Former Rangers Assistant GM A.J. Preller’s first major move at the Padres helm has been announced and, unsurprisingly for Jon Daniels former scouting confidant, its a prospect oriented one. San Diego is set to promote top minor league outfielder Rymer Liriano to the majors in time for Monday night’s matchup against the Rockies at Petco Park.
Liriano, 23, has been on a tear since Padres called him up to Triple-A on July 23rd. Over 16 games, San Diego’s 6th best prospect went 28 for 62 (.452 average) with 12 extra base hits, a .662 slugging percentage, and 1.182 OPS. Those numbers, though, while impressive, are heavily aided by the extreme hitter friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League, and are obviously representative of an unsustainable hot streak.
Still, the Dominican native had been enjoying a strong season at Double-A before that (.291/.362/.473, 14 home runs), meriting him the big league promotion even after less than three weeks at Triple-A.
It’s a strong return for Liriano, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Prior to that – in the winter of 2013 – MLB.com had listed him as 55th overall prospect in the game, Baseball Prospects had him at #39.
That ranking was based off of scouts’ view of Liriano as the cliched five-tool threat at the time. His arm was a sniper’s bullet in right, and he had the speed to cover ground there and steal a few bases besides. Plus bat speed foretold plus raw power, though it had yet to show itself in games, and his plate discipline, while not exceptional, was respectable for a player his age (7.8 BB%, .350 OBP in 2012).
Well the power has started to come around as evidenced by his 14 long balls in Double-A, but the power in his right arm disappeared with the Tommy John surgery. Consequently, the Padres played Liriano primarily in left field and center this season. He has the range and the offensive profile to play any of the three spots, but without his arm, he will no longer be an asset in right.
Though Liriano may struggle in his first stint in the big leagues, as many prospects – particularly those who can struggle with pitch recognition – do, he’d be hard pressed to represent a down-grade in San Diego. The Padres have the worst outfield OPS (.630) of any major league team, and the third worst Wins Above Replacement (6.7)