After years of neglect that turned a franchise into a dilapidated old house, the San Diego Padres have recently undergone a transformation from the foundation up.
The farm system has produced nothing except major disappointments for decades. Yet there is hope in America’s Finest City.
A.J. Preller has ridden into town with guns blazing, and with that, there is indeed hope among a beaten fan base. Yes, there are naysayers. There always will be. But the majority of the knowledgeable fans are genuinely excited for a bright future that is seemingly very close. The future is loaded with young Latino prospects as Preller has embraced the international market like no other time in Padres history.
The city of San Diego is right next to the country of Mexico – a country that has a love for the game of baseball. Don’t confuse yourself, soccer is definitely the nation’s passion, but the game of baseball has a long history in Mexico. The Liga Mexicana de Béisbol was founded in 1925 with a total of six teams playing all their games in Mexico City.
Outfielder Mel Almada, better known as Baldomero “Melo” Almada debuted with the Boston Red Sox in 1933. Second baseman Chile Gomez debuted with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1935. Both players opened the door for Mexican-born players, and this was years before Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers.
Vinny Castilla, Jorge Cantu, Erubiel Durazo, and Adrian Gonzalez all had excellent major league careers as hitters. The country is well-represented and it is only a matter of time before a Mexican-born player is enshrined in the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame. Local prep athletes who are Mexican have also made their mark in MLB history as Benji Gil (Castle Park) and Oscar Robles (Montgomery) both had decent runs as utility infielders.
Here is a glimpse at 13 players currently in the Padres’ system that were born in Mexico, starting with the hitters.
Luis Urias 2B/SS
The cream of the crop is this 20-year-old from Magdelena de Kino in Sonora, Mexico. Urias has been with the team since he was 16, and has shown plus skills at a very early age. His right-handed stroke is capable of making consistent contact, and despite being short in stature, there is some “pop” to his bat. Urias will play in the major leagues. That is a given. He could be an everyday player or an excellent utility options. He has a very bright future.
At 17, the upside of this outfielder is pretty interesting. The Tijuana native is already 6′ 4″ and 180-190 lbs. His smooth, left-handed stroke is capable of being very powerful. In 196 at bats last year in the AZL, he put up a .276/.399/.408 batting line with three homers and 26 RBI. He walked an impressive 40 times, but also did strike out 61 times. Ornelas struggled at times, but you have to factor in his age. He could start the 2018 season in Arizona, but we will see what the Padres want to do. They did allow some 17-year-old players to make their pro debuts with Fort Wayne and Tri-City in 2017, and the same could be in the cards for Ornelas.
Fernando Perez INF
The Ensenada native and Otay Ranch High Alum has been on fire this winter in the Mexican Winter League. Perez has played first, second, and third in the past, but might lack the arm strength to play third moving forward. He started the 2017 season in Double-A, but was demoted when the club called up Josh Naylor from Lake Elsinore. Perez responded by hitting .281 with 10 homers in the California League, recording a .823 OPS. He has had over 1,700 minor league at bats and has put up a .245/.298/.396 slash line in that time. The infielder has a powerful left-handed stroke for his size, but needs to recognize off-speed pitches better.
Agustin Ruiz OF
The 18-year-old from Villa Hermosa in Tobasco, Mexico is a decent prospect. He is a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower who has decent size at 6′ 2″, but needs to put on more weight and muscle. The teenager has plenty of time to do just that. The lanky outfielder was seen at the Padres On Deck game in September, though he did not get any significant playing time. I spoke briefly to him and he indicated that he was very excited to be at Petco Park. Ruiz put up a .208/.306/.283 batting line last year in the AZL last year. That was in 53 at bats, where he struck out 22 times and walked seven times.
At 19, this first baseman has some upside. He has yet to show the power needed from a first baseman, so that is a bit concerning. In 91 games and 323 at bats in the minors, Aragon only has four homers, while striking out 90 times. The left-handed batter and right-handed thrower from Ciudad Obregon in Sonora, Mexico really does needs to drive the ball more effectively to be considered a viable prospect. He spent 2017 in Tri-City, where he put up a .213/.268/.293 slash line in 150 at bats. That just isn’t going to cut it, but again, he does have youth on his side. If he can add muscle, he can possibly drive the ball more and move up the minor league chain towards a big league job.
If you are looking for a catcher with some decent potential, then Vizcarra could be your man. The Mexicali native is 18 and performed pretty well last year in the DSL. He put up a .225/.321/.319 batting line with two homers and 28 RBI in 191 at bats. The right-handed hitter walked 17 times and struck out 29 times, showing a decent eye at the plate and a fluid swing. He adds to the Padres’ young catching depth, as the team already has Humberto Quintero, Blake Hunt, Luis Campusano, and Jonny Homza currently working behind the dish, and all under the age of 19.
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