The Padres set their Opening Day roster Thursday, announcing that top prospect C.J. Abrams and outfielder Jose Azocar have been selected to the Major League roster. The Padres placed Fernando Tatis Jr. on the 60-day injured list and designated right-hander Kyle Tyler for assignment in a pair of corresponding 40-man moves.
Abrams is a consensus top prospect, ranked among the sport’s 15 most talented minor leaguers by each of Baseball America, The Athletic, FanGraphs, ESPN and MLB Pipeline. Kiley McDaniel at ESPN is the most bullish of the group, slotting Abrams fourth among the sport’s prospects. Reports praise his top-of-the-scale speed and athleticism and excellent hit tool, although evaluators also suggest Abrams has a chance to hit for average or better power at peak.
San Diego originally selected Abrams with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft out of a Georgia high school. He hasn’t had much professional game experience. Abrams spent the second half of his first pro season in rookie ball, with a late cameo at Low-A. The pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season, and the Friars pushed him to Double-A Amarillo to start the 2021 season.
Abrams handled the aggressive assignment well, hitting .296/.363/.420 with a pair of home runs and 13 stolen bases over 183 plate appearances. He showcased his advanced bat-to-ball skills with a 19.7% strikeout rate that was a few points below the league average, in spite of the fact that he was younger than virtually every arm he faced. Unfortunately, Abrams was deprived of a second half of reps after he fractured his left tibia and sprained his MCL in an on-field collision in early July.
There’s no doubt some risk for the Pads in pushing Abrams straight to the big leagues. He’s played all of 44 games above Rookie ball because of the pandemic and last season’s injury, none of that time at Triple-A. Yet there’s little question he has electric physical abilities, and the San Diego front office evidently feels he’s at least capable of keeping his head above water in the early going while continuing to develop into a core long-term piece.
Abrams has played the middle infield exclusively during his minor league tenure. Evaluators have been divided on his ability to stick at shortstop long-term, but the general consensus is that he’d be a solid defender at second base. Given his elite speed, Abrams could probably be a plus defender in the outfield as well, and he’s gotten some work on the grass this spring. He’ll presumably need more than a few weeks to become completely comfortable reading fly balls off the bat, but there’s little doubt he’s athletic enough to develop into a long-term outfield option.
It remains to be seen how first-year skipper Bob Melvin will deploy the 21-year-old in the early going. He figures to see some action at each of shortstop, second base and in the outfield. Jake Cronenworth has second base accounted for, but Tatis’ injury had thrust Ha-Seong Kim into the primary shortstop job. A well-regarded signee out of South Korea, Kim struggled during his rookie season in MLB. Melvin can give regular shortstop run to either of Abrams or Kim, and the Pads are set to rely on some combination of Jurickson Profar, Brent Rooker and Matt Beaty in left field.
The Padres aren’t wedded to keeping Abrams on the big league roster from here on out, as he’ll have all three minor league option years remaining. Yet San Diego wouldn’t have carried him out of camp if they didn’t feel he was ready for the challenge, and they’d certainly love if Abrams is in the big leagues to stay. If that’s the case, he’d be controllable through 2027 and wouldn’t reach arbitration eligibility until after the 2024 campaign. Future optional assignments, if needed, might push those trajectories back.
As a consensus top prospect, Abrams qualifies for the so-called Prospect Promotion Incentive in the new collective bargaining agreement. Based on his finishes in Rookie of the Year and MVP voting over his first three MLB seasons, the Padres could stand to collect some extra draft choices if he excels.
Azocar isn’t anywhere near the caliber of prospect Abrams is, but he’ll likewise be making his big league debut whenever he gets into a game. Signed by the Tigers as an amateur free agent from Venezuela in 2012, he spent eight seasons in the Detroit farm system and played his way to Double-A. After reaching minor league free agency, he landed with the Padres on a minors deal last winter.
The 25-year-old split last season between Amarillo and Triple-A El Paso. Over 544 plate appearances, he hit .281/.341/.438 with nine homers and 32 steals. Azocar has never hit more than 10 homers in a minor league season and has well below-average power, but evaluators have long credited him as a plus runner and solid defensive outfielder. He can play all three outfield spots and gives the team a true fourth outfield type behind Trent Grisham in center field.
Tyler just landed with San Diego on waivers a couple weeks ago. The righty has bounced from the Angels to the Red Sox to the Padres on the wire over the past month, and he figures to land back on waivers in the next few days. He made his big league debut last season, tossing 12 1/3 relief innings over five appearances with six strikeouts and walks apiece. Tyler still has all three options remaining.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
Lots of excellent prospects on Opening Day roster. CBA clause is a good incentive for teams to do so, so far.
The Era of Abrams has begun
Do not trade Abrams, Campusano, Hassell.
Those three should be part of the cornerstones
(along with Tatis Jr. Cronenworth and a few others
of the Padres new window of contention)…
I think that it is less the CBA clause and more that Abrams is already at least a top 3-4 hitter on the team and can play solid defense at shortstop with Tatis injured or center-field to backup Grisham. Without Abrams, Padres cannot compete for wild card. With Abrams, Tatis back in a couple months, and some luck with the health of starting pitching, maybe Padres can win 87 to 89 games. It might not be enough, but it won’t be the fault of CJ Abrams who is ready to rock.
I think the Pads’ overall success will come down to their pitching. Oddly I’m primarily a Giants fan who lives near SD, but I have to admit having even greater interest in some of the individual players on the Pads – they are a fun team and Abrams is one of those I’ll follow.
Over/Under: Abrams SB total vs Adams Hit Batter total?
