Luis Urias and Josh Naylor have both excelled early in their careers despite being younger players in older, more advanced leagues. So perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that the two 20-year-old standouts, after playing the second half of the regular season as teammates at Double-A San Antonio, have
Luis Urias and Josh Naylor have both excelled early in their careers despite being younger players in older, more advanced leagues. So perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that the two 20-year-old standouts, after playing the second half of the regular season as teammates at Double-A San Antonio, have gotten off to hot starts in the Arizona Fall League.
Urias, San Diego's No. 3 prospect (No. 44 overall), made the most of his first week in the Fall League by posting a .364 average and recording as many walks as hits (four) in his first four games for the Peoria Javelinas. Naylor (No. 10) also batted .364, albeit with two home runs and six RBIs in six games.
The duo's impressive showing at the plate comes on the heels of a regular season in which they both took a step closer towards reaching the Major Leagues while logging invaluable experience at the Double-A level.
Assigned to San Antonio to open the season, Urias, just 19 on Opening Day, made a seamless transition to the Texas League on both sides of the ball, showing his usual blend of plus hitting ability and plate discipline while also proving adept in his first stint as an everyday shortstop.
"You're seeing better pitchers in Double-A," said Urias. "They know you better and make adjustments faster than A-ball guys. But it's the same -- everything's the same in baseball."
In 118 regular-season games with the Missions, Urias slashed .296/.398/.380 with 27 extra-base hits and 77 runs scored. What's more, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound right-handed hitter accrued more walks (68) than he did strikeouts (65) for the fourth time in as many seasons.
"Honestly, I have no idea," said Urias about the origins of his highly advanced and mature approach. "I just try to go to the plate and compete. I try to recognize every pitch and swing at good pitches to hit."
Defensively, Urias, primarily a second baseman during his first three seasons, saw nearly even time between both middle infield positions in his first Double-A campaign, logging 60 games as a shortstop compared to 55 at the keystone.
"I'm comfortable playing both," he noted, "but I think playing second base is easier for me. At second base I feel more confident."
Naylor, meanwhile, joined Urias in San Antonio during the second week of July following a strong first half in the California League that included a selection to his second straight SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. The left-handed hitting first baseman was challenged in his first Double-A exposure, however, ultimately posting a .250/.320/.346 line with two home runs over 42 games.
"It's a world where you don't know what's going to happen," said Naylor, "so you just have to keep playing and hope for the best eventually. But that was one of my goals this year, to make it up to Double-A."
Selected 12th overall by Miami in the 2015 Draft only to then be shipped to San Diego at the Trade Deadline the following year as part of an eight-player trade, Naylor began his first full season in the Padres' system with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, where he batted .297/.361/.452 with eight home runs in 72 games to earn a mid-season promotion.
Though Naylor would finish the season with 10 home runs, two short of tying his career high, the Ontario native did make strides with his overall hitting ability, posting a .280 average in 114 games between two levels after batting .264 in his full-season debut. Perhaps more important, Naylor demonstrated improved plate discipline in the form of an 8.8 percent walk rate, up from 4.9 percent the previous year.
The gains made by Naylor early in his career suggest that the first baseman's plus raw power will eventually begin to show more consistently during games. For now, however, he continues to identify himself as more of a pure hitter than a slugger.
"I don't really try to hit for power all the time. When I get it, I get it, but I just try to spray the ball around the field," said Naylor.
"There are spots for me to pick and choose whether I try to pull the ball," he continued, "but I try not to, because when I try to hit bombs, I really pull off the baseball. So I just try to go for doubles, balls in the gap. That's just me."
Padres hitters in the Fall League
Javier Guerra, SS -- A Top 100 prospect heading into 2016, Guerra's stock plummeted last season with his dismal performance in the hitter-friendly California League (.202/.264/.325). The toolsy 22-year-old shortstop endured similar struggles this past season (.222/.266/.349), though he did manage to reach Double-A for the first time in July.
Franmil Reyes, OF -- A member of Peoria's taxi squad, Reyes is coming off of arguably the best offensive season of his career. In his first taste of the Double-A level, the 22-year-old outfielder paced the Texas League with 25 home runs and 235 total bases and finished second with 102 RBIs.
Padres pitchers in the Fall League
David Bednar, RHP -- A 35th-round pick in 2016 out of Lafayette College, Bednar split the season between Class A Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, posting a 2.64 ERA and 11 saves while appearing in 45 games between the two stops. The 23-year-old right-hander held opposing hitters to a .203 clip and two home runs while compiling 81 strikeouts and 20 walks in 61 1/3 innings.
Jerry Keel, LHP -- A member of Peoria's taxi squad, Keel, a 6-foot-6 left-hander, pitched at three different levels including Double-A for a second straight year. He fared better this time around, combining for a 3.41 ERA with a 124-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio while logging a career-high 126 2/3 innings (23 games/19 starts).
Walker Lockett, RHP -- The 2012 fourth-rounder likely would have made his big league debut in 2017 if not for a back injury that landed him on the disabled list in early June for nearly two-and-a-half months. When healthy, the 23-year-old right-hander shows good feel for a three-pitch mix including a heavy, sinking fastball in the low 90s.
Andres Munoz, RHP -- The youngest player in this year's Fall League at age 18, Munoz also has one of the circuit's best arms. The 6-foot-2, 165-pounder can hit triple digits with his fastball and consistently operates in the upper 90s. That elite velocity, along with the fact that he has just three career appearances at a full-season level, make the young flamethrower a name to follow closely in the AFL.
T.J. Weir, RHP -- Weir, 26, boosted his prospect stock with a breakout 2017 campaign, most of which he spent in Double-A. Pitching in his fourth professional season, the right-hander registered a 2.09 ERA with 77 strikeouts and 20 walks in 77 1/3 innings.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.