Padres Prospect Primer: Friars on brink

Tatis, Gore and company have system in spectacular shape

Fernando Tatis Jr. went 9-for-32 with a homer and three doubles in 12 spring games. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | March 30, 2018 10:30 AM

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2018 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.

Shining Star: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS

Anybody who's consistently paid attention to Minor League Baseball over the past 12 months has heard a lot about Tatis -- and with cause. Playing his first full season, the son of an 11-year big league veteran dominated the Class A Midwest League (.281/.390/.520 with 21 homers, 26 doubles and 29 steals over 117 games) and jumped straight up to the Double-A Texas League for the last few weeks of the campaign.

"Last year he had a tremendous year. I think we lose sight that he was 18 years old," San Diego's director of player development Sam Geaney said.

The No. 8 overall prospect has come along so quickly and so well that the most important thing for him to do now may be to slow down.

"I think the next step is challenging him, honestly, to be the best player on the field every night," Geaney said. "He's quite close, and obviously he's super-talented, but I think it's incumbent upon him and our group to make sure that -- whether it's some point this season, whether it's next year -- whenever it is that he gets to the big leagues, he's very well rounded and he hasn't missed anything even in a pretty quick trip through the Minor Leagues.

Video: Tatis hits first Double-A homer

"[Focus and energy aren't] lacking in any way. I think he has very high expectations for himself as far as what his performance on the field will look like. It's very much finishing touches. We're not trying to reinvent the player or teach him a new position or alter his swing or anything that you would typically think about with a young player."

Breakout prospect: Gabriel Arias, SS

When Tatis left Class A Fort Wayne in mid-August, another teenaged shortstop prospect brimming with potential -- Arias -- took his place on the TinCaps. San Diego's No. 11 prospect is tooled up on both sides of the ball, a plus defender with the potential to hit for average and power.

"We're very excited about a lot of our young middle infielders, a lot of them signed by Chris Kemp, our international scouting director who also works with us on the development side," Geaney said. "Gabe has elite-level defensive upside, with a chance to be one of the best shortstops in the game defensively."

He played 16 Midwest League games after debuting with 37 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, batting .265 with five steals, seven doubles and three triples. The native of Venezuela also got reps in Winter Ball from November-January.

"I think we're really excited about some of the strides he's made this offseason offensively. He was able to extend his season and played in Australia [for 27 games]," Geaney said. "The chance to get him an extra 100 at-bats or so was big, and also [for him to] mature and grow as a young man who's now played baseball in multiple foreign countries. We've made some small mechanical changes and also challenged him with some things with his approach at the plate to hopefully put him in a better position to be a very, very well-rounded player."

He may not deliver the same kind of first full season Tatis did -- few do -- but Arias is poised for a terrific year.

Major League-ready prospect: Franchy Cordero, OF

Cordero missed the start of the big league season with groin tightness, but he'll be back in action in extended spring camp very shortly. The issue arose March 15 and lingered, taking him out of the running for a job in the outfield at Petco Park. The competition was stiff, and it's possible the 23-year-old speedster wouldn't have won a roster spot anyway. But that doesn't mean he needs a heck of a lot more time to develop. Although after an outstanding Pacific Coast League performance, he struggled to hit over 30 games in "The Show" last year, everything clicked back into place in the Dominican Winter League and he posted a .465 on-base percentage in the Cactus League.

"As far as where he stands in development, the biggest thing for us was that he went down to the Dominican and basically added a whole [lot more experience]," Geaney said. "He was the dual winner of the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player award in the Dominican. What was exciting was some changes he made offensively -- not so much swing stuff, but more what he was swinging at.

Video: El Paso's Cordero ropes a triple

"This is a guy who's always, when he touches the baseball, it comes off hard. Contact has been an issue in the past, as it is with a lot of young players. He's really been able to move the needle. I think the real exciting part is here's this incredibly gifted, physical athlete, who's still only 23 years old, which is crazy to think, and has touched the Major Leagues and shown flashes of what he can be, and he also went out and tried to address one of his larger weaknesses this offseason. To see how that carries over in the first season after that? That's what's pretty exciting."

Full-season debutant: MacKenzie Gore, LHP

Gore turned 19 in February, and he's the rare high school product with a strong four-pitch mix. The Padres have mostly left his leg kick alone, and why not? The 2017 first-rounder comes into the year with a 1.27 ERA and 34 strikeouts over 21 1/3 innings across seven professional starts.

"He's very, very advanced," Geaney said. "He'll face full-season hitters who will present a challenge, but he is super-polished, super-athletic, all the superlatives that have been thrown out about him."

Back and healthy: Chris Paddack, RHP

Acquired from the Marlins for Fernando Rodney on June 30, 2016, Paddack made three starts for the TinCaps before being shut down for Tommy John surgery. He missed all of last year, but worked out at fall instructional ball and pitched in intrasquad games and against Minor League clubs from other organizations on the backfields during the Cactus League.

Offseason MiLB include

The 22-year-old Texas native figures to log some more time in extended spring camp, but look for him to reestablish himself in a full-season rotation before long.

"He's progressed very, very well," Geaney said. "Barring any setbacks -- which we don't anticipate at this point because we've gotten past the tougher points of the rehab -- I don't think he'll break with a club, but I would expect that he'll be out pitching somewhere in April. We'll be cautious with him, but he looks very much ready for that."

More to keep an eye on: When Luis Urias was cut from big league camp on March 13, he told The Athletic's Dennis Lin, "If I do it at the end of the year or during the year, I don't care. I just want to be in the big leagues." The slick-gloved middle infielder with the 70-grade hit tool batted .296 with a .398 on-base percentage over a full season in the Texas League last year. ... Joey Lucchesi's phenomenal 2017 and very impressive showing in big league camp have the 24-year-old left-hander in good position to get an opportunity in the Majors sooner than later. .... While acknowledging a prospect hitting triple-digits with a fastball is no longer as rare as it once was, Geaney believes Andres Munoz's heater is a special offering. "I think his is a real fastball that he can win with, and win with at the top of the zone," the farm director said.

Predictions:

Most home runs in the system: Hudson Potts
Most stolen bases:  Tatis
Most strikeouts: Michel Baez
Current prospect to get the most Major League playing time: Cordero
on-Top 100 prospect to end 2018 in the Top 100: Logan Allen

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @JoshJacksonMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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