Spring training is upon us folks.
The trucks have arrived in Peoria, and soon Padres’ brass will begin evaluating the many players that they have deemed worthy of a look in big-league camp.
As the MLB Opening Day roster begins to take shape, it is safe to assume that Wil Myers, Manny Margot, and Brad Hand will find themselves in San Diego come March 29th, but there are also some very intriguing players that have been invited to camp to compete for a spot on that coveted 25-man roster.
Top prospects, down on their luck veterans, and high floor relievers make up the 26 men that will arrive in Peoria without a guaranteed roster spot. They will need to perform like all-stars in a fraction of the time if they even want a chance at earning a roster spot. For some, their performance won’t even matter. These are the current Padres non-roster invitees for the 2018 season and how likely they are to break camp with the Friars.
Sorry, Padres fans. The odds of Fernando Tatis Jr. breaking camp with the big league team are very slim, but the reasoning behind it is very clear. Despite being widely considered as the Padres’ top prospect and also garnering attention as a top 10 prospect in all of baseball, Tatis is still relatively inexperienced. He has played only 14 games at the Double-A level and isn’t ready to face big league pitching just yet, as shown by his 141 minor league Ks in 2017. As much as we would all love for Tatis to be manning short under the lights at Petco already, patience is going to be the key here as he just turned 19 and will need to prove that he can succeed in the high minors before even being considered for a cup of coffee at the game’s highest level.
24-year-old catcher Austin Allen conceivably fits on the big league roster as Austin Hedges’ back up, but he spent all of 2017 at A+ Lake Elsinore and has some defensive questions behind the dish, so it is much more likely he start the year in San Antonio than San Diego. Besides, what’s the use in relegating him to a backup role so soon? There’s no point in limiting his potent bat to a small bench role. If he can prove that .353 OBP he posted in 2017 is the real deal then he could be a fast riser in 2018, but giving him the chance to start everyday and refine his catching will do him wonders long-term.
The rest of the names on this list are blocked either at the big league level or on the minor league depth chart.
Brett Kennedy put together a good 2017 campaign in San Antonio (8.5/2.4 K/BB, 3.70 ERA over 26 starts), but probably won’t be able to separate himself from a group that includes familiar veterans and high ceiling arms. Robert Stock has yet to pitch at a level higher than Double-A, so it’s safe to say the 28-year-old won’t make the Padres’ pen.
Josh Naylor is blocked by Wil Myers, but at 20 years old, really doesn’t need to be rushed. Letting him refine his approach in the upper minors is crucial to his development as he has yet to tap into his highly lauded raw power. The 10 home runs he hit between High Single-A and Double-A aren’t enough to offset his fringe defense and lack of speed.
Jacob Nix is the last name on this list, and although I believe he has a higher ceiling than Kennedy, I can’t see him passing other arms in front of him. Besides, he only has six starts under his belt at the Double-A level, so rushing him to the big leagues hardly makes any sense.
The wonderful trio of Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Joey Lucchesi each have a chance of receiving mid-summer call-ups, but are highly unlikely to make the opening day roster. All three ended the 2017 season at Double-A San Antonio and will most likely begin 2018 at Triple-A El Paso. Quantrill will need to take the next major step in his development and show more dominance in the high minors than he did last year if he is to receive an early call-up.
Eric Lauer was considered a fast riser from the beginning when the Padres drafted him in 2016. He wasn’t considered a high-strikeout pitcher, but an 11.2 K/9 over 12 starts at Lake Elsinore increased expectations for the 22-year-old. Lauer has always been a high floor pitcher so it is possible we see him make his MLB debut in 2018, but that will only happen if he can show sustained success in the high minors, so don’t expect to see him in April.
Joey Lucchesi had the best 2017 of arguably any pitcher in the Padres’ minor league system. The 2016 4th round draftee split the year between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio and put up absolutely stellar numbers (2.20 ERA and 148 Ks over 139 IP). He won’t be pushed to the majors just yet, but he is almost ready to contribute at the game’s highest level and WILL see time in a Padres uni in 2018. It just won’t be right out of spring training. A.J. Preller and company will see what he can do at the Triple-A level over a handful of starts and decide from there whether he is ready to face big league hitting.
Jonathan Aro and Michael Mariot were brought in as depth arms and nothing more. Although both have had spells of success in affiliated ball, both are strictly relievers and don’t boast the versatility that others do. They are only listed as “Long Shots” because A.J. Preller has a knack for keeping “meh” relievers around for mop-up roles (see: Cory Mazzoni).
Adam Cimber is a reliever who has seen time in the upper minors since 2015 and put up a 2.92 ERA over 64.2 Triple-A innings in 2017. Cimber boasts impeccable control, but also benefited greatly from a .233 BABIP, so odds are he stays at Triple-A and is considered for a cup of coffee if others struggle.
Franmil Reyes is a very interesting name to watch as the spring progresses. The 22-year-old exploded in San Antonio last year, posting a career high in homers (25) at the expense of his OBP (still a respectable .322). Reyes won’t make the team out of spring training because the Friars already employ an outfielder who fits Reyes’ profile in Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe will have every chance to win the team’s starting right fielder job, and there are other outfielders on the team’s 40-man roster, leaving Reyes out of the picture for now. Allen Craig is looking for redemption after some down years, but needs a strong camp to make the team as Wil Myer’s backup at first.
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