The Padres' farm system, which was stripped nearly bare in the ill-fated attempt to compete in the 2015 season, received a considerable boost over this past offseason. Most notable was the acquisition of center fielder Manuel Margot, shortstop Javier Guerra, pitcher Logan Allen, and the versatile Carlos Asuaje from the Red Sox in exchange for closer Craig Kimbrel. In addition to the Kimbrel haul, general manager A.J. Preller also added prospects through a strong draft and the trades of Joaquin Benoit and the duo of Yonder Alonso and Marc Rzepczynski, along with rolling the dice an unthinkable four times in the Rule 5 draft.
Margot and Guerra immediately became San Diego's top two prospects, and are projected to be significant major league contributors as early as next season. Margot brings obscene speed and a stellar glove to the table to go with his above-average hitting potential and developing power. Guerra is also noted for his fielding prowess, with his range, reactions, and arm being particularly lauded. On the offensive side he sports above-average power while hitting for a passable average. Although those two get the majority of the attention, Asuaje and Allen were far from throw-ins.
Along with the new additions, all of the notable prospects have been retained, save for Rymer Liriano, whose luster had worn dull and was deemed not worth keeping on the 40-man roster. With Austin Hedges relinquishing prospect status thanks to his extensive time with the big club last year, the biggest name among the holdovers is right fielder Hunter Renfroe. The strong-armed right-hander finished last year - his second full season in the minors - with AAA El Paso, where he will begin this season. Between there and AA San Antonio, the 2013 first-rounder surpassed 50 extra-base hits for his second consecutive campaign while adding a ridiculous 14 outfield assists to the 11 he accrued in 2014.
Like Hedges, starting pitcher Colin Rea saw time with the disappointing 2015 Padres. Unlike Hedges, his rookie status remains intact, but that should go the way of the buffalo this year as he's expected to join San Diego's starting rotation. A twelfth round pick in 2011, Rea had mixed results while moving up the ladder and was generally unheralded until last season. He put together a 1.08 ERA in 12 starts for San Antonio, earned a spot in the All-Star Futures Game, and found his way up to San Diego in early August.
Since I'm no professional talent evaluator, I turned to those who are in order to get a clear picture of which eggs I should count before they hatch. I reviewed Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, and Keith Law of ESPN's Top 10 lists of current Padres prospects, then averaged out their rankings in an attempt to reach something close to a consensus Top 10.
As you can see, Margot was nearly a unanimous number-one pick, losing just one top spot to Guerra, who was ranked second on the other three lists. One choice who all four sources agreed on was Renfroe, who took the third slot across the board. Giron was held in similar esteem by all four, ranking fourth twice and fifth twice, much like how Rondon was fifth twice and sixth twice. They were a bit more divided on Rea, who took in two fourth place finishes, a six, and a seven.
Of the final four, only 2015 second-round pick Austin Smith appeared on all four lists, with his two eight-spots sandwiched by a seven and a nine. Jankowski was left off two lists altogether, but those that included him were bullish enough on him to place him at sixth and seventh, enough to edge out Nix and Logan, who were left off of only one each. In the case of these players who didn't appear on all four lists, I simply added 11 in the place of their omission before dividing. Far from scientific, I know, but using any other number would have still resulted in the same finally three, but would have dropped Jankowski as a penalty for being left off of not one but two lists.
Jankowski made his major league debut last season, and will likely split time between El Paso and San Diego this season, regardless of which roster he's on at camp's end. The shaggy-haired outfielder's primary asset is speed; last season he stole 32 bases in fewer than a hundred games between AA and AAA before joining the Padres. He also hit career highs across the slash line with a .335/ .413/ .425 mark, and has been making steady improvements on his once-suspect patience and batting eye. While he played center field exclusively in the minors, Jankowski split time between there and right field in the big leagues, perhaps a glimpse into the future as a fourth outfielder that many have predicted for him.
Giron and Rondon are both projected to be at least a year or two away, and could become expendable if Guerra pans out. However, it's always good to have a backup plan, and it's even better to have two. Smith, Nix, and Allen are all expected to spend a few years marinating before they're good to go, but pitchers are the Charlie Kellys of prospects: wild cards.
Other wild cards of sorts are the four Rule 5 picks, in that one can't be sure whether they'll even be with the organization by the beginning of April. Right-handed pitcher Josh Martin, the Padres' first selection, looks like he'll be headed back to the Cleveland organization after getting knocked around in Spring Training. Their second pick, converted outfielder Blake Smith, hasn't made any better of an impression, but the hardest-hit has been Luis Perdomo, whose highest level to date has been A-ball. The one Rule 5 player who has generated a lot of buzz is towering outfielder Jabari Blash, who was selected from the Mariners system by the Athletics for the sole purpose of sending him to the Padres as the player to be named in the aforementioned trade for Marc Rzepczynski and Yonder Alonso. While he'll likely never hit for what would be considered a respectable batting average, Blash compensates by reaching base via an outstanding propensity to draw walks. Between that, his breathtaking power, and his tendency to strike out, Blash is a classic "three true outcomes" player in the mold of Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and San Diego's new bench coach, Mark McGwire.
Despite the showcase additions, the Padres' farm is still ranked firmly toward the bottom of all organizations', regardless of who you ask. Baseball America has them at number 25, while Keith Law was a bit more charitable in ranking them twentieth.