Tatis Jr., Lucchesi named Padres Prospects of the Year

Tatis Jr., Lucchesi named Padres Prospects of the Year

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Padres spent the summer of 2016 replenishing their once-barren farm system. It's beginning to pay dividends.

Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and left-hander Joey Lucchesi were named as the organization's prospects of the year by MLBPipeline this week. Both were brought on board last summer, as part of the reboot of the Padres' farm system -- Tatis via trade and Lucchesi through the Draft.

Padres Prospects of the Year
2017 Fernando Tatis Jr. Joey Lucchesi
2016 Hunter Renfroe Dinelson Lamet
2015 Alex Dickerson Colin Rea
Year Hitter Pitcher

Tatis, who was acquired for James Shields last June, is the Hitting Prospect of the Year in the San Diego system. The Padres' No. 4 prospect spent most of the season at Class A Fort Wayne, where he broke a franchise record with 21 homers, while slashing .281/.390/.520.

Tatis received a promotion to Double-A San Antonio just before its playoff run. He struggled initially, but came on strong in the postseason, where he batted .350.

"I just feel like it was all paying off," Tatis said Saturday before starring in the Padres On Deck Game. "My work was paying off."

General manager A.J. Preller noted Sunday that he feels Tatis has the tools to stick at shortstop -- a position of need in San Diego for most of the past decade.

"We think he's a shortstop," Preller said. "That's where we're evaluating him, and we feel like he's a guy that has a chance to have an impact on both ends of the ball, offensively for sure, and defensively."

Lucchesi, meanwhile, is San Diego's Pitching Prospect of the Year -- and he could very well become the Padres' first 2016 Draft pick to reach the Majors. The 24-year-old left-hander, ranked as the Padres' No. 9 prospect, was part of a powerhouse young pitching staff that started the year in Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore before progressing to San Antonio.

In 78 2/3 innings for Elsinore, Lucchesi posted a 2.52 ERA, striking out 95 hitters and walking 19. After his promotion, he got even better, notching a 1.79 mark in 10 Double-A appearances (nine starts).

There's a good chance Lucchesi's success earns him an invite to Major League Spring Training next spring.

"He's gotten stronger as the year went on," Preller said. "He got more efficient with his pitch mix, got more efficient with his strikes."

Lucchesi was a fourth-round pick out of Southeast Missouri State, where he set the Ohio Valley Conference strikeout record. His swing-and-miss stuff has translated to professional ball.

Part of that can be attributed to a quirky-yet-free delivery, which undoubtedly throws off the timing of hitters. Preller was quick to note that there's more to it than that.

"Everybody wants to focus on the deception, the unique delivery, all that," Preller said. "But honestly, he's got pretty good stuff. He's a guy that repeats what he does, and the velocity ticked up as the year went on. He was consistently low 90s and he's got a curveball and a changeup that he can command.

"When you've got three pitches, left-handed, big body, uniqueness, that's a pretty good package. He's put himself into the conversation for us, to at least be invited into the mix."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.