What to expect from Urias with Padres

August 28th, 2018

One of the best pure hitters in the Minors is set to make his big league debut as the Padres are planning to promote second baseman Luis Urias, MLB Pipeline's No. 22 overall prospect, ahead of Tuesday night's game against the Mariners.

Urias, 21, gets the call amidst a 15-game hitting streak with Triple-A El Paso during which he recorded eight multihit performances while batting .474/.530/.702. The Padres' No. 4 prospect has been red hot in August, posting a .420 average with 37 hits (15 extra-base hits) in 24 games.

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On the season, Urias batted .296/.398/.447 with 45 extra-base hits and 83 runs scored over 120 games in the Pacific Coast League.

Long viewed as San Diego's second baseman of the future, Urias now joins a Padres club that ranks among the worst in the National League at the position in slugging (.320, 15th), OPS (.621, 15th), average (.231, 13th) and on-base percentage (.302, 13th).

The Padres signed Urias at age 16 out of the Mexican League in December 2013 and then watched him excel that summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He built upon that progress the following year, as Urias needed just 10 games in the Class A Short-Season Northwest League to prove he was ready for a promotion to full-season Class A Fort Wayne.

San Diego continued to push Urias in 2016, this time with an assignment to the Class A Advanced California League, where, at 18, he was the circuit's youngest everyday player on Opening Day. Urias responded to the challenge by winning the batting title (.333) as well as the California League Most Valuable Player Award.

Spending all of 2017 at Double-A San Antonio, Urias garnered All-Star honors in the Texas League, hitting .296 with a circuit-best .398 on-base percentage, and then boosted his stock even more with an impressive Arizona Fall League campaign, setting the stage for a move up to Triple-A in '18.

The owner of a 70-grade hit tool -- on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is considered Major League average -- Urias is a gifted right-handed hitter who possesses preternatural feel for barreling the ball, with an approach that belies his years.

Urias' impressive hitting ability stems from his elite bat-to-ball skills, as he consistently produces hard line-drive contact from line to line using a compact but impactful swing. A career .306 hitter over 467 games and five seasons in the Minors, he projects to hit for similarly high averages in the big leagues, with some evaluators even pegging him as a potential batting champion in his prime.

Urias' plate discipline, meanwhile, also is among the best in the Minor Leagues -- a notion supported by his .397 career on-base percentage. Thanks to an advanced knowledge the strike zone and excellent pitch recognition, Urias accrued more walks than strikeouts in each of his first four seasons. This year with El Paso, he compiled more strikeouts (109) than walks (67) for the first time in his career.

The uptick in Urias' strikeout rate -- from 12.9 percent in Double-A to 20.5 percent this season -- can be attributed to the 21-year-old's attempt to hit for more power by incorporating a more pronounced front-leg lift into his swing. While the adjustment led to more swing-and-miss, Urias did tap into his sneaky raw power more consistently en route to career highs in home runs (eight), triples (seven) and doubles (30) while maintaining his walk rate from the previous year.

At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Urias isn't an obvious candidate to hit for more power in the big leagues than he did as a prospect. However, more and more players with comparable skill sets have done just that in recent years, especially those that reached the Majors at a young age. As a result, there is a growing contingent of scouts who believe Urias, with his plus bat speed, bat-to-ball skills and feel for the strike zone, could surpass his modest power projections at the highest level.

On the other side of the ball, Urias offers plus defense at second base and has shown the ability to play a quality shortstop or third base as well. At the keystone, Urias exhibits above-average range thanks to his excellent instincts and quick first step. His soft hands and above-average arm strength, meanwhile, play anywhere on the infield.

It's unclear how much action Urias will receive down the stretch, as the Padres will need to balance his playing time with that of , and .

Deploying him across several infield positions could address that issue, however with now manning the hot corner and top prospect poised to take over at shortstop in 2019, Urias seemingly stands to gain the most by playing second base as often as possible in his first taste of the Majors.