Heading into Saturday’s interleague matchup with the Texas Rangers, the San Diego Padres were off to a 5-3 start, just a game behind the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
The team’s winning record can largely be attributed to some great pitching.
IT HAS HAPPENED ‼️
JOE MUSGROVE HAS THROWN THE FIRST NO-HITTER IN PADRES HISTORY 🙌 pic.twitter.com/zCWHtlG5Pk
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 10, 2021
Before exploding for 14 hits and seven runs on Saturday night, the Padres offense had been underwhelming.
The absence of Fernando Tatis Jr., for more than one-third of the schedule is a big reason, but that doesn’t explain why a team with so much talent struggled to scratch out only 30 runs over the eight games played prior to Saturday’s breakout.
If they’re going to unseat the Boys in Blue 121 miles up I-5, the Padres have to be able to put crooked digits on the board. LA is second in the NL in runs scored and San Diego likely won’t have a 1.73 team ERA come September.
A big problem for San Diego has been the play of centerfielder Tommy Pham. Playing in all nine games so far, he ranks last or next to last on the team in batting average, on base percentage, runs, hits, and RBIs. He hit into two key double plays on Saturday
Let’s put it like this…He’s neither batting nor pulling his weight right now.
The solution to the Padres’ woes may be a 19-year old who doesn’t have 50 minor league games to his name yet.
Currently working at San Diego’s Alternate Training Site, CJ Abrams is one of the top prospects in baseball for a reason. He came into the season ranked ahead of rookie standout Ke’Bryan Hayes by MLB.com because of his “elite blend of athleticism, speed, and pure hitting ability.”
CJ Abrams with his best Tatis Jr impersonation pic.twitter.com/ymmKqqladt
— MadFriars (@madfriars) October 2, 2019
Speed? Okay, let’s pause for a moment on this one. Abrams has an 80 grade for speed from scouts. It doesn’t get any better than that.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 2, 2021
And yes, he can hit too. At 6’2” and 185 pounds, Abrams hasn’t filled out yet, but he can produce some pop.
CJ Abrams, welcome to Slam Diego! pic.twitter.com/s9hWKEbpv2
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 15, 2021
In 32 games of rookie league ball in 2019, he batted a mere .401 with 23 extra-base hits while grabbing 14 stolen bases. After spending the 2020 season at the alternate site, he showed up and showed out during Spring Training; outplaying some of the veterans who made the Opening Day roster.
“Playing against the higher level, you’re obviously going to get better faster,” Abrams said this Spring. “It’s just a lot of fun playing against good competition.”
Check. Check. Check.
Though he was drafted as a shortstop, Abrams has spent time at second base and in the outfield. With his ability to cover ground, his strong arm, and solid veterans surrounding him, it shouldn’t take long for CJ to make the adjustment.
“We think he’s a shortstop,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “The development of that — what we believe is that shortstops can play other positions.”
So, it already appears that San Diego has some alternate plans for Abrams. With Tatis locked in for the next 14 years, it’s not likely that there will be a hole at short anytime soon.
But there is one in centerfield, right now. If it gets too much larger, CJ Abrams could be a full-time big league bro very soon.