This is my second post expanding on one of the answers to the minors mailbag questions. They were fantastic questions, and I wish I had more space to answer. So this is it.
The question was wondering about second base of the future. I gave a brief answer then a sales pitch to package Luis Urias for Thor. This time around I will focus directly on the task at hand.
There appears to be a chance that Urias could be dealt this off-season, but until he leaves the roster he is in the conversation.
To me, there are three tiers here. There’s the immediate, the near future, and the distant future. A lot of the really exciting players are going to be in the latter category.
This group is composed of the guys who can run out there right now donning a Padres jersey and do the job. Frankly, it’s the guys currently doing it, Urias is one of them. Ty France also belongs in this group.
For the most part, we know what these two players will bring to the table. Urias, without a doubt, has the higher potential. However, France seems to be the more polished offensive player. He also has the defensive edge, by the numbers. Neither will keep the job at their current pace, but let’s take a look anyway.
Urias is worth -0.1 fWAR and 76 wRC+ in his 231 plate appearances in 2019. France is a 0.1 player with an 87 wRC+. The two places where Urias does have the advantage is the strikeout and walk rates. Okay, ‘advantage’ with strikeout rate is putting it nicely, it’s a 1.2 percent advantage. (Urias: 22.5, France: 23.7). The difference in walks, however, is significant. Urias is walking at a 10.4 percent clip vs. France at a 4.7 percent.
There are some noted things with Urias’ swing that make me hesitant that he will reach his potential, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You can watch a video with an explanation on Urias’ swing in the tweet below. For now, if I’m making the decision, advantage France.
Drives me nuts! Simple fix with some drills pic.twitter.com/kYbwgFv9ui— Canyonside Cages (@DavidRing4) September 4, 2019
This tier is made up of a couple players who could be placed in the lineup by the end of 2020 or early 2021. This is made up of Owen Miller and Hudson Potts. There might be guys who played in Lake Elsinore that have arguments to make this list, but there are reasons they don’t, which I’ll get into.
First thing to address here is the elephant in the room. Potts is not a second baseman. Here’s the thing, he got 164 innings at the position in 2019. With third base and shortstop occupied for the foreseeable future, Potts path is going to be as either a second baseman or first baseman. The earliest first base could be open is 2022 and that’s IF Eric Hosmer decides to exercise his player opt-out.
Next thing to do is address the other elephant in the room. Potts numbers weren’t the greatest last year. If you missed it, I touched on that here. The young infielder has made some significant strides in his swing and performed better by the end of 2019. Depending on how this Arizona Fall League stint goes, I would expect him to start in Amarillo again in 2020.
Miller is a different story. Miller almost made the immediate list with France and Urias. Either way, the book on Miller is that he is going to hit the ball. During his two years in the Padres organization, he has done nothing to make anyone think the contrary. In his first year at the Double A level, he was worth 121 wRC+ while striking out at a 15.2 percent clip and posting the highest walk rate of his professional career at 8.2 percent.
Below is a swing from Miller that happened during Spring Training. Some might meet this with skepticism, but I believe the Padres could pencil Miller into the 2020 Opening Day lineup and he would succeed. Advantage on this group goes to Miller...but I do love Potts.
Hold the phone! @OwenMiller8 ties it in the 9th!#PadresST pic.twitter.com/t2e24vMux8— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) March 5, 2019
The word distant might sound dramatic. These guys are just a couple years away at minimum, if not more. In the baseball world though, that is forever. These are the guys you think they are CJ Abrams, Xavier Edwards, Tucupita Marcano, Gabriel Arias, and Esteury Ruiz.
If there was one of these guys that could make the jump up to near future, it would be Marcano. Arias also makes an interesting case to move quickly. Nonetheless, they are in this group.
The thing with this group is that it is hard to predict. That goes for how they will develop, but also what the Padres roster will look like by the time they are ready.
Abrams and Edwards are the two highly touted names on this list, and for good reason. They can play. There should be no rush in getting these high school bats to the MLB level. Both figure to be solid contributors to a future Padre lineup.
There is a to like with Marcano. He spent the year in Fort Wayne slashing .270//.323/337. What I like about the 20 year old infielder is that he doesn’t strikeout. His 8.9 percent strikeout rate is exceedingly low. Now, the walk rate is 6.9 percent, but Marcano has a great contact tool. However, with all of that, he was worth only 95 wRC+.
Arias brings with him power. He slashed .302/.339/.470 with 17 homers and a 120 wRC+ with Lake Elsinore during the 2019 season. As is the case with young players with power, Arias strikes out a lot, 128 times in 120 games. He has put work in to fix that, as seen in the tweet below.
Below is what I'm seeing with Gabriel Arias' swing. Hardest to show is the new control with his momentum build--consistently has weight centered.— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) March 17, 2019
Bat position adjusted, using a true two-strike approach. All seem, to me, like adj. to cut swing and miss. #Padres #SpringTraining pic.twitter.com/yhY4gfrHRn
Finally Ruiz, who seems most likely to fade among this group. He definitely has some tools, namely his speed, and in another organization would be a legitimate infield prospect. But the Padres are over-saturated for what looks like competition for one position in the near future. All these guys are aiming for second base as it stands right now. Ruiz spent 2019 with Lake Elsinore slashing .239/.300/.357 worth 82 wRC+. He has a nice swing, he just needs to figure out how to make it work at the lower ranks. There’s plenty of time for him to work his way into the conversation, but right now he is on the outside looking in.
Open-face easy swing from #Padres Esteury Ruiz this afternoon. Just turned 20 in February. #PadresOnDeck pic.twitter.com/nKa4xkrCFh— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) March 19, 2019
This last group is a fun group. This farm system is a fun farm system. This competition for second base is going to be very interesting to keep an eye on moving forward because there are a lot of potential options.