Shortstop CJ Abrams essentially had the Rookie-level Arizona League MVP honors in the bag when a shoulder injury ended his first pro summer two days into a promotion to Low-A Fort Wayne in 2019.
Drafted sixth overall in 2019 out of high school in Roswell, Ga., Abrams lost the 2020 season to the pandemic, half of 2021 to season-ending injuries to his left leg and the entirety of the Arizona Fall League to another shoulder injury.
As promising as Abrams’ future is, one thing is for certain: The Padres No. 1 prospect needs to get on the field and stay on it.
To date, the 21-year-old shortstop is a .343/.398/.529 hitter as a pro, but he has just 348 plate appearances, just 183 above Class A.
“The kid is extremely talented on both sides of the ball,” Padres farm director Ryley Westman said. “He’s a difference-maker on the bases. We’ve just got to continue to get him reps, get him game experience and then he’ll tell us where he’s at.”
Toward that end, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Abrams was finally back to full participation in baseball activity in January—first in Arizona and then at Petco Park—after a left shoulder bruise sustained while sliding into a base at instructional league barred him from playing in the AFL.
After a fractured left tibia and a sprained MCL in his knee cut Abrams’ Double-A debut short after 42 games, the Padres opted to proceed with caution.
While the Padres expect Abrams to participate in some sort of minicamp before spring training, his work has continued at home under the watchful eye of his father, who has long helped his son hone his hand-eye coordination via various contraptions.
The work this offseason has been a bit more conventional: Westman said that the Abrams family built a batting cage with a high-tech pitching machine at their home in Georgia.
Abrams’ education, via one-on-one video review and other exercises, even continued while he was limited at the team’s facilities earlier in the offseason.
The Padres hope it all pays off in 2022.
— The Padres hired former Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, the National League manager of the year in 2019, as a player development consultant. Fired after the 2021 season over “philosophical differences” with the coaching staff and front office, Shildt, 53, had interviewed for the Padres’ managerial job that went to Bob Melvin.
— The Padres also announced that former scouting director Mark Conner, now a special assistant to the general manager, would also serve as the minor league field coordinator in 2022. Chris Kemp was serving as the field coordinator before organizational restructuring put him in charge of scouting both domestic and international amateurs.