Probably under. No one steals bases anymore
Under, only because of playing time. With 550 PA, 32 steals. Adams will plunk 20.
ooo that’s a good one. Over
The Cardinals will run a lot this year under Ollie Marmol. One of the ways they will try to differentiate from Shildt
Adams wins that one with O/U of 21
Seems like a very aggressive promotion to me. Less than 200 ab in aa last year. And has shown no power to speak of. I hope he hits the ground running but im weary
Abrams is filling out and developing his power.
Had 4 home runs in Spring?!
Sid Bream Speed Demon
Astros2017Champs, I’m weary too. It’s been a long day. But I’m also wary, which is the word that you were searching for.
Just in case, it’s not a mute point, it’s not for all intensive purposes, you likely could care less, etc. I’m here to help.
15 games of Abrams wouldn’t have been the difference between a WC and no WC, ceteris paribus.
It is much more due to the CBA, imo. No disrespect but not sure how that’s not obvious
With healthy starting pitching, the Padres are a 90+ win team.
90 wins??? The Padres??? Have you seen the Padres outfield? No Tatis until June???
Notice its not effecting the rebuilding clubs. Only teams playing for this year are promoting their prospects. The incentive to promote is contending. No team rebuilding is going to risk a year of control for a lottery ticket draft pick.
Preller did it before that incentive.
Renfroe, Margot, Lucchesi, Margevicius, Tatis, Paddack, Cronenworth
John Rocker Fan Club
SERVICE TIME MANIPULATION SERVICE TIME MANIPULATION SERVICE TI oh he got selected. Nevermind then.
We ain’t da Cubs
or the Pirates
Oscar Azocar’s son?
Seems like the answer is no. While Both are from Venezuela there are no indications on any website I’ve seen that they are related in any way.
The late Oscar Azocar. I still remember his Topps Stadium club card from 1992 (i believe) where he is hugging his bat like it was his wife…
Azocar on 28-man is surprising, but temporary I would think
He fields a neee for a back up center fielder. Really didn’t have much of an option until abrams learns the outfield.
Oh Boy Here We Go
He had a decent spring .304/.407/.522
Play him in the OF against left handed pitching see what he can do.
For Love of the Game
Saw him in the Tigers’ minor league system. He was solid, but not enough power or walks for the number of Ks. Looks like he improved last year.
Azocar wasn’t on the 40-man roster so I’m guessing that the trades this week somehow free up a space for him there?
No, that was a 2-for-2 in regards to the 40. DFA’ing Tyler opened a spot, as well as Tatis to the 60. Enjoy Openong Day amigo! (mug tap)
Thanks Gwynning, the DFA’ing of Tyler answered my question. Tap
Go get ‘um, CJ!
Assuming CJ establishes himself, does Tatis become the everyday CF when he returns? Shortops on SS, 3B and CF?
Grisham is everyday CF. Either Tatis or Abrams would likely slot into RF with Myers going to LF. There are many more SS prospects on the way soon at every position. CJ migh play a lot of 2B down the road….
Padres have said that Abrams will not play 2B, but may play OF to get him more consistent AB. Both Preller and Melvin said it. Abrams has more range and plays better fundamental defense at SS than Tatis. Tatis has a strong arm, so he would fit better in RF than CF. To me that is an ideal solution. Or they can trade either of them to the Angels for an OF. 🙂
Only if that outfielder is named Michael Nelson Trout
With Abrams up. Gore, the catcher and hassell are all the prospects they have left of their once amazing system lol. Their big league team is pretty loaded tho.
Tatis is always hurt smh.
Good on the padres for not keeping Abrams down.
Add OF James Wood to the high level prospects list, he’s rising fast into MLB 100
I am ok with the Abrams promotion IF they are going to play him every day. Otherwise, with no games above AA, his development would likely be better served getting constant reps at AAA.
At this point it would appear that they need him, as not to fall miles behind the Doyers and Gigantes with Tatis out
Many of the better players have jumped from AAA to the majors and never looked back.
AAA is the injury backup backlot and storage lot for MLB
Good for azocar, making the club. I’ll be rooting for him for sure.
nice Azocar gets a shot. he’s a favorite of mine.
It’s a beautiful thing to see that the players appear to have won some major points against service time manipulation during these negotiations. No way guys like Rodriguez and Abrams would be on opening day rosters last year
Padres will be very competitive this year.
Should be a 3 way race for at least 2 playoffs spots from NL West.
Giants and Dodgers will come back to the pack and
not win 100+ games this year.
Dodgers rotation is suspect (#1, #2 and who)?!
Giants are a very interesting team that always seems
to compete not matter the roster turnover.
Padres have the starting pitching if it stays healthy and bullpen.
Padres have an exciting infield.
Having some of these players step up in the OF will be the key.
Can’t believe that catcher Campusano is not on this team.
Maybe, later this year?1
Campy sure has to be happy this week as he has a clearer path now with Caratini gone. He’s one injury, or one Alfaro slump away – glad they didn’t trade him. With a few good starts in the minors, Gore should also make his debut soon with Paddack trade.
Gonna be a while on Gore then. He and El Paso do not get along.
He’ll get the El Paso handicap
Hoped that Preller would be smart and not throw the extra year of control on Abrams into the garbage but we already knew he doesn’t care about service time so I should have expected it.
Melvin said today that Abrams stats at SS against RH SPs. That’s 70% of games
Hopefully CJ gets enough playing time, especially when Tatis gets back. Profar is a bench player so hopefully Abrams will head to RF and Myers to LF when Tatis gets back. Imagine Tatis and Abrams running wild on the bases! Azocar will provide mostly as a pinchrunner for the slower guys like Hosmer, Nola and Voit late in close games.
I’m hoping the Padres turn him loose on the basepaths. He has that high-end speed like Billy Hamilton, so it’ll be fun to see what someone who can actually get on base can do with it.