Padres: The club should not be shopping Gabriel Arias
By Logan Whaley
The San Diego Padres bolster the second best farm system in baseball, but that does not mean they should be breaking up the band.
One of the most fun things for Padres fans has been watching some of the best young talents in baseball. Fernando Tatis Jr., MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patino, Taylor Trammell. The list is endless.
While guys like Gore or CJ Abrams or Luis Campusano have not yet reached the majors, the insane level of future stardom is beholden to fans. One name who has not been in the limelight is shortstop prospect Gabriel Arias. Depending on where you look, Arias ranks between the number eight and number nine prospect in the Padres system.
Arias came to the Padres as part of their 2016-17 international free agent class. Hailing from Venezuela, Arias signed for $1.9 million. He ranked in Baseball Prospectus’ top 100 before the year began. As a 17-year-old, Arias made his professional debut in rookie ball before being promoted to Class-A Fort Wayne.
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In rookie ball, Arias held his own. He slashed .275/.329/.353 with 13 RBI and four stolen bases. The numbers did drop, as expected when he reached Fort Wayne as Arias slashed .242/.266/.258, four RBI, and one stolen base. Relative to age, all things considered, Arias held his own.
Last season Arias did take a big step in the right direction for his production as he found power at the plate knocking six home runs with 55 RBI in 124 games at Fort Wayne. His .240 average was what was to be expected as he continued to grow into the higher-level pitching as a teenager.
In a move that may have been mind-boggling, San Diego promoted Arias last season to Class-A Advanced Lake Elsinore, and he took the challenge head-on slashing a resounding .302/.339/.470, 17 home runs, 75 RBI, and posted a 120 wRC+. The sample size was significant enough to understand the growth Arias experienced from one year to the next.
Arias cut down on his strikeout numbers and continued to use all parts of the field to his advantage. His fly-ball rate improved exponentially, as did his HR/FB rate noted by the increase in home runs.
The Padres are set for the foreseeable future with Tatís Jr. at shortstop. As such, it seems like Arias would be the perfect trade piece for a team looking to contend this year and beyond. Jim Callis of MLB.com released a piece where Arias was the ‘most tradable’ prospect in San Diego’s system.
It makes sense why San Diego would leverage a deal involving Arias for major league or near major league level talent. They are hot in the postseason race this year and should be, by and large, a team that should only continue to improve as the kids begin to graduate to the next level.
Arias, however, is still just 20 years old. I understand that Tatís Jr. is not much older, but he is an exceptional talent that does not come around every year. Despite this, the Padres should continue to hold on to Arias for the foreseeable future. They are chock-full of infield talent, which on the one hand, makes it more sensible to shop Arias. On the other, with his big year last year in Lake Elsinore, it makes more sense to hold the line.
Building on his 2019 campaign will be essential for Arias. His value currently may not be higher than it is presently, but, like investing in a Mike Trout rookie card in 2009, that value could skyrocket in a couple of years. Holding Arias right now is the best thing San Diego can do.