When the Padres brought in Matt Stairs to be their hitting coach this offseason, the club’s entire offensive mentality changed. Stairs’ philosophy is simple: be patient at the plate and find ways to get on base. After ranking dead last in on base percentage last season, the Padres are hopeful that this new approach will allow them to take strides to what they want to become in the future.
We have seen some players benefit from this already. Freddy Galvis, who has a career OBP of .288, has shown patience at the plate thus far. Carlos Asuaje, Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, and others have all improved certain aspects of their offensive game under the guidance of Stairs.
One player that has been struggling as of late, however, is Manuel Margot. Operating primarily out of the leadoff spot, Margot has found himself ice-cold at the plate to start the 2018 season. His abysmal .100 batting average and .217 OBP are just not what we should expect from a player as talented as he is.
So the question is: should the Padres experiment with other players at the top of the lineup?
Let’s start with Margot himself. Padres manager Andy Green has been very vocal on what he expects from Margot as the leadoff man, stating that he wants to see him get on base at a higher clip this season. The biggest problem with the young center fielder thus far is his patience. Most managers want to see their leadoff hitter take a few pitches, or even foul some off, to work up the opposing pitcher’s pitch count. In a small sample size this season, Margot has struggled to work deep counts and has often found himself not seeing a lot of pitches. The caveat here is that, obviously, Margot is still very young and an extremely talented player. With the MLB season just beginning, we should expect him to settle in and return to the player that we know him to be.
But, let’s just assume for a second that Andy Green wants to tread the waters and mix some things up.
The Padres do have some players that could take over the leadoff spot if Margot’s offensive struggles continue. Carlos Asuaje is the first player that comes to mind. Starting a lineup off with a left-handed bat is an intriguing idea and Asuaje himself has also taken strides to improving his OBP. Currently sitting at .333, the Padres second baseman works himself into deep counts and has come out on top in some situations.
Freddy Galvis is another interesting player that comes up in this discussion. Galvis has been seeing the ball better and currently has a .429 OBP. Obviously that number will come down, but putting a veteran presence at the top of a lineup is never a bad idea. If Galvis can find ways to get on base, more opportunities will open up for the “big boys” of the lineup to really do some damage.
Finally, Jose Pirela’s name should certainly be brought up when discussing players that are worthy of the leadoff spot. Green has actually penciled Pirela in at the leadoff spot Wednesday against the Rockies, and when he’s arguably been the team’s best hitter since joining the club last season, you can see why he would do so. Currently on a five game hitting streak, Pirela doesn’t walk as much as you would want from a leadoff man, but he certainly knows how to hit the ball. Placing him at the very top of the order could set the tone for those who follow and ultimately lead to a better overall offense.
The Padres certainly have options if Manuel Margot does not find ways to improve his struggles. Whether it be Asuaje, Galvis, or Pirela, someone will step up and embrace that role. There’s a good chance that Margot eventually breaks out of his slump. A player of his magnitude is just simply too talented to not break out of this slump. However, if the team elects to experiment and roll with someone else, there are plenty of quality options that could fill in for Manuel Margot.