September 22: The Padres have now made it official, announcing they have selected Espada’s contract. Righty Nick Hernandez was optioned to open an active roster spot while Hill was transferred to the 60-day to open a 40-man spot.
September 21: The Padres will promote right-hander Jose Espada to the majors, according to an announcement from the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen. The pitcher confirmed the news in a Spanish-language interview with Antolín Ríos of El Nuevo Día. The Padres have a full 40-man roster but a number of players (e.g. Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Tim Hill) who are out for the season and can be transferred to the 60-day injured list.
Espada, 26, gets to the majors more than eight years after entering the professional ranks. The Blue Jays selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of an academy in Puerto Rico. The 6’0″ hurler would spend four-plus seasons in the Toronto system without getting past Low-A. He went to the Red Sox in the minor league Rule 5 draft, topping out at High-A in two years there.
After qualifying for minor league free agency, Espada signed with the Milkmen. He made eight starts in the independent ranks before getting back to affiliated ball on a minor league pact with the Padres. Espada tossed 40 innings of 4.05 ERA ball in High-A down the stretch last season and held his spot with San Diego into 2023.
Espada has divided this year between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso. Working mostly as a long reliever, he has put together a sub-3.00 ERA showing at both spots in a breakout season. Between the two affiliates, he’s allowing 2.81 earned runs per nine across 83 1/3 frames. Espada has punched out an excellent 31.4% of opposing hitters against a lofty 12.6% walk percentage.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote in July that Espada can miss bats with both his curveball and changeup but has below-average fastball velocity. After a winding road between three organizations and indie ball, he’ll get his first look on a big league staff. Espada can work multiple innings out of the bullpen for manager Bob Melvin.