Kevin Padlo was acquired along with OF Corey Dickerson in the recent trade that sent pitchers Jake McGee and German Marquez to the Rockies, and immediately joining the conversation for the top-20 Rays prospects.
Acquiring Padlo at the age of 19 improves the team's long-term hitting prospects while adding yet more organizational depth at third base.
Padlo started 2015 in Asheville, Colorado's Class-A affiliate, and struggled. He hit .145/.273/.277 with a wRC+ of 64 in 27 games. Padlo had only played in the Pioneer League (rookie league) before last season; the rapid move to A ball may have been too aggressive.
He was sent back to extended spring training and joined short-season Boise when the Northwest League started play. There it was a much different story for Padlo, as he slashed .294/.404/.502 (wRC+ 159) with 9 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 70 games. Baseball America ended up ranking him as the No. 10 prospect in the Northwest League after the season.
At 2.9 years younger than the average Northwest League player, Padlo's performance last year was especially impressive.
Padlo may still have work to do on his fielding, committing 13 errors in his 84 games at third base in 2015. Regardless, Jeff Aberle of Purple Row states, "Padlo has regularly shown off high-end athleticism and a strong arm at third base. He has the raw skills but will need to make some adjustments a la Nolan Arenado (he is similarly built) in order to turn that side of his game into a true weapon."
At the plate, Padlo has a swing that Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus calls "high-effort" but which also creates "above-average" power. Padlo showed that power with nine home runs over the season in the Boise. However, he can struggle with secondary pitches because of that high-effort swing. This leads to low contact rates, limiting Padlo's hit tool.
On the other hand, Padlo's minor-league career walk rate is 14.9%, which is high, especially for a player who turned 19 in July. Padlo shows above-average plate discipline; it's hitting the secondary pitches that causes him to struggle.
Here is what our friends at Purple Row had to say about Padlo on his way out the door:
Padlo, a fifth round draft pick out of southern California in 2014, was pegged for a similar career trajectory as Nolan Arenado and Ryan McMahon before him: have a monster year at rookie-level Grand Junction (Padlo did that), get bumped a level and skip short-season ball (Padlo did that), and hit the ground running at Low-A Asheville the next year.
Padlo did not do that. The 19-year-old went just 12-for-83 (.145) in his first six weeks with the Tourists to begin 2015, and was quickly demoted back to the Boise Hawks. To his credit, Padlo crushed the ball in Boise, slashing .294/.404/.502 with 22 doubles, 9 home runs, 33 stolen bases, and 45 walks in 70 games. He earned himself nods as a midseason and postseason All Star in the Northwest League, along side an award as a short-season All Star from Baseball America. For a kid who's not yet 20, that's a great place to be right now.
But for the Rockies, who saw Arenado and McMahon both successfully adjust to Low-A quickly, Padlo's development stunt may have pushed him back in the organization. Couple that with top prospect third baseman Tyler Nevin who now may make that same jump to Asheville this coming summer, and perhaps the Rockies felt like this was the time to move Padlo if he wasn't needed in the organization.
That doesn't mean he's a bad player; far from it, in fact. He has speed, plays an athletic game, and has proven a very good eye at the plate for such a young hitter. All those attributes are things the Rockies need; they just need pitching more. If we evaluate Thursday's trade as two deals in one, in a way, Dickerson for McGee, and Padlo for Marquez, it's a smart move on the Rockies' part to add a starting pitcher rather than keeping what in all likelihood would have been a redundant third baseman. Nevertheless, best of luck to Padlo, a true class act, with the Rays' organization.
Padlo is at too early a point in his career to project accurately. A lot of adjustments need to be made on defense and at the plate. However, the above average power and strong plate discipline are both solid tools on which to build a career.