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Padres see a lot to like in top prospect CJ Abrams

March 31, 2022 GMT
C.J. Abrams (87) is caught stealing by Chicago Cubs' Sergio Alcantara during the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
C.J. Abrams (87) is caught stealing by Chicago Cubs' Sergio Alcantara during the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
C.J. Abrams (87) is caught stealing by Chicago Cubs' Sergio Alcantara during the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
C.J. Abrams (87) is caught stealing by Chicago Cubs' Sergio Alcantara during the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
C.J. Abrams (87) is caught stealing by Chicago Cubs' Sergio Alcantara during the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Shortstop CJ Abrams has used extended playing time this spring to display the tools that made him San Diego’s first-round choice in the 2019 draft.

It might just pay off with a spot on the opening day roster.

The Padres have already said they plan to use Kim Ha-seong to fill in for superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who is expected to be out until at least mid-June due to a broken left wrist.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t have a spot for Abrams.

The 21-year-old Abrams hit home runs on consecutive days on the first weekend of spring training games and was hitting .304 with an .899 OPS in his first 23 at-bats.

He has often hit in the leadoff spot, and he has played both his primary position at shortstop and at second base. The Padres also are considering giving Abrams some reps in the outfield as spring winds down because of their glaring lack of depth there.

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“He does a little bit of everything is what he does,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The more we see of CJ, the more we like him. Very athletic. Probably isn’t anything he couldn’t do. It’s nice to be able to get him some reps here and see what he can do.”

Kim has been tapped as Tatis’ presumptive replacement after playing three infield positions last season. He also started spring well, with six hits in his first 15 at-bats, including a double and a stolen base.

Abrams’ limited experience — 348 plate appearances — could persuade the Padres that development rather than immediate immersion is the better long-term route.

An injury set Abrams back in 2021. He missed the second half of the season at Double-A San Antonio after suffering a fractured tibia when he collided with a teammate as they attempted to field a ground ball up the middle.

At the same time, San Diego has not been hesitant to promote top young talent. Tatis was 20 when he made his major league debut in 2019, making the team out of spring training.

Melvin acknowledged the fine line the Padres walk.

“There may be a need,” Melvin said of keeping Abrams on the opening day roster. “There may be a need for development. That’s what we are trying to get a handle on during spring.”

Whatever happens, Padres veterans have seen a lot to like in Abrams, who spent time with the major league players during the 2020 summer camp.

“He’s going about his business the right way, he really is. Getting here early. Putting his work in,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “A lot of young players when they come up here they are kind of shy, kind of timid, But he is soaking in all the information. He’s really listening. He’s performing. He’s a strong guy. He definitely does have pop.”

Abrams made his presence felt early. He had two hits, including a two-run homer, during his second start of the spring on March 19.

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As a pinch-hitter on a blustery afternoon the following day, the left-handed hitter lined a home run to left field.

“I feel I’m ready,” Abrams said after his first homer. “This camp is an opportunity to get better, show what I have. Wherever I’m needed, I can play. All back healthy. Ready to go.”

Abrams appears just as long on confidence, a trait Melvin has noticed and appreciates.

“There is a lot of ability, but there is a lot of desire in him,” Melvin said. “He is very, very confident at a young age. That might be his best attribute, how confident he is as a player.”