Sardinas, Rondon lead Padres' possibilities at SS

Position is packed with much younger prospects

Sardinas, Rondon lead Padres' possibilities at SS

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

The Padres have six potential shortstops ranked among their Top 30 Prospects, including two -- Luis Almanzar and Gabriel Arias -- who were signed during last summer's international signing period.

But only one of the six, Jose Rondon, is close to being Major League ready.

Which raises the question of who plays shortstop for the Padres this season. The position has become something of a revolving door of mediocrity -- or worse -- since Khalil Greene departed after the 2008 season, although Everth Cabrera was the Padres' representative in the '13 All-Star Game.

The starting shortstop on Opening Day of the 2017 season will be the Padres' fourth in as many seasons and seventh in the last decade. And the leading candidates at the moment -- Luis Sardinas and Rondon -- are seen as little more than caretakers until a better prospect develops or the Padres acquire another shortstop.

Both the switch-hitting Sardinas and Rondon appeared at shortstop for the Padres last season after the club parted ways in September with one-year fix Alexei Ramirez.

Neither Sardinas or Rondon wowed the Padres. But off their late-season cameos, the 23-year-old Sardinas would appear to have the inside track if the Padres stand pat at shortstop.

Acquired from Seattle last Aug. 15, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Sardinas was promoted to the Padres from Triple-A El Paso a week later. In 34 games with the Padres, Sardinas hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage. He had six doubles, a triple and two homers for 13 RBIs and 13 runs scored.

Offensively, Sardiñas' numbers with the Padres were above his career averages. Defensively, he did not play as well for the Padres as he had elsewhere, although his range at short was far superior to Ramirez.

Fellow Venezuelan Rondon, 22, had actually been given the chance to take over at shortstop before the Padres acquired Sardinas. Rondon hit only .120 (3-for-25) with one walk and appeared unsettled in seven games at short.

But Rondon, regarded last summer as the Padres' 12th-best prospect, has had a strong winter, hitting .279 in Venezuela, to rebuild his case. The right-handed hitter was acquired by the Padres on July 18, 2014, from the Angels as part of the package received in the trade for closer Huston Street.

One of the issues further complicating the Padres' shortstop situation was the terrible season experienced by 21-year-old Javier Guerra at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore last season. Guerra -- along with center fielder Manuel Margot, second baseman Carlos Asuaje and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen -- was one of four prospects the Padres received from Boston on Nov. 13, 2015, for closer Craig Kimbrel. At the time, Guerra was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Padres' system.

But the 5-foot-11, 155-pound Panamanian hit just .202 for the Storm with nine homers and 41 RBIs in 105 games while committing 30 errors. He finished the season on the disabled list. Guerra still ranks among the Padres' top prospects, but he is no longer on the fast track with expectations of reaching the Major Leagues by the end of the 2017 season.

Almanzar, from the Dominican Republic, was ranked the No. 2 prospect available on the international market last summer. Arias, from Venezuela, was ranked No. 3. However, they are both five years away. The Padres also signed 15th-ranked Jordy Barley of the Dominican Republic during the international signing period.

In addition to last year's three international signees, plus Rondon and Guerra, the Padres have two other shortstops ranked among their Top 30 Prospects -- Luis Urias (No. 11) and Ruddy Giron (No. 24) -- plus first-round Draft pick Hudson Potts (24th overall) and 17-year-old Fernando Tatis (acquired from the Chicago White Sox in June in the James Shields trade).

However, Urias, who was the California League's Most Valuable Player plus Rookie of the Year last season at the age of 19, might be better suited to second base. The same might be true for Potts and Tatis.

Potts hit a combined .280 last summer with a .338 on-base percentage the Arizona Rookie Padres and short-season Single-A Tri-City. He had 12 doubles, three triples and a homer for 27 RBIs and 42 runs scored in 59 games.

Tatis hit .273 combined with the same two teams with 17 doubles, three triples and four homers with 25 RBIs and 39 runs scored in 59 games.

Giron, like Guerra, struggled for most of last year. Returning to Fort Wayne as a 19-year-old, Giron hit only .222 with a .284 on-base percentage with two homers where he hit .285 with nine homers in 2015 as an 18-year-old phenom. But promoted to replace Guerra at the end of the Lake Elsinore season, Giron hit .426 in the season's final 14 games.

Kelvin Melean, who turned 18 last Sept. 5, hit .291 in 49 games in the Dominican Summer League. Plus, he drew 27 walks for a .401 on-base percentage.