bases and another stellar BB:K ratio of 18:15. His defense improved, committing only one error in his final 24 games on the season. With another season (or two) like this, it would be shocking not to see Edwards sitting firmly within the 2020/21 Padres top 10 list. I love everything about this kid.     
 
LFBuddy Reed – Although he’s right on the age/level cusp and will most likely not qualify for UTR running in 2019, who is more perfect as this year’s UTR OAS left fielder than Buddy Reed? The 2016 – 2nd rounder is a great example of one of the many criteria we use to place players on the annual OAS list. Jim mentions his ‘Factor Score’, which is the amount of times a pitcher is mentioned in his daly report each season. I calculate my hitters in a similar fashion, however with hitters playing every day as opposed to a starting pitcher throwing every four/five days or a reliever depending on what happens ahead of him, I rarely, if ever, publish those numbers. I do keep track though, and Reed’s inclusion on the OAS list was due primarily to his appearing 16 times on the Top Hitters of the Day list during the 2018 regular season. It might have been more had the soon-to-be- 24-year-old not seen a promotion to Double-A San Antonio in early July. With HiA Lake Elsinore, Reed batted .324 with 21 doubles, seven triples, 12 home runs and 33 steals, which still finished third in the Cal League despite the AA promotion. Although Reed is more a center fielder than left, he did register 54 games there while in HiA and truth be told,I didn’t want to exclude him from the list. Reed will be tested in 2019 with a full year in Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League.
 
CFEdward Olivares – Just when you think you may have cleared the hurdle of blue-chip talent inside the Padres organization, along come the outfielders. And although this season’s UTR OAS choice Edward Olivares isn’t widely considered a blue chipper, his talent along with what he did on the field in 2018 is a testament to how deep San Diego’s minor league outfield is (as well). Olivares, along with right-handed pitcher Jared Carkuff came to the Padres organization in the January 2018 trade that sent Yangervis Solarte to the Toronto Blue Jays. As a Blue Jay, Olivares compiled a .267 batting average with 22 home runs, 110 RBi and 47 stolen bases across five levels in four seasons. This past season for HiA Lake Elsinore, the 6’2”- 185 lb. righty batted .277 with 25 doubles, 12 homers and 21 stolen bases, and his 147 hits, 79 runs scored, 62 RBi all placed him within the California League top five. On the defensive side of the ball, Olivares is average, registering a .974 fielding percentage in 115 game started in center. Sure, these number may seem a bit bloated compared to his averages, and you can chalk that up to Cal League inflation. The unfortunate thing for the native of Venezuela is that even before Olivares came to San Diego, he was a top 30 prospect (coming in at #14) inside Baseball America’s 2018 Blue Jays Top 30, yet overshadowed by a system that boasts prospect phenoms Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Now, Oliveras gets traded to the Padres, the best minor league system in the game? Overshadowed by Fernando Tatis Jr.. Luis Urias and the vast collection of top pitching prospects? Just keep plugging away kid.
 
RFAgustin Ruiz – For my final Padres pick, I’m going full-blown UTR here. I mean, why not since the system is ranked number one, loaded with both pitchers and hitters and an incredible amount of wiggle room when it comes to the choices Jim and I are making. The Padres signed the 6’2” – 175 lb. Mexico native during the July 2016 International free agent signing period. The following June, Ruiz began his pro career in the Arizona League with Padres1. He didn’t fare too well batting a meager .208 with only three extra base hits, 10 runs scored and three runs batted in in 18 games. The lefty swinger began 2018 back in the DSL and his bat took off. He registered a .290/.384/.466/.850 slash line with 11 doubles, an AZL leading 10 triples, 28 RBi, 39 runs scored and 27 walks before he embarked on a short six game road trip with two games for SS Tri-City, then four with LoA Fort Wayne. Of course, he slowed down, but still logged a respectful .240 batting average with three more doubles and two RBi. Ruiz might not have put on the sexiest performance among San Diego prospects, but when you piece his season all together, you have an 18 year old who hit .269 with 16 doubles across three levels. It’s a shot in the dark, but Jim and i chose to do it this way, and if we end up with our heads on a chopping block because we might do things a little bit unconventional, just remember that the potato chip was created by accident.
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
 
1. RHP Chris Paddack(19.5) / AA San Antonio     “ASAP Roster Add”
** The Miami Marlins took Paddock in the 8th round during the 2014 draft and those who scouted the 6’4″ 195 lb righty felt he has the talent of a 1st rounder. He was traded to the Padres in exchange for Fernando Rodney in 2016. Paddack has proven to be that type of talent, and had he not spent 2017 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, he could have been solidly ensconced in the Padres rotation last season.  Despite the lost season in 2017, the right-hander continued putting-up solid numbers across two levels in 2018 and should skip Double-A and head straight to Petco Park for 2019.
 
2. LHP Osvaldo Hernandez – (16.5) / LoA Fort Wayne
**San Diego made in-roads signing talent out of Cuba and Osvaldo could be the next touted prospect from the loaded Padres system. The 6′ 0″ 180 lb lefty spent all of 2018 with LoA Fort Wayne, recording 11 wins and garnering attention with his 1.81 ERA in 21 appearances with 19 starts.  Across 109 innings, Hernandez limited hitters to a .254 average and posted a K/BB ratio of 94/27. Hernandez uses a 4-pitch mix that keeps hitters off balance. His fastball (low 90’s) needs more polish to increase his velocity, but his secondaries are what currently steps-up his game.
 
3. RHP Luis Patino(16.5) / LoA Fort Wayne
**Patino could move very fast up the prospect rankings for the Padres soon. He dominated LoA in 2018 by posting a 6-3 record with an ERA of 2.16 while striking out 98 batters in 83.1 innings. The 2016 International free agent signee has received comps that mirror fellow prospect teammate MacKenzie Gore. After only pitching 16 innings with the DSL Padres in 2017, the Club brought the 18 year-old to the U.S. where he became one the best pitchers in the AZL to close out the season.
 
4. RHP Michel Baez(14.5) / AA San Antonio   “Take a Flyer”
**Baez is one of the many top arms within the Padres system. Another of the Cuban signees, Baez was hampered with back issues in 2018 and though he looked good at HiA Lake Elsinore, his fastball command suffered. It reared its ugliness after a promotion to San Antonio where his BB9 rate spiked to 5.9, along with a 10.9 H9 rate. He will have to turn the ship in 2019 with a return stint at Double-A, if he wants to works his way into a future rotation spot in San Diego. With the likes of Gore, Cal Quantrill, Adrian Morejon, Logan Allen, and Eric Lauer……it could be an uphill battle.
 
5. LHP Nick Margevicius(14) / HiA Lake Elsinore
** It appears that the Padres are pushing Margevicius by aggressively promoting him to HiA halfway through the 2018 season. The 7th round pick in 2017 only saw 48 innings in the Rookie Leagues during his debut season. He posted very respectable rates of 11.6 K9 and 1.5 BB9 and a 1.13 ERA. The 6′ 5″ 220 lb southpaw threw 135 innings last season and nearly held those rates in check, but overall, improved his K/BB ratio to 8.59
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
 
 1. RHP Blake Rogers(12) / HiA Lake Elsinore
2. RHP Dauris Valdez(10) / HiA Lake Elsinore
3. RHP David Bednar – (8) / HiA Lake Elsinore 
 
 

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This entry was posted in 2018, 2018 Post Season UTR Organization All-Stars, Hitters, Pitchers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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