Inbox: Is Abrams the Padres' top prospect?

Padres beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from the fan base

May 5th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The 2021 Padres season has already been a wild ride, and it's only five weeks old. Strap in. Five months to go.

Let's get to some of your questions.

How long until overtakes as the Padres' No. 1 prospect?
-- Eric, San Diego

It's super close already, as evidenced by the fact that they rank just two spots apart on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. (Gore is No. 6 and Abrams is No. 8.) Ask around the Padres' organization, and it's split, probably even tilted in Abrams’ favor.

"And that's not a knock on Gore," those Padres folks are always quick to clarify.

That's because the Padres genuinely believe Abrams is a generational talent who will make an impact somewhere up the middle, probably beginning next season. We'll get to Gore in a second. But Abrams has all the tools to be considered one of the game's truly elite prospects. His wheels are elite. His bat-to-ball skills are elite. The 20-year-old should grow into some power, too.

Abrams not only held his own during big league camp this spring. He thrived. Then, in his Double-A debut on Tuesday night, he pounded out a pair of doubles. Even if Gore maintains his lofty status, Abrams might still surpass him. That is, if Gore remains a prospect much longer in the first place ...

Is there a reason Gore isn't getting looks when it comes to filling out the rotation due to injuries?
-- Seth

If there were ever a time to promote a big league ready Gore, it sure felt like Monday. The Padres needed a starter, and that matchup against Pittsburgh at home felt like a soft enough landing spot. Clearly, then, the Padres don't feel Gore is big league ready. Their thought process can be boiled down to three points:

1. Gore hasn't earned it. This gets glossed over when people talk about how aggressive general manager A.J. Preller has been in promoting his prospects. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ryan Weathers, for instance, pushed the envelope. They made it clear they belonged in the big leagues. Gore -- whose stuff remains electric but whose command has faltered -- hasn't made the same statement.

2. There's value in giving Gore starts in the Minors. The last time Gore made starts with any regularity against real opposition was August 2019. He finished that year with a 1.69 ERA and was the Minor League Pitcher of the Year. It shouldn't surprise anyone if, given some time to find his rhythm against Minor League opposition, the '19 version of Gore reemerges.

3. The injury situation hasn't really been that dire. It's getting there, sure. But the Padres can live with one spot start from Miguel Diaz if it means giving Gore extra time in the Minors to find a groove. They don't expect Chris Paddack's absence to linger, and both Dinelson Lamet and Ryan Weathers returned to the mound Tuesday. There's certainly a scenario in which injuries prompt Gore's callup. But this wasn't it.

Who's a bigger concern right now -- Tommy Pham or Wil Myers? Do you foresee any interest in an outfield bat a la Kris Bryant/Starling Marte/Joey Gallo/Mitch Haniger at the Trade Deadline?
-- Will H.

Right now, Pham’s start is more concerning, with the caveat that he's looked much better over the past 10 days. Myers tends to go through high peaks and low valleys. Some players are just ... like that. Right now, Myers is slumping.

Pham is, too. But he's also dealt with an awful lot over the past 12 months -- from surgeries on his hamate bone and wrist, to his COVID-related absence at the start of last season, to that scary stabbing incident early in the offseason, which required more than 100 stitches.

In Spring Training, Pham said he was back to about 85 percent of himself. I'm curious what he'd say now. (The Padres haven't made him available to the media since earlier in the season.) There was some serious reason for concern earlier in the year when Pham was getting beaten regularly with fastballs in obvious fastball counts.

That said, it might be time to exhale a bit. Pham is hitting .350 over the past two weeks, and his quality of contact is clearly trending in the right direction.

As for the trade part...

How likely are the Padres to be aggressive at the Trade Deadline?
-- @buymarshon

Let's see. Last year marked the first time a Preller team was in contention at the Trade Deadline. That team's weaknesses? The front of the rotation, catcher, backup catcher, left-handed hitting and bullpen. What did Preller do? He traded for Mike Clevinger, Austin Nola, Jason Castro, Mitch Moreland, Trevor Rosenthal and Austin Adams.

The Padres won’t rush to judgement in early May. But if their righty-hitting corner-outfield bats are still a deficiency come July, well, I think we can guess what Preller might do.

Which members of the Padres' front office or coaching staff are responsible for their aggressive philosophy on stolen bases?
-- @PadresPhx

I covered this a bit over the weekend in this story about the Padres' elite base-stealing numbers. But if you want individuals to credit, well, it starts at the top.

When Preller hired Jayce Tingler two years ago, this was one of Tingler's selling points. He felt there were games to be won with aggression on the basepaths -- particularly because the rest of the league was trending in the opposite direction.

“Baserunning,” Tingler reiterated again on Wednesday, “has been undervalued.”

As for the implementation of that aggressive approach, the credit goes to associate manager Skip Schumaker and first-base coach Wayne Kirby, who Tingler called "two of the best I've ever seen at doing it." Schumaker and Kirby incessantly watch film on opposing pitchers before each series, and they pick up tells on when the opposing pitcher might throw over to first base and when he might not.

That information is presented to the players in a digestible manner. And -- most importantly -- the Padres have smart, savvy baserunners up and down their roster who put that data into action.