Heading to the Finish Line with the Padres’ Rule-5 Players

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Credit: USA Today Sports

Allen Cordoba

Cordoba came to the Padres from the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization. He never played a game above rookie ball prior to the 2017 season. As a shortstop in the Appalachian league last season, Cordoba won the batting title with a .361 batting average, amassing 71 hits, 21 extra-base hits, and 22 steals. Though he showed some ability at shortstop in rookie ball, playing the position regularly at the major league level would be a different story. Cordoba’s role with the Padres has been a mixture of time in the infield and the outfield as a super-utility player this season.

In just a few at-bats at the beginning of the season, Cordoba began to demonstrate that his maturity level at the plate was beyond expectations. In the months of March and April combined he slashed .258/.324/.452 with two home runs and a wRC+ of 107 in 31 at-bats. At the end of April, Travis Jankowski went down with a foot injury, allowing Cordoba to fill the void and secure regular starts in left field. His success carried into the month of May as he slashed .308/.338/.400 with a wRC+ of 98 in 65 at-bats.

As the season progressed, Franchy Cordero and Jose Pirela came up from Triple-A El Paso to join the Padres. Both players initially produced solid numbers at the plate and shared time with Cordoba in left field. Around this time is when Cordoba’s numbers started to drop. In June he slashed .148/.238/.204 with a wRC+ of 22 in 63 plate appearances. Eventually, Pirela’s consistent production would displace both Cordoba and Cordero in left field, where he now starts nearly every day.

In July, Cordero’s descent continued as he slashed .129/.263/.226. On July 22, Erick Aybar, who had been the Padres most consistent shortstop on the season, hit the DL with a foot fracture. It seemed like an opportunity might open up for Cordoba to see more time in the infield, but this didn’t end up being the case. The Padres have opted to use Yangervis Solarte occasionally at shortstop in tandem with Dusty Coleman, who was called up from Triple-A in late July. Solarte and Coleman, along with Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje, have formulated an infield too crowded to facilitate Cordoba, who is struggling mightily at the plate. In August, Cordoba has barely seen any playing time at all. In five at-bats, he has two walks and no hits.

At this point, Cordoba seems to just be waiting out the clock with the Padres. He’s playing a role closer to what he initially seemed slated for. He’s good for a pinch hit here and there, a late innings substitution and a spot start from time to time. His line on the season is at .217/.293/.315 with a 63 wRC+. For a guy who made the jump to MLB from rookie ball, he hasn’t played unreasonably. It looks like he will make it with the team until the end of the season and, like Diaz, remain a member of the Padres’ organization moving forward. He should most likely find himself in either Lake Elsinore or Double-A San Antonio in 2018.

Luis Torrens

Credit: USA Today Sports

Torrens was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2016 Rule 5 draft and then, like Diaz, promptly traded to the Padres He was originally a catching prospect out of Venezuela who signed with the New York Yankees in 2012. In 2016 with the Yankees’ High-A affiliate, Torrens slashed .250/.350/.337 in 184 at bats in 52. His season had been limited by injury.

As a prospect, Torrens was known to have solid plate discipline, but not a lot of power at this stage in his development. Behind the dish, he is recognized by his strong arm, but lacking in aspects of receiving and blocking. Luckily for Torrens, the Padres were in the position in 2017 to carry two catchers ahead of him in Austin Hedges and Hector Sanchez, so that he could ease his way into calling games.

Initially in 2017, the 21 year-old did see limited playing time. In March/ April he only had 13 plate appearances, slashing .083/.154/.083. His numbers and playing time increased in May, during which he slashed .160/.222/.200 in 27 plate appearances. At this point in the season, people were really starting to wonder if the team was actually going to hold onto Torrens due to the fact that he was not producing much either at the plate or behind the dish. Out of the three Rule-5 guys, he was looking like the most likely to get the hook.

In June, things started to change for Torrens. In mid-June, the now infamous Anthony Rizzo on Austin Hedges slide at the plate took place, sidelining the Padres’ starting catcher for several games. Hector Sanchez, who has been somewhat injury prone this season, also spent some time out of action in June. These injuries provided Torrens an opportunity to prove his worth and he took advantage of it. In June, Torrens slashed .267/.333/.333 with a wRC+ of 82 in 33 plate appearances. Not so bad when factoring this increase in production from previous months as well as how inexperienced the player is. He was also calling solid games during his starts, which provided manager Andy Green a higher level of confidence in his young backstop.

In July, his numbers started to drop off again. He slashed a .161/.257/.226 in 37 plate appearances. This downtick in production, along with Hedges and Sanchez finally both getting healthy at the same time, has led to a lot less playing time in August for Torrens. In only 11 plate appearances on the month, he is slashing .100/.100/.100 with only one hit and no walks. Though he hasn’t yet walked in August, one positive improvement in Torrens’ game has been his increase in walk percentage over the span of the season. In March/April he was only walking 7.7 percent of the time. In July, he brought that number up to 10.8 percent. This is a good thing to see in a young player who is touted for his plate discipline. Making adjustments like this at the major league level is a good indicator of things to come with him.

Analysis at StatCorner.com does corroborate the profile on Torrens that he needs to improve his receiving abilities behind the plate. On the season, he has -79 plus calls and an RAA of -10.6. For context, Hedges has 89 plus calls and an RAA of 11.9 ,of course, Hedges is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Torrens isn’t the worst though. That blemish belongs to James McCann of the Detroit Tigers, who has -168 plus calls and a -22.3 RAA on the season. As a 21-year-old in his first season above A-ball, Torrens will have plenty of time to polish his defensive abilities…that’s not a problem. It looks like he will be sticking with the Padres and making his progress in their organization from now on, with the season’s end approaching and Torrens still on the roster.

So it looks like all three Rule-5 draft pick should make it through the season on the 25-man roster. There was never much of a doubt in my mind that this would be the case. All three have had sparks of brilliance at times this season, but also some lean periods. This is ultimately what’s to be expected from prospects this young and inexperienced. The Padres’ front office knows what it’s doing and in choosing to hold onto three Rule-5 players, they were embracing the tank on the down-low. All three young players have shown that they are capable of playing at the big league level at some point, and it will be exciting to watch them develop within the system.

1 thought on “Heading to the Finish Line with the Padres’ Rule-5 Players

  1. Nice piece Benjamin. I agree all three players are intriguing. It will be interesting to see how they do with the organization moving forward. I still think the desire for “tanking” from some fans is folly. There is no “can’t miss” player in next year’s draft. There will be good players but not a Harper or Strasburg type. I think the Padres are on schedule with their rebuild.

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