The San Diego Padres have an opportunity to take home an NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2019 as several young players should qualify this season.
Since joining the ranks of Major League Baseball in 1969, the Padres have only ever had two players win National League Rookie of the Year: Butch Metzger in 1976 when he shared the award with co-winner Pat Zachry and Benito Santiago’s unanimous selection in 1987.
With the next wave of talent expected to arrive on the shores of San Diego this season, the Friars shouldn’t be short of young guys competing to be voted the best in their class.
Here are five Padres in the running to win NL Rookie of the Year in 2019.
5. Logan Allen (LHP)
Chosen a year before fellow lefties Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer in the 8th round of the 2015 MLB draft, Allen has had a bit of a long journey through the minor leagues, but no less impressive. The 21-year-old was acquired from the Red Sox back in 2015 as the fourth piece in the Craig Kimbrel trade but has since made himself a co-headliner of the deal along with Manuel Margot. Through 360 innings in the minor leagues, he’s racked up a 2.75 ERA and just a little over a strikeout per inning.
As it stands today, the competition for the starting rotation is wide open but many of the current favorites are other left-handers. This hampers Allen’s chances to make the opening day rotation, as he’ll be competing with the returning Lucchesi and Lauer as well as Matt Strahm as he attempts to make the transition to the rotation. It’s most likely that he’ll start 2019 in El Paso, the same place he ended 2018 on a nice looking five-game stretch that saw him manage a sub-2 ERA while struggling a bit more with his command than he had in previous levels. Regardless of if he’s in San Diego on March 28, he should see ample time at the big league level this season.
4. Francisco Mejia (C)
Mejía’s chances are going to depend largely on how his playing time gets split with Austin Hedges. It’s very likely that if Hedges falls into another funk at the plate to start the season, Mejía could take over as the primary backstop by May. Aside from his rocket arm, Mejía may end up being too much of a defensive liability to stick behind the plate long term. The Indians previously experimented by trying him at third and the corner outfield spots in the minors to mixed results. This experimentation was an attempt to try and get his bat in the lineup on a regular basis when he arrived at the major league level.
The bat has always been Mejía’s strong suit and he’s excited many an analyst with his potential, especially if he ends up being able to stick at a premium defensive position like catcher. For his career in the minors, he owns a .293/.347/.452 slash line, more than impressive for a catcher to say the least. In limited and irregular playing time with both Cleveland and San Diego at the major league level, he currently sports a .174/.250./.333 line in just 69 at-bats. Over 50 of those at-bats came for the Friars late last season after being acquired from the Indians in the Brad Hand trade. In that short time, he flashed quite a bit of his offensive firepower, including a two home run performance against the Reds in his first start with the Padres and a walk-off grand slam on September 16th against the Rangers.
3. Luis Urias (SS/2B)
Urías made a brief twelve game debut for the Padres late last season before a hamstring issue ended his year prematurely. Now fully healthy, Urías isn’t expected to be limited at all heading into spring training and looks to be the club’s opening day shortstop as we await the arrival of a certain other shortstop. Over his career in the minors, Urías has been known for his exceptional eye and patience at the plate, regularly drawing more walks than strikeouts.
His stop at El Paso last year was the first instance in which he saw a significant uptick in strikeouts but at times it looked like he was also trying to hit for significantly more power than he has in the past; Urías didn’t hit his first professional home run until his third season in the Padres system in 2016 but had a career-high of eight last year in Triple-A. He did have seven more strikeouts than walks last year with the Padres, but a lot of that could also probably be attributed to it being his first look at major league pitching.
If he relaxes at the plate a bit more and returns to his natural tendencies of waiting for his pitch and driving the ball into gaps, we should see a return to his high OBP numbers that would place him near the top of the lineup. Urías isn’t too shabby with the glove either and some prospect analysts have even predicted him as being a potential Gold Glove winner in the future. He doesn’t quite have the range to stick at shortstop but that isn’t a concern as he’s expected to move back to second just a few weeks into the 2019 season.
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