There was a time when the San Diego Padres considered Manuel Margot their best overall player. He has had two straight down years and, though he is still young, there are some concerns for his future in Major League Baseball.
In a season that has featured several key young players making significant strides in their development, Manuel Margot has struggled mightily at the plate as well as on the bases. This has been a bit of a departure from his 2017 season in which he played the role of a steady speed threat at the top of the lineup card; his struggles this year have seen him drop to the bottom of the order.
Margot started off the season ice cold as he was hitting under the Mendoza line with an OPS+ of just 54 at the end of April. As the months heated up though, so did Manny’s bat when he had a torrid stretch through June and July where he had OBPs of .378 and .326, respectively. However, he’s since cooled off again with a batting line of .200/.274/.273 so far in September with under a week left in the season.
Much of his struggles have seemed to come when placed near the top of the order, ideally where you would want a guy with speed like Manny’s to be hitting from. Out of the leadoff spot, he’s produced just a .183/.210/.307 line. Margot seemed to show significant improvements after being dropped down to the 7th and 8th spots in the order and hit with much more consistency. He has an OPS+ over 110 out of each of those spots, including one of 151 out of the 7 hole.
While cutting his strikeout rate down by roughly 3% from last season, Margot’s BABIP has dropped about 30 points and he’s making softer contact as his line drive rate has dropped from 23.2% to 19.8% and his groundball rate has gone up 3.3% to 43.8%. Overall, his hard contact rate has dropped 6.1 % since last season, attributing to his notably lower BABIP.
Once on the bases, his struggles have only continued where he’s been absolutely dreadful despite having the 23rd highest sprint speed in MLB.
On stolen bases alone, Fangraphs currently has Margot at a -2.3 wSB, which measures the value a player adds (or subtracts) from his team with his base stealing. In any given season, league average will be set at zero so Manny has been costing the team runs with his base stealing this season compared to last season when he had a slightly positive run added value at 0.1. UBR takes into account the value a player adds to his team on the basepaths on non-stolen base plays. So a positive event would be taking an extra base at a higher frequency than league average while a negative event would be being thrown out on the basepaths. Manny is rated in a more positive light by Fangraphs in regards to UBR with a 1.0 on the season, which puts him into the roughly average to above average range. Overall, Manny’s baserunning has been a detriment to the team this season while last season and through the minors, it was seen as one of his plus skills. The speed is still there, but he clearly needs to work on getting better jumps and taking a straight path on stolen base attempts.
In an interview with AJ Cassavell earlier this season, Andy Green mentioned the swings adjustments Margot had made in the offseason while discussing his streaky nature through this season. During his hotter stretches, he’s been sticking to those adjustments and showing off his retooled swing that’s designed to generate more gap power that would allow him to show off his speed. But when he’s colder, he’s falling into the worst mechanics of both swings.
At 23, Manuel Margot is still a very young player going through early growth curves, but more talent is knocking on the door and ready to take a shot in the majors. With Franchy Cordero and all his tools expected to be more than ready by the start of next season, it’s time for Margot to start sticking to his adjustments. Manny clearly has very special talent in multiple facets of the game, but he is going to have to become a much more consistent player if he wants to remain a permanent piece of the first wave of hot talent lava.