Abrams cracks roster, declares, 'I AM Ready!'

April 8th, 2022

PHOENIX -- The Padres asked C.J. Abrams to go out and win a roster spot this spring. Sure enough, Abrams went out and won it.

The Padres’ top prospect, per the MLB Pipeline rankings, was promoted to the big league club on Thursday, when the team announced its Opening Day roster. With Fernando Tatis Jr. injured and slated to miss at least the next 2 1/2 months, Abrams is expected to share time at shortstop with Ha-Seong Kim.

The 21-year-old Abrams learned the news of his callup on Wednesday afternoon in a meeting with manager Bob Melvin and president of baseball operations A.J. Preller at the Peoria Sports Complex.

"It was amazing," Abrams said. "Bob and A.J. sat me down in the office, and all I did was smile."

The lefty-hitting Abrams was on the bench Thursday night for the season opener at Chase Field, with left-hander Madison Bumgarner on the mound for the D-backs. But Abrams is still likely to get the bulk of the playing time at shortstop. He can also play second base -- and perhaps even some outfield in a pinch.

The No. 6 overall selection in the 2019 Draft, Abrams has always boasted an elite set of tools, highlighted by his bat-to-ball skills and his speed.

He showcased all of it this spring, even adding a bit of power. Abrams batted .324 with an .873 OPS, while homering twice and swiping three bags.

"I think I got better every day," Abrams said. "I went out there had fun, showed what I can do, showed that I'm ready to play and I can help the team win."

When X-rays revealed Tatis' fractured left wrist early in camp, Abrams wasn't the Padres’ top choice to fill in. He had played only 76 games in the Minor Leagues and missed the final three months of his season last year after breaking his left leg in a collision on the basepaths.

But Abrams forced the Padres' hand with his performance this spring. As the season approached and Abrams answered every challenge thrown his way, it became apparent that he was the best option for the final vacancy in the infield.

"You knew it was going to be a quick ascent to the big leagues," Melvin said. "This is really quick. But everything we saw this Spring Training suggests that he can handle it. ... He's a pretty tenacious player. There are a lot of great tools. But his best tool is probably his belief in himself. There wasn't anything he was scared of."

Abrams' ascension has drawn plenty of comparisons to Tatis' rise in 2019. Like Tatis, Abrams left no doubt that he deserved a place on the Opening Day roster with his excellent Spring Training. Like Tatis, Abrams is widely regarded as one of the game's top shortstop prospects.

But the Padres don't necessarily need Abrams to be Tatis, who was a superstar from the moment he set foot on the diamond. For one, Abrams likely won't be playing as regularly as Tatis did in 2019. He's also likely to be eased into action toward the bottom of the order.

There's also a delicate balance to be struck with Abrams' callup. He's 21 and still has plenty of room to grow. To ensure Abrams reaches his ceiling, the Padres will need him to continue his development at the big league level.

"C.J. earned the job in Spring Training," Preller said. "He showed, breaking out of camp, that he can help us win games. Our staff understands that it would be a balance between him getting experience at the big league level, which will help his development, but also making sure that the days he's not playing, he's learning and drawing off an experienced coaching staff."

Because of Abrams' unique skill set, the Padres feel he's set up nicely to sustain attrition at the big league level. Major League pitchers might be an adjustment for Abrams. But he has a knack for getting his bat on the baseball, and, from there, his elite speed can take over. Plus, Abrams has always been a steady defender, and his versatility gives the Padres options.

"Wherever I'm needed," Abrams said. "Whenever I'm needed. I’m willing to do it all."