In Peoria, this spring, the San Diego Padres will have a fun competition on their hands. It is becoming clear that the team will not trade an outfielder this winter, so this unit will have a very fierce battle this spring for playing time.
Heading into this winter it seemed as though the San Diego Padres would need to trade an outfielder. The emergence of Franmil Reyes in 2018 only complicated an already crowded area which has five viable starters (Jankowski makes six) for three positions. The thought was that the team would have no trouble moving a player if the right deal came along this winter.
Apparently, that deal never happened as the Padres are headed to spring training this week with roughly the same outfield unit they had in 2018.
The Padres and their manager often preach of competition and that is exactly what the Padres’ outfield unit is headed for this spring. Only Wil Myers is out of minor league options, so any of the remaining five players may be demoted. In the end, if a trade or injury does not happen, that will be the likely scenario. But until then, expect to see a fierce battle.
Let’s review each of these men as we try to determine who will make the team when they break camp in Peoria.
Of all the players battling for playing time, Myers is a lock to make the team and most likely be in left field on Opening Day. His days at third base seem to be over, so Myers should see plenty of action at either corner outfield position. If allowed to play the outfield on a daily basis, there is no reason to believe that Myers will be a solid defender. This is his last year before a big pay raise in 2020 and the right-handed hitter could take his offensive game to the next level. An arm and oblique injury cost Myers valuable playing time in 2018 and he should be motivated to prove the naysayers wrong.
He seems like the likely choice at center field as he comes with the reputation of being a plus defender. Margot made spectacular plays last season on defense, but also looked lost and bored from time to time last season. He also regressed badly with the bat which is a concern. Hopefully, all the issues with his bat were nothing more than a sophomore jinx. The outfielder still does everything in the game well (minus power), so there is plenty of reason to be patient with him.
La Mole came on last season and immediately endeared himself to the fan base. He is a youthful energetic player with unbelievable power from the right side of the plate. His size (6-foot-5/260 lbs.) provides plenty of pop, but Reyes has the rare ability to go the other way and shorten up his swing with two strikes. He is hardly a one-trick pony and the Padres saw firsthand that he possesses the great ability to adjust. He has issues defensively but should improve in 2019.
A statcast darling, Cordero could breakout in 2019 if he is given the chance to play every day. The left-handed hitter struggled last year against southpaws but has shown (in the past) the ability to be a decent stick against left-handed pitchers. He does strike out way too much, but the ball has a different sound off his bat when he squares it up. Cordero is a converted shortstop and has struggled with route reading in center field. He has the speed and arm to play the position but will need innings on defense to improve his instincts in center.
At times last year, Renfroe was very impressive with the bat. He took his offensive game to the next level by simply having better strike recognition. He struck out roughly at the same pace as before and hardly drew any walks again, but he did not take many called strikes. If a pitch was in the zone, he hit it. That resulted in an improved year with his OPS and OPS+. Defensively he can be a bit frustrating to watch as he has very good baseball skills, but take bad angles and overthrows cutoff men. His plus arm is impressive as Renfroe easily guns out runners on the basepaths. If he is given consistent playing time, there is no reason why Renfroe can’t hit 30 homers at the major league level.
He is a perfect #4 or #5 outfielder and that is why he will probably make the team out of the spring. He provides plus speed and plus defense off the bench and is the perfect complement to Franmil, Renfroe, and Myers who are all right-handed hitters. Jankowski showed an improved bat last year which allowed him to stick in the major league after starting the year in El Paso. Of all the before mentioned outfielders, Jankowski has the least offensive ability. However, he does the little things and is a valuable member of the team.
It is going to be fun watching these men compete for playing time this spring. The Padres could shock the world and add Bryce Harper to the mix. That would immediately complicate the whole situation but in a good way. A trade could still happen in the next few weeks, but the Padres are under no pressure to make a move. As mentioned before, all of these men except for Myers have minor league options left. No matter what, the Padres should open the season in late March with a very productive outfield unit.