San Diego Padres’ outfielder Manuel Margot brings a specific skill set to the team.
After a full three seasons under his belt, former top-25 prospect Manuel Margot has yet to show his full potential on the field. Margot’s offense has kept him off the field to start games, but because of his defensive capability, he is often subbed in for defense or baserunning late in games.
The Dominican native has seen an increase in games played the last three seasons but a decrease in his batting average, as it has dropped from .263 in 2017 to .234 in 2019. Margot isn’t a power hitter by any means. The right-handed hitter slugged only 12 home runs last season in just under 400 at-bats. But a 20 home run, 20 stolen base season could be on the cards for Margot in the future should he see more consistency and at-bats.
His defensive ability isn’t the problem, but for Margot to earn his role in this new revamped 2020 Padres’ outfield, getting on base and stealing will be what gets him on the field. This offseason, San Diego traded for outfielders’ Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham to fill the corner spots of the outfield. That leaves Margot, Wil Myers, and Franchy Cordero fighting for that centerfield spot, though we could see Myers in right field quite a bit. If Margot’s offensive numbers don’t improve this season, then it will be tough to see him as the starting centerfielder of the future for San Diego.
In 2018, Margot only successfully stole 11 bases out of 21 attempts, six fewer than in 2017 (his rookie season.) Last season, the outfielder stepped it up on the basepaths as he stole 20 bags while only being caught four times. The speedster has yet to have more than 24 stolen base attempts in any season in his short career, but that will look to change as Margot has added a specific trait to his skillset. This may be one of baseball’s best-kept secrets; the delayed steal.
The delayed steal is a great way to confuse the pitcher and catcher, as well as the infield. It’s a method that involves technique rather than speed — but because Margot has tremendous speed — he has gotten pretty good at the delayed steal. The key is not to let anyone know the runner is stealing by delaying the baserunner’s jump until after the pitch crosses home plate, thus acting as the runner is not going to steal. By doing this, it allows the runner to get even more of a head start without the first baseman shouting “he’s going,” and without the second baseman or shortstop aware the runner is stealing. Even if the catcher sees the runner going and throws to second, the infield will most likely not be there in time to tag the runner because of the delay.
This can get tricky, but we saw Margot showcase this skill quite a bit last season, and this could be something that allows for Margot to see more action in 2020. The delayed steal is something to keep an eye on not only for Margot but for a lot of base stealing in the future of MLB.