The Padres agree with right-handers Anderson Espinoza on a minor league contract, reports Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Friars have also agreed to outfielder non-roster pacts Preston Tucker and reliever Drew Carltonsays Sanders (Twitter link).
Espinoza returns to an organization where he spent half a decade. Obtained from the Red Sox in 2016 deadline sent Drew Pomeranz to Boston, Espionza was considered a possible top-level starter at the time. Baseball America named him the #1 prospect in the San Diego system the following winter. Unfortunately, a series of injuries prevented the 6’0″ pitcher from fulfilling that immense promise. Espinoza felt some pain in his elbow at the start of the 2017 season and underwent Tommy John surgery. After two years of rehabilitation, he suffered another elbow injury that required a second TJ procedure.
The successive surgeries cost him a whopping four years of playing action as he didn’t throw a single professional pitch from 2017-2020. Midway through the ’21 campaign, San Diego handed him out to the Cubs Jake Marinick. Espinoza finished the 2021 season in Double-A, but he briefly made the majors for the first time this year.
Through seven relief appearances, he worked his first 18 1/3 MLB innings. He allowed 11 runs on 14 hits and 16 walks, and his work in the minors wasn’t much better. Between Chicago’s top two affiliates, Espinoza threw to a 7.55 ERA in 70 1/3 frames. He fanned out as many as 24.6% of the opponents, but walked as many as 13.9% of the minor league batters. At the end of the year, the Cubs placed him on waivers. He went unclaimed and qualified for minor league free agency.
Espinoza is certainly no longer regarded as an elite young talent, but it can’t hurt for the Padres to roll the dice to see if he can better hone his hitting throwing now that he’s another year away from the devastating injury streak. He has yet to turn 25, despite being a known prospect for nearly a decade. The Venezuela native averaged just under 94 MPH on his fastball during his MLB work with the Cubs, relying on an 1980s breaking ball as his highest secondary pitch.
Tucker, Astros star’s older brother Kyle Tucker, is himself a former Astros outfielder. He hit .222/.281/.403 in 221 MLB games with Houston, Atlanta and Cincinnati from 2015-18. After three seasons in South Korea, Tucker returned to the US in May on a minor league deal with the Braves. The 32-year-old had quite a showing with their top partner in Gwinnett, hitting .267/.347/.426 in 75 games.
The 27-year-old Carlton made nine relief appearances with the Tigers in the past two seasons. The right-hander allowed six runs in his career 12 1/3 innings, striking out eight with four walks. The Florida State product doesn’t throw particularly hard, while his fastball is in the low 90s. However, he has shown excellent control during his minor league tenure, batting an above-average 27.3% of opponents in 58 1/3 innings this year with Detroit’s leading partner in Toledo. Owner of a 3.90 ERA in 110 2/3 innings at the top minor league level, he will presumably compete for a bullpen spot in Spring Training.