MLB.com | @AJCassavell | September 21st, 2016
SAN DIEGO -- The future is quickly becoming the present for the San Diego Padres, as the organization promoted four highly touted young hitters from Triple-A El Paso on Wednesday.
Outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot, second baseman Carlos Asuaje and catcher Austin Hedges arrived in San Diego before Wednesday's game against Arizona. So, too, did a pair of lefty relief arms in Buddy Baumann and Jose Torres.
The Padres held off on calling up some of their top prospects until the conclusion of the Triple-A playoffs, which ended Tuesday night with El Paso's 3-1 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in Memphis.
None of the four were in Wednesday's lineup, but Padres manager Andy Green expects all of them to start Thursday night against the Giants.
"They have an opportunity to become a part of our core," Green said. "I think that's the message that should be out there right now. We're hopeful that they're our core group of guys. As you think about talent arriving at this level, they're our first wave, and how they perform on this field will determine how much of the core they are, going forward."
Margot (the club's No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com), Renfroe (No. 3) and Asuaje (No. 20) will be making their Major League debuts.
Hedges, who is thought by many to be the club's catcher of the future, is no longer considered a prospect because of the service time he accrued in 2015. But he has yet to play a big league game this season. Renfroe will play exclusively right field, Green said, while Margot and Travis Jankowski will split time in the center. Torres -- whose first appearance will be his big league debut -- and Baumann provide some left-handed depth in the Padres' bullpen.
"It's an exciting time for them," Green said. "These guys, especially the ones that are coming up for the first time, they've earned this right to be here. All of them have done very well, and we're all very excited to get them."
Added Asuaje: "We keep a tight-knit group down there, and for us all to be called up at the same time, it's awesome. I think it's great for the organization as a whole."
The Padres had to clear room on the 40-man roster for Renfroe and Asuaje, who needed to be added before the Rule 5 Draft in December anyway. To do so, the club designated utility men Patrick Kivlehan and Nick Noonan for assignment.
Green confirmed that barring anything out of the ordinary, there will be no further callups this month.
The six Padres who arrived Wednesday played an integral role in El Paso's first Pacific Coast League championship. The Chihuahuas defeated the Oklahoma City Dodgers in four games, with Saturday's thrilling finale going 11 innings.
"I think it added so much value for us and gave us so much experience," Asuaje said of the playoff run. "Building a winning culture here in San Diego is what we want to do. I think it starts in the Minor Leagues and hopefully we can bring that up here to the Major Leagues."
Ranked No. 27 in MLB, the 21-year-old Margot is the most highly touted prospect to join the club this month. He batted .304/.351/.426 with 30 steals for El Paso, while drawing rave reviews on defense.
"It's a dream that you have since you were a little boy," Margot said through an interpreter. "So to be able to be here, it's a dream come true for me."
Renfroe, baseball's No. 41 overall prospect, was named the MVP of the Pacific Coast League, after batting .306/.336/.557 with 30 home runs this season.
As for Hedges, although he's no longer considered a prospect, few young catchers are thought of in such high regard. The 24-year-old batted .326/.353/.597 with 20 homers -- despite missing more than a month with a broken bone in his left hand.
"It was definitely frustrating at first when I hurt my hand," Hedges said. "… But to be able to come back and end up having a pretty good year, I was really pleased with how I bounced back and the adjustments that I made."
Asuaje took home PCL Rookie of the Year honors this season, batting .321/.378/.473. Like Margot, Asuaje was acquired from the Red Sox in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to Boston.
All four will be given the chance to win a starting job next spring. So in essence, their audition for a 2017 roster spot begins Wednesday.
"I think without a doubt they're all competing for a starting job next year," Green said. "I don't think any one of them has it in their back pocket, either. I think they're all out here; they all have something to prove. They've proved it every level they've played at, and that's why they're here. They've got to prove it here too."