San Diego Padres Top 50 Prospects (2023)

San Diego Padres Top 50 graphic design by Michael Packard, @CollectingPack on Twitter

Robert Hassell III. CJ Abrams. MacKenzie Gore. James Wood. Esteury Ruiz. And more. All gone. 9 of my top 13 prospects from a year ago are all in different organizations. This is just the way of life in San Diego nowadays. Develop some talent and then trade it away for Juan Soto. Or Josh Hader. It’s a model that makes sense, but as a prospect writer, I am learning to not be attached to anyone in the system. I have even been trying to make a connection to the teenagers that are years away, like Victor Acosta and Jarlin Susana. But alas, they are gone too. Will I ever love again?

Well, probably not anytime soon. This is arguably one of the weakest farm systems in the league right now, headed by recent 1st round pick Jackson Merrill. He’s a fine prospect and maybe even top 100 in some circles, but after him it’s rough. I really only felt the need to fully write up 11 players, because I’m sorry — I just can’t confidently put Kevin Kopps in tier 3. I truly do apologize as I want to give more analysis on these guys, but I still need to adhere to our format.

With that being said, we must trust the process. A year ago, Esteury Ruiz and Robert Gasser were afterthoughts. Today, they brought back William Contreras and Josh Hader (stretching it, I know, but you get my point). San Diego has to be the envy of the league when it comes to quick development, so some one like Samuel Zavala and Eddy Beltre may bring back Bryan Reynolds and Mitch Keller; who knows? So while the major league team has championship aspirations, the prospector must rummage through this system to find the next big thing. And history shows us that he is there…somewhere.

Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster

Tier 1


Tier 2

1. Jackson Merrill, SS, 19, Single-A
The obvious pick for top prospect in the system, I still can’t decide if this makes him look better than he actually is or if he is truly a top spot worthy player. The hit tool is advanced and he makes hard contact a lot (.325/.387/.482 in Single-A). The problem is that he can’t elevate the ball to get to his potential above-average power. Merrill has a bit of hype right now based on his size and great hit tool with the promise of power, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think he can tap into it. That being said, everything is here for a solid league regular, albeit a little empty since he doesn’t run well and probably won’t hit for huge power either. He definitely impressed in the 2022 Arizona Fall League!

2. Dylan Lesko, RHP, 19, College
Lesko had a chance to be the first arm off the board in the draft, but Tommy John lowered his stock for teams. The Padres took a chance on him at 15th overall in 2022. There is so much unknown here that I would understand not picking him in FYPD, but if you believe that he will return to his old self, there is a lot to like. What sparks my interest the most is the incredible potential on his changeup to go with his plus fastball. The command will be what makes or breaks him, however, and we may not even see him this year in a game, but he’s a gamble that could pay dividends.

3. Samuel Zavala, OF, 18, Single-A
Zavala is a little like the Jackson Merrill of the outfield, as he showed great barrel control, especially when factoring in his age and level. A 13.5% walk rate is particularly encouraging, although he is too passive at times. The intriguing part is that he tapped into a little of that power already as a teenager, hitting 7 home runs in only 32 Single-A games. The problem is there really isn’t a standout tool here, as he won’t steal bases, probably won’t hit for huge power and probably hits around .260-.275. It’s an all-around decent type of profile that suggests he can crack the big leagues, but the ceiling isn’t as great as we may have hoped.

4. Eguy Rosario, 2B/OF, 23, MLB
Rosario made his debut in 2022 after a 20/20 season in Triple-A and probably has a role on the team in 2023 as a utility guy. He has played all over the diamond and looks like a major leaguer. The progress has been very steady throughout his ascent to the majors and if more improvement comes there is something here for fantasy purposes. He seems like a great guy to trade when the Padres inevitably make their moves midseason and he could carve out a full time role on a second division team. Still, position versatility and some power/speed combine with his proximity make him a safe choice for dynasty teams.

