Fernando Tatis is the future of the San Diego Padres.
There are questions about his ability to play the shortstop position defensively, but for now he is viewed as the shortstop of the future.
Behind him, there are some very interesting options for the team including Gabriel Arias, who is viewed as one of the best defenders in all of minor league baseball. Arias has tremendous glove ability, but there are some slight concerns about his bat. He just turned 18, so it might take him some time to fully develop.
Javier Guerra was once viewed as a starting shortstop, but he has had issues with his bat. Lopez, Barley, Dale and Marcano provide youth and depth for a position that has been an issue for the team. In 3-5 years the Padres will have a nice crop of young middle infielders to pick and choose from.
Here is a breakdown of the team’s current top five with a few honorable mentions.
1- Fernando Tatis Jr.
At the age of 18, Tatis has emerged as a force. It is simply amazing that the Padres were able to pry him away from the White Sox for the services of James Shields. He has all five tools and is clearly capable of playing shortstop. There is some refinement needed to play the position at the major league level, but if all else fails, he will hit enough to be a more than competent third baseman. The right-handed-hitting Tatis is already on the fast track to the major leagues. He wants to play in Petco in 2018, and I would not doubt that happening at some point this season. He played well in the spring for the major league team and showcased a ton of skills. He also showed some of the things he needs to work on, as it will take time for him to fully develop. Tatis will be special.
Last season at the Futures Game, the Padres International Scouting Director, Chris Kemp, and I had a conversation. I asked him about the recently signed class and he raved about Gabe Arias and his future with the club. The defensive-minded shortstop is the best young shortstop as far as defense goes in the minor league system. He is smooth with his actions and has a great arm and plus range. He made his debut this season in Fort Wayne at the age of 17 and was serviceable. He hit .242 in 62 at bats and showed that he has the ability to play at that level in 2018. The right-handed hitter has good size in his lower half and could ultimately develop some power. He has developing power that he showcased in Australia this winter.
3- Javier Guerra
What to do with this young man? He came to the Padres from the Red Sox and was considered a prized prospect after hitting 15 homers in 116 at bats for the Red Sox A-Ball team. Since coming to the Padres, he has done nothing but disappoint, hitting around .220 with a .260 OBP in 233 games for the Padres. The left-handed batter has also regressed defensively, where he was supposed to be above average. The defense still comes in flashes, but the bat has much work to do if he is ever going to make it to the major leagues. Guerra will provide depth to the system and in time, could be serviceable.
4- Justin Lopez
This 17-year-old from Venezuela has a decent upside to his game. The switch hitter can pay second base or shortstop and has shown a decent bat at an early age. He did strike out a lot in Tri-City, but was 17 and playing against pitchers much older than him. The Padres are loaded with international middle infielders, and Lopez is right there at the top of the heap.
5- Jordy Barley
Barley received $1 million from the Padres in the 2016-17 signing period. He is very raw, but has made some real growth this season in the minors. Barley played in the AZL, and though his numbers were not overly impressive, he had a productive year for a 17-year-old. The right-handed hitter has good size and skill at the shortstop position. His arm is plus and his speed and range are also a positive. His power is lacking presently, but he has a decent swing. Barley was clocked at 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash, but has yet to transition his speed into stolen bases.
The Padres selected this young man during the 2017 international signing period out of Australia. He is very young and really raw, but could turn into a viable prospect in time. His father, Phil, is an Australian Baseball legend who coached in the Cincinnati Reds’ and Atlanta Braves’ systems. Jarryd’s older brother is currently in the Royals’ system. He has intangibles. The right-handed hitter has some pop and a fairly decent swing. He is a little bit of a free swinger and could use some patience with his approach. He could play either second or short in the future. That remains to be seen.
This Venezuelan native is interesting as he makes contact regularly and often. The left-handed hitter has a quick, short swing and decent speed. He projects as a second baseman, but has the ability to play shortstop. Marcano has little power presently, as he slaps the ball more often than not. He walked 34 times in 170 at bats, as opposed to striking out only 15 times. It was in the DSL league, but numbers like that are worth monitoring.