Final Padres Bench Spots: Odor or Kohlwey?
Position Player Battles
Opening Day is fast approaching, and with the last Cactus league action coming tomorrow afternoon, the time is now for the Padres to make the final roster cuts.
Heading into camp, there were seemingly 11 of the 13 position player spots filled: catchers Austin Nola and Luis Campusano, infielders Jake Cronenworth, Ha-Seong Kim, Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado and Matt Carpenter, outfielders Juan Soto, Trent Grisham, and Adam Engel, as well as veteran slugger and designated hitter, Nelson Cruz.
That would leave two remaining positions for Padres Manager Bob Melvin to add to his position.
Those two spots have since increased to three as Adam Engel deals with a hamstring injury expected to push him on the injured list to begin the season.
Who is on the table?
A crowded infield and an outfield that is pretty limited for its first 20 games of the season, with Fernando Tatis Jr. serving the rest of his suspension, would be a pretty good indicator as to how those holes will be filled.
When spring training started, many considered utility infielders Brandon Dixon and Matthew Batten to be the favorites for at least one of the spots. But while the pair struggled in camp, several of their counterparts rose to the occasion.
Batten, who was dealing with a calf injury early in spring, was optioned to AAA El Paso on Saturday morning. Dixon was also optioned Sunday afternoon.
2019 NL All-Star outfielder David Dahl should be considered a lock to make the roster after a fantastic spring, hitting .293 with seven extra-base hits and ten runs batted in.
The biggest beneficiary of Engel’s absence is definitely Jose Azocar, who will likely be the 4th outfielder with Tatis Jr. and Engel out. His speed and defense will come in handy for the Padres late in games.
After hitting .257 in 98 games in 2022 with the Padres, Azocar came into camp swinging a hot bat. He hit .280 with six XBHs, nine RBIs, and three stolen bases.
Assuming they both make the roster, Dahl and Azocar will likely form a platoon in right field, with lefty Dahl hitting against right-handed pitchers with the latter playing against lefties.
The final spot will come down to Rougned Odor or Taylor Kohlwey. Barring a surprise, the former will be in San Diego on Thursday.
Similar to Dahl, neither Odor or Kohlwey are on the 40-man roster spot, so an additional move would need to be made to make room.
Both players spent time all over the diamond this spring, playing at least three different positions.
“Versatility in a bench spot for a big league team is paramount these days, so when you get a guy that can play the outfield and the infield, it certainly is a leg up,” Melvin said.
Odor is entering his 10th season in the league, this time in a role he isn’t necessarily used to, utility player.
In his first eight seasons as a member of the Texas Rangers, Odor played exclusively at second base, logging over 7,166 innings at the position.
Odor was traded to the New York Yankees on April 6, 2021, where he played 102 games. Despite never playing there in his professional career, the Yankees opted to explore Odor’s versatility and played him at third base for 33 games.
Last season, the veteran signed a one-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles, where he returned to his role as everyday second baseman.
When Odor signed with the Padres at the beginning of this month, his path to playing time wasn’t exactly clear.
An infield consisting of Machado, Bogaerts, Kim, and Cronenworth won’t allow for many extra at-bats unless there was an injury. This week, Odor has been working with Padres 1st coach Dave Macias in the outfield to further boost his chances of making the team.
Melvin was asked about Odor after Sunday’s game and his chances of making the opening-day roster.
“He’s got a track record. He really feels comfortable. He’s got some power, and if he can show some versatility, his chances go up because of it,” Melvin said.
After going 12-for-36 in the preseason with two home runs, Odor is expected to make the team and provide a valuable at bat off the bench for San Diego.
The 29-year-old lefty carries a .712 career OPS despite a low on base percentage thanks to his 174 long balls to his name.
Despite his name not being brought up a lot, there’s one more player left in camp vying for a roster spot.
Taylor Kohlwey has been one of the biggest standouts this spring, hitting .357 with 11 RBIs.
The 28-year-old lefty was drafted in the 21st round in 2016 and hasn’t quite yet made the Major Leagues yet but does check off a lot of boxes teams look for in a bench player, namely versatility and a high contact rate.
In six minor league seasons, Kohlwey can play first base has shown a knack for putting the ball in play, striking out in just 15.5% of his plate appearances.
Al was born in Fresno, California with a passion for talking and writing about sports. The lifelong Padres fan is currently attending Fresno State as he pursues a degree in broadcast journalism. In addition to being a student, he does public address announcing at both the high school and collegiate levels.
Gotta go Odor at this point. Kohlway will be up this year, but Odor has earned the spot, a veteran presence and possible trade fodder for a lottery ticket if some team has an injury. Kohlway needs ABs and he won’t get them in SD, esp when Tatis is back.