Jabari Blash is a question mark.
Last season he slashed an unimpressive .169/.298/.324 in 81 plate appearances. Granted, that is a small sample size and he did slash .260/.415/.514 in 221 plate appearances in El Paso last season, but still, he has been the least productive of the bunch.
Travis Jankowski stepped up his game in the outfield last season after Upton was traded. He made some amazing plays in the field, ending up with a .995 fielding percentage for all three outfield positions (He had a 1.000 in both center and right field). He proved himself to be one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. He was mediocre at the plate, slashing .245/.312/.313 in 383 plate appearances, but he proved to be an offensive spark plug, getting several infield hits and reaching base on bunts. On the base path he impressed, swiping 30 bags. He has earned a spot in the outfield. He won’t get sent down in 2017 (but he still might get traded). The question is, will he start in center field or left?
That brings us to Margot, and really, that’s who I intended to focus on. He is a solid talent. In his short stint with the Padres last season he slashed .243/.405/.649 with two stolen bases in 37 plate appearances. Prior to that he had gone .304/.351/.426 with 30 stolen bases in 556 plate appearances in El Paso. He’s a phenomenal center fielder and had a .985 fielding percentage in Triple-A last season through 1028.1 innings in center. He’s young at the age of 22 and scouts still think he’s a bit raw, but he has a really high ceiling.
There has been talk of keeping Jankowski in center for 2017 while sending Margot back down for more seasoning and also to protect service time. This is a plan that would stretch out Margot’s usefulness during a hopefully long-term Padres dynasty. This isn’t a terrible idea for just that reason. If we are to buy into the long-term plan then why not manage it carefully?
One reason to keep Margot with the Padres in 2017 is that he has the potential to be an instant fan favorite. As discussed, the team has cut most big names from the roster. I think the biggest draw for fans in 2017 will be to watch the development of the young star prospects at the highest level. Margot is valuable to the Padres from a marketing standpoint. As a Padres fan I understand, in 2017 they aren’t signing Edwin Encarnacion or Mark Trumbo. That’s fine. That’s not our game right now, but I would at least like to see Margot and Renfroe in the lineup when I go to games. I think that’s the bare minimum of what we Padres fans want and need right now. That’s just my opinion.
My opinion aside, one scenario would make sending Margot back down a sensible decision. There is the possibility that the Padres could find a veteran outfielder in the free agent or trade market to serve as a mentor to the youngsters. In August, there was apparently a mutual interest in a Jon Jay re-signing, but he ended up going to the Cubs instead. Players such as Coco Crisp, Ben Revere, and Rajai Davis are still on the market and they could serve a similar role to what the team had in Jay last season. If this were the case, Margot’s best spot could be back in Triple-A. Then again, the Padres could still trade Jankowski in addition to a bringing in a veteran, and then, keeping Margot with the Padres would be the best move.
From his interview, Andy Green has made it somewhat clear that the Padres already have their outfielders and four out of five of them will make the opening day roster (but with Preller you never know). I would like to see Margot as an everyday player with the Padres next season. I think he would factor in best playing center field with Jankowski manning left. I think Blash should be the player sent down to provide Triple-A depth. That said, I would understand the rationale behind sending Margot down to start the season. I want to witness a Padres dynasty, so if saving Margot’s service time during a down season can help that cause, I’m alright with it.