It is safe to say that the Padres’ 2017 season has gone exactly how ‘informed’ Padres fan have wanted it to go. The team is currently 18 1/2 games out of first place and is trending downwards (Side note: it is incredible how awful the Giants have been this year). Not only have the Padres been losing games, they have been losing them in the harshest of fashions. Just recently they held a 5-2 lead against the Kansas City Royals heading into the 8th inning. The Royals then went on to put up nine runs and ‘stole’ a victory because, of course.
Many fans would refer to this as “bad baseball”. They are not wrong. Franchy Cordero flat out missed a fly ball that would have likely stopped the bleeding. However, when you are fielding several guys who have minimal MLB experience, this is the sort of play you can expect. My point here is that, while it can be incredibly excruciating to watch, it is a great learning experience for these young, future stars.
To distract ourselves from the often difficult games the Padres play on a daily basis, I have decided to get amped for the 2018 season by plotting out how the team may look. While I do not think the 2018 season will be successful in terms of wins, I do believe the team will take significant and noticeable strides. Here is how I believe the starting nine will play out.
We can begin by penciling in Wil Myers at first base, Hunter Renfroe in right field, Manuel Margot in center field, and Austin Hedges at catcher. I know what everyone is thinking, “What about Yangervis Solarte?!”. As many have heard, his name has been the subject of trade rumors swirling around Major League Baseball. As the deadline approaches, I am sure we will be able to determine whether these rumors amount to anything significant. Due to his recent injury, I think the Padres will hold on to our alligator-clapping second baseman. However, it would not be surprising if the Padres do end up moving Solarte as they have many young middle infielders down on the farm. For now, I will place Solarte in the “nearly certain” category of this opening day lineup at second base. However, if he does get dealt, we can slide Asuaje in his place.
Now that we have discussed the “no doubters” and the “nearly certain” players to be in the Padres opening day lineup, it is time to dive into what I like to call the “messy three”. The ‘messy three’ includes the positions where the Padres have had some significant turnover. As you can all guess, these positions are third base, left field, and worst of all, shortstop.
In terms of left field, I am going out on a limb here and predicting Jankowski will be gone at the deadline. His injury has really cost him, but has provided a window of opportunity for guys like Jose Pirela, Franchy Cordero, and Allen Cordoba. Therefore, I think the position will more than likely end up in the hands of one of those three guys. You probably think I am crazy since each of those guys have a very small sample size at the big-league level. To calm your nerves, I will throw in a catalyst; Alex Dickerson of Poway, California! The dude has crazy pop. Remember when he hit a ball to the third level of the Rogers Centre? CA-RUSHED. I am sure a guy who is about to undergo back surgery really calmed your nerves, right?
If not, another catalyst we can throw into the left field equation is the “Triple-A King”, Jabari Blash. This large human is a complete mystery to me. Seeing him up close in person in Peoria, you would think this guy can mash. And he can. When he is playing for the El Paso Chihuahuas. When he gets an at-bat in a Padres uniform however, he looks clueless. I blame the uniforms. Better yet, I blame the lack of brown uniforms. I would be in utter disbelief if he got the starting nod in left field next season.
The left field position is up for grabs so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. My assumption is, along with shortstop, this decision will be based on 2018 spring training performance. I cannot imagine the Padres making a move for a veteran left-fielder. But I would not be mad if they did. (Remember, Justin Upton and Carlos Gonzalez could be free agents by next year). Ha, wouldn’t that be something?
Another position that is seemingly wide open for the taking is shortstop. It is generally being held down by Erick Aybar and Allen Cordoba. Aybar will play a much more minimal role by next year if not be off the roster completely. Let us pray it is the latter. That being said, I hope we give the starting spot to one of prospects down on the farm. The names that stand out the most to me are Javier Guerra, Luis Urias, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Jose Rondon. Cordoba is certainly in the mix here as well as he has proven he can play at the big-league level despite his lack of experience. It will be interesting to see where his numbers lie at the end of the season.
The player closest to winning the job at shortstop would have to be the Padres’ #4 prospect, Luis Urias. The 20-year-old out of Mexico has seemingly conquered Double-A pitching and will hopefully find himself in El Paso in the near future. If his bat remains steady at the Triple-A level, he could very well find himself starting at shortstop next spring at Petco Park.
The next closest to major league-ready in the Padres system currently is Rondon. He has the necessary tools to be an everyday shortstop in terms of arm strength and range, and has swung the bat quite nicely between San Antonio and El Paso this year. He will never be a power hitter, but he makes consistent contact, and that is what the Padres need at the bottom of the lineup.
Javier Guerra could certainly compete for the job as well but I think his inconsistencies at the plate need to be dealt with in the minors before they throw him into the deep end of major league pitching. That leaves us with Rondon and Tatis Jr. While these youngsters have shown flashes of success, they both are young and in their developing stages. I am personally keen on Tatis as the future shortstop (Thank you White Sox). To me, he just has the look of a future star once he fills out and develops his bat to match major league pitching. He will be in a Padres uniform by 2020.
Having a flooded pool of talented shortstops is a great problem for the Padres to have. At the end of the day, the Padres only need one of these guys to break out. Once they find a star, they can deal the others for whatever needs they may have at that given point in time. Do not be surprised if we see a number of these guys in a Padres uniform next year (or even the end of this year) as the Padres test their crop of talent at the shortstop position.
Third base is another position where the front office will need to make some decisions. As of right now, the job belongs to either Ryan Schimpf or Cory Spangenberg. As of late, Spangenberg has really taken advantage of his opportunity and proven to be a valuable asset at the hot corner. Spangenberg will get on base more frequently and does not strike out nearly as much as Schimpf. As much as I love ‘Schimpf Cocktails’, I hope the Padres can bundle him in a trade for a nice little return. Spangenberg is the long-term option at the hot corner for the Padres.
That wraps up our starting lineup for the 2018 Padres. Here is my desired opening day lineup in April.
Margot CF, Solarte 2B, Myers 1B, Renfroe RF, Hedges C, Spangenberg 3B, Urias SS, Cordero LF, Anderson Espinoza P (Bold prediction that most likely will not happen, but one can dream).
We will face another rough season in 2018 most likely, but it is imperative to pay attention to the growth of our youth. Rebuilding does not happen overnight. The pieces are beginning to fall into place and I think by 2020, you will see these guys really start to compete. Until then, Padres fans, hang in there and enjoy beautiful San Diego. At least we can always use the “We still live in America’s finest city” argument.