A look at the Padres’ prospects to know at each position group heading into the 2023 season (opening-day assignment in parentheses):
While signing 16-year-old Ethan Salas (extended spring training) for $5.6 million in January means the organization has a new catcher of the future, the Padres are intent on seeing what Luis Campusano (MLB) can do with a larger share of the playing time in the majors. Campusano is a former California League co-MVP who made his MLB debut before playing in Double-A because of the pandemic, sustained an injury shortly after hitting his first big-league home run and struggled offensively and defensively when injury forced him onto the roster in 2021. Campusano has since posted an .875 OPS over back-to-back seasons at Triple-A El Paso to earn this year’s audition. Upside prospects beyond these two are limited, as Brandon Valenzuela (A+) struggled last year at high Single-A Fort Wayne (.682 OPS) and raw fourth-rounder Lamar King Jr. (EST) appeared in four games after last year’s draft as player development focused on building a foundation. Meantime, Juan Zabala (A+) opened eyes at low Single-A Lake Elsinore (.803 OPS) after the Padres acquired him off the Dodgers’ developmental list.
Others to know: Brett Sullivan (AAA), Juan Fernandez (AA), Yorman Rodriguez (AAA), Chandler Seagle (AA), Anthony Vilar (A+), Colton Bender (A+), Oswaldo Linares (A).
For the first time in the A.J. Preller era, the Padres drafted two first basemen inside the first 10 rounds last summer. Both fifth-rounder Nathan Martorella (A+, .932 OPS) of Cal and Griffin Doersching (A, .911 OPS) of Oklahoma State finished 2022 on Lake Elsinore’s championship team. 3B Marcos Castanon (A+, .882 OPS) spent the entire year on that squad and was tied for the system lead with 23 homers with INF/OF Brandon Dixon (AAA, 1.265 OPS), a minor league journeyman who advanced from Double-A San Antonio to Triple-A El Paso and finished his season on the Padres’ wild-card roster. Taylor Kohlwey (AAA, .832 OPS) played more outfield than first base in 2022, but his ability to bounce between the two spots as a left-handed bat is what could include him in the big-league conversation at some point this year. Much further away, Daniel Montesino (EST) is a bat-first prospect returning from Tommy John this year after last playing in the rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2021 (.933 OPS).
Others to know: Lucas Dunn (A+), Carlos Luis (A+), Cole Cummings (A+), Maikol Munoz (EST), Adrián Perez (EST).
While top prospect Jackson Merrill (A+), 906 OPS) likely moves off shortstop if he remains in the organization (last year’s Juan Soto deal proved that no one is safe from Preller’strade block), his bat, athletic prowess and “culture-changing” makeup will play just about anywhere on the infield or perhaps in left field. 2B/3B Eguy Rosario (AAA, .876 OPS) would have competed for a bench spot had he not broken his ankle this offseason. Both he and INF/OF Matt Batten (AAA, .840 OPS) made their MLB debuts last summer after steady climbs up the ladder. Because they’re all teenagers still, it remains to be seen if the other middle infielders of note in the system — Nerwilian Cedeno (A+, .762 OPS, Lake Elsinore), Rosman Verdugo (A, .805 OPS, Arizona) and Yendry Rojas (EST, .730 OPS, DSL) — will develop into something more than bench prospects.
Others to know: Jarryd Dale (EST), Kervin Pichardo (EST), Ripken Reyes (AA), Charlis Aquino (A), Graham Pauley (A), Alain Camou (EST).
The left-handed-hitting Samuel Zavala (A, .896 OPS) finished his first full year in pro ball at Lake Elsinore, is just 18 years old and this spring began finding his name on top-100 prospects lists. The versatile Korry Howell (AA, .876 OPS, San Antonio) is as athletic as anyone in the system, but a wrist injury limited him to just 48 games after arriving last April in the Victor Caratini trade. At 24 years old, he should find his way this year to El Paso, where he could post monster numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. The same goes for 23-year-old Tirso Ornelas (AA, .756 OPS), but he’s a .369 slugger through his first six years in the organization and has been untouched in multiple Rule 5 drafts. The hulking Joshua Mears (A+, .791 OPS, San Antonio), still just 22 years old, offers plenty to dream on but struck out in 47.9 percent of his plate appearances after moving to Double-A last year. From last summer’s regular draft, sixth-rounder Jakob Marsee (A+, .839 OPS) also finished last year on the Storm’s championship team.
Others to know: Luis Liberato (AAA), Jorge Oña (AA), Justin Farmer (A+), Albert Fabian (A), Eddy Beltre (EST), Juan Murrillo (EST), Ruben Salinas (EST), Nick Vogt (EST), Oliver Carrillo (EST), José Sanabria (EST), Estuar Suero (EST).
LHP Ryan Weathers (MLV, 6.73 ERA) may have extinguished rookie status after he was rushed to the majors, but the organization still believes in upside despite a trying 2022 in El Paso. He, LHP Jay Groome (AAA, 3.44 ERA) and RHPs Pedro Avila (AAA, 4.58 ERA) and Reiss Knehr (AAA, 6.88 ERA) figure to be competing for call-up starts throughout the season. Beyond those taxi-squad starters, the organization’s highest upside pitchers will make their professional debuts this summer. RHP Dylan Lesko (EST) with a devastating change-up, might have been a top-five pick had Tommy John surgery not ended his senior season last spring and allowed the Padres to snag him in the middle of last year’s first round. LHP Robby Snelling (A), the 39th overall pick, was a blue-chip linebacker before shifting his focus to baseball. RHP Adam Mazur (A+), a second-rounder out of Iowa, could be a fast mover, while RHP Victor Lizarraga (A+, 3.43 ERA) is already moving quickly after winning two road playoff games for Lake Elsinore as an 18-year-old.
Others to know: RHP Matt Waldron (AAA), LHP Jackson Wolf (AA), RHP Ryan Bergert (A+), RHP Efrain Contreras (AA), RHP Garrett Hawkins (A+), LHP Noel Vela (EST), RHP Jairo Iriarte (A+), RHP Kobe Robinson (A), RHP Duncan Snider (AA), RHP Isaiah Lowe (A), RHP Henry Williams (EST), RHP Aldo Leija (EST).
LHP Tom Cosgrove (AAA, 3.72 ERA) is the newest addition to the 40-man roster, added over the offseason after striking out 13.3 batters per nine innings in rising to El Paso. LHP Ray Kerr (AAA, 5.08 ERA) made his MLB debut last year and remains one of the hardest throwing lefty relievers in the minors despite command struggles in the Pacific Coast League. LHP José Castillo (IL, 2.59 ERA) pitched himself back into the organization’s plans after advancing back to El Paso in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. RHP Michel Báez (AAA, 4.91 ERA) also got back to El Paso in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Two soft-throwing developmental names to keep an eye on: RHP Alek Jacob (EST, 2.68 ERA) reached El Paso in his first year in the system, while RHP Kevin Kopps (AA, 4.14 ERA), the Golden Spikes winner in 2021, stalled at Double-A San Antonio while struggling to land his gyro-like slider for strikes.
Others to know: RHP Angel Felipe (AAA), LHP Aaron Leasher (AAA), RHP Moises Lugo (AAA), LHP Fred Schlichtholz (EST), RHP Lake Bachar (AA), LHP Ryan Och (EST), RHP Keegan Collett (A+), RHP Justin Lopez (AA).