San Diego Padres: Three underrated prospects to watch in 2020

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San Diego Padres, Ronald Bolanos
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Ronald Bolanos, RHP

Ronald Bolanos is entering the “now or never” conversation, as the 23-year-old has taken quite a bit of time to develop through the Padres farm system. He was signed at age 19 as an international free agent in August 2016, which is several years older than most who come to the majors via this avenue.

However, Bolanos was a bit more established prior to signing, posting a 4.78 ERA in Cuba’s Seris Nacional. He’s a converted outfielder, hence the delay to sign and development. In his first professional season, he posted a 4.41 ERA in 14 appearances, including 11 starts for Single-A Fort Wayne. In those starts, he struck out 51 batters, but walked 34, in 69.1 innings.

The following year, he walked 50 batters in 125.0 innings for High-A Lake Elsinore and remained there for the start of 2019 as well. He finally broke through, posting the lowest WHIP of his career (1.12) while allowing a .193 batting average.

His improvements earned him a promotion to Double-A Amarillo, where his walks started to creep up again. In 15 appearances, including 13 starts, Bolanos posted a 4.23 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 30 free passes in 76.2 innings.

The big righty was promoted to the big leagues in September and struggled in five appearances, three starts, posting a 5.95 ERA but struck out 19 in 19.2 innings. He allowed 12 walks but also limited batters to a .230 average.

While the sample size isn’t there, he’s performed much better in relief, and I peg him for a future bullpen spot. If I were Bolanos, I would primarily focus on coming out of the ‘pen either at Double-A or Triple-A with the hope of cracking the Opening Day roster next season.

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Accompanied by his devastating fastball and limited secondary pitches, a move to the bullpen makes perfect sense for Bolanos, and I think he would do well there.