San Diego Padres Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects

The top fantasy baseball prospects for the Padres in 2023.

The San Diego Padres farm system was looking extremely bleak after they acquired Juan Soto from the Padres for CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Luke Voit, Robert Hassel, James Wood, and Jarlin Susana. After losing their best young position player and best young pitcher, along with their number 1, 3, and 14 prospects, it seemed like the Padres had sacrificed their long-term future for short-term success.

And yet, here we sit only about a year-and-a-half later, with Soto traded again back to the East Coast, and the Padres have amassed a deep and impactful farm system. Only 2 of the 20 prospects on this list weren’t drafted or signed originally by the Padres. They’re putting on a master class on drafting and developing talent.


Top Padres’ Prospects


The Top Tier


1) Ethan Salas – C, 18 YO

2023 Stats (A/A+/AA): .248 AVG | .331 OBP | .421 SLG | 9 HR | 5 SB | 25.9 K% | 10.3 BB% in 290 PA

Ranking Ethan Salas at the top of this deep farm system, or investing in him in a dynasty league, requires a bit of a leap of faith. We haven’t seen much of Salas in professional baseball since he was signed only a year ago as an international free agent. But some people are just built for baseball. And regardless of the angle you watch Salas swing from, it looks incredible.

Salas stands very relaxed and confident at the plate from the left side. His hands are in a great position to hit. They’re extremely quick to the baseball on the inner half while his hands and barrel can stay in the hitting zone for as long as needed to drive balls to the opposite field and square up off-speed pitches. His hips and shoulders create good separation, and he doesn’t lose his balance or open his front hip too much when he has to stay back on the ball. It’s beautiful.

He’s patient at the plate and works counts really well. But he does chase inside sliders and curveballs too much – that seems to be his biggest weakness at the moment. Working deep into counts in AA is also much more difficult to do at Single-A because pitchers have deeper arsenals, and the breaking pitches are significantly better. But Salas managed to slightly improve his K-rate at AA, pointing to his ability to develop as the season went on and his ability to adapt with a promotion. His showings at A+ and AA were very abbreviated, and he was forced to do a lot of learning very quickly. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the lack of results.

Salas was a 17-year-old catcher in his first season of professional baseball in 2023, and the Padres promoted him twice until he ended the season as the only 17-year-old to appear in an AA game since Michael De Leon played one game at the level in 2014.


2) Drew Thorpe – SP, 23 YO

2023 MiLB Stats (A+/AA): 139.1 IP | 2.52 ERA | 34.0 K% | 7.1 BB%

Drew Thorpe was added to the Padres’ system through the trade that sent Juan Soto to the Yankees this offseason. This was coming off the heels of an incredible debut season from Thorpe after the Yankees drafted him 61st overall in 2022. It was such an incredible debut that he was named the Prospect Pitcher of the Year by MLB Pipeline. The great results were backed by peripheral numbers that were just as impressive. Across his 139.1 IP, Thorpe posted a 19.3% swinging-strike rate, a 34.3 CSW%, and a 35.2 Ball%*. He was able to generate a significant number of whiffs while pounding the zone and avoiding too many walks, which of course is the framework for a really great pitcher.

Thorpe has been able to expand his arsenal pretty significantly since he was drafted. Originally thought to feature just a three-pitch mix, he’s created a few variations on his slider to make it more of a five-pitch mix. He’s got a fastball, slider, sweeper, cutter, and changeup.

The changeup is his most important pitch, and he gets most of his whiffs and strikeouts with it. It sits in the low 80s with fantastic fading, disappearing action from a high arm slot. The fastball doesn’t have great velocity and only sits in the low 90s, but it does have good ride for someone with a high release point. The slider variations were especially important because they created more velocity bands within his arsenal. The traditional slider sits in the mid-80s, the sweeper sits between 78-82, and the cutter sits in the high 80s.

The new arsenal allows him to change speeds and tunnel his pitches much better than he had before. It also allows him to go a bit deeper into games because he’s able to change up his looks in the second and third turns through the batting order.


3) Graham Pauley – 3B, 23 YO

2023 Stats (A/A+/AA): .312 AVG | .397 OBP | .541 SLG | 23 HR | 22 SB | 17.0 K% | 11.0 BB% in 566 PA

Graham Pauley has come a long way since he was drafted 390th overall in the 2022 MLB draft. He flashed a little bit of offensive potential in his first small sample of professional ball in 2022, and then he came out mashing in 2023. Pauley was promoted twice in 2023 and ended the season in AA after showing he was able to adjust pretty easily with each jump up. He didn’t post a wRC+ below 140 at any level this year and he posted his best strikeout rate in AA.

Pauley could provide good value in all five standard fantasy statistical categories when he debuts. He posted an overall contact rate of 80.8%* and he hasn’t shown any signs at all of having poor splits against lefties. In fact, his .942 OPS against lefties is slightly better than his .928 mark against righties. He posted a .229 ISO in 2023 and had sixty total extra-base hits. He also posted an 81% success rate on stolen base attempts even though his raw speed skills are only slightly above average. This well-rounded profile should be destined for the 2 or 3 spot in a lineup with plenty of opportunities for run production.