Tier 3

5. Adam Mazur, RHP, 21, College
For fantasy purposes, Mazur gets me more excited that Snelling despite what the draft might suggest. Mazur was the Big Ten pitcher of the year and comes ready with a 4-pitch arsenal, including a plus slider and potentially plus-plus fastball. There is a lot to work with here already and should be much faster to the show than Snelling. I think he may be a bullpen piece with his wipeout slider because he struggles maintaining his velocity throughout his starts. If he could go full throttle one inning at a time, he would be elite.

6. Robby Snelling, LHP, 19, High School
High school pitchers aren’t my favorite to rank highly. But this system is bare right now. And also he is a lefty that the Padres paid $3 million to forgo his commitment to ASU. So welcome to the top ten Robby! He may belong here, however, as he is throwing low 90’s as a teen with a wicked curveball. The changeup needs a lot of work, but the tools are there for a decent prospect in the future. It’s just going to take a long time.

7. Nathan Martorella, 1B, 22, Single-A
A big dude at 225 pounds, Martorella is a pretty advanced college bat who showed great patience at the plate in his debut (.403 OBP). He only stuck out 10% in college and hits the ball hard, a lot. He just doesn’t elevate a lot, but the obvious power potential is there. He will have to hit a ton, however, as he is pretty stuck as a 1b/DH guy. That puts a lot of pressure on his bat, but I like that the hit tool is there already and his frame suggests he can tap into that tantalizing power.

8. Victor Lizarraga, RHP, 19, Single-A
Lizarraga doesn’t do anything badly, but he also isn’t very exciting. He was awarded the top pitching performer for the Padres minor leaguers, but that isn’t saying much as the best pitching prospects in the system haven’t thrown a pitch for them yet. His average stuff from the right side does make his 3.53 ERA as a teenager in Single-A look rather promising and I love his poise and tenacity on the mound. He looks like he has been doing this for decades, but he can’t even legally drink yet; that’s worth something indeed.

9. Joshua Mears, OF, 21, Double-A
Oh, what could have been. If you told me that the Padres would trade everyone that they did a year ago, I would have told you that Mears is the easy No. 1 prospect. Alas, Mears really struggled in 2022, although he did still hit 22 home runs. He also struck out 161 times and really bombed at Double-A. The power is still there and he is very young so I won’t quit him just yet. Be ready to jump ship if his struggles continue in 2023.

10. Ethan Salas, C, 16, International
Hey, I bet your system doesn’t have a 16-year-old in their top 10! Ha! Truth be told, Salas is one of the best international catching prospects we have seen a long time. He is a switch-hitter with some nice bloodlines (brother is Jose Salas from Miami, Dad and Uncle also played professionally). He is an extreme gamble, and it might be 2030 when we see in the big leagues, but there is a lot to dream on here. Oh, and he is the number one prospect in the 2023 class and reportedly will earn $5.6 million. He probably should be higher.

11. Jay Groome, LHP, 24, Triple-A
I almost didn’t have Groome in this tier, but his prospect pedigree is too much to ignore. Sure, his stuff isn’t as good as it was a few years ago, but his results are decent (mid 3.00’s ERA and almost a strikeout per inning) and he is basically the first man up if a starter is needed. He clearly isn’t going to be a top-flight starter, but he certainly could be useful in fantasy pitching for San Diego.

Tier 4

12. Daniel Montesino, OF, 18, Rookie (DSL)
13. Nerwillian Cedeno, 3B, 20, Single-A
14. Henry Williams, RHP, 21, College
15. Yendry Rojas, SS, 17, Rookie (DSL)
16. Griffin Doersching, 1B, 24, Single-A
17. Kevin Kopps, RHP, 25, Double-A
18. Marcos Castanon, SS, 23, Single-A
19. Noel Vela, LHP, 24, Double-A
20. Eddy Beltre, OF, 18, Rookie (ACL)
21. Jairo Iriarte, RHP, 21, Single-A
22. Korry Howell, OF, 24, Double-A
23. Brandon Valenzuela, C, 22, High-A
24. Jackson Wolf, LHP, 23, Double-A
25. Rosman Verdugo, INF, 17, Rookie (ACL)
26. Angel Felipe, RHP, 25, Triple-A
27. Tom Cosgrove, LHP, 26, Triple-A
28. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, 24, MLB
29. Pedro Avila, RHP, 25, MLB
30. Brent Honeywell Jr., RHP, 27, MLB
31. Ray Kerr, LHP, 28, MLB

