With spring approaching very fast it is time to start to think about the 2016 San Diego Padres and what the team will look like on the field. There are many options that newly hired manager Andy Green can roll with, so the roster is still a work in progress.
The 2015 team saw newly acquired slugger Wil Myers not only be forced into the starting center fielder role, but he was also asked to hit leadoff for the team. The young outfielder did well in April and early May, at one point in late April leading the National League in runs scored, but his wrist injury killed his 2015 season.
This season with the departure of Wil Myers and Jedd Gyorko, one would imagine that Myers will not be hitting leadoff anymore and will instead be asked to be a run producer in the middle of the order. He is very capable of fitting the role of a run producer as that is probably his future in the league.
With Myers potentially hitting in the middle of the order, the Padres will need to find an everyday option at leadoff. In reality the team will probably use a mixture of Cory Spangenberg, Jon Jay, Travis Jankowski and Melvin Upton Jr. at the top of the order. Perhaps Derek Norris or even Myers could see an occasional start at top, but we will have to wait and see what kind of manager Andy Green is and exactly how he utilizes each one of his new players.
Green will be an aggressive manager. He has been quoted many times saying that the Padres will put pressure on the other team and try to expose weaknesses. With that style the team will need to have a lot of versatility throughout its lineup. A.J. Preller is likely still doing some bargain shopping on the open market as well as the trade market. At this point the roster is not set by any means and the team will adjust players as the style of the team is cultivated. Let us take a look at each of the five potential candidates for the leadoff position and make an assessment on whom will be the teams first hitter the majority of the time.
Interestingly enough Myers has arguably the best career numbers at the position of the five. He hit .271 in 207 leadoff at bats while drive in 29 run and hitting eight home runs. He also walked 22 times resulting in a .343 on base percentage. Decent numbers for a leadoff hitter, but he only stole five base. Despite having above average speed, he certainly is not a leadoff hitter in the traditional sense.
The Padres will surely let him hit in the middle of the order. His future will be driving in runs and hitting home runs not bunt singles and getting on base. Though he has decent numbers at top of the order, he probably is not an option for the team in 2016. The Padres want him to take his offensive game to a new level and batting first would limit his development to a certain degree.
He has over 900 at bats as a leadoff hitter in the major leagues. The speedy outfielder is very capable of stealing a base for you, and could be a serious option for the team against left-handed pitchers. As a leadoff hitter last year Upton went 10-44 producing a .227 batting average. Nothing special, but hardly a full example of what he is capable of doing at the leadoff spot.
The Padres are invested in Upton and he will surely play as long as he is on the roster. With two years and over $30 million dollars due Upton, the Padres have virtually no chance of trading him. Upton will also be useful in center field for the team in 2016. You can be sure that he will get plenty of opportunities to bat leadoff, especially against the Dodgers and their left-handed heavy rotation.
Jay has 440 career at bats at the top of the order. He carries a very nice .345 career on base percentage and could get some starts at top of the order simply because he gets on base. Jay was brought over for his solid defense and his ability to make contact. A solid pickup by A.J. Preller as Jay brings a different dimension to the team. The team lacked defense in 2015 and also lacked the ability to simply put the ball in play.
He is not a power hitter by any means, and he is not a speed burner either. He usually makes contact and owns a very respectable .354 career on base percentage. That is exactly what you want from a leadoff hitter so he could emerge in this position if he falls into favor with Andy Green. Jay is a decent bunter and has great instincts on the base paths to boot. He has only stolen six base in the last two seasons though, and could be in store for way more running as a Padre.
Here is the traditional leadoff type hitter in every sense of the word. Jankowski’s forte is to get on base and he has excellent speed. The problem is he has virtually no power and the Padres seem very hesitant to let the left-handed hitter get in over his head at this point. Last season after being called up Jankowski hit mostly ninth for the team with manager Pat Murphy calling the shot. The 24-year-old has the skill set to be a leadoff hitter, he just needs the right environment to grow.
In over 1,200 career minor league at bats Jankowski has 137 stolen bases and owns a .360 on base percentage. He went off last season in the minors between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso, hitting .335, scoring 69 runs and stealing 32 bases while amassing a .413 on base percentage. That monster year earned his promotion to the Padres and he got into 34 games totaling 90 at bats and hit .211 with two home runs. Amazing because Jankowski had totaled three home runs in his whole minor league career of 1,200 at bats. Power is not his thing, but he is an on base machine with speed. Ultimately he will need a huge spring to save his roster spot. The Padres could decide Jankowski is best suited for more seasoning in El Paso at this point.
He is really maturing as a major league player and it is quite nice to see a Padres drafted position player succeeding. It is early and Spangenberg is still a work in progress in many areas, but he does bring his wheels and aggressive attitude to the ballpark every day. In my estimation Spangenberg is going to have a great year as he is exactly the kind of player that Andy Green wants in his lineup. Spangenberg has very deceptive pop and can drive the ball to all fields.
The left-handed hitter and former #1 pick in the 2011 draft has an aggressive nature you just cannot teach but that same aggression has limited him to an extent with the bat. Spangenberg only hit .148 last season as a leadoff hitter for the Padres. That was in only 54 at bats, but he was clearly not comfortable at the plate. In total on the year the 24-year-old infielder hit .277 with a .333 on base percentage. He totaled a 2.1 WAR rating and a 106 OPS+. He has the ability to be a decent option at the top of the order, but it remains to be seen what the Padres will do. At this point each of these five players could see extensive time at the top of the Padres batting order. Spring is near and this will surely be one of the pressing questions that will need to be addressed.