San Diego Padres Spring Baseball

This is a 2017 photo of Luis Urias of the San Diego Padres baseball team. This image reflects the San Diego Padres active roster as of Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The San Diego Padres have rebuilt their money league farm system into one of the deepest in baseball, with talented prospects at every position. The El Paso Chihuahuas will soon reap the benefits, as many of the Padres’ top minor league players will soon stop off in the Sun City on their way to Southern California. Earlier this week, Baseball America released their annual Top 100 Prospects, and six players from the Padres system made the list. In fact, San Diego was tied with the New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, and Tampa Bay Rays for the second most number of players on their Top 100. The Atlanta Braves have eight prospects on the list, including six pitchers.

Of the six players listed, second baseman Luis Urias (ranked 32) has the best chance to spend the most time with the Chihuahuas in 2018. The 20-year old spent all of last season in San Antonio and he hit .296 for the Missions. Urias actually played three games for the Chihuahuas in July of 2016, and he recorded four hits in nine at bats, including a home run before he was sent back to high-A. His advanced hitting approach and superior fielding at second base make him a future major leaguer, and he could challenge former Chihuahuas star Carlos Asuaje for the job in San Diego as early as 2019.

The most exciting player in the Padres system is Fernando Tatis Jr. The son of former big leaguer Fernando Tatis just turned 19 earlier this month, and he is rated the 9th best prospect according to Baseball America. He began last season in A-ball, and the Padres pushed him up to San Antonio for the playoffs. He hit a combined .278 with 22 home runs, 75 RBIs, and 32 stolen bases. Tatis Jr.’s tools are off the charts, and many scouts project him to be a future all star who has a chance to stay at shortstop. If he outgrows the position, Tatis Jr. would move to third base. Regardless, the Padres are not afraid to challenge him with advanced pitching and Chihuahuas fans might be lucky enough to see the top prospect at some point this season.

If there is one position the Padres lack, it is quality pitching. The good news is that help is on the way and the team should have a totally different look in the next three to five years. Four pitchers made BA’s Top 100 this season, and they include MacKenzie Gore (26), Michel Baez (28), Cal Quantrill (52) and Adrian Morejon (66). Of the group, Gore and Baez have the best chance to become top of the rotation starting pitchers, while Quantrill and Morejon project more as middle to back of the rotation guys. Quantrill’s father pitched in the big leagues for 14 seasons and his son could pitch for the Chihuahuas in 2018. The 22-year old only pitched in eight games for San Antonio, so it is more likely that he will begin the season back in double-A before he gets a shot in El Paso.  The other three pitchers are probably two to three years away from arriving at Southwest University Park.

Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” weekday afternoons 4-7 p.m. on 600 ESPN El Paso. Over the last 17 years, he has also worked for UTEP and NMSU as a play-by-play broadcaster, for UTEP telecasts on Time Warner Cable and for KDBC-TV and KTSM-TV as a sports anchor/reporter. You can contact Steve by emailing him at skaplowitz@krod.com.

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