With just over five weeks until the trade deadline, the San Diego Padres remain in the wild-card race. Over the coming month, the Padres will have to weigh dipping into arguably the game's best farm system in order to make outside additions for the stretch run. But the Padres don't necessarily have to make a trade if they want to leverage their prospect war chest and upgrade their roster at the same time.
Rather, the Padres could accomplish both goals by promoting infielder Luis Urias -- who, along with MacKenzie Gore, is one of two perceived "untouchables" in the San Diego system, per rival executives.
Urias may have struggled in an 11-game stint earlier this season, but he's dominated in Triple-A. He entered the week hitting .338/.425/.658 with 17 home runs in 57 games. Keep in mind, the 5-foot-9 Urias had 17 home runs in his first 400-plus games as a professional. What's spurred the change?
One league source confirmed to CBS Sports that Urias has upped his launch angle this season. That statement jives with public data available at FanGraphs, that shows his ground ball rate has decreased from 49.1 percent last year to 36.2 percent this season. Urias has seemingly altered his approach, but it hasn't impacted his plate discipline measures: his walk rate is slightly down (to 11.3 percent) while his strikeout rate has improved (one percentage point).
Whether or not Urias's newfound power translates to the majors is to be determined. If so, he could be the latest of a player type who has benefitted from the juiced ball. As Jarrett Seidler of Baseball Prospectus has pointed out, a lot of the "breakout" types have been players with well-above-average hit tools who added loft to their swings.
Urias, who for years has been expected to content for a batting title and offer below-average power, might well add his name to the collection. First, though, the Padres need to give him a shot. Given the way Urias is hitting -- and the way Ian Kinsler is playing in the majors -- it may not be much longer before San Diego has the most exciting double-play combo in the game.
For a look at which prospects you should be targeting in fantasy baseball, check out our colleague Scott White's take.
Now, let's get to the Watch.
|Daulton Varsho doesn't necessarily project to have a plus tool, but his well-rounded nature and his proximity to the majors makes him one of the top catching prospects in baseball. He's sporting a .760 OPS in Double-A.|
|Cristian Pache update: He's hitting .297/.356/.510 in Double-A. Oh, by the way, he's a well-above-average baserunner and center fielder. If you're looking for Altanta's next homegrown star, Pache is a good choice.|
|The No. 11 pick in the 2018 draft, Grayson Rodriguez is up to 72 strikeouts in 52 innings of A-ball. He's permitted two home runs. |
|Alex Scherff lacks a an above-average breaking ball to go with his quality fastball-changeup combination. If he can find one -- and Lord knows Brian Bannister might be the one to help him in that pursuit -- he could stick in a big-league rotation someday.|
|Dakota Mekkes is purely a reliever and won't make the impact Adbert Alzolay did last week, but he's a big lad with a big arm -- and he could join Chicago's bullpen before the season is out.|
|Chicago's other team has a young starter who could make his own debut sooner than later: Dylan Cease, a former Cubs farmhand with the chance for two well-above-average chances.|
|Scott Moss is holding his own in Double-A. He's a lanky lefty with a crossfire delivery and lower arm slot. He doesn't have a plus offering, but might be able to hang on as a back-end starter anyway.|
|Quick-moving relief prospect Nick Sandlin is stationed in Triple-A. He's struggled in his first handful of appearances, but ought to debut in the majors before the year ends.|
|A-ball shortstop Terrin Vavra is having a terrific season, hitting .329/.408/.522. He lacks impact-level tools, but could turn into a starter-caliber player at some infield position. |
|It does not appear that former first-round pick Derek Hill is going to salvage his career -- at least not this year, anyway.|
|Houston's third-rounder in 2018, shortstop Jeremy Pena is known primarily for his glove. So far in A-ball, he's hitting .294/.389/.413 with 16 steals.|
|The Royals took a number of collegiate pitchers early in the 2018 draft, including Austin Cox. He's since shown four average or better pitches and has had little trouble with low-minor hitters.|
|Right-hander Kyle Bradish has been a highlight in high-A. He has an over-the-top release point and could have multiple average or better offerings before his development is finished.|
|Will Smith's big-league career is off to a lovely start. Believe it or not, the Dodgers have a catching prospect most scouts consider superior to Smith, in 20-year-old Keibert Ruiz.|
|The good: Sixto Sanchez has struck out nearly a batter per inning in Double-A. The bad: he's also yielded more than a hit per inning.|
|Trey Supak ought to be on his way to Triple-A sooner than later. He has a 2.27 ERA in 15 starts.|
|Griffin Jax had his professional career postponed due to his Air Force commitments, but in 10 starts in Double-A he's sporting a 1.92 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio exceeding 3.00. |
|Ali Sanchez has a good mitt and arm. His upside is as a backup catcher.|
|Teenager outfielder Everson Pereira can run and throw. If he can hit, he has the secondary skills to become a starter some day.|
|One name to keep in mind heading forward: Brian Howard. He's a 6-foot-9 right-hander who could pitch at the back of a rotation thanks to his well-rounded arsenal.|
|Adonis Medina, the top pitching prospect in the system, doesn't have the kind of strikeout rate you'd expect from someone with his stuff.|
|With Josh Bell's emergence, Will Craig must continue to hold out hope he'll be moved in a trade to an organization with whom he'll have a clearer path to a big-league gig.|
|As mentioned in the intro, Luis Urias has been a force of nature in Triple-A and should return to the majors soon.|
|Acquired in last year's Andrew McCutchen trade, infielder Abiatal Avelino has a swing-happy approach and lacks punch. Nonetheless, he can run and play multiple positions, making him a future utility option.|
|The Mariners' first-round pick in 2018, Logan Gilbert is breezing through another level. He has a 2.40 ERA in eight High-A starts.|
|Connor Jones is basically the Cardinals' version of Dillon Maples. He's struck out 23 and walked 20 in 21 ⅔ innings at Double-A. |
|Don't be surprised if the Rays move second-base prospect Nick Solak over the coming weeks. He has a good bat, but is a below-average defender who may end up in left field.|
|Ronny Henriquez is a name to write down. He's a little right-hander with a lively fastball. |
|Teenage catcher Gabriel Moreno has shown promise as a hitter and defender. He's years away from the Show, but may develop into a starter in due time.|
|Ben Braymer is dominating Double-A. He needs to make progress with his changeup to remain a starter over the long haul.|