The San Diego Padres overhauled the team prior to the 2015 season. Yet with all these changes, the team failed to acquire an everyday type center fielder. Wil Myers was given the position by default but was unable to play an adequate enough center field. He made a great attempt but he is not a traditional center fielder by any means.
The team has had a long need for an everyday center fielder for quite some time. With the acquisition of young outfielder Manuel Margot the Padres hope to have a long-term solution at the position. The young Margot was acquired in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox.
Margot is probably a few seasons away from being major league ready, so the team must rely on someone to fill that void until then. The Padres have three options this season and each could conceivably be the man for the whole year if they can take advantage of the situation this spring.
It will be an interesting battle this spring and with A.J. Preller on the prowl for upgrades the outfield could easily change after a trade or two. The Padres have been eerily quite for some time despite some obvious needs on the team. One would have to think the team is going to make a deal soon. Stay tuned. Here are the potential candidates now and their chance at playing the position in 2016.
By the end of the year the Padres had called up Travis Jankowski who blossomed in the minor leagues in 2015. The left-handed hitting Jankowski has a decent future, but the Padres seem a little hesitant to let him play everyday. Jankowski was only allowed to hit leadoff twice in his 27 starts with the team. He hit eighth twice and batted ninth 19 times. The Padres are taking it slow with the 24-year-old.
Jankowski tore it up in the minor leagues last season. He started in Double-A where he hit .335 with a .413 on base percentage in 73 games and 282 at bats. He was promoted to Triple-A where he hit an amazing .392 with a .464 on base percentage in 97 at bats. The Padres had no choice but to call up the prospect.
He ended up hitting .211 for the Padres and struggled to get on base. The team clearly was not happy with four walks and 25 strike outs in 90 at bats. His forte is to get on base and he cannot do that by striking out that often. Jankowski was simply outmatched at times last year against quality pitchers. He is going to need a big spring to even make the team. Most likely he opens the year as the starting center fielder in El Paso.
MELVIN UPTON JR.
The former second overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays has had an up and down career. The Padres hope that his decent first year as a Padres outfielder is a sign is value is on the rise. The contract Upton Jr. has is cumbersome to the Padres. He makes so much money that he will play if he is able to.
Upton missed the start of last season with a foot injury and only managed to play in 87 games. He had a batting line of .259/.327/.429 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 205 at bats. He produced a 1.6 WAR rating which was quite impressive in half a season. If he can keep up that pace for a full season and produce a 3.0 WAR or better, the Padres will be ecstatic. Not out of the realm of possibility because Upton Jr did have WAR years of 4.4 and 3.3 as a Tampa Bay Ray.
Upton brings an excellent glove to the field everyday. He has decent speed and gets great jumps on the ball. He can be a little timid in the gaps when it comes to tracking balls with other fielders around him, but he is a big upgrade for the Padres defensively. The most likely scenario is the Padres will start Upton on a almost every day basis. With his contract, he is not a likely trade candidate. The team would love to move him, but his reputation and numbers have weakened his value in recent years.
The San Diego Padres finally moved Jedd Gyorko and the return was outfielder Jon Jay. A decent trade for both teams. The Padres take on salary for the 2016 season, but lose Gyorko from the books beyond 2016 when his annual pay increases. The acquisition of Jay gives the Padres another center field possibility.
The left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder has a great reputation in the club house. He also has a very high propensity to get on base when clicking on all cylindars. Jay carries a career .354 on base percentage in over 2,300 at bats. He had an off-year last year only hitting .210 in 79 games but still managed a .306 on base percentage. He gets on base and makes contact. That is exactly what the Padres need.
Jay is a decent center fielder. He has slumped a bit in recent years with his defensive range though. Still even despite a little slippage, he is a quality outfielder. The most likely scenario is a Upton and Jay platoon in center. At the moment the team has a question mark in left field and Jay could easily start the season there. Preller is on the prowl and there are plenty of outfielders available so anything can still happen. It is still too early to make a solid prediction. The 25-man roster will be adjusted and with those changes there can be some different faces in the outfield. As those changes occur we here at EVT will do our best to keep you well informed.