The San Diego Padres once had what was universally perceived as the best farm system in baseball, boasting deep prospect capital. That was just three years ago. Since then, Padres general manager AJ Preller began dismantling his farm system to bring in proven talent. Much of that prospect capital has been traded, while others have graduated from the minors. Fast-forward to 2022, and the team has dropped to near the bottom of the rankings. A glimmer of hope, they still boast two MLB Top 100 prospects. The Padres do not, however, boast the same deep system it once had. At one time, the Padres still ranked high among other teams even without their plethora of top prospects. After a boom-or-bust trade deadline that netted Juan Soto, the biggest trade chip, Preller, once again, has his work cut out.
This article attempts to take a closer look at the team’s top prospects remaining. One is on the verge of getting called up, again, to the big league club. The rest won’t see major league service time for at least a few more years.
No. 98 Overall Prospect Luis Campusano
Luis Campusano (No. 98 overall) is listed first for a reason. He could be called up to the Padres soon if Preller feels he needs to shake up his catching situation. The Padres currently have catchers Jorge Alfaro and Austin Nola on the 26-man roster. Both have been struggling mightily at the plate since the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Campusano is mashing at the plate in Triple-A El Paso. He is hitting .305/.370/.483/.853 in 2022. He has seen only a sample size of major league time this season, a mere 12 at-bats.
Campusano has an above-average hit tool, and above-average power. He has a plus arm behind the plate (60). Campusano has similar grades to Alfaro, who was graded as having an 80 arm and plus power. Alfaro, however, will be a free agent after next season. With Campusano waiting in the wings, it’s unlikely that the Padres will keep Alfaro onboard. Another option could be to trade Alfaro this coming winter to upgrade the farm, or the roster. Either way, it’s likely Campusano takes on catching duties in 2023 if not sooner.
No. 88 Overall Prospect Jackson Merrill
The Padres’ top prospect already has a tiny fame claim. Jackson Merrill (No. 88 overall) is the highest-drafted player from the state of Maryland. Drafted with the 27th overall pick in the 2021 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Merrill quickly shot up to the top of the list.
He throws from the right side, and bats from the left side. Drafted a shortstop, some speculate that a move to the hot corner could be in his future. He is expected to add more size to his 6-foot-3 frame. Merrill has an above-average hit tool, and hits for above-average power. On the diamond, he has above-average arm strength. Expect these grades to rise as Merrill rises through the system. His estimated major league debut is 2025.
No. 3 Dylan Lesko
Premium stuff is the name of Dylan Lesko’s pitch repertoire. To be more specific, that is a plus-plus changeup, plus fastball, and an above-average curveball. The Padres drafted Lesko with the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Lesko’s fastball velocity tops out at 97 mph while sitting at 92-95 mph. He can make his fastball rise in the strike zone, and can also keep it down with sinking action. Lesko had the best changeup in the 2022 draft. His changeup runs in the low 80’s and fools hitters with its horizontal break. Lesko’s curveball is his least reliable pitch. It does, however, have a high spin right and the potential to become a plus pitch later.
Lesko was the 2021 Gatorade Player of the Year. He earned this recognition as a high school junior. Lesko’s estimated major league debut is 2027.
No. 10 Korry Howell
This prospect was acquired this past winter. Drafted in 2021, by the Milwaukee Brewers, Korry Howell was traded to the Padres in exchange for Victor Caratini and cash.Howell’s speed is his sharpest tool, graded plus-plus. He is expected to give a major league team 20-25 stolen bases per season. To increase that number, Howell needs more aggressive base running.
Howell has the makeup of a utility player. A plus fielding tool, Howell appears to have a future as a late-inning replacement. Just below average, Howell’s hit tool keeps him out of an everyday lineup. He is expected to make his major league debut next season.
No. 16 Josh Mears
A big bat, and above-average speed. This is what Josh Mears brings to the farm system. Having a plus bat tool, Mears has a .844 OPS this season while splitting time at the Arizona Complex League and Single-A Fort Wayne. Mears’ power is described as “freakish” by scouts. Those scouts say he also maintains a presence while in the batter’s box. But his biggest drawback, Mears strikes out at a high rate. To add to that, his fielding is below average.
Improving his plate discipline bodes well for him rising quickly through the system. Putting him in the same outfield with Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. potentially makes a three-headed monster too powerful to tame. One thing in his favor, Mears has above-average speed. Improving in other areas makes him a run-producing threat. His estimated major league debut is 2024.
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Juan Soto, Luis Campusano, Jorge Alfaro, Austin Nola, Jackson Merrill, Dylan Lesko, Korry Howell, Victor Caratini, Josh Mears, Fernando Tatis Jr.