It’s safe to say we all know the history of shortstop Javier Guerra by now.
Signed by the Boston Red Sox as a 16-year-old international free agent out of Panama way back in 2012, Guerra was acquired by the San Diego Padres as part of the blockbuster deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox. Prior to signing, Guerra was known more for his glove than his bat, but a breakout offensive season in 2015 put him on the radar of Padres’ general manager. Guerra played the full 2015 season in A-ball for the Red Sox, slashing .279/.329/.449 which was good for a 119 wRC+. With his stellar defense to go along with his newfound offensive success, Guerra looked like a prospect to watch.
However, things took a turn for the worse in his first full season with the Padres’ organization in 2016. Guerra spent the entirety of the season at a new level, never seeming to finding his stride. The then-20-year-old finished his season with a .202/.264/.325 slash line and a 58 wRC+ for the Padres High-A affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm. In what was easily the worst season of his professional career, Guerra not only took a massive step back on offense but also found himself struggling to make routine plays in the field. All in all, it was a year to forget for the young shortstop. Originally viewed by some as the best piece in that deal, Guerra has found himself lagging behind the likes of Manuel Margot and Carlos Asuaje, who have both already made their big league debuts, as well as Logan Allen, who has impressed as he has climbed past Guerra on the minor league ladder.
Going into 2017, Guerra had a lot to prove, as it was a bit of a make or break season for him. However, Guerra continued to disappoint, as his offensive success in Low-A seemed nowhere to be found. Over 89 games and just shy of 400 plate appearances, Guerra barely moved his slash line, with a .226/.267/.358 overall line with a 65 wRC+. Despite having over 800 plate appearances in High-A at that point, Guerra still looked lost at the plate, as he only marginally improved in 2017. Prior to the end of the season, Guerra was inexplicably promoted to Double-A in a move that drew the attention of a lot of fans.
In those 39 games and 145 plate appearances with the San Antonio Missions, in the midst of a playoff race, Guerra slashed a measly .212/.262/.326, right in line with his struggles in High-A. However, despite the lack of significant improvement on offense, Guerra did show some signs of life in his defense, as he was able to somewhat consistently make highlight reel plays.
2018 Projection and Long-Term Outlook
I really was sure that Javier Guerra was going to take a big step forward in his development in 2017. Clearly, that was the wrong call to make, which makes me more than skeptical that Guerra will ever even get past where he currently is. If Guerra doesn’t make significant improvements at the plate in 2018, he will likely find himself not only off the Padres’ 40-man roster, but perhaps out of baseball entirely.
To say he looks lost is an understatement, and if he isn’t able to turn it around in a hurry, it’s hard to picture him having any sort of big league career. I am obviously rooting for the guy to put it together and have success, but it’s clear that Fernando Tatis Jr. and several others have already passed Guerra in terms of relevance as an infield prospect. For a guy once viewed by some to be the best prospect in the Padres’ organization, this is a pretty significant fall.