With the huge additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, James Shields, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Craig Kimbrel, the San Diego Padres were instantly boosted into the relevancy. The franchise had for the most part laid low in terms of payroll and financial commitments to players. With James Shields free agent contract, those days of the frugal Padres seemed long gone.
This team intends to compete in 2016 . Let us take a look at the catching and infield positions and where the Padres stand for next season. Each position has a certain amount of uncertainty and things could also change in the drop of a hat via trade or free agent signing. A.J. Preller has already shown he is not afraid to make a deal. So anything can really happen.
Derek Norris and Austin Hedges are both very capable of leading this team behind the dish. Each have strengths and weaknesses, but each also brings great strengths to the position as well. Austin Hedges behind the plate is about as smooth as they come. His defense is superb. That is all everyone regurgitates about him, but his offense is beginning to finally show signs of life.
Hedges bat will probably always be something he needs to work on. His swing is long and choppy and from time to time he just looks over matched at the plate. At 23 years old he has a lot of upside and could develop in time.
Derek Norris has developed and he seems poised to be a terrific leader and catcher. The toughness he shows on a nightly basis is very admirable. He is an absolute warrior and oh by the way he can swing the bat. He has worn down greatly the past month or so, but in April and May, Norris was an offensive juggernaut behind the plate. Overall his walks are down and his strike outs are up from last season so there is a bit of concern. Hopefully those numbers are a result of being overused by the Padres.
For 2016 a decision will need to be made. I find it hard to believe both catchers will be on the roster for the start of the 2016 season. They both have a lot of value right now, and the time to make a move is now. Norris has played some first base, but his value is as a catcher not as a first baseman. A.J. Preller has a big decision with this one. The team could trade either catcher by my estimation.
This position has been a black hole since the loss of Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox. The Padres obtained a great first baseman in Anthony Rizzo, but decided to move him for Andrew Cashner. Sigh, I will just move on from that one. Yonder Alonso was acquired for Mat Latos and the Padres decided that he, not Rizzo would be the team’s future first baseman.
Alonso came with much hype and was blocked at first by Joey Votto. Alonso’s line drive bat has never transitioned well to the Petco Park and he could have very well-played his last game as a Padre. At 28 he is no longer young and has a history of injuries that could be the deciding factor in the Padres moving on from this former first round pick out of the University of Miami.
One option is Wil Myers at first base. He has played some games there and has looked very solid. His athleticism might be better suited at a corner outfield spot though. An interesting choice could be Matt Kemp. If the team could somehow transform this career outfielder into first base, he might have a better chance at staying fresh the whole season long.
It remains to be seen if Kemp would even entertain the idea. It’s not very likely as Kemp would surely not want to move to the infield. As far as the first baseman for next year, I would put my money on a player from another organization. Whether it be through a trade or free agent signing, I feel the Padres will look for a power hitting first baseman. A.J. Preller has shown a propensity for the dramatic so this quest for a first baseman could get very interesting.
This position could be manned by three different Padres next season. Jedd Gyorko, Cory Spangenberg and Yangervis Solarte have all played well and each could easily start the season as the Padres second baseman. Jedd Gyorko has made himself quite the reputation in the past month. The Padres moved him to shortstop, and he has responded by not committing one error in 145 plus innings. His range is not the best, but he has made the routine play and been very impressive at the position.
At second base, Gyorko is also solid but not spectacular. He could open the season at second but In my opinion the team will move Gyorko in an attempt to get out of his contract. He is till owed $32 million for through the 2019 season. His value is up right now and the team could probably get a good return for him. At the break the Padres were reportedly desperate to get out of his contract so now that Gyorko has some value, expect Preller to take advantage of it.
That leaves Cory Spangenberg and Yangervis Solarte as potential second baseman next year. Spangenberg in my eyes has the advantage at the moment only in the fact that I believe Solarte is a better third baseman than second baseman. Spangenberg brings a left-handed bat with unreal speed. Two thing the Padres need in their lineup to create balance. Spangenberg needs to cut down his swing a little more to his in the top of the order, but he has shown the knack for getting the big hit. There is a high probability that he opens the 2016 season as the teams starting second baseman.
Yangervis Solarte has played exceptional baseball this season for the Padres. He could easily be considered for one of the teams MVP’s. Solarte has played first base, second base and third base this season. Quite frankly I’m surprised he hasn’t played shortstop yet this season, but it could still happen.
With all that said, Solarte is probably a lock to be the starting third baseman next season for the Friars. He has shown an excellent glove at the position and having his switch hitting bat in the line-up is key for the team’s success moving forward. Will Middlebrooks initially got the majority of the starts at third base but was replaced by Solarte. Once Solarte played everyday he was not going to come out. He has arguably been the most consistent hitter for the Padres in 2015.
If the team were to acquire a big time third baseman, Solarte could easily slide over to second base. He has that ability and his flexibility makes him a very useful player to have on your squad. Yangervis Solarte will be an everyday player for the Padres in 2016, the question is where will he play? Third base seems to be the most likely position for him.
This position and the teams need is the big black gorilla in the room. The Padres obviously need a shortstop in the worst way. Jedd Gyorko has filled in for the past month and has done well, but the team can’t seriously think he could handle a season at the position. He would be exposed eventually with his lack of experience and range.
The problem is the shortstop position is a weak position among most Major League franchises. The Padres closest prospects at the position are Franchy Cordero and Jose Rondon. Neither will be ready for at least another few seasons. The team must explore a trade or sign a free agent like Ian Desmond or Asdrubal Cabrera. Desmond would be a costly signing, and he really does not fit what the Padres need. He is right handed and strikes out too much. A common Padres theme already. Add the fact his defense has regressed this year and its a huge red flag. Unless he is willing to sign a very friendly contract, stay away big time.
In reality it’s probably more likely the team trades for someone like Starling Castro, Javier Baez, Jean Segura or Jurickson Profar. The team has been connected in some way to each player, and an off-season trade could take place. There are so many angles in which the team can go. Obviously Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes are not the shortstop answer, so the team needs to look outside the organization. This will be A.J. Preller’s #1 mission this off-season. He must fill this void. Sorry Jedd Gyorko, but I just don’t think you are the answer at shortstop.