How Can the Padres Upgrade the Center Field Position?

Credit: MiLB

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres have been sorely lacking a player who can produce offensively, while also being able to handle center field on defense. As it stands, the team only has outfielders who are capable of production in one of the areas above. 

Throughout the 2019 season, the Padres have trotted out several players at the center field position.

While the long term plan seemed to show Manuel Margot as the center fielder of the future, he has failed to hit enough to justify putting him in the lineup every day. Even given his admittedly impressive defense at the position, his career wRC+ of 82 has held him back. Despite the failed 2015 center field experiment, Wil Myers has played a significant amount of time this season in the same position. While he hasn’t embarrassed himself out there, he’s left a lot to be desired from a defensive standpoint. His 35.6% strikeout rate tells you enough about his offensive numbers, in case you’re wondering. So clearly the Padres have a need in center field, and no realistic in-house options to fill the void with.

Who can the Padres potentially acquire to take over the center field position? Let’s take a look at some possible options for the team as the trade deadline approaches:

Drew Waters

Likely the only minor leaguer the Padres would consider as an option, Waters has seen his stock increase over the last couple years as a young-for-his-level performer. Although his strongest tool is his hitting, Waters also rates as a plus runner and average future center fielder. He’s also a switch hitter and would give the Padres a valuable left-handed hitting bat. Currently, the team is lacking in strong left-handed hitters, which is a part of why he could be an impact acquisition. If the Padres were to add Waters, they would probably have to trade the Braves closer, Kirby Yates. Overall, the Braves’ prospect has high potential and would be a welcome addition to the Padres’ offense.

Whit Merrifield

Now obviously his primary position is second base, but the Royals star is also very capable of playing center field. His bat speaks for itself, as he put up 5.2 fWAR last year with Kansas City. His wRC+ is currently 121, so his bat would beef up the Padres’ lineup if he were to be acquired. Let’s take a look at how his defense rated out in 27 starts at the center field position last season:

Season Position Innings DRS ARM RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
2018 CF 241.2 2 0.5 3.2 0.3 4.0 22.3

Based on this data, it looks like he can certainly handle center field defensively. Furthermore, his Statcast sprint speed of 28.5 feet per second shows that he does not lack the foot speed to play the position with the Padres. Considering the fact that many center fielders have recorded lower sprint speeds, Merrifield would likely have little issue playing center field for San Diego.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Cristian Pache

This is the dream scenario for the Padres and is surely only possible if the team trades Kirby Yates to Atlanta. Considering how much the Braves’ bullpen has struggled in 2019, it isn’t so far fetched to think about the possibility of a trade occurring between the two teams. Did fans really think that Francisco Mejía was available from the Indians a year ago? Many thought that he wasn’t, yet here he is as a member of the Padres. There are evaluators who believe Pache would be the best defensive center fielder in baseball right now, which would be huge for the Padres. Currently, Pache is in Double-A for the Braves and is hitting .291 in 65 games. He is the type of player with true superstar potential if he can figure things out with his bat.

So there you have it — A few potential players who would upgrade the center field position for the Padres. Perhaps the team will make a change and acquire a player to improve what has been a weak link in the San Diego lineup. All of the aforementioned players would also almost certainly strengthen the Padres’ lineup, and improve the team’s defense at the position. If the Padres are to contend in the years to come, having talented players up the middle will be key. Now we’ll have to see if they make a change in center field during 2019.

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