Padres’ top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza is set to undergo Tommy John surgery, the team confirmed Friday. Espinoza was diagnosed with forearm tightness in early April and had only been throwing for a month before he was shut down again with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Per MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, Dr. Keith Meister will perform the surgery in Dallas sometime over the next week, though the club has yet to announce a specific date.
Espinoza, 19, was acquired by the Padres last July in a controversial trade for left-hander Drew Pomeranz. He entered the 2017 season ranked No. 1 in the Padres’ system (by Baseball America; Baseball Prospectus has him at No. 2 and MLB.com has him at No. 6) and was projected to be an eventual front-end starter for the club. While his timetable has been considerably pushed back, he showed promise after advancing to Single-A Fort Wayne in 2016, delivering a 4.38 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 8.5 SO/9 over 76 innings.
Without Espinoza, at least for the next year (or more), the Padres still have a deep pool of pitching prospects to draw from. MLB.com ranks left-hander Mackenzie Gore and right-hander Cal Quantrill in the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, and Bill Center points out that Quantrill has made a successful, if limited return after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. Right-hander Michel Baez and southpaws Adrian Morejon, Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi comprise the rest of the pitchers in the Padres’ top 10 prospect list, though few share Espinoza’s high ceiling.
The Mariners acquired Yankees’ right-hander Nick Rumbelow in exchange for minor league righty Juan Then and left-hander JP Sears, per an official announcement on Saturday. Rumbelow made 17 appearances for the Yankees in 2015 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and could provide some bullpen depth for the Mariners in 2018.
The 26-year-old right-hander spent the majority of his 2017 season in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he delivered an 0.62 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 over 29 innings. The Yankees didn’t rush Rumbelow into a full workload after he missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John, but he didn’t appear to have any significant setbacks with his health or performance and should be ready to compete for a role next spring.
Sears, 21, was ranked 21st in the Mariners’ organization by MLB Pipeline. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 2017 draft and features a deceptive, low-velocity fastball that he can throw for strikes to either side of the plate. In his first year of pro ball, he split 17 games between Short-Season A Everett and Single-A Clinton, turning in an 0.65 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 16.6 SO/9 across two levels.
Then, 17, also completed his first year of pro ball after signing with the Mariners as a free agent. He went 2-2 in 13 games of rookie ball, pitching to a 2.64 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 in 61 1/3 innings. Neither Sears nor Then will take the mound for the Yankees anytime soon, and offloading Rumbelow to the Mariners should clear up some room on New York’s 40-man roster as they prepare for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.