Montesino is back after missing 2022 with TJ, so he could move up this list fast if things are all good…Finally, a player that looks to have a high ceiling. I am willing to bet on Cedeno more than most in this system, and he got valuable PT in the Arizona Fall League. Williams joins the “just-had-TJ” draft class of 2022. Can someone tell Rojas to swing harder to take advantage of his magnificent approach? Stop me if you heard this before. A Padres international signing that is years away and is advanced for his age. Yes, Verdugo is going to fit right in here with Zavala, Montesino and Beltre. Kopps is a pretty safe bet to make the big leagues as a RP. If we only go by minor league stats, Castanon crushed everyone else in the system offensively. Felipe throws hard and has an elite secondary pitch. There is something here. Beltre takes over the Victor Acosta-type of player with a low floor and high ceiling. A safe bet to make the bigs at some point, Valenzuela lacks a true standout fantasy tool. Left-handed? Check. 6’7”? Check! Barely throws 90 mph? Check! So close Wolf, so close. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I am getting good vibes about Doersching. Welcome back Espinoza! Is this the year you reach your potential? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Honeywell suddenly doesn’t look so bad in this system. I still believe Kerr can be a top flight reliever, especially useful in leagues that count holds.

Tier 5

32. Garrett Hawkins, RHP, 22, High-A
33. Tirso Ornelas, OF, 22, Triple-A
34. Jorge Ona, OF, 26, Double-A
35. Lamar King Jr., C, 19, Rookie (ACL)
36. Jagger Haynes, LHP, 20, DNP (Injured)
37. Ryan Bergert, RHP, 22, High-A
38. Osvaldo Hernandez, LHP, 24, Double-A
39. Jose Lopez, LHP, 23, Triple-A
40. Oliver Carrillo, 1B/OF, 20, Rookie (DSL)
41. Jakob Marsee, OF, 21, Single-A
42. Henry Baez, RHP, 20, Rookie (ACL)
43. Aldo Leija, RHP, 18, Rookie (DSL)
44. Alek Jacob, RHP, 24, Triple-A
45. Moises Lugo, RHP, 23, Triple-A
46. Henry Henry, RHP, 24, Double-A
47. Jose Sanabria, IF, 20, Rookie (DSL)
48. Alain Camou, 2B, 19, Rookie (DSL)
49. Efrain Contreras, RHP, 23, High-A/AFL
50. Hugo Sanchez, IF/OF, 20, Rookie (DSL)

Hawkins is 23 and barely has had any decent development being from Canada. He makes the list for what might be if things go perfectly. Old staples, Ona and Ornelas just haven’t progressed as we would have hoped. If they had, they would have been traded by now anyways. King Jr. is a power-hitting catcher with good defensive abilities, and his dad played in the NFL. If he can develop any power, Marsee could rise up this list in a hurry. One day I’ll get to see Haynes actually throw a pitch professionally. Baez had his development stunted by the pandemic, but since then has done everything right. He may be up sooner than people realize. Leija bodied up his competition in 2022 throwing 88 mph. Imagine if he gained velocity? It’s hard for me to trust people with two first names, but then again this system has a player with two first names that are the same. Don’t ever change Alek Jacob and Henry Henry. 

My goal is to provide an unique perspective when it comes to baseball so that readers can have the information and insight, as well as a bold and progressive analysis. I trust the analytics, but I also trust my eyes when I see the player perform on the field. I don’t want to regurgitate the same, old information but rather I want to give my opinion that is based on research and well-developed thought. Baseball is a game on intricacies and delicate balances and I want to explore every facet that I can. Here on Prospects1500 I will give you the inside scoop on the prospects so that you get to know who they are before everyone else. I won’t always be right, but I can promise my logic and dedication will be sound. Feel free to reach out to discuss and debate and let’s get to prospecting!


    • We just caught that too on our end. Thanks for pointing that out. Both Lawson and Almanzar have been removed from the list, and it’s been updated to include two others – Efrain Contreras (49) and Hugo Sanchez (50).

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