Here is a look at the 2020 San Diego Padres outfield.
The 2019 offseason has been a busy one for A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres.
There have been three trades, and two of those trades involved outfielders.
Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham were brought in likely because of their ability to get on base. The Padres have an overflow of outfielders on the 40-man roster, and something must be done eventually. Let’s take a look at the group and determine if there are improvements that can be made.
Coming via trade from Tampa Bay, Tommy Pham was an absolute steal from the Rays. He plays good defense and gets on base consistently. The right-handed hitter owns a career .373 OBP and .844 OPS. He brings excellent plate discipline, doesn’t chase out of the zone, and punishes mistakes. Pham will be one of the Padres’ best hitters.
What the numbers don’t tell you is what Pham brings off the field. He’s a born leader that has been through trials and tribulations in his life that have made him mentally strong, as well as a gifted ballplayer. Pham will be a clubhouse leader and bring a winning mentality to the team. The 31-year-old should be locked in left field and will bat high in the order, likely second. Unfortunately, he’s one of the only locks in the outfield.
Due to his contract, if he’s still on the team, Wil Myers will likely start most games to open the year. Earning $20 million and sitting on the bench is something no GM or manager wants to see, so Myers should get every opportunity to start this year in the lineup. He does have the potential to be a 30-home run and 20 stolen base threat, but has yet to put it all together at the plate consistently. The lanky Myers also struggles at times in the outfield, especially in center field. He has all the tools required to play the position, but again, hasn’t been able to put it all together consistently. The new coaching staff will be tasked with unlocking whatever it is that is keeping Myers from reaching his full potential. A.J. Preller has been shopping him around this offseason. For now, Wil Myers is still a Padre and should bat in the sixth or seventh spot.
The only true center fielder on the roster is Manuel Margot. Although most of the other outfielders can play in center, none of them can match the defensive prowess of Margot. He became more comfortable defending around the wall, stealing hits from opposing batters. The speedy outfielder improved his base running, swiping 20 of 24 bases this past season. The issue with Margot is his batting. Since his breakout rookie campaign in 2017, Margot’s numbers have declined. Last season was his worst full season as he recorded a .234 batting average and an OBP of .304. If Margot can improve his on-base ability to around .350-.400, he would be a solid player. According to Fangraphs, he had 1.8 WAR last season, and if he could raise his OBP, he could be a three-plus WAR player. Unfortunately, he is not trending in that direction. His current offensive output puts a strain on the offense. With Pham in left field and Myers in right field, Margot would seemingly fit perfectly in center field. The team may also want to move on from him due to his lack of production.
With the ability to play all three outfield positions, and the potential to get on base at a high clip, Grisham should be able to earn his way onto the opening day roster and could even be a starter. After adjusting his batting grip in 2019, Grisham was able to have a breakout season and earn himself a call up with the Brewers. His batting average was only .231, but his OBP was .328, showing he had plate discipline. If Grisham can gain consistency at the plate, he could lock down one of the outfield spots for years to come. The left-handed hitter could start the season as the fourth outfielder, platoon with Margot in center, or even start opening day in right field.
If he could only stay healthy, Franchy Cordero could solve a lot of issues for the Padres. The Dominican can hit for power, bats left-handed, and is quick. He is currently playing for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League and has been scorching hot at the plate with an OPS above 1.100. More importantly, he has shown improved plate discipline and has an OBP over .500. He has generally played in center field but has struggled defensively at times with the Padres at that position. If he were moved to right field, he could focus on hitting and not be such a hindrance on defense. He could also theoretically be used strictly as a pinch hitter to try and keep him healthy. This is something the team would love to be able to work out, but depending on Cordero to stay healthy may not be the best idea for the Padres in 2020.
The former first baseman turned outfielder; Josh Naylor is also an option. His bat skills are undeniable. Naylor has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order run producer on a championship level team. Last season was a typical inconsistent rookie year, where he batted .249 and slugged .403. He did flash tons of potential at the plate, but his defense left a lot to be desired. Naylor mostly played left field, and his inexperience showed often. This offseason, he played 22 games in the outfield for Escogido. Naylor is clearly putting in the work to improve his game, but will it be enough to crack the 26-man roster? He may be more valuable in a trade to a team that needs a first baseman or a designated hitter.
These six players are likely vying for five opening day roster spots. It’s a talented group, but there is only one legitimate everyday player in Pham. There is a lot of untapped potential in Grisham and Naylor, and a healthy Cordero could produce at an exceptional level. There’s also rebound candidates in Myers and Margot, but is the team going to settle for a bunch of guys that might be or could be good?
There’s already too many of them, and Preller should be looking to move at least one of them. However, the ideal situation would be to move two of them and add one more surefire starter to the mix. A player that would solidify the lineup and leave only one platoon in the outfield. A Kris Bryant or Mookie Betts would be phenomenal, but not very realistic. According to Spotrac, the payroll is higher than it’s ever been at $155 million, and it’s not very likely Preller will be allowed to spend more.
Mitch Haniger or Starling Marte would be a good fit. Haniger would solidify right field while Margot and Grisham would fill center field. Marte could solidify center leaving Grisham and Cordero in right field. Other players could fit in similar ways. Wil Myers would need to be one of the players traded away for salary relief.
There are two other outfielders on the 40-man roster and one top prospect who is not. Any of them could contribute in the future or be traded to acquire higher-end talent for the current roster.
The return in the Yangervis Solarte trade, Edward Olivares, was added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the 2018 Rule-5 draft. Olivares has the potential to be a major leaguer but likely will not contribute to the Padres until later in the year or 2021.
A more recent addition to the 40-man roster is Jorge Ona. The international signee was also added to avoid being available in the Rule-5 draft. He is unlikely to feature in the MLB squad in 2020. Likely starting in Double-A Amarillo, Ona will look to pick up where he left off in an injury-shortened 2019 season.
One of the top prospects in the Padres’ system is recently acquired, Taylor Trammell. He is expected to start the season in the minors, and like Olivares could make his debut in late 2020 or 2021. He is expected to play center field with his outstanding defense. The only thing Trammell lacks is arm strength, but he is working on improving that. He is not on the 40-man roster, and a spot will have to be made available for him when he does make the team. This may make A.J. Preller consider bringing up Olivares first and waiting on Trammell until a spot opens on the 40-man roster.
With as many question marks throughout the outfield and the outfield depth, A.J. Preller should move two or more outfielders to make room for one more reliable player. Adding just one more bat to this lineup should be the key to getting this team from an 82-win team to a playoff team. The stability and production would take the 2020 San Diego Padres to the next level. If the Padres are serious about contending, this is a move that has to be made.