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Padres prospect Liriano shines in Arizona Fall League

The SportsXchange

The Padres' future right fielder might be a year or two away from the majors.

With 21-year-old prospect Rymer Liriano possibly ready to bid for the position in 2014, San Diego could stick with a right field platoon of Chris Denorfia and Will Venable in 2013.

After a strong Arizona Fall League season, Liriano might rank second only to infielder Jedd Gyorko when it comes to the Padres' position-player prospects.

"Liriano has as much upside as anyone we have," general manager Josh Byrnes said after the right fielder was named to the AFL's Top Prospects Team. "His potential is exciting."

Liriano, who moved from high Class A Lake Elsinore to Class AA San Antonio last June about the time he was turning 21, finished the AFL campaign ranked among the top 10 in almost every offensive category.

The Padres view the Dominican Republic native as the proverbial five-tool player.

Including the Rising Stars All-Star Game (3-for-4) and the AFL championship game (3-for-3 with a walk), Liriano batted .357 (35-for-98) against AFL opposition with five doubles, four homers, 16 RBI, six steals and 25 runs. He hit .319 during the AFL regular season.

Beyond statistics, the Padres like Liriano's mental approach as well as his physical makeup (6 feet, 211 pounds).

The question now seems to be how hard the Padres will push Liriano. Does he start the 2013 season at Class AAA Tucson, or will he return to Class AA?

Gyorko returned to San Antonio to start the 2012 season after he won the 2011 AFL batting title with a .437 mark -- and Gyorko was 23 at the time. Gyorko advanced to Class AAA at the middle of last season and now stands to get a shot at becoming the Padres' second baseman next spring.

Could Liriano follow a similar course?

"We'll see," Byrnes said. "We don't have a problem with starting him back at Double-A just to make sure he's ready."

Liriano also has a history of slow starts to every season and every new level.

"I don't know why that has happened," Liriano said of his slow starts. "Maybe we can talk about my finishes."

Liriano hit .298 in the first 74 games of the 2012 season with Lake Elsinore. He had 22 doubles, two triples, five homers and 22 steals when he was promoted. At San Antonio, Liriano hit .251 with three homers, 20 RBI and 10 steals in 53 games.

Liriano was planning to play winter ball when the Padres diverted him to the AFL.

"This is a big step for me," Liriano said of the AFL. "These are some of the best pitchers I've faced. I needed to work on some things like hitting the breaking ball, and I've seen a lot of good breaking balls and off-speed pitches here."
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