Last year, the Padres utilized one of the worst players in baseball at one of the most important positions. Thankfully, the failed Alexei Ramirez experience is over and not coming back.There’s been a lot of talk about the Padres’ search for improvement at the shortstop position from outside the organization this offseason. Musings about trades and free agent additions never really materialized, and we are going in to camp with a limited set of options.
Currently on the 40-man roster: Luis Sardiñas, Jose Rondon, Allen Cordoba
Non-Roster Invitees: Erick Aybar, Dusty Coleman, Luis Urias
Luis Sardiñas came to the Padres as a waiver signing last season, after failed auditions in Texas, Milwaukee, and Seattle over the past three seasons. Once considered among the game’s best prospects at the position, the shine had worn off at the ripe old age of 23. Given a starter’s playing time for the first time in his MLB career, he flourished in the role, hitting .287/.353/.417 over 120 plate appearances for the Padres and showed flashes of the defensive tools that scouts loved. As the only experienced SS on the 40-man roster, the job is his to prove.
Jose Rondon got his first taste of the major leagues last season. His eight games with the team showed excellent glove skills paired with a modest bat, which matches his recent performances in the minor leagues. His stock has dropped since the Padres received him along with Taylor Lindsey for Huston Street back in 2014, and at this point he’s considered a minor league player. Still, about to turn 23, so there’s hope that he could take a step forward.
Allen Cordoba was selected in the Rule 5 draft and has all of the tools needed for an MLB shortstop, but he’s never played a game above rookie ball. He posted huge numbers over the last two seasons, but numbers in rookie ball can hardly be trusted. To remain on the roster (which he needs to remain on the active roster all season for the Padres to keep him), he could be used as a utility backup infielder, but he has a steep learning curve to be able to handle the role capably. Still, there is a wealth of talent in this athletic kid, so it may be worth living through some struggles to keep him for future development. Considering the lack of projectable shortstop talent in the Padres’ high minors, this may be a risk worth taking.
If something were to happen to Luis Sardiñas, veteran Erick Aybar was signed to a minor league contract. At age 33, his best days are likely behind him, but he has the knowledge and experience to handle the job in a pinch. Minor league journeyman Dusty Coleman brings a more qualified glove to the depth pool and will likely spend the season in El Paso, waiting for another chance to collect his first MLB hit. He was called up in 2015 with the Royals, only to go hitless in five plate appearances.
Perhaps the most intriguing player in Padres’ camp this spring is young stud Luis Urias. Likely to progress as a second baseman, he’s getting a good look as a shortstop as the organization evaluates if he may be a candidate at the post. If the 19-year-old 2016 California League MVP can demonstrate proficiency at shortstop, he may rocket up through the organization’s minor league teams as an MLB option sooner than later.
The job is Sardiñas’ to win or lose. Aybar is ready for another shot. Coleman and Rondon are ready too. Cordoba needs to show up or pack up. But to me, the player to watch is Urias.