After what has been a rough couple of years as a San Diego Padres fan, the Padres finally have some real hope for the future.
With a flurry of trades and big time international signings, the Padres have turned one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball into one of the game’s deepest. On top of that, many Padres prospects had successful 2016 seasons, which gave the system even more credibility throughout the league.
However, it wasn’t all good things for a Padres organization in transition.
Due to the fact that the Major League team was a bit of a dumpster fire, the focus was on prospects. One player who had a lot of eyes on him going into 2016 was shortstop Javier Guerra, who was acquired along with Manuel Margot, Logan Allen, and Carlos Asuaje in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox. In the initial aftermath of that trade, Guerra was seen as the big get in that trade, as he was consistently ranked at or near the top of Padres prospect rankings going into the 2016 season.
Going into 2017, it is an entirely different story. Coming off what was an absolutely dreadful season, Guerra now may look like the least useful of all the pieces the Padres got in that Kimbrel trade. While Margot and Asuaje both made their big league debuts in 2016, Allen has made good development in the Padres minor league system, while Guerra has struggled mightily. After being considered the top prospect in the Padres’ farm system prior to the 2016 season, and a consensus top 100 prospect by various baseball outlets, Guerra is nowhere to be found on any top 10 or even top 20 Padre prospect rankings. In the span of less than a year, Guerra has gone from top prospect to almost being a non-prospect.
This all begs the question: What’s next for Javier Guerra? Can he regain his status as a serious prospect? Or will his decline only continue in 2017 and beyond?
To better understand where Guerra will go from here, it helps to know where he came from.
Originally signed out of Panama by the Boston Red Sox in 2011 for $250,000, Guerra didn’t really gain true prospect status until his successful debut in low-A ball in 2015. After slashing .279/.329/.447 in 434 at bats, Guerra was traded to the Padres between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. As mentioned before, Guerra was viewed as the best prospect in that trade by many, and he seemed poised to be the Padres long-term answer at shortstop, a position that has been a black hole for the Padres for the better part of the last decade.
However, it’s clear that wasn’t meant to be, at least not in 2016. In just under 400 at bats with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, Guerra slashed only .202/.264/.325 before a season-ending, non-baseball injury. While it’s true that the Cal League was obviously more challenging for the 21-year-old, a 77 point drop in batting average and 64 point drop in on base percentage is certainly alarming. After the trade, many thought Guerra would be on the fast track to the Majors. Following 2016, it’s unclear whether he gets there at all.
Despite his 2016 struggles, there is at least some room for optimism. This is still a 21-year-old who is coming off only his second professional season in America. Add to that adjusting to a new organization and perhaps trying a little too hard with a new team, and his struggles may seem to be less worrisome. With that being said, Guerra will have a lot to prove in 2017. With Jose Rondon already making his ML debut, and the likes of Ruddy Giron, Luis Urias, and others impressing, Guerra is no longer viewed as the guy for the Padres at shortstop. He still has time to reclaim that title, but 2017 will be a critical year to put up or shut up. For the Padres’ sake, let’s hope Guerra can make it happen.