When it comes to middle infield prospects, the last few seasons have been a rocky road for the San Diego Padres. They traded Trea Turner (but acquired Wil Myers) in 2014.
Manny Margot looks like a home run, but the ‘1-b’ piece of the package received from Boston for Craig Kimbrel, Javier Guerra, had a disastrous 2016. A consensus top 60 prospect by all outlets heading into the year, he struggled big time (.202 average, four steals to four caught stealing) in his first season with the San Diego organization.
The shortstop position is wide open at gorgeous Petco Park, with soft-hitting veteran Erick Aybar on a one-year lease, following the exact same footsteps of Alexei Ramirez. 2015 bore Clint Barmes and 2014 saw the end of Everth Cabrera, who’s baserunning reputation was annihilated with his drug suspension.
Times like these you yearn for Jerry Hairston, Jr. to swoop in and save the day.
While Turner now stars in D.C., Guerra struggling and Fernando Tatis, Jr. remaining a year from being two years away, the 19-year old Luis Urias is simply hitting way too much to not be the name to know.
Of course, this didn’t come out of nowhere. Our own John Sickels’ ranked the Mexico native the seventh best prospect in the Friars organization. Outside of Major League graduates Margot and Hunter Renfroe, he stands as the highest rated position player. (Guerra, once in contention for the top spot in Sickels’ list, has fallen out of the top 20.)
Signed in 2013, Urias has bucked the age trend at each level. In 2016, he debuted in High-A Lake Elsinore almost two full months before his 18th birthday. He went on to do the same a year later at 19 for Double-A San Antonio.
He would reward the organization’s belief and win the California League MVP award, kicking and screaming his way to a robust .330/.397/.440 line, including five home runs and seven stolen bases (though he was caught 13 times). Perhaps most impressively, he walked four more times (40) than he struck out (36).
Bursting onto the scene, he earned himself the prestigious invite to the World Baseball Classic as a member of Mexico’s roster and almost outright won the starting shortstop job.
After spending most of his early Minor League days at second base, with secondary reps coming at third base, Padres brass has committed to the idea of Urias being an everyday shortstop. So far in 2017, he’s made 27 starts at short to 10 at second base.
The spotlight shining down on him hasn’t dimmed his headlights in the least. In fact, he’s actually improved upon his eyebrow-raising ‘16 numbers. He enters May 19th play with a stunning .342/.431/.490 line. He’s also continuing to show great plate discipline (24 walks to 18 strikeouts); numbers that warrant a spell-checker.
He even saw a quick taste of Triple-A last season. With rosters in chaos due to trades by the big league club as well as injuries (and a general lack of talent in the organization), he momentarily skipped Double-A. The results? What you’d expect from this red hot bat. He amassed just nine at-bats in three games but hit safely in all three, finishing his brief stay off with a multi-hit game.
The overall numbers were four hits, five walks (one strikeout), a home run, stolen base and six runs scored (!) in nine AB’s. At this rate, the 2018 prospect rankings will certainly find him in the top 100, at the very least.
With the shortstop situation as is in San Diego, Urias has emerged as the future at the position. There’s no rush for the soon-to-be 20-year old (June 3rd) to make his Major League debut, but the way he’s swinging it, a return to Triple-A El Paso on a full-time basis can’t be too far off.