Padres Select CJ Abrams, Jose Azocar; Kyle Tyler DFA

The Padres set their opening day roster on Thursday, announcing this best prospect JC Abrams and outfielder Jose Azocar were selected on the Major League roster. The Padres placed Fernando Tatis Jr. on 60-day disabled list designated right-hander Kyle Tyler for assignment in a pair of corresponding movements of 40 men.

Abrams is a consensus prospect, ranked among the 15 most talented minor leaguers in the sport by Baseball America, The Athletic, FanGraphs, ESPN and MLB Pipeline. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel is the most optimistic of the bunch, placing Abrams as the sport’s fourth-highest prospect. Reports praise his speed and athleticism at the top of the scale and his excellent punching tool, although reviewers also suggest Abrams has a chance to punch for average or above power at his peak. .

San Diego originally selected Abrams with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft at a Georgia high school. He doesn’t have a lot of professional gaming experience. Abrams spent the second half of his first professional season in rookie ball, with a late appearance at Low-A. The pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season and the brothers pushed him to Double-A Amarillo to start the 2021 season.

Abrams handled the aggressive mission well, hitting .296/.363/.420 with a pair of homers and 13 stolen bases in 183 plate appearances. He showed off his advanced batting skills with a 19.7% strikeout rate, just a few points below the league average, despite being younger than virtually every arm to which he was confronted. Unfortunately, Abrams was robbed of a second half of reps after fracturing his left tibia and spraining his MCL in an on-court collision in early July.

There is undoubtedly a risk for the Pads in pushing Abrams straight into the big leagues. He played all 44 games over the Rookie ball because of the pandemic and last season’s injury, none of those times at Triple-A. Still, there’s no question he has electric physical abilities, and San Diego’s front office obviously thinks he’s at least able to keep his head above water early on while continuing to develop into a long-term essential piece.

Abrams played midfield exclusively during his minor league tenure. Reviewers have been divided on his ability to stay at shortstop long-term, but the general consensus is that he would be a strong defenseman at second base. Given his elite running ability, Abrams could probably be a more outfield defender as well, and he has some work to do on the grass this spring. He’ll likely need more than a few weeks to become completely comfortable reading fly balls off the bat, but there’s no doubt he’s athletic enough to be a long-term outfield option.

It remains to be seen how first-year skipper Bob Melvin will deploy the 21-year-old early on. He expects to see action at each of the shortstop, second base and outfield. Jake Cronenworth factored in second base, but Tatis’ injury pushed Ha Seong Kim in the main shortstop position. A well-regarded signing in South Korea, Kim struggled during his rookie season in MLB. Melvin can give Abrams or Kim a steady shortstop run, and the Pads are set to lean on a combination of Jurickson Profar, brent rooker and Matt Beaty in left field.

The Padres aren’t okay with keeping Abrams on the major league roster going forward because he’ll have the three minor league option years left. Still, San Diego wouldn’t have taken him out of camp if they hadn’t felt he was up to the challenge, and they would certainly like Abrams to stay in the big leagues. If so, it would be controllable through 2027 and would not reach arbitration eligibility until after the 2024 campaign. Future optional assignments, if needed, could push those trajectories back.

As the consensus top prospect, Abrams qualifies for the so-called prospect promotion incentive in the new collective bargaining agreement. Based on his results as Rookie of the Year and MVP voting in his first three MLB seasons, the Padres could afford to collect additional draft picks if he excels.

More soon.

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