In this day and age of the modern game of baseball, players are revered for their sheer size and athleticism.
They are also cherished for the”tools” they possess while playing this game we all know and love.
While speed, power, and the ability to square up a baseball are excellent assets to have, they are not the only way to judge talent. Playing major league baseball is a grind. It is an absolute marathon and there are numerous peaks and valleys in the journey. More often than not, players with tremendous tools are unable to make it through the mental aspect of the game. Grinding away is a skill, and unfortunately, those with great pride can be victimized rather quickly.
All this brings us to a 5′ 9″ infielder by the name of Carlos Asuaje. Padre fans are well aware of who he is. And with his play in recent weeks, major league teams are certainly taking notice as well.
When Yangervis Solarte went down with an injury, Asuaje filled in at second base for the Friars. In a little over 120 at bats, Asuaje’s average has hovered around .300 and he has also managed to keep his OBP at around the .370 mark, excellent offensive numbers from this left-handed hitter who has been described as a “spark plug” by manager Andy Green. The team has looked much better offensively since Asuaje was placed at the top of the order. He will remain in the lineup, as the team is committed to allowing Solarte to man the shortstop position from time to time. This experiment is simply to allow more at bats for all the infielders in the mix.
The 25-year-old Asuaje has shown excellent defensive skills at second base. On Sunday, he turned a double play after a horrible feed from Dusty Coleman, which pulled him off the bag. That was a game-saving play at the time. Plays like that DO NOT show up on the box score. There is no defensive metric stat (yet) for that. You have to witness a play like that firsthand to appreciate the value of it.
Asuaje can certainly swing the bat. He is not the biggest guy and will never be a consistent power threat. That is not his game. He knows that, and will never try to do too much in the box. Instead, Carlos Asuaje will gladly battle you from the left-handed batter’s box and drive the ball where it is pitched.
Take a look at this chart. The man hits the ball all over the place.
Carlos Asuaje looks to be a legit major league player. If given the opportunity, he could blossom more. His style of play is not flashy by any means, but in a correctly constructed lineup, he has tremendous value as a table-setter and spark plug who grinds at bats and gets under the skin of opposing team’s pitchers. That in itself has tremendous value.
The problem is that the Padres are currently stacked at the second base position. Yangervis Solarte and Cory Spangenberg are probably better suited for the position. Jose Pirela, who has come out of nowhere, is also best utilized at second base defensively. Then there is Luis Urias, who is a fast-rising prospect that is five years younger than Asuaje. Urias also has a similar skill set to Asuaje, in that he is a professional type of player with limited loud tools. Carlos Asauje’s future as a San Diego Padre will be an uphill battle.
That is perfectly fine, if you ask Asuaje. He is about here and now. The infielder is gracious and is happy to be where he is presently. You can’t control the future. I asked Carlos what his mindset was after the game on Sunday versus the Pirates. “My mindset has, and will always be the same. Just help my team win games, whether that’s with me playing second base or anywhere else.” Obviously he has the correct frame of mind. You cannot control much in the game of baseball. The only thing you can control is your effort and what you put into the game. Carlos Asuaje does not shy away from hard work. His work ethic and drive to succeed have taken him this far.
In speaking about his daily duties, his response to me was very simple. “Having quality at bats and playing solid defense regardless of position or spot in the line up.” You wouldn’t want anything else as an answer from a young player, who is still trying to find himself in the game. Asuaje certainly passes the “eye-test” the more you seem him play the game. He grinds his way through each game and each at bat. You know you will continually get the best effort from this young man. In a Padres team constructed for the future, players with an overall package like Asauje cannot be ignored. His growth is fun to watch and yet another example of this flourishing young franchise.