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2024 San Diego Padres Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects

Jackson Merrill - fantasy baseball rankings shortstops prospects draft sleepers MLB injury news

Welcome to my 2024 team-by-team prospect rankings. Over the next few months, I'll be going through all 30 MLB farm systems, ranking my top 10 in each system, and discussing the profiles and long-term outlooks of these players.

We continue through the National League West today with a stop in sunny San Diego, The Padres are always an interesting system to rank and discuss, and that's exactly the case once again as they have five top-50 caliber prospects in my Top-500 overall rankings.

Check out the rest of the Top-10's throughout the offseason here.

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If you want to see the full top 40 plus more rankings and content, then head on over to my Patreon!

 

San Diego Padres Top Prospects

1. Jackson Merrill, SS

Age on 4/1/2024: 20.9 | Highest Level: AA | ETA: 2024

As was the case with the Dodgers, I don't think there's a clear-cut #1 prospect in this San Diego system. But for now, the crown rests atop the head of shortstop Jackson Merrill.

In 114 games this season, Merrill slashed .277/.326/.444 with 25 doubles, 15 home runs, and 15 steals. While he doesn't have a big-time power/speed blend, Merrill should be average to above-average in the power/speed department with the ability to flirt with 20/20 early in his career. That should come with a higher AVG as well as Merrill has consistently displayed strong contact skills around or above 80% and doesn't strike out that often either, finishing 2023 with a 12.1% mark.

However, with all this said, I'm a bit lower than most in the industry on Merrill, so this offseason might be an ideal time to dangle him in trade talks to see what you can get. He projects as a good player in my eyes, just not a stud.

2. Robby Snelling, P

Age on 4/1/2024: 20.3 | Highest Level: AA | ETA: 2024

Robby Snelling is 1B to Merrill's 1A as far as I'm concerned. I'm also a believer that Snelling is one of the five or six best pitching prospects in the game that still doesn't get universally treated as such.

Snelling was a two-sport star in high school and you can see that in his strong frame. His fastball velocity has ticked up over the last couple of years, as expected, and Snelling now sits in the mid-90s with a plus or better curveball as well. Both of those two offerings are highly effective for him and Snelling can also mix in a changeup that shows promise as a legitimate third offering.

On top of all that, Snelling is very advanced for his age with above-average command and control which he consistently showed throughout the 2023 season. In 22 starts between Lo-A, Hi-A, and Double-A, Snelling recorded a stellar 1.82 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.2% walk rate, and a 28.4% strikeout rate. This is a no-doubt top-10 pitching prospect that I currently have inside my top-5.

3. Graham Pauley, 3B

Age on 4/1/2024: 23.5 | Highest Level: AA | ETA: 2024

What a season for Graham Pauley. The former Duke star finished with 32 doubles, 23 home runs, and 22 steals in 127 games with a .308/.393/.539 slash line and has continued his hot hitting so far in the Arizona Fall League.

Honestly, part of me wanted to put Pauley over Merrill and Snelling. He's demonstrated a great feel for barreling up pitches to all fields with above-average or better raw power and the approach has been rock solid as well. Pauley's blend of contact power, and approach has given him a great floor to work with and he's shown that he's not afraid to run on the bases either. While I don't think he'll continue stealing more than 20 bases annually, Pauley's speed and athleticism should keep him in the 10-15 range with the potential for 25 home runs and a good AVG/OBP.

4. Samuel Zavala, OF

Age on 4/1/2024: 19.7 | Highest Level: Hi-A | ETA: 2025

We had four teenage prospects walk more than 100 times during the 2023 season and Samuel Zavala was a half-dozen walks from being the fifth name on that list. Outside of all the walks, Zavala hit 14 home runs in 515 plate appearances with 21 steals and a .243/.391/.406 slash line.

While the 18.3% walk rate is definitely impressive, I'm starting to wonder if Zavala is too patient at the plate and limiting the damage he's capable of doing with the bat. Zavala possesses above-average power and fringe-average speed as well. If he becomes more aggressive at the plate, 25-homers annually with double-digit steals is certainly within the realm of possibilities. If you're in an OBP league, Zavala's value receives a sizeable bump.

5. Ethan Salas, C

Age on 4/1/2024: 17.8 | Highest Level: AA | ETA: 2025

This rankings isn't going to be popular. But over the years, I've learned to trust my analysis and process more and more, and this feels right to me. I'm not saying Ethan Salas isn't very talented or that he doesn't have a potentially bright future ahead of him. Both of those are true and/or potentially true. But what I am saying is I firmly believe the hype surrounding Salas in fantasy-focused prospect rankings is out of control.

