FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Two of baseball’s best young prospects are joining the TinCaps from the Single-A Lake Elsinore Storm, the San Diego Padres announced Monday. Right-handed starting pitcher Dylan Lesko and center fielder Sammy Zavala have been promoted to Fort Wayne, along with outfielder Tyler Robertson, first baseman Griffin Doersching, corner infielder Devin Ortiz, and catcher Addison Kopack.
Lesko, 19, was the first high school junior to win the prestigious Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year award in 2021. Last year he suffered an elbow injury and had Tommy John surgery, but was still selected in the 1st round of the 2022 MLB Draft with the 15th overall pick, out of Buford High School in Buford, Georgia. He had been committed to Vanderbilt University before signing with the Padres. Baseball America ranks him as San Diego’s third best prospect and the 41st best prospect in all of baseball (eighth among right-handed starters). MLB.com says he has the “Best Changeup” of any prospect. “It sits in the low 80s, veers sideways and also has some sink when it arrives to the plate,” according to the MLB Pipeline scouting report. He was also in the running for “Best Curveball,” while his fastball sits in the mid-90s. Coming off the injury, Lesko made his pro debut at the rookie-level in the Arizona Complex League on June 20. His first of five starts with Lake Elsinore came on July 21. He has 32 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Zavala, 19, is rated by MLB.com as the No. 5 Padres prospect and a top-100 prospect overall in the sport. The native of Venezuela was leading the Storm in games (101), runs (83), hits (93), home runs (14), RBIs (71), and walks (89). Among qualifying players, Zavala was first in the California League in runs and walks, while ranking second in on-base percentage (.420) and RBIs. He was fourth in homers and fifth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.871). His walk total is the second highest of all players in Minor League Baseball. To put all his numbers in a blender, his weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 139 was fourth highest in the league. According to Baseball America, Zavala is a homer shy of joining an elite list of teenagers with 15-plus homers, 20-plus doubles, and 20-plus stolen bases. Since 2006, only 14 MiLB players have accomplished that, including Fernando Tatis Jr. with the TinCaps in 2017, Ronald Acuña in 2017, and Bryce Harper in 2011.
Robertson, 23, was leading Lake Elsinore in stolen bases (23), as he ranked eighth in the Cal League, and hit by pitches (13), fifth most in the circuit. The Alabama native was drafted by the Padres in the 14th round last year out of Louisiana, following an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Doersching, 25, ranked fourth in the Cal League in walks (63) and fifth in doubles (23). Of note, as a Northern Kentucky University senior, he played at Parkview Field against Purdue Fort Wayne in April 2021. In one game, he hit a home run that dented The Harrison, the building beyond the left-field fence. A Wisconsin native, he won the 2019 College Home Run Derby in Omaha. Doersching spent a year as a grad student at Oklahoma State, appearing in the NCAA Tournament, before he was drafted by the Padres in the eighth round.
Ortiz, 24, appeared in five games with the TinCaps in May, prior to his Storm assignment. The New Jersey native played collegiately at Virginia as both a pitcher and a position player, with an appearance in the 2021 College World Series, and was signed by San Diego last August.
Kopack, 22, was signed by the Padres on July 20 after a collegiate career at his home state school, Rhode Island. He appeared in three Arizona Complex League games.
Meanwhile, San Diego has promoted catcher Ethan Salas (MLB.com’s No. 1 Padres prospect), left-handed starting pitcher Robby Snelling (No. 3), first baseman Nathan Martorella (No. 10, infielder Graham Pauley (No. 11), and center fielder Jakob Marsee (No. 12) to the Double-A San Antonio Missions. Additionally, outfielder Joshua Mearshas been placed on Fort Wayne’s 7-Day Injured List.
Salas, MLB.com’s No. 5 overall prospect at just 17 years old (the youngest ever to achieve a top-5 ranking) appeared in nine games as a TinCap, slashing .200 / .243 / .229 (.472 OPS) with a double and three RBIs. He was both the youngest and highest-ranked prospect in the franchise’s 30-year history.
Snelling, who was the second youngest pitcher in the Midwest League this season, made seven starts with Fort Wayne, posting a 2.34 ERA with 40 strikeouts to 11 walks and 31 hits in 34 2/3 innings.
Martorella was leading the TinCaps in home runs (16), RBIs (73), doubles (26), and total bases (179). The left-handed batter ranked second in the league in games (112), RBIs and total bases, while slotting third in hits (103) and runs (71), fourth in doubles and walks (73), fifth in homers, seventh in slugging percentage (.450), and eighth in OPS (.821). His 132 wRC+ ranked ninth. Martorella’s OPS and home run total were both top-10 for a season in the franchise’s history. He played 81 games at first base and 21 in left field.
Pauley made his TinCaps debut on June 29, after beginning the season with Lake Elsinore. Across 45 games with Fort Wayne, the left-handed swinger hit .300 with 16 homers and 46 RBIs. During his time as a ’Cap, Pauley hit six more homers than anyone else in the Midwest League and had 15 more RBIs. In fact, in this range, he ranked second out of all minor leaguers in homers and RBIs. Pauley played 24 games at third base, 12 at second base, and six in left field.
Marsee was leading the TinCaps in games (113), runs (91), hits (109), walks (87), stolen bases (41), and OBP (.413). He was first in the league in games, runs, walks, and OBP. League-wide he also ranked second in hits, third in stolen bases, sixth in OPS (.838), ninth in hit by pitches (10), and 10th in average (.273). Marsee’s 143 wRC+ was the highest among all qualified players in the Midwest League, and the sixth best in franchise history (data available back to 2006), the highest since Tatis. He was one of only three players in the league who’d walked more than they’d struck out. His swing and miss rate (5%) was third lowest. Looking back at Fort Wayne’s franchise history, Marsee’s OBP ranks third highest, while his OPS is sixth best – both the finest over three seasons at the High-A level. Out of all players in Major League and Minor League Baseball, he’s one of only nine with more than 12 homers and more than 40 stolen bases. (Acuña is the only big leaguer.) Marsee played 112 games in center field and one in left.
With 18 games remaining in the regular season, the TinCaps are 1 ½ games behind the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers affiliate) for a postseason spot. Fort Wayne travels to Midland, Mich., this week for a six-game series against the Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate). The TinCaps will host their final six home games from Tuesday, Aug. 29 through Sunday, Sept. 3 versus the South Bend Cubs. Promotions include Grateful Dead Night, ’Caps Against Cancer, BirdZerk!, and three fireworks nights. TinCaps tickets start at merely $7 and can be purchased through TinCaps.com, by calling 260-482-6400, and at the Parkview Field Ticket Office.