The worst-kept secret in Padres news this week has been that Jacob Nix was slated to make his MLB debut and start tonight’s home series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. The team finally made the transaction to open the roster spot and officially bring MLB Pipeline’s 14th ranked top Padres prospect up to The Show.
Phil Hughes has been designated for assignment, making room for Jacob Nix's callup. Hughes has struggled in 16 outings for the Padres (6.10 ERA). Right now, San Diego is on the hook for the rest of this season, plus ~$7M next season.— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) August 10, 2018
Nix was drafted by the Padres in the third round of the 2015 draft, but he was already a known name after being the collateral damage in Houston’s failure to sign first overall selection Brady Aiken the year prior. Houston’s loss was San Diego’s gain, as Nix entered the system as a highly touted prospect with a high ceiling. Over the course of the last three years Nix has worked his way up the ladder through health issues. 2018 has been the season where he finally has remained healthy and the hard work has paid off. A stellar season in AA San Antonio earned him a promotion to El Paso last week and now he’ll make his debut tonight. I could plagiarize my own scouting report, but I’ll let MinorLeagueBall’s John Sickels do it for me. MadFriars’ John Conniff interviewed Nix earlier this year, and in his piece you can get an idea of the delays he’s worked through as well as the personality behind the frame.
If you really don’t want to read the links above, here’s the Cliffs Notes version: Nix has a four-seam fastball that can touch the upper 90’s as well as a sweeping 12-6 curveball, a slider, and a developing change-up, all of which he can throw for strikes. He pounds the zone, this year only issuing 1.54 BB/9, but he doesn’t miss bats quite at the same rate as some of his peers. This year his command has improved to match the control. He was a guest at a Padres Social Summit last season, and I can tell you that he can command an audience comfortably, so he won’t be phased by the cameras and microphones. He seems like the kind of guy who relishes the big moment, as evidenced by his scoreless 6-inning start in AAA El Paso’s playoff run last season. Don’t expect a cup of coffee from Nix, he’s probably going to stick on this roster for a while.
Padres needed to make room on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters for Nix, and the unfortunate soul was Phil Hughes. The former Yankees ace-in-the-making struggled to a 6.10 ERA in 16 appearances for the Padres after being acquired in a minor trade earlier this season. While the Twins are paying for the remainder of his 2018 salary and a chunk of next year’s, the Padres will probably be responsible for the $7.25M he is due to make in 2019. If a player claims him on waivers they also will assume his contract, but that’s unlikely. What remains to be seen is whether the team will offer him a minor league assignment, and if Hughes will accept it. His veteran status has earned him the right to reject a minor league assignment and elect free agency, in which case the Padres would still be responsible for the contract and he would be free to sign as he chooses. Being DFA’d twice in a season must be a bitter pill to swallow, but anyone who listened to his appearance on the 5.5 Podcast knows he has the right outlook on this point in his career. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him head to El Paso and come back next spring looking for another shot.
Welcome to the show, Jacob Nix! We’ve seen three ugly debut starts from Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, and Brett Kennedy, but maybe Nix can buck that trend. His counterpart from the Phillies is scheduled to be Zach Eflin, one of the promising pitchers the Padres traded away in the Matt Kemp deal. Tonight’s game starts at 7:10, so tune in and have the game thread cued up!