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.