With Austin Hedges, Derek Norris, Christian Bethancourt and Hector Sanchez on the 40-man roster, the Padres have great depth at a position that is traditionally very weak around major league baseball. Something has to give, and the obvious choice is to move Derek Norris so Austin Hedges can man the staff. Hedges has an unbelievable pedigree in terms of his defense and, like some predicted, his bat is starting to come around. Hedges just turned 24 and has a very bright future in this league.
Norris at the age of 27 can hardly be described as washed up. However, his numbers are putrid this season, with a .182 batting average with 125 K’s in 373 at bats. He is striking out in a third of his at bats and his offensive numbers have decreased for three straight years. Norris gets extremely pull happy when he is not going right. Even though he has a lot of ability to use the whole field, he still insists on taking bad hacks (especially with two strikes). The Padres are at a bad place with Norris, as his value is so low they surely will not get what they want for him. At the same time, Hedges is ready now, and the team has other options behind the plate as a backup.
Christian Bethancourt has been a pleasant surprise for the team this season. We all knew he could catch and had great defensive skill, but most of us were unaware of the pure physical abilities this man has. When the team needed someone to throw a few innings out of the bullpen, he volunteered, throwing mid 90s gas with a mid 70s eephus pitch mixed in. He has also played the corner outfield position and done an adequate job at it. A late season core injury has probably sidelined him for the rest of the season. Quite a shame, as Bethancourt would have continued to get a boatload of at bats, both behind the plate and in the outfield. His future seems bright with the team at the age of 25.
The fourth member of this catching group is probably the one you have heard the least about. However, Hector Sanchez has put up numbers this year that deserve to be acknowledged. The 26-year-old switch hitting catcher had a slash line of .324/.392/.636 with 13 homers and 40 RBI in 176 Triple-A at bats. He is also hitting .300 with the Padres this year in 30 at bats with two homers and five RBI. He takes a good swing up there from both sides of the plate and is still relatively young. Sanchez factors in the Padres plans for the future and he will likely serve as the teams backup catcher and backup first baseman in the near future. Both Bethancourt and Sanchez, to some degree, have versatility and youth on their side. That leads most to believe the days are numbered for Norris in a Padres uniform. The Padres will be speaking to teams about catchers this winter. That is for certain.
Second base depth
With Ryan Schimpf‘s emergence, the Padres have a decision to make in regard to next year at the second base position. Cory Spangenberg was the starter coming into the season, but a horrible quad injury has sidelined him the whole year. Schimpf virtually came out of nowhere as a career minor leaguer who was signed by the team in the winter. His power numbers cannot be ignored though. Getting that type of pop from your middle infield is a great thing. Schimpf does have shortcomings when it comes to defense, especially in handling the ball around the bag. He is stiff and rigid in turning twos and does not look comfortable out there. Perhaps that will come in time. We do know that Spangenberg is an excellent defender with plus range. Andy Green also likes Spangy very much and spoke about Spangenberg before the season, indicating that he was excited to utilize the speedster.
The second base depth hardly ends with these two. Carlos Asuaje has done about all he can do in the minor leagues and is clearly ready for major league service time. He was acquired from the Red Sox in the Craig Kimbrel deal and has taken off this year offensively. His batting line in El Paso is .321/.378/.473 with nine homers and 69 RBI. The 24-year-old has also smacked 32 doubles and legged out 11 triples. He is a contact type hitter with decent speed (10 stolen bases this season). Second base is his projected position, even though he has the ability to play third as well.
Speaking of third base, Yangervis Solarte is also one to add to this equation. If the team were to acquire a power-hitting third baseman, Solarte would be a no-brainer to move to second. It might not be his best defensive position, but his bat is far too valuable to leave out of the Padres lineup. As of now, Solarte is the only third base option, so it would take a major trade for him to move out of the position. Not likely, but something to consider.
Down on the farm, the team might have the second baseman of the future in Luis Urias. The Mexican born teenager just turned 19 and has really blossomed this season playing for the Lake Elsinore Storm. He was one of the youngest players in the California League, but showed an uncanny ability to play the game like a veteran. Urias had a slash line of .330/.397/.440 in 120 games and 466 at bats. The most impressive thing about Urias is the fact he struck out only 36 times while walking 40 times. That is absolutely amazing, for a kid who was 18 most of the year, to exhibit that kind of plate discipline. This kid will be something special. That you can be sure of. So what to do with all this depth? Schimpf is currently playing his way into the starting role. His power numbers cannot be denied. Where does that leave Asuaje and Spangenberg? Only time will tell.
Hunter Renfroe, Alex Dickerson, Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski, Oswaldo Arcia, Jabari Blash and Nick Torres provide the Padres with young players who are all ready, or close to being ready, for major league service time. Margot, Renfore, and Jankowski seem to have the inside track on the starting gigs for next season, but both Margot and Renfroe have yet to step into a major league batters box. Some have wondered if the Padres would consider bringing back Jon Jay as a form of insurance for the Padres young outfield. Jay is a free agent, and whether he returns or not will be dictated on how much he asks for, and also how many years he requires. If a team values Jay and offers him a three-year deal, he will take it.
Renfroe, Jankowski and Margot figure to be the outfield of the future. Jankowski thrust himself into this discussion with a productive year in the majors. Since Jay’s injury, Jankowski has played on most days and responded by igniting the Padres offense. His defense and speed are excellent for the team and his emergence makes most wonder who will be the starting center fielder next year, Margot or Jankowski?
Travis Jankowski has shown that he can handle major league pitching for the most part. His strikeout numbers are still horrible, but he has time to rectify that. Manuel Margot puts the ball in play and hardly strikes out. He also plays stellar defense, as witnessed in the All-Star Future’s Game where he robbed a home run going up and over the wall in right center field at Petco Park. Either way, the Padres will have a defensive stud in center. Jankowski might have better speed, but in my opinion Margot gets better jumps and has a much better arm. It is still a very close competition and with either man in center, the Padres have an advantage.
So with those three locked down as starter, what do you do with the rest of the outfielders? Alex Dickerson in particular has shown he deserves a long look at a starting gig. Then you have Oswaldo Arcia, who was once a very highly touted prospect and is still only 25 years old. In fact, Dickerson is a year older than Arcia, and both are still extremely young. Each left-handed hitter has legit power, but both have issues facing left handers. What are you going to do with them? Arcia has no more minor league options left and Dickerson has done all he can do in Triple-A. Jabari Blash is the last man on this list who needs immediate playing time. The power is there, but he needs to make constant contact. He walks a ton, but being a poor man’s Adam Dunn will not earn him any playing time. Nick Torres is also in Triple-A, but he probably needs another year of seasoning. With all this depth in front of him, there is no reason to rush him.
The Padres have depth in the outfield and you have to figure one or more of these guys will be moved. It is really difficult to imagine anyone untouchable on the Padres team, but in my estimation Manuel Margot is someone the team would not deal. He has plate discipline and defense and is everything the new regime is preaching as far as talent. Jankowski could be a trade candidate as he has boosted his value. Preller loves to deal a player when their value is up, but the Padres would only deal him if they were comfortable with Margot leading off. The team could also look elsewhere for a potential leadoff candidate, resulting in Jankowki being deemed expendable. Either Dickerson or Arcia could be dealt as well, as they are essentially the same player (a left handed hitting power-hitter who plays below average defense). It will be interesting to see what the Padres do with this outfield as there is plenty of talent to go around.
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