4) Jackson Merrill – SS, 21 YO

2023 Stats (A+/AA): .277 AVG | .326 OBP | .444 SLG | 15 HR | 15 SB | 12.1 K% | 6.8 BB% in 511 PA

Jackson Merrill made some noise with a hot start in 2023 at spring training in the major league camp. A lot of the hype around him faded over the course of the year because his performance didn’t jump off the page. But Merrill has continued to be as advertised – a balanced hitter with fantastic contact skills.

Merrill was a career .320 hitter prior to the 2023 season. While the drop in batting average might look concerning, he also saw a significant drop in his BABIP. Some of that is bad luck, but he also increased his fly ball percentage pretty significantly. Fly balls are base hits much less frequently than ground balls, but hitting more of them also allows him to get to more power in games. So if his plan was to sacrifice some of his average for more power, it definitely worked and it makes him a more intriguing player for fantasy leagues.


5) Jakob Marsee – OF, 22 YO

2023 Stats (A+/AA): .274 AVG | .412 OBP | .426 SLG | 16 HR | 46 SB | 17.3 K% | 17.1 BB% in 572 PA

Jakob Marsee was another deep draft pick in 2022, coming in at pick 180 overall. He’s always had game-changing speed and a great plate approach, but he showed more power in 2023 and improved his contact skills. His overall contact rate of 84.2%* is actually a few points higher than Merrill’s was in 2023, so I could see an argument for preferring Marsee if you highly value the extra stolen base impact he provides.

The big caveat to his profile is that he struggles mightily against left-handed pitching. His triple slash against righties was .291/.431/.450 and his triple slash against lefties was .219/.352/.352. If he can’t improve those splits, then he could fall into a long-term platoon role. That added risk is why he sits at number 5 in the org for me, but the improving power and contact skills are definitely intriguing and worth an investment at a price you’re comfortable with.


6) Nathan Martorella – 1B, 23 YO

2023 Stats (A+/AA): .255 AVG | .361 OBP | .445 SLG | 21 HR | 5 SB | 17.8 K% | 14.1 BB% in 596 PA

Nathan Martorella is a pretty typical lefty slugger at the first base position, but his game power hasn’t quite caught up to his raw power yet. He did take a big step forward in that department this year (his first full professional season), but a 41.7% ground ball rate and a 33.6% fly ball rate aren’t ideal for a slugger. The good news is that he has a really great plate approach, especially for a power hitter. He also didn’t really sacrifice much of his discipline in order to hit for more power in 2023.

He’ll likely be more valuable in OBP leagues because his 76.1% contact rate* and his high ground ball rate (with very little speed) don’t point toward a great batting average. But he should be able to maintain a double-digit walk rate and could post OBPs between .330 and .340 consistently.


7) Adam Mazur – SP, 23 YO

2023 Stats (A+/AA): 96.0 IP | 2.81 ERA | 22.8 K% | 4.3 BB%

Adam Mazur may have a limited arsenal, but he commands it exceptionally well. The 2022 second-round pick primarily relies on a fastball and slider while occasionally mixing in a changeup. The slider has a very tight break and sits in the upper 80s. The fastball sits between 94 and 96 with really good armside run. Sometimes it has a bit of sink to it and if he leans into that downward action it could work well for his arsenal. A good sinker/slider/changeup mix at his arm slot with great command could cut right through lineups. But there would still be some stress on the changeup to develop more into a dependable pitch. Let Brady Singer be a tale of caution for pitchers who rely too much on just a sinker and slider.

The 4.3% walk rate is definitely low and likely not sustainable. However, he did back it up with a 32.2 Ball%* and that is extremely impressive for a player in their first professional season. He doesn’t have ace upside but he could be an innings-eater in the middle of an MLB rotation that will get you something close to 9.0 K/9 with a good walk rate while limiting the homerun ball.


Prospects Dynasty Managers Should Know


8) Robby Snelling – SP, 20 YO 

2023 Stats (A/A+/AA): 103.2 IP | 1.82 ERA | 28.4 K% | 8.2 BB%

Robby Snelling posted incredible numbers in 2023, but the peripheral numbers aren’t quite as encouraging. His left-on-base rate, home-run-to-fly-ball rate, and BABIP were all much lower than average, and his control isn’t as sterling as an 8.2% walk rate would suggest. However, his stuff looks legit and his arsenal is highlighted by a ridiculous, sweeping slider from the left side.


9) Dylan Lesko – SP, 20 YO

2023 MiLB Stats (CPX/A/A+): 33.0 IP | 5.45 ERA | 35.9 K% | 15.2 BB%

Dylan Lesko was the best prep pitcher in his class in 2022, but his draft stock took a hit when he underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Despite the surgery, the Padres still loved his potential enough to take him in the middle of the first round. In his first taste of professional baseball in 2023, he flashed promising swing-and-miss skills (a 17.1% swinging-strike rate) while struggling to find the strike zone consistently (a 41 Ball%).


