When the Padres announced their roster just before opening day, I think it’s safe to say that many fans were shocked. In addition to rostering 4 catchers, and starting fan-favorite Cory Spangenberg in AAA, the Padres opened the season with three Rule 5 draft picks on the roster. For those unfamiliar with the Rule 5 draft, it is a draft of current minor league players, and any players selected must remain on the 25-man roster of the drafting team, or be offered back to the team they were selected from. A notable recent Rule 5 pickup for Padres was Luis Perdomo, acquired from the Rockies during the 2015 draft. In the 2016 draft, the Padres wound up with the first 3 picks, Miguel Diaz, Luis Torrens, and Allen Córdoba. After almost 2 months of the season, let’s break down their performance so far, and try to see what we are looking at in the future of these players.Embed from Getty Images
Miguel Diaz, P
22-year-old Miguel Diaz was the first selection in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. The 6’1″ right-hander was first signed by the Brewers in 2011. To date, Diaz has 1 win and 1 loss on the season, with 18.1 innings pitched. Diaz relies heavily on his 4 seam fastball but mixes in a curveball and changeup. Throughout his minor league career, Diaz was definitely able to rack up the strikeouts, averaging 8.5 K’s per 9 innings pitched. He had never played above single A before making his MLB debut in the Padres opening day game on April 3rd, 2017. So far this season, Diaz has shown the mixed results that one might expect from a 22-year-old, jumping from single A ball, into the majors. In 16 relief appearances, Diaz has held opponents scoreless just 7 times. Sporting an 8.35 ERA, Diaz has struggled to miss bats, with just a 7% swinging strike rate. I’m not a scout, but from watching quite a few of Miguel’s appearances, I would really like to see him keep his composure on the mound a bit better. Overall, I think he has potential. His fastball definitely has above average velocity and movement but, in the eyeball test, it seems like he isn’t exactly sure where his off-speed pitches will go at any given time. The Padres are looking at Diaz as a potential future starter, but it seems likely we will see him in the bullpen for the duration of 2017. Diaz will definitely be a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses. I am personally looking to see how he handles a variety of different relief situations and hoping to see him settle in, as he accumulates more big league time.Embed from Getty Images
Luis Torrens, C
Just 21 years old, Luis Torrens was the 2nd pick in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. Standing at 6 feet tall, and weighing 175 lbs., Torrens bats and throws right handed. So far this season, Luis is batting just .133 with 2 runs and 1 RBI but has only had 30 AB’s in 6 starts. Torrens is raw, but a highly touted prospect. Acquired from the Reds for a prospect and cash, Torrens comes from the Yankees farm system. Despite having never played above the Low-A level, Luis was New Yorks’ 9th best prospect. Signed by the Yankees in 2012 as a shortstop, Torrens joins the Padres as their highest touted young catcher, behind current MLB starter Austin Hedges. Torrens made his MLB debut on April 3, 2017, as a pinch-hitter. So far this season, we haven’t seen a lot out of Torrens as far as quality or quantity, but with 2 hits against the Mets on the 24th of May, we are hopefully seeing the beginning of Torrens recognizing MLB pitching. As Padres fans, we are all pretty spoiled watching Austin Hedges frame pitches in the majority of games, so it’s easy to judge Torrens pretty harshly. Despite a negative pitch framing evaluation so far in 2017, Torrens framing skills have been highly touted throughout his minor league career, and we can definitely hope to see improvement as he develops. One huge asset that Torrens brings to the table is his arm. Throughout 3 seasons in the minors, Torrens was able to nab 41% of attempted base stealers. According to baseball-reference.com, only Yadier Molina has been able to maintain a 41% caught stealing % among qualified players. I know it is really easy to judge Torrens based on his small 2017 sample size, but he is reallllly young and reallllly raw. His prospect metrics point to a young catcher with great defensive skills, who just needs to develop. While I wish we could see Torrens develop in the minors, with regular playing time, I also look forward to seeing how well he can learn as a backup with Pads for the 2017 season. Catching prospects are hard to come by, and acquiring a potential defensive juggernaut like Torrens definitely seems like a good move.Embed from Getty Images
Allen Córdoba, IF, OF
21-year-old Allen Córdoba is the third Rule 5 pick on the Padres 2017 roster. The 6’1, 175 lb. righty, comes from the Cardinals organization and has spent parts of 4 seasons in the minors. Córdoba has just 206 rookie ball games under his belt but has dazzled in that time. In 2015, Córdoba was the Gulf Coast League (Rookie Ball) Cardinals MPV and a Baseball America Rookie All-Star in 2016. In his 869 minor league plate appearances, Allen batted an impressive .309 with 49 extra base hits and 52 steals. Throughout his time with the Cardinals, Córdoba mostly played the middle infield positions, but in his 29 games with the Padres, has played SS, 2B, CF, and LF. He has been most impressive at the plate, with a .300 average, 3 HR, and 7 RBI in 70 AB’s. His infield defense has been a bit shaky, but the Padres seem content to play him in the outfield and let him slowly compile time at shortstop. He definitely has plenty of room to develop but it’s pretty clear that he is a prospect that we can expect great things from. He definitely hasn’t seemed overmatched at the plate, showing good discipline, working the counts, and utilizing all parts of the field. The number that really stood out to me was his plate discipline. According to FanGraphs, Córdoba has swung at fewer balls out of the strike zone and has a higher contact percentage, than Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo in their rookie years. He will definitely need development, especially on his infield defense, but Allen Córdoba already shows poise and skills far beyond his age and experience.
The biggest question I had when the season started, was how long the Padres would keep the Rule 5 guys around. It’s still really early, but right now, I don’t see any reason for the Padres to let any of these guys go. The Padres aren’t going to contend, so it isn’t like any of the Rule 5 players are holding the team back. With much of the Padres minor league talent at least a year away from being MLB ready, they aren’t taking up a roster spot that would be better served with other young talents. The only really compelling argument against keeping the 3 of them, is that the jump from low minor league levels to the big leagues might stunt their development. Each player is a different case. For Diaz, it seems pretty easy. The Padres will be able to find low leverage situations, and possibly long relief for him, while they hope to develop him into a future starter. Cordoba has seemed very comfortable against MLB pitching, and his versatility gives him increased opportunity. Torrens is the biggest question mark to me, but the scarcity of catching prospects within the system, along with his defensive upside lend him relative safety. With Hector Sanchez on the DL and Christian Bethancourt transitioning into a reliever, we definitely won’t see Torrens go anywhere anytime soon. Overall, I would love to see these guys stay with the team. They all have plenty of upsides, and it would be great to hang on to them into the future. For me, its a lot of fun to have these young guys on the roster, it gives us as fans time to connect with these players, as well as a great storyline as the team rebuilds. Be sure to watch closely the next time you see one of our 2016 Rule 5 draft picks; we definitely have a lot to look forward to from all of them.