With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.
Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat that must be rehashed every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.
The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers that do not have prospects for certain teams.
Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
#1 - Anderson Espinoza (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 19
Acquired in July 2016 from Boston in exchange for the resurgent Drew Pomeranz, Espinoza ranks among the top prospects in all of baseball. Espinoza’s youthful brilliance was on full display in 2015, when he reached Low-A Greenville as a 17-year-old. In 2016 he finished 6-11 with a 4.49 ERA, 35 walks and 100 strikeouts in 108.1 IP. Those pedestrian numbers belie his immense talent. He already boasts a plus fastball, and his above-average secondary pitches have plus potential. He also has demonstrated good control. At only 6’0” tall, he lacks the physical projection of other top prospects, but his fastball velocity is plenty impressive as it stands, so the only real questions surrounding his development pertain to experience and durability. In 2017 he’ll head to Lake Elsinore of the hitter-friendly High-A California League, where his frontline stuff will face its stiffest challenge yet.
#2 - Manuel Margot (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
Another former Boston farmhand, Margot came to San Diego in November 2015 as part of the deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox. Margot spent nearly all of 2016 at Triple-A El Paso, slashing .304/.351/.426 with 30 steals. He profiles as an everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter with a plus hit tool and plus speed. Although he’s unlikely to develop more than average power, he has the potential to become the Padres’ most dynamic player--a future all-star. His major-league future, in fact, could begin as soon as Opening Day, for he probably has a better-than-average chance to claim a starting job out of spring training.
Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
#3 - Hunter Renfroe (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 25
Not to be confused with Clemson’s national-championship game hero, the Padres’ Hunter Renfroe profiles as a prototypical right fielder. The 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Renfroe has a strong throwing arm, decent speed, and double-plus raw power that has shown up in games, particularly in 2016, when he slashed .306/.336/.557 with 30 HR and 105 RBI at Triple-A El Paso. His long swing and aggressive approach leave him susceptible to strikeouts, and he does not draw as many walks as one would like. Still, he should become a valuable fantasy player in 2017, for he appears to be the odds-on-favorite to join fellow rookie Margot as part of San Diego’s Opening Day outfield.
Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters
These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats, like 12 and 14 team leagues.
#4 - Cal Quantrill (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
The eighth overall pick in the 2016 draft, Quantrill returned from Tommy John surgery to make 12 starts in his first professional season. He finished 0-5 with a 5.11 ERA, albeit with 46 strikeouts and only 8 walks in 37 IP, but the big news was his health. He features a four-pitch mix, including a fastball, curveball, and changeup that project as at least above-average. Leading up to the draft, there was not a lot of buzz surrounding Quantrill thanks to the injury, and the optimism about his future remains cautious. Assuming full health, he has a mid-rotation ceiling, if not more. It would be no surprise to see him at High-A Lake Elsinore in 2017.
#5 - Adrian Morejon (LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 18
Morejon, who turns 18 in late February, might have been the best prospect on the 2016 international market. The talented Cuban teenager features three pitches, all of which project as plus. Our Tier 3 ranking reflects nothing more than his lack of experience in American professional ball. On potential alone, he has the look of a future frontline starter and could reach Tier 1 as early as this summer, depending on how the Padres handle his development. An aggressive assignment to Low-A Fort Wayne, a la Anderson Espinoza, is not out of the question.
Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays
These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.
#6 - Josh Naylor (1B)
Age on Opening Day: 19
A first-round pick of the Marlins in 2015, Naylor arrived in San Diego as part of the deal that sent Andrew Cashner and others to Miami. Much like Cleveland 1B Bobby Bradley, Naylor boasts impressive raw power from the left side of the plate, and both prospects reached High-A ball as teenagers. Unlike Bradley, however, Naylor has yet to post prolific home-run totals. In 2016, between Low-A Greensboro and High-A Lake Elsinore, Naylor slashed .264/.302/.407 with 12 HR and 11 SB in 122 games. As he gets older, he is very unlikely to produce double-digit steals, but the power numbers are legitimate and should only increase, making him a fantasy prospect worth watching. A return to Lake Elsinore in 2017 seems like a strong possibility.
#7 - Michael Gettys (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 21
A 2014 second-round pick, Gettys in 2016 looked like one of San Diego’s most improved hitters. After scuffling in 2015 at Low-A Fort Wayne, where he slashed .231/.271/.346, he rebounded last season with a .305/.363/.442 to go along with 12 HR and 33 SB. The power-speed potential is tantalizing, though it should be noted that he hit 9 of his 12 HR following his promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore of the California League, a hitter’s paradise. There’s also the ongoing problem of plate discipline, as evidenced by a 35:146 BB:K ratio, which actually was an improvement over 2015’s ghastly 28:162. In short, his offensive game has some dynamism but also a few holes. Double-A San Antonio beckons at some point in 2017.
#8 - Fernando Tatis, Jr. (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 18
The son of a former major-leaguer, Tatis appears well on his way to proving that the Padres knew what they were doing last spring when they acquired him from the White Sox in exchange for veteran James Shields. In 2016, Tatis played in 55 games between rookie ball and short-season Tri-City, slashing .273/.311/.432 with 4 HR and 15 SB. Scouts already have seen “significant physical progress” from a player who should develop at least average major-league power, and who has a decent chance to remain at shortstop. Of course there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding someone so young, but there’s also intriguing potential. He had a birthday in early January, which means he’ll play the entire 2017 season as an 18-year-old, perhaps against the advanced competition of Low-A Fort Wayne.
#9 - Jacob Nix (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 21
One year after the Astros reneged on a deal with Nix due to the Brady Aiken fiasco, the Padres stepped in and made the young righthander the 86th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Although Nix lacks the upside of San Diego’s top pitching prospects, he does have starter’s potential with a three-pitch mix, including a fastball and curveball that project as above-average. In 2016 he finished 3-7 with a 3.93 ERA, 20 walks and 90 strikeouts in 105.1 IP at Low-A Fort Wayne. He stands 6’4” and just turned 21 in early January, so he has some physical projection remaining. High-A Lake Elsinore will provide a stiff challenge in 2017.
#10 - Chris Paddack (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 21
An 8th-round pick of the Marlins in 2015, Paddack exploded onto the prospect scene early in 2016, when he posted an absurd 48:2 K:BB ratio in 28.1 IP across six starts at Low-A Greensboro. San Diego acquired him in late June in exchange for closer Fernando Rodney. Alas, Paddack made only three starts at Low-A Fort Wayne before going down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. At his best and healthiest, Paddack features a solid three-pitch mix, including an improving fastball and an outstanding changeup. He has mid-rotation potential. For now, however, the priority is a return to health.