Today the San Diego Padres promoted catcher Austin Hedges, rookie outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot, and infielder Carlos Asuaje to the major league roster following the conclusion of the Pacific Coast League playoffs. Here's a profile of Asuaje, the least-known of the group but far from uninteresting.
Asuaje first got on my sleeper radar back in 2014. His '15 campaign was not wonderful (.251/.334/.374 in Double-A) but he was still intriguing enough to merit a mention in the the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Carlos Asuaje, INF-OF, San Diego Padres
2015: Grade C+
We had a Sleeper Alert on Asuaje last year. It didn’t quite pan out but it still might eventually. An 11th round pick by the Red Sox in 2013 from Nova Southeastern University, he was traded to the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel deal. He doesn’t have the tools of fellow tradees Javier Guerra or Manuel Margot, but Asuaje does have an excellent feel for the strike zone, a clean swing, and gap power. He played mostly second base last year with okay results and is also capable of handling third base or the corner outfield spots. He’s no great shakes anywhere but he isn’t terrible and the versatility is useful. Asuaje didn’t knock the socks of Eastern League pitching but there’s still enough here to project him as a viable role player. I think we’ll see more pop this year. Grade C.
Asuaje played for Triple-A El Paso this year, hitting .321/.378/.473 with 32 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, 49 walks, and 83 strikeouts in 535 at-bats. This was a call-back to his impressive .300+ seasons in 2014 and 2013. As we noted in the reports on Margot and Renfroe, El Paso is a great place to hit. However, unlike his teammates Asuaje was actually more productive on the road (.322/.374/.492) as he was at home (.321/.384/.454), giving hope that this is real and not just primarily a park illusion.
Scouting reports continue to emphasize mediocre to average physical tools (generally 45-50) but they also note that he has strong instincts and feel for the game. This helps everything play up, especially as a hitter. As a fielder he lacks plus range or arm strength but is reliable in terms of not making many mistakes. He's best at second base but can also put in credible innings at third base or the corner outfield spots.
Asuaje will compete for a bench job next year as a super-utility type. As a left-handed hitter, it will be easier to slot him into a lineup as a platoon bat or to spell a right-handed hitter. He'll move up into the Grade C+ range for 2017 and you can make a case for a B-.