Simply put, Salas reaching Double-A at age 17 is the culprit behind his inflated prospect ranking. That's absolutely impressive, but let's take a step back here and look at the profile itself. Salas projects as a potential above-average hitter in time, and I could see him growing into above-average power as well if he adds some strength. But this is in no way, shape, or form a top-25 overall fantasy prospect right now which is were his perceived value seems to be. And it's not like his quick ascension came with an offensive performance similar to Jackson Chourio's in 2022 either.

Again, Salas is talented and could develop into an all-star caliber catcher, but he's not a top-25 prospect for fantasy purposes. I'd recommend capitalizing on the hype and see what trade offers you can get this offseason.

6. Dylan Lesko, P

Age on 4/1/2024: 20.6 | Highest Level: Hi-A | ETA: 2025/2026

Even though he had Tommy John surgery in April 2022, the San Diego Padres still were enamored enough with Dylan Lesko to take him with the 15th overall pick of the 2022 draft. If you've ever seen video of Lesko pitching, it's not difficult to see why San Diego was willing to take that risk.

Many considered Lesko to be one of the top 2-3 pitchers in the draft class, with some ranking him as the #1 arm in the class thanks to a plus to double-plus fastball and a changeup that was in the discussion for the best secondary offering in the entire draft class. Lesko also mixes in a curveball which has sown promise, but he needs to establish more consistency with the pitch moving forward.

After returning to action this summer, Lesko struck out 35.9% of the batters he faced and has the upside of a high-end SP2 if everything clicks. I'd highly recommend buying now in dynasty leagues before his stock likely rises in 2024.

7. Jakob Marsee, OF

Age on 4/1/2024: 22.7 | Highest Level: AA | ETA: 2024

Is it me or did Jakob Marsee just have the quietest 16-homer, 46-steal season in recent memory? It took him raking in the AFL to start garnering the attention he deserved all season. I'm guilty of this as well and not ranking him as highly as I should have. Well, that ends today.

On top of the 16 homers and 46 steals, Marsee racked up more walks (98) than strikeouts (97) this season with a .274/.413/.428 slash line. Most of this came for Hi-A Fort Wayne, but San Diego promoted Marsee to Double-A San Antonio down the stretch which is where he'll likely begin the 2024 minor league season. Marsee isn't a burner, but he's an above-average runner with a high baserunning IQ which helped him succeed in 83.6% of his 55 stolen base attempts this past season. He's also very advanced at the plate with solid contact skills, great pitch recognition, and below-average raw power.

There's definitely a path to fantasy value here with Marsee and I'm betting you begin to see him pop up in some top-100 lists during the 2024 season.

8. Dillon Head, OF

Age on 4/1/2024: 19.5 | Highest Level: Lo-A | ETA: 2026

Dillon Head to the Padres made a lot of sense during the draft, and sure enough, that's exactly what happened. Right off the bat, Head's double-plus speed brings plenty of intrigue and his solid defensive skills should help him climb the ladder as well. Well, as long as the bat develops as expected.

While Head is known most for his elite speed, he's shown a good feel for using the entire field, but too much of that is on the ground. If Head adds some bulk over the next year or two, I could see him settling in around 15 homers to pair with a decent AVG/OBP and plenty of steals. That potential power growth is going to be the X-Factor here.

9. Nathan Martorella, 1B

Age on 4/1/2024: 23.1 | Highest Level: AA | ETA: 2024

As a 1B/DH only player, Nathan Martorella's bat will need to stand out to make an impact for fantasy baseball. And while I don't project him to be a stud, I do think there's plenty of upside at the plate. In 135 games this past season, Martorella smacked 30 doubles and 19 home runs with a .255/.361/.437 slash line.

While a .437 SLG and .182 ISO don't exactly stand out, the power metrics hint at more power to be unlocked, at least enough to make him a 25-homer bat annually to pair with a .250+ AVG and .350+ OBP as well given his contact skills and approach at the plate. Overall, Martorella is a decent value target in dynasty leagues this offseason as the perceived value has remained in check.

10. Jairo Iriarte, P

Age on 4/1/2024: 22.3 | Highest Level: AA | ETA: 2025

After Lesko, the pitching prospect that intrigues me the most in this San Diego system is easily Jairo Iriarte. In 90. innings between Hi-A and Double-A, Iriarte posted a 3.49 ERA and 1.28 WHIP along with a 33.2% strikeout rate. However, that also came with an 11.8% walk rate, including a 13.5% mark in Double-A.

Command and control have always been the areas of concern with Iriarte. His three-pitch mix features a fastball, slider, and changeup, all of which have flashed above-average or better, but Iriarte has shown inconsistent command and control of those pitches. As of now, he projects more as a #4 starter for me, but could be a mid-rotation guy if he can refine the above issues.

If you enjoyed these rankings and want to see the full top 40 along with additional rankings, analysis, and more, check out Eric's Toolshed Fantasy Patreon.



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