10) Eguy Rosario – 3B, 24 YO

2023 MiLB Stats (AAA): .265 AVG | .348 OBP | .422 SLG | 5 HR | 4 SB | 20.9 K% | 10.7 BB% in 187 PA

2023 MLB Stats: .250 AVG | .270 OBP | .500 SLG | 2 HR | 0 SB | 32.4 K% | 2.7 BB% in 37 PA

Eguy Rosario was coming off a 20/20 season in AAA in 2022 when he broke his ankle in February 2023. He returned to game action in June and slowly built up in AAA before earning a September call-up. He didn’t show much in his short stint in the majors, but it was a tough season overall for him and he should start the 2024 season on the MLB roster.


11) Jairo Iriarte – SP, 22 YO

2023 Stats (A+/AA): 90.1 IP | 3.49 ERA | 33.2 K% | 11.7 BB%

Jairo Iriarte has some really exciting stuff and he took a step forward in 2023. His slider is his primary whiff pitch and it’s routinely making hitters look confused – it tunnels with his fastball really well and features very late break. Iriarte has increased his strikeout rate with each promotion he’s received since 2022 and could emerge as a rotation option for San Diego in August or September.


12) Dillon Head – OF, 19 YO

2023 Stats (CPX/A): .267 AVG | .363 OBP | .400 SLG | 1 HR | 4 SB | 15.3 K% | 12.1 BB% in 124 PA

Dillon Head was the Padres’ first-round pick in the 2023 draft and we didn’t really see enough of him in game action this year to make any conclusive judgments on his future. Head’s best tool is his speed and he has the plate skills to get on base enough to take full advantage of it. His potential will largely be determined by his growth in the power department, where he’ll have to add muscle and simplify his swing a bit.


13) Ryan Bergert – SP, 24 YO

2023 Stats (A+/AA): 105.2 IP | 2.73 ERA | 29.2 K% | 10.7 BB%

Ryan Bergert was drafted deep in the 6th round in 2021 but flashed some intriguing stuff in his debut season the following year. The results weren’t great in part due to a .376 BABIP and 69.1 left-on-base rate, but those numbers regressed and he really broke out in 2023. His 14.9% swinging-strike rate* backs up his great strikeout rate, but he’ll have to build out his arsenal a bit more beyond the fastball and slider to continue that trend in AAA and above.


14) Samuel Zavala – OF, 19 YO

2023 Stats (A/A+): .241 AVG | .389 OBP | .409 SLG | 15 HR | 21 SB | 27.7 K% | 18.2 BB% in 523 PA

Samuel Zavala offers good speed with average power, but his high strikeout rate has kept him from hitting for a high batting average. His overall contact rate of 67.3%* is atrocious and he’ll have to improve those skills before he hits the upper levels of the minors. He has been able to post really good walk rates, but with the number of non-competitive pitches at the lower levels, it doesn’t do much to alleviate the approach concerns.


15) Tyler Robertson – OF, 24 YO

2023 Stats (CPX/A/A+): .286 AVG | .358 OBP | .456 SLG | 9 HR | 31 SB | 26.9 K% | 6.5 BB% in 383 PA

Tyler Robertson was the 420th overall pick in 2022 and spent most of the 2023 season in Low-A where he showed some modest power to pair with his speed and athleticism. He’s a very aggressive hitter and his contact skills aren’t great, but he’s shown improvement and takes a lot of extra bases. He’s a flyer in the deepest of rotisserie dynasty leagues.


The Next Five


Although these prospects do not crack the top 15, dynasty managers should keep their eye on these five players.

Joshua Mears – 23 YO – His upside might be Joey Gallo; big power with big swing-and-miss issues

Luis De Leon – 18 YO – No power yet, but he stole 19 bases and posted a 2.0 BB/K in 191 DSL PAs

Austin Krob – 24 YO – His low ERA this season was pretty lucky, but he posts 50%+ groundball rates and has good control; old for the level

Garrett Hawkins – 24 YO – Returned from Tommy John at the end of the season; arsenal features a good fastball and changeup; likely a reliever but could rise quickly with his advanced age

Juan Zabala – 24 YO – The catcher stole 23 bases in 2022 and looked intriguing, but fell flat in 2023; if there’s a bounce back, speedy catchers are always worth a look


*CSW%, SwStr%, Ball%, and Contact% are courtesy of the MiLB database available through a subscription to the Dynasty Dugout Substack. 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on X)

Jake Maish

Jake is a fantasy baseball writer located in Cincinnati, OH. He plays most fantasy baseball formats but his favorite is H2H categories. When he's not watching and writing about baseball, he's playing board games with his girlfriend, Emma, or playing fetch and/or tug-of-war with their dogs, Moose and Daphne.

One response to “San Diego Padres Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects”

  1. Paul Reams says:

    I believe that Josh Mears is now pitching, not hitting. He switched at the end of last year.

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