Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You're either selling wins or you're selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team's farm system.
Of course, that doesn't mean every team has an equally good farm system -- some, as you'll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next few weeks examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2023 season, so if a young player is missing that's likely why.
These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There's also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it's fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future..
With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the San Diego Padres.
1. Jackson Merrill, SS (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Merrill had as much helium as any player heading into the 2021 draft, so it wasn't too surprising when the Padres popped him with the 27th pick. He's made them look smart so far, hitting .325/.387/.482 in 45 A-ball games. (He missed several months because of a fractured wrist.) Merrill is a left-handed batter who is listed at 6-foot-3, but you should tuck those Corey Seager comparisons away for someone else because his game is built around contact, not power. He seldom whiffs with a flat swing that generates grounders more than 50 percent of the time. While he's not a burner, scouts do like his actions and arm at shortstop, suggesting he has a good chance of remaining there heading forward. Merrill, then, could become an asset on both sides of the ball.
2. Dylan Lesko, RHP (2023 seasonal age: 19)
It's a testament to both Lesko's upside and the miracles of modern medicine that he was selected 15th overall last summer despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. Lesko has been clocked into the upper 90s with his fastball in the past, and his changeup is so good that one veteran scout told CBS Sports it was the best pitch he's ever seen thrown by a high school arm. Lesko will need to work on his breaking ball once he's healthy. Rehab and recovery usually takes somewhere between 12 and 14 months, so expect a summer return.
3. Robby Snelling, LHP (2023 seasonal age: 19)
Snelling was the second of two prep arms the Padres selected in the top 40 last summer. He's a former outside linebacker and it shows; he has a big, physical frame and his delivery is more strength-based than grace-based. Snelling's arsenal maintains the theme: he's touched in the upper-90s with his fastball, and he'll need to continue to refine his command and changeup to become a mid-rotation starter.