Plenty of options at keystone position for Padres

Padres Jake Cronenworth

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The San Diego Padres possess plenty of options at second base for the upcoming 2021 season. 

There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres currently have a lot of depth on their team.

In the modern game of baseball, it is necessary to create a roster full of flexible players. One-dimensional players that can only play one position are a dying breed. Currently, multiple Padres players are cable of playing several positions on the diamond, and that is not a coincidence. Jayce Tingler will utilize this positive aspect to his roster as the Padres battle for wins in 2021.

Competition is big for the Padres.

A player’s spot on the team is not a given, and the franchise never wants them to feel that way. Each day, the Padres want their players to battle for playing time. They want them to grind it out daily and battle for their spot on the roster. In structuring the team this way, the players can feed off one another, and the feeling is that you will get the most out of their production when it is all said and done.

At second base, the Padres have Jake Cronenworth penciled in to start the season. However, arguably the team’s biggest offensive addition this winter is Ha-Seong Kim from the KBO. The Korean infielder is a natural at shortstop and third base, but those positions are filled by the Padres’ most talented players in Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. In order for the right-handed hitter to make the daily lineup, there is the thought that he will slide over to the second base position. Kim only played a handful of games at the keystone in Korea during his seven-year career, so the move may not be as smooth as most people expect.

Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo each played second base in the past, and they could factor eventually for the team. Both are penciled in as outfield depth but will likely display their flexibility at one point during the long season. The minor league depth in the franchise is also something to consider as we examine the team’s depth.

Let us take a look at the keystone position for the Padres and the options they currently possess.

Jake Cronenworth

The 2020 NL Rookie of the Year candidate took San Diego by storm last season. Cronenworth was obtained from the Rays, and not much was known about the young player. In the spring, an injury to Eric Hosmer led the way to Cronenworth starting the season at first base for the Padres. In his first 12 games, Cronenworth put up a .361/.378/.750 batting line and never looked back.

He shows a very quick bat at the plate and can drive the ball from gap to gap. The left-handed hitter put up a .285 average during his rookie season, recording a .831 OPS in 54 games. The 27-year-old will be given every opportunity to start every day, but there are options behind him. Cronenworth ended the year with a .114 (4-for-35) average over the last 10 regular-season games, so there might be some concern. The end of the year may be troubling, but he did go 7-for-18 (.389 average) with a 1.208 OPS in six playoff games.

Ha-Seong Kim

There is some uncertainty if Kim can hit a top-notch major-league fastball. The KBO league average velocity for the heater is in the high 80s. In the majors, he will consistently see velocity 8-10 miles per hour higher than what he was used to facing. The right-handed swing is a bit long from Kim, and he will need to cut down on it to make consistent contact. He will need to make changes.

There is power in his swing, and he generally made contact in Korea. Kim is presently working out in his native country, and there are reports he is taking flyballs in the outfield. The Padres may choose to utilize him there to maximize his value. There are some doubts, but he shows great athleticism and should make the change fairly easily. Only time will tell how he reacts and judges flyballs off the bat. The spring will be the time in which we probably see Kim in the outfield.

Jurickson Profar

Drafted as a shortstop, Profar plays all over the diamond. He literally can play every position but catcher and pitcher. He has shown issues defensively at second base in the past but could fill in at the position if needed. The glove may be an issue, but in small doses, Profar should not hinder the Padres.

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The switch-hitting bat Profar provides also adds to his great flexibility. Profar brings a left-handed compliment to the teams’ right-handed-hitting corner outfielders, Tommy Pham and Wil Myers. He will likely earn plenty of at-bats late in games as a defensive replacement for this duo. Profar will also start games against tough right-handed pitchers to give the Padres more of a left-handed presence in the lineup. You may see him at second base, but it probably won’t be a consistent thing for the Padres.

Jorge Mateo

The speedy Mateo has experience at second base but will likely serve as outfield depth. In 2015, Mateo stole 82 bases at the Single-A level. The right-handed hitter could become a threat for the Padres off the bench late in the game. Jayce Tingler used him briefly in that role in 2020.

With no minor league options left, the 25-year-old will probably make the team out of the spring. He is versatile, and his speed does not go into slumps. The Padres will utilize his skills to better the team. Playing in five games last year at the keystone, Mateo will earn some time at second base in 2021.

CJ Abrams

Not to overlook Tucupita Marcano, who is higher up in the minor league system, but Abrams is a special talent. The 2019 first-round pick is blessed with exceptional speed and incredible bat-to-ball skills. The 6-foot-2 Abrams is gaining strength and should eventually possess slightly above average power ability.

It would take multiple injuries and an amazing performance from Abrams in the minors to even sniff the major leagues in 2021. But stranger things have happened in the world of baseball. The left-handed hitter consistently barrels up the baseball, and his athleticism is off the charts.

The verdict

The Padres are blessed at the second base department. Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim will likely play in a platoon of sorts initially until one player steps up. Both could factor in the outfield for the Padres, and, of course, the DH is still a possibility in 2021. If the designated hitter returns, the Padres will likely explore a heavy hitter to employ in the middle of the lineup. There will be plenty of at-bats for this whole unit (Kim, Cronenworth, Profar, and Mateo) as Jayce Tingler divides playing time. Just because you are not starting the game doesn’t mean you will not be in the game at the end when it is all on the line. Preparation and execution are the keys to a successful 2021 Padres season.

3 thoughts on “Plenty of options at keystone position for Padres

  1. Please stop citing small sample sizes as having any meaning. EVT routinely makes this mistake.
    Players go into slumps and have hot streaks all the time. .250 hitters do not go 1 for 4 every day. There are weeks they hit .100 and weeks they hit .400, doesn’t mean they are washed up or the next Ted Williams.

  2. Depth is an understatement. I’m thinking Kim is also insurance for Tatis. If Fernando gets hurt, another high quality SS is ready to step in. In 2019, Fernando was sorely missed. In 2021, he would still be missed but the drop off and the need to move Manny over, etc would not impact the team as much.

    Plus, if the offer was off the charts or our need was great, the trade deadline gives us many options should we need to move one for pitching.

    I think Jake’s year end slump was him not adjusting well to teams adjusting to him. I think he fixed that during the playoffs. I think he’ll use all of the field as he did early on and provide us with the .300 hitter we adopted as the new kid.

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