For EVT’s next PNO (positive, negative, outlook) we will focus on Cory Spangenberg.
The San Diego Padres selected the left-handed hitter with their first pick in the 2011 draft. He was drafted 10th overall out of Indian River Community College, where he had an impressive 2011 season as a 20-year-old. Spangy put up a .477/.553/.659 slash line in 176 at bats that season and also stole 33 bases. He looked to be a star.
His rise through the Padres’ system was steady, as Spangenberg showed a plus bat from the very start.
As the 2018 season begins, Spangenberg will be 27 and in the prime of his career. He looks to be the teams’ everyday starter at third base, but Christian Villanueva had an impressive September and could be a threat to his playing time moving forward. Only time will tell in this regard.
The Padres are loaded in the infield position presently. Carlos Asuaje, Yangervis Solarte, and Cory Spangenberg provide versatility, but all three have a cloudy future with the team. Each player has positives to their game, but, like most major leaguers, they also have issues that need to be addressed. A.J. Preller has options in the infield and it is difficult visualizing all three returning to the team in 2018.
Cory Spangenberg is an exciting player to watch play the game of baseball. He is capable of making a jaw-dropping play on defense and also capable of doing something special on the base paths or with the bat. Players like that are a joy to watch for the fans. He hustles and shows heart and, with that, his style of play is infectious for a young team.
At the same time, Spangenberg can be frustrating to watch as you surely expect more from him. Consistency is a big part of the game of baseball and this young man has struggled with that. He has made adjustments with his launch angle and is driving the ball better now. He is also beginning to recognize his faults as a hitter, and more growth is to be expected.
Let’s explore some of the concerns with his game, while still praising what he does best. Lets take a look at his PNO.
In 2017, Spangenberg played second base, third base, and left field. The outfield was a new experience for the young man, but he handled it well, not committing an error in 206 innings there. His advanced stats, like zone rating and defensive runs were below average though. But he has proven to be serviceable at the position moving forward. Spangeberg can play all three outfield spots (though center would be a stretch) and all four infield spots (though shortstop would be an adventure) and has some of the best versatility on the San Diego Padres.
Most of Spangenberg’s starts (86) in 2017 came at third base and he looks entrenched there for the near future. Carlos Asuaje and Yangervis Solarte both have the ability to play the position, but it appears the Padres will have them man second and possibly short to begin the spring. It remains to be seen if Solarte can handle short at a full-time level, but he may be given an opportunity there. Christian Villanueva is the real threat to Spangy in 2018.
The left-handed hitter was not known for having much power, but as he gets older, he has driven the ball more effectively. Spangenberg slugged over .400 last season, as he slammed 13 home runs and added 18 doubles. He has surprising power to the opposite field and can drive the ball out to left fairly well for a player that is smaller in stature.
Towards the end of the season, Spangenberg hit 5th and 6th in the order and hit nine of his homers from those positions in the order. He protected Myers and Renfroe well in the order and proved that the Padres very badly need another left-handed presence in the middle of their order. I would not expect 30 homers from him, but a run at 20 with over 500 at bats seems possible. Pretty nice for a middle infielder turned third baseman.
He has very good speed, but has failed to really be a stolen base threat. He stole 11 bases last season, but I think the Padres expect more from him on the base paths. He stole 25, 27, and 36 bases in his first full seasons in the minors, but was also gunned out 31 times. The speed is part of his game, but there is a need for refinement.
The power is nice, but his speed is not totally being utilized. Expect Spangy to easily eclipse his career high in steals this coming season. If given adequate playing time, Spangenberg has the ability to make a run at a 20-20 season. He is not the prototypical third baseman, but his numbers are on the rise, and the Padres’ former #1 pick will be given every opportunity to shine at the major league level.
128 strikeouts in 444 at bats is not what you want to see from Spangenberg. Yes, he did hit a career high 13 homers and his power numbers are on the rise, but there has to be a middle ground for him as a player. He has typically been victimized late in the count with sliders and hard breaking pitches down in the zone. Adjustments have been made, but there is room for improvement as he regressed late in the year.
He has slowly turned into a power threat, but the team will likely demand that he focus on getting better at bats on a game by game basis. The strikeouts will always be a part of Cory Spangenberg’s game, but he needs to be a little more aggressive early in the count. If he does that, the K’s will drop and the OBP will rise.
Throughout his whole career, Spangenberg has struggled with a failure to draw walks, and thus his OBP has been an issue. Since he cannot get on base at a consistent pace, he is not looked at as top of the order threat. He has the wheels to hit in the top, but that .324 career OBP just won’t cut it.
Moving forward, there is no reason to be down on him just yet. At 27, he can make the proper adjustments. If he can be more patient and get his pitch to hit instead of chasing stuff out of the zone, he could be a solid contributor on offense.
Playing all over the diamond is tough. His numbers in the outfield are slightly below average, but the position is new to him. His numbers are solid at second, but the team seems insistent that he play third, where he has some very weak numbers defensively. He was a negative 22 in defensive runs saved for the 2017 season at third base. He was also negative nine in his zone rating.
Third base might not be his best position moving forward, but it is where he will get at bats. In my opinion, Spangenberg has the ability to be an above-average major league second baseman. His offensive numbers would be impressive there and he has shown the ability to play the position better defensively than third. If some trades were made to clear the position for him in 2018, he would probably have his best year in the majors.
Spangenberg has the ability to do a lot of different things in the game of baseball. He has tools that have not developed yet, and in time he should be able to improve. The only problem is that professional baseball is not kind to those that take time to grow. 2018 is a key season for this young man’s professional career. He needs at bats at the highest level, but they will not be handed to him. He will have to earn them.
If he gets 450-500 at bats this year, he will put up impressive numbers. Expect his steals to increase in 2018 as the game slows down for him. The Padres would be wise to invest time in Spangenberg before making any rash decisions for the 2018 season. He has room to grow as a player and has been a bit frustrating to watch, but you have a sense that he is just about to figure it all out. The skills are there and so is the dedication. Sometimes a player just needs a little luck.