The 2016 San Diego Padres failed to post a winning record, going 68-94, and again finished in last place in the competitive N.L. West.
As frustrating as it was, there was some young talent that showed the positive future for the Padres. One young player in particular is shortstop Luis Sardinas. Acquired from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later, Sardinas had been on A.J. Preller’s radar for some time.
One thing Preller has said over and over again is “The shortstop is one of the more important positions on the baseball diamond. He needs to be a captain, and anchor for the club.” That being said, he might have found his man.
Sardinas, born in Upata Bolivar, Venezuela, was signed by the Texas Rangers in 2009 as an amateur free agent. At the time, A.J. Preller was an assistant general manager for the Texas Rangers, and had an eye for international talent, especially at the shortstop position. Four years later, Sardinas was placed with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the Frisco Rough Riders. Sardinas, at one point, was regarded as the 84th best prospect according to Mlb.com during the 2013-2014 season. In 2014, he was brought up to the big league club. With the Rangers, he had a slash line of .261/.303/.313 in 43 games played. His limited play was due to the fact that the Rangers had a ton of money invested in Elvis Andrus, an All-Star shortstop. The Rangers needed pitching, so they thought Sardinas was expendable. A year later, in 2015, Sardinas was part of a trade that sent him and two other prospects to Milwaukee in exchange for starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo.
With the Brewers, Sardinas once again was second and third fiddle. Sardinas posted a .196/.240/.216 slash line in 36 games. The Brewers already had their man in Jean Segura,who was in his prime, as well as Orlando Arcia, who was not even 20 years old and was the future. So, in 2015, Sardinas was once again traded, this time to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Ramon Flores. The Mariners didn’t seem to suit Sardinas, as he collected a .181/.203/.264 batting line. Seeing his hitting numbers declining raised a few flags, but another team was still eyeing him, the San Diego Padres.
Needing a shortstop, the Padres traded for Luis Sardinas in 2016 for a player to be named later. In 34 games played for the Friars, his hitting improved. He put up a .287/.353/.417 slash line with a couple of homers and 13 RBI. He showed that he can hit, he just needs to find a stable team and get plenty of at bats. He is only 23, with his prime still ahead of him. His fielding is decent, but still needs work. He did have five errors and a .964 fielding percentage, but that can be fixed. In fact, he came in with the reputation as a glove-first infielder, so his defense will improve. You can be sure of that. Not since Khalil Greene have the Padres found a combination of hitting/fielding from the shortstop position. Sardinas could provide that with some more consistency.
Jose Rondon, a Venezuelan product, and signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2011, seemed to be the Angels future at the position. Due to the fact that the Angeles needed relief pitching, in 2014, Rondon was traded to the Padres for closer Huston Street. He was called up by the Padres on July 29, 2016. He played eight games and didn’t provide much with the bat, establishing a .120/.154/.120 slash line. His fielding was decent, but he did commit two errors and recorded a fielding percentage of .943. It’s a really, really small sample size, so nothing is for sure if his struggles are permanent or just temporary.
Another player who is getting buzz due to his success in the minors is Carlos Asuaje. He was part of the trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox for Manuel Margot, Logan Allen, Asuaje, and Javier Guerra. Asuaje has made big strides since the Padres obtained him. In Triple- A, at El Paso, he put up a slash line of .321/.378/.473. Here are some staggering numbers: he had 172 hits, 11 triples, and 32 doubles in 134 games. Because of his great success in El Paso, the Padres had no choice but to call him up. With the Padres, in eight games, he collected a .208/.240/.292 batting line. His fielding with El Paso was .1000 and .971 with the Padres. Asuaje at shortstop is a possibility as he does have some experience at the position. In 2014, in Single-A for the Red Sox, he played six games, logging 46 innings. Not a huge sample size, but he failed to commit an error.
Unlike last year, the Padres have some young options at the position and there is still time for the team to acquire another name or two to throw into the competition. A.J. Preller will make a move, that you can count on. The MLB Winter Meetings start this Sunday, assuming that the collective bargaining agreement is finalized before then. Trade talks and free agent signings will heat up shortly and there is no reason to believe the Padres won’t be in the thick of things. Stay tuned. The shortstop question could be answered, or the team could very well just roll with Sardinas in 2017.