Luis Urias has crushed the minors but faltered in the majors, forcing the San Diego Padres to face a difficult decision.
Over halfway through the 2019 season though, Urias continues to struggle and look lost at the plate. His failure to carry his minor league success into the majors has created rumors and speculation among the San Diego ranks. And reasonably so.
The number 20 prospect in all of baseball, Urias has spent a chunk of his playing time crushing the Pacific Coast League in Triple-A. His five-year minors career has a slash line of .308/.397/.433, with this season having been one of the best. It was only a matter of time before he was called up to start for the Padres.
He got that chance in 2018, though he played in only 12 games with 53 plate appearances. Urias finished the year hitting .208/.264/.354.
He started off the 2019 season with Triple-A El Paso and continued his PCL success. The prospect was called up in April for a chance to steal second base (the position, of course, not an in-game play). Urias stumbled though, and the Friars optioned him back to El Paso after only 11 games. Fans and analysts alike speculated that the Padres might’ve overreacted and damaged his confidence.
Urias picked up right where he left off, hitting .314 during his second stint of the year with El Paso. Recalling him again was more a question of “when” rather than “if,” as the Padres were quickly careening after the All-Star break and Urias kept doing his thing.
Eventually, his minor-league performance coupled with the Padres fall from grace was enough to bring back the prospect to start Game 2 against the Chicago Cubs. Perhaps things would be different this time around.
Narrator: they weren’t.
Since being recalled, Urias is hitting .074/.306/.185 though nine games and 36 plate appearances. Yes, that sample size is extremely small, but it’s still a bit concerning that he’s mustered only four hits in 51 major at-bats.
It needs to be said — with the trade deadline practically here, don’t be surprised if the Padres decide to trade him. It’s contingent on whether A.J. Preller actually decides to make a move before the deadline, of course, and pursue a starting pitcher (Thor, perhaps?). If that’s the case, the top 30 prospect could very well headline a last-minute deal.
Chances are, if we see Urias packaged in a trade before tomorrow’s deadline, it might indicate that the front office is worried he won’t be able to translate his minor league success to the majors. In that case, they’d want to ship him away when his value is still high. The Friars have plenty of pitching prospects and are unlikely to contend this season — they’re not in a rush to acquire an ace.
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Let’s be straight here though — I don’t want the Padres to trade away Urias. Without a doubt, he could be the anchor at second base moving forward, and we can’t seriously judge him off such little playing time.
More at-bats will help him get in a groove, evaluate himself between the ears, and swing freely as he’s done in the PCL.
All things considered, his offense is really the only glaring weakness he’s displayed thus far. His plate discipline has slightly improved with a walk rate of 16.9%, walking seven times in his return vs. four times in the first 11 games of the season. His defense is fine as well, owning a 0.9 DEF thus far. Fielding hasn’t been a concern this season or last.
The biggest question is whether he can gain confidence at the plate and replicate his minor league success in Petco Park. Sending Urias back down won’t do him any good — he’ll just continue to crush his at-bats in El Paso then await a recall. At this point, he needs those appearances with San Diego.
This is why it’s time for him to sink or swim. Urias should absolutely be the starter for the rest of the season, whether or not the Padres find a way to sneak into the playoffs. He should also be on the starting roster come 2020, because Greg Garcia and Ian Kinsler are not a part of this franchise’s future, regardless of how much I appreciate Garcia.
If Urias is still struggling at that point, then the Padres will need to reevaluate their options as they will have lost some value by not trading him sooner. That’s a risk they’re probably weighing at this very moment.
Don’t forget, not all prospects work out. Let’s just hope this one does.
For complete coverage of the San Diego Padres 2019 season, be sure to visit Friars on Base all season long.