Should Luis Urias, the probable second baseman of the future for the San Diego Padres be playing shortstop currently?
Fernando Tatis’ rookie season was full of positives and negatives.
While he was in the lineup, he was a dynamic force that plays the game at the level that only a few can play.
Sadly, the Dominican youngster has had two extended periods on the IL. The most recent looks to take him out for the rest of the year, as an ailing back is not an easy injury to return from for a baseball player. The 20-year-old has been out for a few weeks, and in his place, the Padres gave the starting shortstop job to Luis Urias.
A few eyebrows may have risen, but the right-handed hitting infielder played the majority of his games at the Triple-A level this season at shortstop. He played 53 of his 73 games at the position while playing for the Chihuahuas and played very well there. Urias recorded a .972 fielding percentage in 464.1 innings, committing seven errors. Though Luis Urias owns a career .949 fielding percentage at shortstop, he has been very reliable the last two seasons at the position. At least at the minor league level.
The question is not if Luis Urias is capable of playing the position for the Padres. It is more relevant to ask- why is he playing there?
Fernando Tatis Jr. is the future at shortstop for San Diego. There is no debating that. The team will likely explore a contract extension with the shortstop before he hits the open market after the 2024 season. So with Tatis locking down the position for the next five season, it is strange to insist on playing time for Luis Urias at short. Shouldn’t he be playing second base where his future seems to be?
The Machado factor
It is not a secret that Manny Machado enjoys playing shortstop. He has made this known. He originally wanted to sign with a team that would guarantee him a shot at the position but changed that stance while negotiating later in the offseason. Ultimately signing with the Padres and settling in as a third baseman.
In 37 games, while Tatis was out early in the season, Machado made a few highlight-reel plays at shortstop. He committed three errors there, resulting in a .973 fielding percentage. Machado is more than capable of playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at a pivotal position on the infield. No doubt having Manny Machado at shortstop is a benefit to the San Diego Padres.
Allowing France to play every day
Ty France was not recalled to the Padres to showcase his terrific curveball while on the mound. He is a hitter. And a very good one. The former SDSU product has earned the right to get an extended look against major league pitching. Why not give him this chance and allow him to do so at a defensive position he is comfortable at- third base.
Machado at shortstop allows Ty France to get 20-25 starts against major league pitching for the rest of the season. The team can further evaluate his future and determine what to do with him. If he can hit as he has at the minor league level (.859 career minor league OPS) while at Petco, he will have excellent value. Then there is the possibility that Luis Urias and Ty France will compete directly next spring for the starting second baseman job. Why not have both in the lineup to determine who fits the team’s need better for the future?
Developing comfort at second base
Allowing Urias to stay at second would give him a jump on the 2020 season. He is still a little rough around the edges with his footwork and such at the position. Again, his future is at second base. He should be given time there not at shortstop. Especially given the fact the Padres have a more than capable player on the roster (Machado) who can play the position at a Gold Glove level.
With just over 30 games left in the season and playoff hopes all but gone, the Padres need to evaluate their current talent. In getting an adequate evaluation of each man, they must be playing the game with comfort. At this point, the Padres have players playing positions they “can play” rather than areas where their future lies. In doing that, there is a healthy fear that the franchise will not get a proper determination of each player’s actual value. The Padres should give Luis Urias a chance to showcase skills at second base and start the evaluation process towards a potential successful 2020 season.