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Too soon? The Padres send 2B Luis Urias back to the minors

The career of Luis Urias has not gotten off to the start that anyone expected.

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Just before announcing the lineup for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, the San Diego Padres announced the following roster moves:

Meh. Both of these guys have been pretty bad out of the Padres’ bullpen this year. At least Erlin can do the mop-up work when needed.

Now, that is pretty interesting.

Where we’ve been

Luis Urias was a September call-up last year, and has long been slated to be the team’s long-term second basemen, forming a young double-play tandem with Fernando Tatis Jr.

Before getting injured last year, Urias played in 12 games and posted an OPS of .618. This was viewed as “growing pains”, as his OPS over the last three years in the minor leagues had been .836 (A+), .778 (AA), and .845 (AAA).

It looked like Urias was a sure-thing to start the 2019 season as the starting shortstop of the San Diego Padres, with Ian Kinsler keeping 2B warm until Tatis Jr. was ready for the call-up.

Where we are

With Tatis Jr. earning the starting shortstop spot and Kinsler hitting well in Spring Training, Urias started the season with the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas. He posted a .956 OPS in 4 games, even showing off a little power by hitting a home run. While he did this, Kinsler struggled at the plate and the Padres got off to a fast start in the win column.

Urias got the call-up to great applause from the fans. Finally, past his own growing pains, Urias would come in and save the team from Kinsler’s rally-killing spot in the lineup...

That’s not how it went. Urias appeared in 11 games (just 1 short of the 12 he played in last season) and posted an OPS of .366. His 37.9% strikeout-rate was about double what he had posted in the minors and even in his short stint in San Diego last year.

These aren’t just below-average numbers, these are “something is seriously wrong” numbers. If the numbers weren’t good enough for you, the eye-test would tell you that Urias is both behind fastballs and ahead of breaking pitches. He showed a lack of confidence, and seemed scared when he came up during most of his second tenure in Major League Baseball.

You could argue that he should’ve been given more starts, or a longer leash, and I won’t argue with you. But Andy Green is the team’s manager for the time being, and he showed that he was unwilling to trust Urias in the batter’s box.

Simply put, Urias was only getting worse the longer he stayed up, being asked to contribute in pinch-hitting opportunities. Hopefully, a trip back to AAA straightens him out and gets his confidence back.

Where we go from here

It takes an incredibly long time to draw a conclusion on a prospect in baseball. Urias isn’t quite as young as Tatis Jr., but he tore through the minor-leagues at a blistering pace and is just 21-years old. He’s played in parts of 23 MLB games and has a total of 82 plate appearances.

Anyone saying that it’s time to move on from Luis Urias is being foolish, and is throwing out years of scouting and minor-league data that says this is a good baseball player.

Ty France, a 1B/3B that is playing some 2B this year in El Paso (at least as much as he’s playing 3B, but 1B is still his primary position), has an OPS over 1.100 after posting an OPS over .900 in AAA last year. There will be some who want to give him a chance to play 2B with the Padres, and there’s probably no real harm in that, but the front office is still assuming Urias will lock down that position at some point this season and hold onto it for years to come.