Following back-to-back years of frenetic Rule 5 Draft activity, A.J. Preller and company were quiet in 2017, as the team made no Rule 5 selections for the first time since Preller’s first year in San Diego in 2014. However, with four Rule 5 players in 2015, and three more in 2016, the Padres have had no shortage of lottery type players in recent history. Although only one of the 2015 draftees remains with the team, as both Blake Smith and Josh Martin were sent back to their previous organizations and Jabari Blash was traded to the Yankees this offseason, all three of the Padres’ 2016 selections are still in the Padres’ top-40. Catcher Luis Torrens‘ appeared on the countdown last week at number 36, but today infielder Allen Cordoba showed up at number 34.
Selected in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft with the third selection from the St. Louis Cardinals, Cordoba had quite a different season than Torrens. However, before we get to his 2017 performance, let’s trace Cordoba’s skill set back to his time with the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization. Cordoba signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent out of Panama in April of 2013. In 41 games at Rookie ball that year, Cordoba slashed .272/.389/.328 with a 125 wRC+. Cordoba wasn’t showing much extra-base hitting ability, but he was still productive at the plate with a walk rate (12.5 percent) that nearly matched his strikeout rate (15.8 percent). The Cardinals left Cordoba back in Rookie ball for his first full taste of professional baseball in 2014, although he took a step back with a lesser walk rate, a higher strikeout rate, and an 83 wRC+.
Despite his step back in 2014, 2015 was a big year for the 20-year-old out of Panama, as he slashed .342/.401/.421 over 53 games and finally showed some power at the plate. His performance was so good, in fact, that he won the Gulf Coast League Most Valuable Player award that year. Cordoba matched his 2015 breakout with an even better performance in 2016, with a .362/.427/.495 line on his way to an Appalachian League Batting Title. Although still Rookie ball, the Appalachian League is a slightly higher level than the Gulf Coast League and represented a strong step forward for the 21-year-old Cordoba. Given his age and minor league level, Cordoba went unprotected by the Cardinals in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft, allowing the Padres to snag him, even with concerns about him being so far from the major leagues.
Despite never playing above rookie level baseball, Cordoba started the 2017 season off with a bang. Not only did he make the major league roster, but he was surprisingly one of the Padres’ better hitters over the first two months of the season, with a 107 wRC+ in April and a 99 wRC+ in May. Those numbers aren’t necessarily jaw-dropping, but for a player that had skipped five levels of affiliated baseball, it was one of the more impressive Padres’ storylines over the first two months of the season.
However, even with his solid numbers, there were significant issues under the surface, as Cordoba was operating with a walk rate around five percent for both months with a BABIP that was slightly elevated, especially in May (.365). Predictably, the youngster came crashing down to earth with a 23 wRC+ in June, marked by a .148/.238/.204 slash line. That would be Cordoba’s high water mark for playing time, as he got just 52 at bats the rest of the season after getting 54 in June, 65 in May, and 31 in March/April. Cordoba seemingly got worse at the plate as the season wore on, finishing the year with a 57 wRC+.
Interestingly enough, the biggest issue at the plate for Cordoba seemed to be against left-handed pitching, with Cordoba putting up a -24 wRC+ against southpaws. Sure, he wasn’t great against right-handers either (74 wRC+) but it was staggering just how bad a right-handed hitter was in 42 at bats against left-handers. Despite all the struggles at the plate, Cordoba did show some flashes of offensive potential, as well as some great positional versatility, with Cordoba playing six different positions on the year. His defense was a little shaky at a lot of them, especially at his primary position of shortstop, but it was a good chance for Cordoba to prove his versatility.
2018 Projection and Long-Term Outlook
With the 2018 season right around the corner, it’s clear that fans aren’t nearly as excited about Cordoba as they were over the first month or two of last season. Even so, he is a guy who is worthy of some attention. Sure, he ended the season looking quite overmatched at the plate, but he did show enough flashes for the Padres to keep him all season.
With the 2017 season now complete, Cordoba can return to the minor leagues and continue his development with the Padres’ minor league coaching staffs. For now, the biggest question mark will be whether or not Cordoba is a shortstop in the short and long term, or whether he moves to one of the other five positions he played in the big leagues last year. Wherever he does end up playing, there seems to be enough potential in the bat to make him a prospect to watch over the next few years.
Editorial and Prospect Writer for East Village Times. Twenty-five years young, Patrick has lived in San Diego for his entire life and has been a Padres fan nearly as long. Patrick lives for baseball and is always looking to learn new things about the game he loves through advanced stats.