Franchy Cordero, CF, Triple-A El Paso
When I last wrote about Franchy Cordero, he was just knocked out of the #30 spot in MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings for the Padres. I thought he’d be back on their list and he was in fact rewarded for a solid season by returning to the list at #25. But an even better reward for his last season was the Padres placing Cordero on the 40-man roster. Cordero also played quite a bit this spring as he appeared in 17 games and had 27 at-bats for the big-league team. He did not hit all too well, going 5-27, and slashing .185/.343/.370. Good news here was he hit a double and two triples and stole two bases, so he did show some productivity while playing solid defense in the outfield.
Cordero should begin the season in El Paso playing for the Triple-A Chihuahuas. He was reassigned to the minors by the Padres on the 19th of March. If Manuel Margot breaks camp with the Padres, Cordero will most likely man center field. If Margot is sent down for team control considerations, then Cordero should be in right. Either way, Cordero will provide excellent insurance in case the injury bug bites the Padres in the outfield. With Jabari Blash all but assured of making the 25-man roster, it would make sense for the next outfielder up to be Cordero. (Billy Lybarger)
Javier Guerra, SS, High-A Lake Elsinore
With a few exceptions, 2016 was one of the Padres’ best years in terms of player acquisition and development. The top players currently in the system were either acquired (Espinoza, Morejon, etc.) or took major steps forward (Margot, Renfroe, Urias). One of the exceptions, however, was arguably the team’s top prospect heading into the season: shortstop Javy Guerra.
Guerra was dreadful last year (.202/.264/.325) in 105 games for Lake Elsinore, with reports from prospect evaluators that he looked even worse than his numbers. The Padres shut him down in August with an “undisclosed injury,” and in a recent interview with David Jay of MadFriars, Guerra all but confirmed his struggles were related to mental health.
On who was involved in the decision to shut him down:
“It wasn’t something that serious. It was a conversation with the trainers and some of the staff together. I just didn’t feel quite right playing in terms of fatigue and stress. Those are the things that went into it.”
Guerra went from being a very good prospect in one of the best systems in baseball to being the best one in a painfully mediocre one. That pressure would be daunting for anyone, and it obviously got in the 20-year-old’s head. It’s kind of ridiculous, though, how thoroughly written off he was after his struggles. In one of his chats last year, FanGraphs lead prospect writer Eric Longenhagen went as far to call him a non-prospect.
Guerra, unsurprisingly, didn’t make any top-100 prospect lists last year, and he’ll be back at High-A, at least for the start of the 2017 season. I’ve yet to read any reports about Guerra’s physical skills declining. The plus defense, power, and athleticism from a premium position are all still there. And he’s still only 21.
If he’s healthy, mentally and physically, I see no reason why he can’t be one of the best prospects in what’s now a loaded system. Guerra’s way too young to give up on. Even if his bat is just average, his defense makes him a first division starter, something the Padres haven’t had at shortstop in 10 years, and counting. (Oscar)
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Single-A Fort Wayne
If prospect evaluation is, as Jason Parks used to say, just a snapshot in time, then here’s where Tatis is at in the scrap book:
That’s just moments after he crushed what appears to be a spring training home run into left-center field (h/t: @advancedstats23), the game of baseball in the palm of his hand. The reports on Tatis—now documented routinely in this space—have remained somewhere between positive and downright giddy this spring. Here’s one:
Fernando Tatis Jr. in the field is a breath of fresh air. Does so many little things, little more fundamentally sound. Athlete and leader
— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) March 21, 2017
Tatis is just barely 18, though, so there are many snapshots left to be taken.
It’s important, even when sitting near the front of the bandwagon, to always acknowledge the unpredictability in projecting the future of young baseball players, and the inherent difficultly in successfully rising up through the game’s final rungs. Tatis has to make a major step this year, jumping to full season ball for the first time. At some point, he’ll have to prove he can hit more polished Double-A pitchers, then Triple-A, then finally big leaguers, dudes like Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, and Kenley Jansen (and, sometimes, Mike Pelfrey). We haven’t even mentioned the defensive side of the game, or base running, or the mental aspect, or the physical grind of a long season, or injuries. It’s a long road, full of unforeseen hardships and hard-spinning sliders, and Tatis is just getting started, for good or bad (mostly good, we think).
That’s not to slow the hype train on Tatis, but you’re only as good as your next snapshot—or something like that.
(PS: We’ve got like 30 disposable cameras stashed away at Padres Public headquarters, and we’re not afraid to use ’em.) (Sac Bunt Dustin)