Padres rewarded for sticking with slow-starting Brad Hawpe

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Brad Hawpe had the worst season of his career in 2010, signed a one-year deal with San Diego as a free agent, and hit just .098 through 18 games, at which point there was speculation about when the Padres would drop him and perhaps even call up top prospect Anthony Rizzo ahead of schedule.

Instead the Padres stuck with Hawpe as their primary first baseman and he’s responded by hitting .365 with a .984 OPS in 18 games dating back to mid-April. His overall numbers still aren’t pretty, but Hawpe has bought himself some more time in the lineup despite Rizzo hitting .374 with huge power at Triple-A.

Hawpe credited manager Bud Black for sticking with him, telling Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune:

Bud is a classy manager. He looks at the big picture. He didn’t hit the panic button when we were struggling early. He played the game. He understands it’s 162 games.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Hawpe is merely giving the Padres decent production come, say, July, because keeping Rizzo at Triple-A all season when he’s destroying the competition there seems unlikely. Hawpe could have a little trade value to contenders looking for cheap lineup help and he also has plenty of experience in the outfield corners, where Ryan Ludwick and Will Venable have both struggled.

Nationals promote 19-year-old prospect Juan Soto

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The Nationals recalled 19-year-old outfield prospect Juan Soto from Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday, per a team announcement. Soto is poised to become the youngest player in the league once he makes his official debut with the club, and the Nationals’ first teenager to enter the majors since Bryce Harper made his first appearance back in 2012.

Entering the 2018 season, Soto was ranked no. 2 in the Nationals’ system and 15th overall. He’s certainly lived up to the hype during his first two years of pro ball, blazing through Single-A, High-A and Double-A levels in 2018 alone. While he logged just eight games at the Double-A level prior to his promotion to the majors, he proved consistent across all three levels this spring and slashed a cumulative .362/.462/.757 with 14 home runs and a 1.218 OPS in 182 plate appearances.

It’s not entirely clear how soon or in what capacity the Nationals will utilize their youngest player, but Soto’s tear through the minors is sure to pave the road for a few opportunities on the big-league level. He’ll be available off the bench for Sunday’s series finale against the Dodgers.