When A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres front office decided to “splurge” in the Rule-5 draft last December, a lot of doubt was held pretty much everywhere of the Padres’ ability to keep just one, yet alone all three of their selections.
The #1 pick, Miguel Diaz, was the most likely to be kept at the time. Infielder Allen Cordoba and catcher Luis Torrens were seen as long shots to make the team, as neither of the two have ever played above the Single-A level.
With spring training nearly wrapping up, and with only 10 days or so to go until the Padres open their season in Los Angeles, where does each Rule-5 player stand? Is there a chance the Padres could be the first team to draft and keep three Rule-5 players since the year 2003, when Wil Myers was 12 years old and current manager Andy Green was playing in Double-A with the Diamondbacks?
Here’s a look at the three selections…
- RHP Miguel Diaz
Miguel Diaz, at this point, seems like a definite lock to make the bullpen and hang around all year. The 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic battled a blister during camp, but he has been quite impressive in his time on the mound. The hurler appeared in five games, posting a 3.00 ERA with four strikeouts in six innings pitched. On Thursday, his most recent game, he threw two innings without giving up a hit. He also struck out a batter:
SD Rule 5 pick Miguel Diaz 93-96 w/o command in Peoria. Change looks good, ran one back over the plate for K, induced weak contact w/ second
— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) March 23, 2017
However, he did have a stretch where he displayed a lack of command, something that has been an issue for him in his six innings this spring. It is a really small sample size, but Diaz has thrown 63 pitches in spring training this year, and only 34 have been for strikes. If you want to compare his spring this year to fellow Rule-5’er Luis Perdomo (which seems like a popular thing to do), Diaz has been much better.
Fresh off being drafted last spring, Perdomo gave up 13 ER & four home runs during spring training last year in eight innings pitched. Diaz has looked much more MLB-ready than Perdomo did, in my opinion. Like Perdomo, though, he is going to have many rough patches during the season. The Padres hope, though, that as with Perdomo, those rough patches also come with flashes of potential. The Padres will be patient with him, and from everything being reported this spring, he seems like a lock to break camp with the club.
Fun fact: Diaz was born in the same hometown as current Twins pitcher, Ervin Santana.
Miguel Diaz threw nine straight balls at one point, but got through two scoreless innings. Future-starter stuff, could provide some length.
— Dennis Lin (@sdutdennislin) March 23, 2017
- Allen Cordoba
Following Diaz, things get a little hairy. Like Diaz, Cordoba has dealt with a minor injury this spring (hamstring tightness). As expected, the 21-year-old Cordoba has struggled in the spring. In 49 at bats, the former Cardinals farm hand has eight hits (a .163 average), a .226 OBP, .390 OPS, one RBI, and three stolen bases. He has shown some good things, including a 2-4 game and a stretch where he went 4-12 at the plate. He actually is hitting the ball much better in the last week… He smoked a ball on Wednesday, and was robbed of extra bases. Quick, compact swing:
— John (@Friar_Faithful) March 24, 2017
His defensive highlight of camp thus far:
Cordoba ? pic.twitter.com/iSgUnbuq4w
— John (@Friar_Faithful) March 24, 2017
Here’s the deal: keeping Cordoba on the 25-man roster throughout the whole season is going to be a challenge. Andy Green realizes that roster spaces, especially coming out of camp, are precious. Green recently talked about the Padres perhaps carrying FOUR catchers on the opening day roster, and that might happen (it’s unlikely). That’s kind of false advertising, though. Although he’s able to play catcher, Hector Sanchez would be the 1B backup. C/P/OF Christian Bethancourt is an experimental utility piece. Torrens, well, I’ll get to that later.
If Christian Bethancourt can show he can both catch AND pitch at even an average level, that would definitely help Allen Cordoba’s future with the Padres in 2017. It would allow the Padres basically an extra roster spot. Cordoba has seen some time all around the diamond in the spring. He has seen time in LF, SS, 3B, 2B, and CF:
Allen Cordoba starting at 3B today. #Padres also getting him work in OF to "see what we can do to use him in different ways," Green said.
— Jeff Sanders (@sdutSanders) March 11, 2017
The Padres obviously want to keep Cordoba, and him being an emergency outfielder, as well as a utility infielder, boosts the chances of that happening. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them give him a spot on the opening day roster. I actually think it’s quite likely, at least right away. If he can show growth while being a super utility guy, the Padres have something there. He doesn’t turn 22 until December. The perfect scenario is to get him through this season, hide him at times, get him in blowouts or long extra-inning games, and send him back down to the minors in 2018 to continue his development. I mean, in a season that’s going to have a whole lot of losses, there isn’t much to lose by keeping Allen Cordoba on the roster (at least for the organization’s sake). He is a guy to keep an eye during these next ten days or so. He seems to be settling in a bit, and I’m fairly sure he’ll have a spot on the 25-man roster.
- Luis Torrens
Luis Torrens is an interesting Rule-5 guy, mainly because the Padres traded a pretty decent prospect (Josh Van Meter) to acquire him. That alone would signal the Padres are pretty serious about keeping him, because if not, they basically wasted $25K, and gave away a prospect for nothing. The 20-year-old Venezuelan has four hits in 26 at bats in spring with a .267 OBP and a .459 OPS. Defensively, though, Torrens has had a pretty solid spring. For a 20-year-old, he seems to work quite well with pitchers. Bob Scanlan is impressed:
Eye opener for me today was Luis Torrens. Rule V backstop looks more comfortable each game. Good hands, plus arm, interacts with pitchers.
— Bob Scanlan (@heyscan) March 4, 2017
Game was moving pretty fast for him early in camp but Luis Torrens has been noticeably more in control of self & game as he plays more.
— Bob Scanlan (@heyscan) March 9, 2017
Torrens has never really hit much, even in rookie/A ball. Following a shoulder injury in 2015, Torrens actually only played in 62 games last year. With Hedges seemingly taking over the starting catcher role, if the Padres want to keep Torrens, he doesn’t have to hit or play all that much. He definitely wouldn’t have to play too much if his time as a backup is split with Hector Sanchez or Christian Bethancourt.
There are plenty of defensive-first catchers out there who still hold value, and Torrens could be one of them this season. Perhaps a year in the big leagues in which Torrens plays once every 7-8 days would be perfect for him as he continues to try to grow as a player. To me, it all really comes down to this: If AJ Preller & the Padres’ front office did not think Torrens was going to make the big league squad, they would not have traded Van Meter for him. I truly believe that, and it is because of that I believe Torrens will be a Padre this season.
The Padres are probably going to be the first team since the 2003 Detroit Tigers to have three Rule-5 draftees on their opening day roster. The Tigers finished 43-119 that year. I highly doubt the Padres finish the season with anything resembling that record, but it is going to be quite the developmental year for the Friars. There will be ups and lots of downs… but I am looking forward to tracking the development. I hope you are too.