Padres Editorial: Can Cory Spangenberg Be An Everyday Player?

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Credit: UT San Diego
Credit: UT San Diego

Just over a month into the 2015-2016 offseason, A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres have already been very busy. That level of activity kept up at the Winter Meetings, with Preller and company making several moves.

Perhaps the biggest of all the moves so far this offseason, was the trade of second baseman Jedd Gyorko to the St. Louis Cardinals in return for center fielder Jon Jay. With Gyorko now gone, this raises several questions about what the Padres infield will look like in 2016. At the top of that list, is whether Cory Spangenberg can be an everyday player in the absence of Jedd Gyorko.

While Spangenberg did get a good chunk of playing time in 2015, this would be his first opportunity to be the full time starter, barring any further infield additions this offseason. For all intents and purposes, Spangenberg was better than Gyorko in most aspects of the game. In 2015, Spangenberg finished with a slash line of .271/.333/.399 with a wRC+ of 105 and a WAR of 2.1. Add to that an UZR of 1.5 in just over 500 innings at second base last season, and Spangenberg had a good overall season for the Padres.

By comparison, Gyorko finished the season with a slash line of .247/.297/.397 with a wRC+ of 93 and a WAR of 0.7. In over 700 innings at second base, Gyorko also finished with a negative UZR of -1.4. Spangenberg hit for a higher average, got on base at a higher clip, and even had a higher slugging percentage. Spangenberg was also 12% better by wRC+ and provided three times as much WAR. Add Spangenberg’s superior speed/defense combination, and it is clear which player had the better season overall.

Fangraphs steamer projections projects Spangenberg for over 600 at bats, a slash line of .260.309/.371 and a wRC+ of 90 with a WAR of 1.6. Gyorko on the other hand, projects for just over 200 at bats, a slash line of .254/.311/.423, and a wRC+ of 103 and a WAR of 0.7. These numbers will obviously change if Gyorko is given full time playing time in St. Louis, but that appears unlikely. While Spangenberg may have been a better player than Gyorko last season, and may even be slightly better next season, the differences are not as vast as one would think.

Even if Spangenberg is better than Gyorko, which is still up in the air at this point, it remains to be seen whether he can be an everyday player for the Padres next season. Spangenberg has yet to play a full season in his career, setting a career high in games (108) and at bats (345) last season. If Spangenberg can maintain his performance from last season, which the steamer projections are not confident will happen, he could easily be a 3 WAR player if given full playing time. This would make him a solid, above average regular Major Leaguer.

While at this point Spangenberg seems to be the starting second baseman for next season, there is still a lot of time left between now and opening day. With Carlos Asuaje, Jose Pirela, and perhaps even new additions vying for playing time, it remains to be seen how much playing time Spangenberg will get. If Spangenberg does play every day, he provides a strong mix of speed, defense, and good contact that the Padres will benefit from having at the top of the order. Spangenberg isn’t great, but he’s the best the Padres have, and arguably better than what they had.

2 thoughts on “Padres Editorial: Can Cory Spangenberg Be An Everyday Player?

  1. I like Spangenberg’s game a lot more than Gyorko’s and he’s quite a bit cheaper. But in recent years most Padres players have hit their ceiling during their first year here and it’s usually all downhill from there. Theres clearly something wrong with the way our organization develops and or/ evaluates talent. Off the top of my head: Luebke (injury), Maybin, Hundley, Alonso, Grandal (PEDs), Forsythe, Gyorko. All those guys peaked their first years as starters and steadily declined every year after. At this point its hard for me to imagine a Padres player getting BETTER as their career goes on. I don’t know what to make of it. I really hope Spangenberg and Solarte don’t join that list. At some point we have to be able to count on players to sustain or elevate their levels of play year to year.

    We’ve had some pretty rough eras of baseball in San Diego but the last 5 years have been horrible from an individual performance standpoint. There’s no Colbert, Jones, Winfield, Nevin/ Klesko types keeping things at least moderately interesting throughout the year.

  2. Mr. Brewer: Good analysis. Cory Spangenberg shouldn’t get complacent. He should notice that Mr. Preller already has acquired three new second basemen, and has traded for Jon Jay who is likely to at least postpone Travis Jankowski’s arrival in CF. Both Spangenberg and Jankowski are products of the previous administration, and the new GM, through his many trades has made it clear that he has no respect for the Padres’ farm system. (Neither do I.) I believe Mr. Preller will add more infielders, in addition to a shortstop. I wouldn’t be surprised if, for example, Rob Refsnyder comes here, too.

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