What do the Padres do with Luis Urias?

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Luis Urias of the San Diego Padres poses for a portrait at the Peoria Sports Complex on February 19, 2017 in Peoria Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Luis Urias of the San Diego Padres poses for a portrait at the Peoria Sports Complex on February 19, 2017 in Peoria Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images) /

We are now less than two months away from San Diego Padres’ pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. One of the biggest storylines heading into spring will involve one of the hottest young prospects in baseball, Luis Urias.

At the end of November, Baseball America released their updated Top 10 San Diego Padres Prospect list. Coming in at number six was the 20-year-old infielder, Luis Urias. The young, fast-rising prospect has excelled at every level, leaving the Padres with a big decision to make.

Do the Padres put Luis Urias on the opening day 25-man roster, or do they let him continue his development at the AAA level?

What Urias brings to the plate

Urias brings a hitting ability that “will win major league batting titles,” according to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser. His hit tool has been graded as high as 70. Urias shows a phenomenal ability to put the barrel on the ball and find holes all over the field. His ability to read pitches and command the strike zone is quite advanced for his young age.

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Over 347 career minor league games, Urias has a .310 batting average and .396 on-base percentage. He has amassed 153 career walks, compared to just 135 strikeouts.

Age didn’t hurt him when he earned a promotion to Double A San Antonio at the age of 19. His K/BB ratio was 65/68 as he hit .296 and got on base at a .398 clip.

His maturation continued to impress scouts at the end of the summer, as Urias competed in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Javelinas. He hit .315 with a .443 on-base percentage, holding a 5/14 K/BB ratio. The AFL Rising Star clearly held his own against some of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.

His defensive skill set is also major league ready

Urias has played the majority of his minor league games at second base, but spent his summer in Arizona playing shortstop. Bobby DeMuro of Baseball Census believes that Urias’ defensive skill set fits in the six-hole at the major league level. After watching him in the AFL, DeMuro had this to say about the defense of Urias,

"“Rangy and athletic to both glove side and into the hole; covers ground with quick reactions and plays bigger than he is at the six-hole. Will make plays on the dive; sense of urgency there with good internal clock to make plays on fast runners. Impressive physical stature with maturity and poise; situational awareness good enough to play short at the next level.”"

Many scouts believe that as fellow prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. continues to fill out and bulk up, he will be forced to make the switch to third base once he reaches the big leagues. However, the offseason signing of Freddy Galvis leaves shortstop occupied for 2018.

Where does Urias belong?

There’s no longer the natural progression of moving up the minor leagues from rookie ball to AAA before reaching the major league level. Once a prospect reaches Double A, they know they are only one phone call away from the big leagues. Although injuries allowed Urias to appear in only 118 games for Double A San Antonio last season, he doesn’t have a lot left to prove at that level.

Currently, Fangraphs has Cory Spangenberg penciled in as the starting second baseman for the Padres. Spangenberg slashed .264/.322/.401 last season with Padres. While he did hit 13 home runs and drive in 56 for the Friars, Spangenberg walked in just 7% of his at-bats while striking out 26% of the time and ended with a lowly 1.1 WAR.

Against left-handed pitchers, Spangenberg hit a measly .197. For San Antonio, Urias hit .313 and got on-base 45% of the time against lefties. If Urias’ tools translate as well as many scouts believe they will, it could be a huge upgrade at the second base position in 2018.

Urias won’t develop any power, hitting just nine home runs over his minor league career. His strike zone discipline and hit for average tools have both been graded as the highest in the Padres’ organization, according to Baseball America. With a successful spring training, should the Padres go ahead and make the move on Urias?

If so, does San Diego slot him at the top of the batting order? He batted leadoff in all but two games last season, so the comfort level is there. He wouldn’t be asked to do anything he hasn’t already excelled at in the minors. His only job would be to get on base and let Manuel Margot and Wil Myers clean up behind him.

Will the youth movement begin in early 2018 with Urias as the starting second baseman on Opening Day? What do you think?

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