The Padres originally signed Luis Urias as a 16-year-old shortstop in December 2013, when then-assistant general manager Chad MacDonald and international scouting supervisor Robert Rowley scouted him in Mexico.
Urias didn’t often play his natural position of shortstop in pro ball until the Padres made it a regular occurrence at Double-A San Antonio in 2017. That experience could pay off for the 20-year-old second baseman in 2018, because the Padres have few players in big league camp qualified to back up shortstop Freddy Galvis.
“To be honest, I wasn’t comfortable at all (playing shortstop) in the beginning,” Urias said. “I signed as a shortstop, but I didn’t have the opportunity to play (there) too much in my first years. Last year I had the opportunity to play . . . and I started to feel very comfortable.
“It will be great if I can play both.”
That’s precisely what Urias did last year, starting 59 games at shortstop and 54 at second base. He hit .296/.398/.380 with three home runs in 118 games.
Though most evaluators see Urias as a second baseman, the Padres pushed him developmentally with work on the left side of the infield. The challenge would both improve Urias’ defense at second base and add extra utility to hitter who has always performed despite his youth.
Urias won the high Class A California League batting title and MVP award at age 19 in 2016 and last year was the youngest player to open in the Texas League.
“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been one of the younger ones,” Urias said. “Honestly, I don’t really let it faze me. You’re still looking at the same types of pitches. You’re still playing the same game.
“It is still a little bit of a motivating factor for me, knowing that I have been one of the younger players in the places I’ve played. It makes me work hard and continue to strive to have success.”
Other shortstop candidates in big league camp include Allen Cordoba, a Rule 5 pick who needs more minor league seasoning; Javier Guerra, a slick fielder who hasn’t hit since arriving in the Craig Kimbrel trade; and 30-year-old journeyman Dusty Coleman.