SAN DIEGO—Most analysts agree that righthander Anderson Espinoza is the top Padres prospect heading into the season.
The Padres traded their ace, lefthander Drew Pomeranz, to get Espinoza from the Red Sox last July.
The 19-year-old Espinoza may still be a teenager, but he will spend this year in the high Class A California League, perhaps as soon as the season’s first series.
“Anderson has made a very strong impression on and off the field since joining the organization,” farm director Sam Geaney said. “He checks a lot of important boxes as a player and a person. He’s got a full year ahead of him in 2017, and preparing for all that goes with that is a huge priority for the next two months.”
Espinoza said in September that he’s comfortable with the expectations generated by his mid-90s fastball, fluid delivery and promising secondary pitches.
“One thing I’d tell the fans of San Diego: Being the No. 1 prospect, that just motivates me to work even harder to be part of that success that’s coming soon,” Espinoza said last September, per the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The Red Sox signed Espinoza out of Venezuela in 2014. A year later, at age 17, his fastball reached 100 mph. It wasn’t long before the hype train accelerated.
“Anderson Espinoza evokes memories of a young Pedro Martinez,” read a Boston Globe headline in September 2015.
The Hall of Famer Martinez befriended Espinoza, who at 6 feet is similar in height.
“At first, I told people they were crazy to compare a 17-year-old to a Hall of Famer,” Espinoza said. “But Pedro’s been great. He’s given me a lot of advice and tutelage.”
At two low Class A stops last year—Greenville and Fort Wayne—Espinoza logged 108.1 innings and recorded a 4.49 ERA. He struck out 8.3 and walked 2.9 per nine innings.
• Participants in big league camp include several pitchers who aren’t on the 40-man roster: righthanders Dinelson Lamet, Michael Kelly, Jason Jester and Phil Maton and lefthanders Kyle McGrath and Brad Wieck.
• The competition at shortstop will include former Angels regular Erick Aybar, 33, who signed a minor league deal.
— Tom Krasovic is a columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune