At the plate, Jankowski hit right handed pitching really well. Jankowski hit .275 with a .368 OBP against righties in 2016 with a 105 wRC+. Both of Jankowski’s 2016 home runs came against right-handed pitchers, and he stole 26 bases off right-handed pitchers compared to only four bases off lefties. His walk rate against righties was an acceptable 12.1%.
Left-handed pitching, though, was a different story. Jankowski has a career line of .173/.225/.221 with a 24 wRC+ against southpaws in 114 plate appearances.
The K% is inflated at 28.1% as well. Again, that’s only a small sample size, and Jankowski is still only 25. He has not really gotten a fair shot to face left-handed pitching consistently at the major league level. In 2017, he should get it. There is hope. However, those numbers are a tad concerning and something to monitor in 2017.
In his brief MLB career, Jankowski has also K’d quite a bit. In 479 plate appearances, Jankowski has struck out 124 times to the tune of nearly 26%. These high strikeout numbers are not in tune with his minor league numbers, where he walked almost as much as he struck out. In 2016, his swinging strike percentage was down and his contact percentage was up a healthy amount from 2015, so his strikeouts should dip in 2017.
Manuel Margot only struck out 64 times in 547 AAA plate appearances in 2016. His El Paso slash line was .304/.354/.426, and he led the PCL in triples (12) and was tied for the PCL lead in runs scored (98).
Margot projects at the big league level as a plus hitter with above-average on base ability. Much like Jankowski, Margot’s swing plane is relatively flat, which means he is going to hit a lot of balls on the ground. This is not a bad thing, though. Especially with his speed.
In terms of L/R splits, Margot hit .358/.396/.446 in 148 at bats against southpaws in 2016. Margot hit all of his home runs (6) against righties while flashing a .282/.333/.417 slash line. There is no real reason to figure that Margot will hit one a lot better than another.
Both Manuel Margot and Travis Jankowski do not display much power and are more gap hitters. It is much more likely that Margot will hit for more power than Jankowski, though. It has always been in question whether Jankowski could hit enough to be a starter in the big leagues. With Margot, that has not been the case. Margot showcases a much higher hit-tool ceiling than Jankowski.
Advantage: Manuel Margot
Travis Jankowski should start 2017 as the San Diego Padres center fielder.
It might not be the “sexy” pick, but Travis Jankowski’s 2016 performance has earned him the CF job to start 2017. I really believe that he could be starting in CF at Petco Park for the foreseeable future, and he should only get better in all facets of the game. The real distinguishable factor between the two (for 2017 purposes) is defense, where Jankowski has proved that he is one of the top defensive center fielders in the game.
This does not mean I don’t love Manuel Margot, though. He is going to be an above-average starter (maybe even a star) for a very long time. He will play everyday in 2017, the only question is where. He could head back to El Paso, but I think it is much more likely he stays on the Padres roster, as a left fielder. The Padres could also mix and match the outfield based on pitching matchups, etc. so Margot sees some time in center field as well.
It is really a good problem to have. Two young outfielders, competing for their natural position, who are going to be above-average regulars for a long time. They are fit for Petco Park, too. They cover a ton of ground in the outfield. Not a lot of fly balls are going to fall in between those two. They are also line drive hitters with speed, something the Padres really have not had a whole lot of during their tenure at Petco so far.
Only 132 days until Opening Day!