Though some starting positions might be clear this year for the San Diego Padres, next season may be quite a blur. As players presently on the D.L get healthy and are back in the mix, position battles come into play. Will the Padres give the starting second base position spot back to Cory Spangenberg over rookie Ryan Schimpf? Or will each move to a different position? It will surely be interesting to see what Andy Green and A.J. Preller decide to do with the infield.
Before Schimpf came into action around mid-June, Spangenberg did not “dominate” second base, but he sure did play the position better than anyone else. Taking a look at Spangenberg before his injury, he had 11 hits, eight RBI and one homer. He amassed a batting average of .229, an OBP of .302, an OPS of .656 and was slugging at .354 clip. Not the best numbers, but Spangy showed some progression early in the year.
After just the 14th game of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was injured after a head-first dive into first base. The injury looked like a damaged wrist or finger, but after the game word from the clubhouse was a strained quad. He was immediately placed on the 15-day D.L. The day after it got worse for the team as he was moved to the 60-day D.L. and he is currently still there. The Padres made room for the injured Spangenberg and recalled Jemile Weeks from Triple-A El Paso. Weeks too was lost early in the season, but not all hopes were gone for the Padres.
Cory Spangenberg made his debut with the Padres on September 14, 2014 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and finished 1-for-4 with two RBI. Though, that isn’t what most remember from the series. In his second major league game, he had his first big league home run, in style that is, a walk-off homer.
In the 108 games he played in 2015, he had 82 hits, four home runs and 21 RBI. He batted .271, had an OBP of .333, an OPS of .733 and a slugging percentage of .399. After suffering a knee injury in late June he returned in mid-August and played mostly second base due to the fact that Jedd Gyorko continued to struggle with the bat. Gyorko was traded during the offseason (in December 2015) to the St. Louis Cardinals for Jon Jay. That cleared the way for Spangenberg and manager Andy Green seemed very eager to have the young infielder at his dispense. Spangenberg has yet to play a full-season though with injuries coming in both his opportunities. Staying healthy has definitely been an issue for him and that is a concern for the Padres.
There is no comparison between Gyorko and Spangenberg since the two are very talented individuals in the game. Gyorko is a power hitter while Spangenberg relies on speed to positively affect the offense. Gyorko is gone so its time to move on. Spangenberg was to be a vital part of the offense but losing him has not been all that rough on the team.
Ryan Schimpf is doing well at second base and his emergence is really exciting to see.
The 28-year old rookie spent nine seasons in the minors before being called up from Triple-A El Paso to the big leagues by the Padres.
His big league debut could not have been sweeter as his first at bat was June 14 in front of the crowd at Petco Park against the Miami Marlins. Schimpf was in the lineup, batting sixth and starting at third base. His first major league hit was a double with out in the bottom of the second inning, as the Padres trailed 5-0. They eventually fell to the Marlins 5-2 and he finished 1-for-4 on the day.
With the injury to Spangenberg, Schimpf fills the role the Padres needed. Sure, there are many other players who could successfully play second but can they do what Schimpf is presently doing? He is a gem and his power bat needs to play everyday. The Padres need to find out exactly what they have with this young man.
He didn’t immediately come out with a bang though, as he struggled in his first month with a batting average of .103. However he picked things up in the month of July and rewarded the Padres for their patience. He led the majors with nine home runs in the month and was also third in the majors with a slugging percentage of .705. He also led all N.L. rookies in OPS at 1.092. With this, he earned the N.L. Rookie of the Month award, and that was no surprise to Padres fans. Sorry Corey Seager and the Dodgers, you can’t have em all.
His first home run of the season came at Petco Park against the visiting New York Yankees on July 1. A Yankee fan favorite pitcher of Nathan Eovaldi was on the mound for the night and Schimpf drew a 2-2 count. Eovaldi threw a splitter to Schimpf, who completely destroyed it to right field as the Padres led 4-1 in the bottom of the second inning. The Padres went on to win the game 7-6 and eventually claimed the series.
Something about New York and right field gets Schimpf fired up. He hit his first grand slam against the New York Mets at Citi Field to give the Padres a 4-0 lead in early August.
Schimpf’s numbers can’t really compare to Spangenberg. They are a different type of baseball player. Spangenberg’s job is to get on base and make things happen, while Schimpf is more inclined to drive in runs and hit extra base hits. The Padres have a big decision to make on which direction to go with their second baseman.
So far this season Schimpf has 41 hits, 15 home runs and 36 RBI. He is hitting well below .300 with his current .228 average. That needs to improve. He needs to shorten up with two strikes and put the ball in play. Schimpf does own an OBP of .353 so far which is excellent. He is not opposed to taking a walk which bodes well for his future. His slugging percentage of .583 and OPS of .937 are what makes the team excited. He could be an offensive force if he just cuts his K’s slightly and increases his average with a few more singles here and there. The season is not over yet and there is still time to improve. He could easily make the proper adjustments.
Though, will this improvement be enough to keep his starting position? Spangenberg is still younger and as reported, Andy Green loves the style of play he brings to the team. Still Schimpf just keeps getting better and better and the team cannot ignore that. That brings an excellent story and an even more impressive potential position battle.
By looking at the numbers, it is hard to tell who will stay where and what will eventually happen in the infield. But for right now, that isn’t the focus. Instead it is taking the games day-by-day and finishing the season strong. Yangervis Solarte, Adam Rosales, Alexi Amarista and Schimpf are around the rotation at second base presently and all have been adequate at the position. However, Schimpf clearly stands out as a potential starter. He could possibly be a long-term player, one the Padres can use to provide power to the lineup.
Will we see Spangenberg back on the field this season? It is most likely a no, but you can sure catch him cheering on his teammates from the dugout. That shows a lot. It has to be a disappointing year for the young man, but he keeps his focus on the team. If he stays healthy and works through the offseason, a return to the lineup is waiting for him somewhere. His skill is too vast to have wasted on the bench. It will be a battle to see who will take the starting second baseman spot in 2017. Spangenberg and Schimpf can both play third base as well. so there is that. Depth is a great thing and the Padres certainly have that in certain positions. It will be interesting to see what they do.