When the Padres dealt the face of their franchise, Adrian Gonzalez, to the Boston Red Sox in December of 2010, the Padres got what was looked at as an impressive return with Boston’s top pitching prospect, Casey Kelly, and their top bat, Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo is now an All-Star, but with the Cubs, and Kelly hasn’t been able to get healthy. Luckily for the Padres, a third prospect was involved (as well as Eric Patterson, but I’m sure no one cares about that) outfielder Reymond Fuentes. In the article of the trade from MLBTR, they said this of Fuentes:
"Although he “may need four or five seasons in the minors,” [Jim Callis of Baseball America] says he has similar tools to Jacoby Ellsbury, but projects to be better with both the bat and glove down the road."
So now we are nearing the 4 year anniversary of the deal and where is Fuentes now?
You may remember Fuentes in his brief cameo in the majors last year. He found his way into 23 games, but he only started 13 of them. It was clear that he was not ready for the big leagues going 5-for-33, with 3 walks as he finished out 2013 with the Padres. His failures can partly be chalked up to the fact that he had just 13 games in Triple-A before getting the call, so it’s easy to dismiss those numbers.
Rather than focus on his ill-advised call-up, I’d prefer to look at what he’s done in the minor leagues. In his 6 seasons of minor league ball, he’s slashed .275/.346/.378. While that may not look all that spectacular on the surface, I looked at the stats of 30 commonly used lead-off hitters in 2014, and they have slashed a combined .274/.336/.395. Now all of a sudden Fuentes’ line looks a lot better, but as every one knows, minor league numbers rarely translate over perfectly especially in the beginning of a player’s career. Even with that knowledge it’s nice to see that he is at least on track to become an average lead-off hitter, if that is the role the Padres choose for him to fill.
Another attribute that makes him appealing as a lead off man is his speed, and baserunning ability. In his 4 full seasons in the minors he’s averaged 39 stolen bases and already has 25 this year. A guy at the top the order who can get on base and move himself around the bases is immensely valuable. Not only is it valuable on offense, but on defense too as shown here:
To finish this off, I’ll do what seemingly every prospect profile does, and make a big league comp. I did reference the Jim Callis Jacoby Ellsbury comp earlier, but I believe Ellsbury’s teammate,Brett Gardner
, is an even better comp. It’s easy to say 2 speedy outfielders who are roughly the same size and weight make a good comparison, but there’s more to it. First off, Gardner is a career .270/.353/.394 hitter, which falls in line with Fuentes’ minor league numbers, but even that doesn’t show the full story. To see that you have to look at where and how they hit the ball. Here’s each of their heatmaps and look at the similarities:
While not identical, you can see how similar they are. You can also see similarities in their batted ball stats.
As you can see, the two hit the ball the same way in the same places. They also have 40+ stolen base speed and get on base at a rate that’s acceptable to be a lead-off man. While I don’t expect Fuentes to be the spitting image of Gardner at the big league level, it is good to see that he hits in a similar style to someone who has been successful at the major league level.
All in all, Fuentes’ ceiling appears to be Brett Gardner. A good, not great lead-off hitter who can run around the bases at will, while playing above average defense. It’s tough to tell if he’ll be able to translate what he’s accomplished in the minors over to the big leagues, but that’s the same with every prospect. In Fuentes, the Padres may have their lead-off man for years to come, or just a great pinch runner off the bench.