The Padres announced they’ve recalled top prospect C.J. Abrams from Triple-A El Paso. Right-hander Reiss Knehr was optioned out in a corresponding transaction. The moves allow the club to comply with the league’s newly-implemented limit of 13 pitchers on an active roster.
Abrams returns to the big leagues a bit more than five weeks after being optioned out. The former sixth overall pick bypassed Triple-A entirely to crack the Opening Day roster. His lack of experience against upper-level pitching showed, however, as Abrams scuffled to a .182/.270/.273 line through his first 20 MLB games. The Friars eventually decided it better to get him regular run in Triple-A, and Abrams has responded with an impressive showing.
Through 151 plate appearances with the Chihuahuas, Abrams hit .314/.364/.507. He popped seven home runs while nabbing ten bases in 13 attempts and only striking out in 16.6% of his trips to the dish. While Abrams didn’t take many free passes, he demonstrated the kind of athleticism, bat-to-ball skills and power potential that has made him one of the game’s consensus top prospects.
Abrams spent the vast majority of his time in El Paso at shortstop, but he picked up two starts apiece at second base and in center field. It was a similar story during his early-season MLB look; he made 13 starts at shortstop, four at the keystone, and a lone outing in right field. The Friars have been without Fernando Tatís Jr. all year, leaving them to rely on the combination of Ha-Seong Kim and Abrams at shortstop.
San Diego is now dealing with an injury to their other star left side infielder, as Manny Machado sprained his left ankle yesterday. The Padres haven’t placed Machado on the injured list, but they’ll turn to Abrams at shortstop and Kim at the hot corner tonight against the Diamondbacks. That’d figure to be a regular combination if Machado is forced to miss an extended amount of time.
From a service time perspective, Abrams’ optional assignment lasted long enough to delay his path to free agency by a season. Even if he’s now in the majors for good, he won’t accrue enough MLB time to reach a full year of service this season. His earliest path to free agency eligibility is now after the 2028 campaign, although Abrams would be a lock for early arbitration as a Super Two qualifier following the 2024 season if he sticks in the majors. It’s possible that further struggles against MLB pitching and/or the eventual return of Tatís could lead to Abrams being optioned back to the minors at some point down the line, which may affect that trajectory.