If you thought Fernando Tatis Jr. was impressive in 2017, I ask you to please also consider 17 year-old Gabriel Arias. Possibly one of the fastest rising prospects in the San Diego Padres’ farm system currently.
Arias, who signed with the Padres out of Venezuela for $1.9 million in July 2016, got his first taste of professional baseball in 2017, spending time both in the Arizona League, as well as Class-A Fort Wayne.
The young shortstop wasn’t really considered to be a high-profile prospect when he first signed, and was really overlooked by a slew of international signings by the Padres, that notably included Adrian Morejon, Luis Almanzar, and Jorge Ona, among others. The main reason for Arias’ low-profile ranking could have been due to the fact that he was incredibly raw when he signed at the age of 16, and was considered to be an afterthought in a Padres’ system that was just starting to become one of the best in all of baseball.
Starting the 2017 season, Arias didn’t compete at any of the full-season affiliates, and seemed destined to spend the entirety of the year in the Arizona League, the league typically meant for young, raw players such as Arias (Mackenzie Gore spent the 2017 season in the AZL as well).
However, Arias impressed in the AZL over the course of 37 games, hitting for a solid .275/..329/.353 line.
That, along with Fernando Tatis Jr.’s emergence and promotion to Double-A San Antonio led to Aris being granted with a promotion to Class-A Fort Wayne, where he got to experience full-season baseball for the first time, as well as join the Tin Caps in the thick of their late-season pennant race. Upon arriving in Fort Wayne, Arias held his own, hitting .242/.266/.258, and making only one error in 53 chances. While Arias’ career K/BB ratio (12/67) is not at all impressive, it should improve somewhat as he begins to mature at the plate and discover a consistent approach, to go along with simply getting older.
To start 2018, I believe that Arias will be given the chance to show what he’s got over the course of a full season, likely starting the year in Fort Wayne. This will be an understandably big step for Arias, who will be playing some form of competitive baseball basically until the offseason next fall (he’s currently been playing in the Australian Baseball League for the past month). Therefore, I expect Arias to progress as he starts the 2018 season, but don’t be surprised if he starts to run out of gas towards the end of the year, as it’ll be his first time playing more than 50 games in a season. Still, these are necessary steps for this young teenager, and it’s a step he’ll be forced to handle if he wants to continue making moves up the Padres farm system rankings (Baseball America ranked him no. 10 in their latest prospect rankings).
Gabriel Arias is a prospect who is on the rise, and one who should be really exciting to follow in 2018 and beyond. He is still extremely young and raw as a player, but if he can continue to develop his skills this season, we could be talking about him like we are currently talking about Fernando Tatis Jr. While I don’t think that Arias will make a jump of the same magnitude that Tatis did last season, he still has the potential to make major strides, and open a lot of eyes around the baseball world.