Heading into 2013, right fielder Rymer Liriano was ranked as MLB.com’s 55th best prospect and Baseball Prospectus’ 39th. He was poised to start the season in Double-A San Antonio, where he had closed out the 2012 campaign. The 22-year-old looked like he had a shot to find himself in the big leagues at the tail end of the year and maybe even to start 2014, but he suffered something that many young players have gone through, Tommy John surgery. While it’s not unprecedented for fielders, particularly outfielders, to get Tommy John surgery, it is rare. It sidelined not only Liriano, but also the expectations for him.
His arm is a big part of what made him a top prospect. Not only was he great at the plate, but his arm was as good anyone’s. Between 2009-2011, he was rated by Baseball America to have the top outfield arm in the entire Padres’ minor league system. Anytime you have a major procedure on any part of your body, there’s risk, but with the track record of Tommy John surgery, I’m sure the Padres’ brass weren’t losing any sleep over whether or not Liriano’s arm would ever be the same again.
Fast forward to 2014. Liriano is a year older, and nowhere to be found on top prospect lists. It was a fresh start for him, and he had rebuilt all the confidence the organization had in him. He began the season in Double-A, where he hit .264/.335/.432 with 14 home runs in 99 games. While the average was down from the lower levels of the minors, the slugging percentage stayed consistent. That power was enough for the Padres to decide that he was ready for Triple-A, and they couldn’t have been more correct.
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Usually when a guy first gets the call to a new level, there’s an adjustment period. For Liriano there was no adjustment period, he hit the ground running. It may be a small sample size of just 9 games, but a slash line of .459/.512/.622 is pretty amazing. It is clear to see Liriano was more than ready for the challenge of Triple-A. While the PCL is laden with hitter-friendly parks, an OPS of 1.134 is not the norm. Obviously his numbers are unsustainable, but it’s easy to salivate over the guy who was rated as the Padres’ top power prospect back in 2012, as he starts to live up to that potential.
When September roles around, expect to see Liriano get a chance to show off his bat with the big league club. If he gets off to a start anywhere close to his start in Triple-A, you can expect to see a lot of him in 2015.