As the Padres and Dodgers traveled to Monterey, Mexico, they were allowed to add a 26th man to their active rosters, presumably due to the logistical challenges should the team need to add a player over the weekend. With extra relievers and Mexican phenom Luis Urias in El Paso, the team had plenty of options for this roster move. The Padres made an interesting choice:
Both clubs get a 26th man for this weekend's series in Mexico. For the Padres, it'll be SS Javier Guerra, set for his MLB debut.— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) May 4, 2018
Once a key prospect in the Kimbrel deal, Guerra struggled afterward. He's bounced back early this season, however, particularly with newfound power.
When the Padres traded Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox, the centerpiece of the return was considered to be a young, athletic shortstop with superlative defensive skills who had just completed a breakout season in single-A Greenville. Javier Guerra looked like the Padres shortstop of the future, but after coming to a new organization, he struggled for two years as he bounced between advanced single-A Lake Elsinore and AA San Antonio. The defensive tools were clearly present, but the consistency and focus were lacking, as he would make highlight-reel plays and then boot the simple ones. His plate discipline and approach deteriorated to the point where he was considered by some to be a lost prospect. He was added to the 40-man roster before the 2017 season to prevent losing him in the Rule 5 draft, but at not point during the season did he appear to be a consideration for MLB service time. The one-time Padres top prospect dropped off prospect lists, as he was passed by the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr, Luis Urias, and others.
The 22-year-old received an invite to spring training with the MLB team, and while he didn’t make an impact on the field, he made enough of an impression to earn assignment to AAA El Paso. Something has clicked, as his fielding has stabilized and his bat has heated up considerably. A sudden power surge has given him 11 extra base hits in 90 at-bats, adding up to a .511 slugging percentage. Don’t expect a power display in Monterey, because he’s struck out at a nearly 40% rate against AAA pitching, and his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a relatively unsustainable .354, so he should be woefully overmatched against MLB pitching. His addition to the roster is likely due to the fact that there is no backup at shortstop on the roster, unless you seriously think that Christian Villanueva can capably handle the job at an MLB level. Guerra has been a shortstop almost exclusively throughout his minor league career.
While he’s unlikely to get any quality playing time, it’s still encouraging to see a kid near the brink of irrelevancy show signs of turning it around. He’s only 22, but it feels like he’s been in the Padres organization for a while. The Padres have put in work to get him back on track, so perhaps a week with the big club can help keep him working in the right direction.