Don’t Close the Book on Chihuahuas’ SS Javier Guerra Just Yet

Javier Guerra Photo Credit: (Bill Mitchell)

Javier Guerra Credit: USA Today Sports

To begin the 2016 season, Javier Guerra was the second -ranked prospect by MLB.com, behind Manuel Margot, and in front of Hunter Renfroe.

That was before the Padres had the top-ranked 2018 farm system.

Now Guerra seems to be the forgotten man in a stacked minor league organization, but is all hope lost for the young Panamanian shortstop?

Guerra signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2012 as an international free agent. He spent his first year in the Dominican Summer League in 2013 before getting promoted to the Gulf Coast Red Sox in 2014. In 2015, after breaking out with the Greenville Drive in Single-A, Guerra became a hot commodity to the baseball world, showing his ability to handle shortstop, while hitting 15 home runs in his first attempt at the low Single-A level.

The Padres acquired Guerra in a deal that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox on November 13, 2015, and also saw the Padres acquire Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen.

His time with the Padres to this point has been a disappointment, allowing for some to openly question whether it is time to cut ties with the young shortstop.

Here is a look at Guerra and how he might be turning the corner with his production:

Defense

The glove was always the selling point. Watch these clips of Guerra and anyone can realize the talent there.

He makes everything look smooth, and the impossible look, well, possible.

Both of these plays show the depth of what he can do on defense. The great first step, the instincts, the arm; it is all on display.

Most scouts viewed Guerra as a future Gold Glove shortstop, and some, arguably, valued him as the prize of that 2015 deal. Plays like this can show the reasoning behind that impression.

The fear for some was, because he lacks straightaway speed, he might not reach his full potential as a shortstop. That does not appear to be the problem at this point, thanks in large part to his great instincts and tremendous first step on balls hit in his direction. It limits any doubt of what he can or cannot cover. It is hard to quantify just how good he really is with the lack of defensive metrics in the Minor Leagues, so a lot of it is based on the eye test.

The glove, combined with his strong accurate arm, are still very much the prime tools of his trade, and it appears that they have not regressed at all.

Offense

In 2016, MLB.com ranked his power tool a 55, meaning somebody that could potentially hit 20 home runs or more in a year. To date, he has not reached that potential yet, topping out in 2015 in the Red Sox organization with 15. Furthermore, his offense has seen a complete implosion since joining the Padres organization, seeing his numbers change for the worse in almost all of the offensive categories.

Here is a look at Guerra’s 2017 numbers in Double-A San Antonio vs. his early season numbers at Triple-A El Paso:

2017 –145 Plate Appearances/3 Home Runs/5.5% Walk Rate/31.7% Strikeout Rate/.114 Isolated Average/.262 On-Base Percentage/.326 Slugging Percentage
2018 – 89 Plate Appearances/5 Home Runs/6.7% Walk Rate/36.0% Strikeout Rate/.293 Isolated Average/.315 On-Base Percentage/.561 Slugging Percentage

Neither of these is a big sample size, but there is definite improvement with the balls in play. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Guerra seems to have found the power he lost since joining the Padres, and though his Isolated Average and Slugging Percentage should come back down to Earth, the early signs are at least promising for the shortstop who is already well on his way to topping the nine home runs he hit last year.

Age

As of April 30, 2018, there were 893 players on a Triple-A roster, including players on the DL, on rehab assignments, or on the restricted list. Of that number, 29 players are 22 years old or younger. Of the 29, 17 are top-100 prospects on MLB.com or not rookie eligible (New York Mets farmhand Dominic Smith lost his eligibility last year), with eight of the remaining 12 being in the top 30 prospects for their individual teams. Of the final four, two have been on the roster since Opening Day and not injury replacements; Chihuahuas outfielder Franmil Reyes and Javier Guerra. This is only to show just how young Guerra is for the league he is playing in. Although he has been in the minor leagues since 2013, he is in the bottom 3.25% of the league’s average age.

Let us not lose sight that his advance to Triple-A at such a young age is due to the fact that Fernando Tatis Jr. (#1 ranked prospect in the Padres’ organization and #8 overall by MLB.com), at 19 years old, is playing shortstop for the San Antonio Missions. Had he not been in system, Guerra would have probably started there to get more fine tuning. However, it does not change the fact that he is still very young for the level he is playing at, and has been at all of his stops. There is a maturity factor that the Padres and the rest of baseball are waiting on, but it should come over time.

As baseball fans, it can get lost just how young these players are sometimes, especially ones that came with a huge amount of pomp and circumstance. As a once highly touted prospect, Guerra was supposed to be next in the line of great young shortstops that Major League Baseball has seen recently. It is what is expected in this day of social media and our societal need for quick returns on any top prospect, but in this case, for this player, more time is needed. Time will certainly tell, and the clock may run out in this organization with the competition against him, but maybe that is what will drive him to another level. No matter what, it is definitely too early to call it quits on this Padres competitor.

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Patrick Cusick
Since he was a little kid he wanted to be one of those guys at the game who had the headset on, listening to the Colonel and Uncle Teddy, he has grown out of that, but the love is still there. Padres' coverage will be biased at times, but mostly an honest dissection of the team he loves.

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