Padres Editorial: Will Platoon of Upton and Jankowski Work in Center?

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Credit: UT San Diego
Credit: UT San Diego

One year after the experiment of Wil Myers in center field, the Padres seem poised to open the 2016 season with Melvin Upton Jr. and Travis Jankowski as their center fielders. Myers performed admirably but in the end lacked the experience and range to be an everyday player at a very vital position on the baseball diamond.

The platoon of Jankowski and Upton is a risky idea to say the least. Upton had a productive second half for the Padres but he is both injury prone and inconsistent offensively. Jankowski looked as though he was a bit over matched last season at the plate and the Padres even hit him ninth on occasion to protect him from opposing pitchers.

The duo would be solid defensively for the Padres however. Upton still has plenty of range and Jankowski is known for his athletic abilities on the field. Jankowski downfall defensively is his arm which is described as lacking the carry and strength to be an overall solid defender in center. He can work on generating arm strength and carry if he puts his mind to it. Tony Gwynn was considered to have a weak arm for right field, but he worked his tail off to have a very respectable glove and won five gold glove awards in the end.

Upton has great range at the position and will be a great upgrade from early last season when the club insisted on playing Wil Myers at the position. The problem most certainly is that both Jankowski and Upton are question marks with the bat. They both have very glaring issues that need to be addressed if the Padres want any kind of production from the duo.

Jankowski will never be a home run hitter. He is a line drive hitter who is probably best suited to hit at the top of the order. He stole 71 base in 2013 in the minors so his speed and base running skills are legit. He tends to strike out too much though and doesn’t work the count enough right now. He needs to learn how to foul off pitches with his line drive stroke. He struck out 24 times last season in 90 at bats with the Padres and that simply will not work. If he continues to strike out at a rate like that, the Padres will surely send him down for more seasoning.

There is no chance of sending Upton down or anywhere for that matter. The Padres are in lack of better terms …”stuck” with him as a player. The good news is his bat seemed to pick it up last year as he had a batting line of .259/.327/.429 with five home runs and 17 RBIs. After two seasons in Atlanta where Upton hit .198/.279/.314, the numbers do not seem all that bad. Melvin Upton Jr. is 30 years old, so his skill set is what it is. He will never be a .300 hitter and he WILL strike out way too much. However if he can get on base and steal some bags then he will be useful for the Padres.

There is no other option then those two at the position right now. Expect the Padres to make a move for another defensive minded center fielder. The new player will probably be a left-handed hitter and a veteran with solid defensive skills. Aaron Hicks and Leonys Martin would have fit perfect, but each was already dealt this offseason. Hicks went to the New York Yankees and Martin now plays for the Seattle Mariners.

The free agent market has some interesting names like Dexter Fowler or Denard Span, but it is not clear if the Padres intend in delving into that market for a center fielder. They seem invested in Upton and Jankowski and the team will likely roll with them as the platoon in center to start the season. A.J. Preller is surely evaluating them and do not be surprised if something big happens. Anything can happen with this team.

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