Spangenberg/Asuaje battle will go down to the wire

San Diego Padres' Carlos Asuaje, front, is congratulated by Cory Spangenberg after hitting a home run during the third inning of the second game of a baseball doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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Peoria, Arizona

There isn’t a more intense battle for playing time than the one between Carlos Asuaje and Cory Spangenberg for the second base job to begin the 2018 season.

Andy Green has fielded several questions regarding the competition. There is no clear choice, as both men have equaled each other in terms of offensive production during the spring. They are both left-handed hitters and provide plus range at second base for a team that is supposed to be emphasizing defensive prowess. Both men appear prepared to make the next step in their careers, so the choice will be difficult for the third-year manager.

On Saturday morning, in the daily presser, I asked Green about the battle and how his evaluation process is coming along. Here is what the young manager told us with a smile on his face. “It is the toughest one in camp right now. They are matching each other at-bat for at-bat. It’s the kind of competition that you like to see. There is no clear-cut favorite in my mind with a week plus left in spring training. My expectations are they both play key roles for us as the season unfolds.”

Both men are indeed playing well and there is no answer on the horizon to the question of who should be starting. We will just have to wait and see how this all plays out. Andy Green is certainly pleased as both men have responded and kept a great relationship with each other at the same time.

Cory Spangenberg

The former #1 pick for the Padres in the 2011 draft has had opportunities to be a starter, but injuries have unfortunately derailed his attempt to establish himself as a major leaguer. Last season, Spangenberg started 86 games at third base, 25 games in left, and four games at second base. The fact Spangenberg can play outfield is a bonus to the team, but the Padres are stacked at the position presently. With players like Jose Pirela, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, and Travis Jankowski vying for playing time, Spangenberg’s ability to play the outfield isn’t necessarily viewed as a bonus to him making the roster.

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Cory showed developing pop last season and has continued to display it in the Cactus League this spring. Left-handed power from the second base position is rare and could be very enticing to the Padres in the middle to end of the lineup. In 500-plus at-bats, with his current trend of increasing power, it is not out of the realm of possibility for him to hit 15-20 dingers in a season. The question is if he can put together enough quality at-bats not to be a liability when he gets cold with the bat. Spangenberg has been very streaky in the history of his career, so he needs to find that proverbial “consistency” at the plate.

Carlos Asuaje

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a four-player bounty for Craig Kimbrel, Asuaje has done well in Padres’ colors. The scrappy infielder can also play third base in a pinch, but seems more comfortable at second base. Asuaje is a contact hitter who slashes the ball all over the field. He gets on base, and though he isn’t blessed with lightning speed, is a solid base runner who often gets above average jumps/reads while running the pillows.

Asuaje is not a huge power threat, though I would not categorize him as weak with the bat. He will go deep on occasion and could very well achieve double-digit homers if provided with ample at bats. Asuaje is a tough out. He generally puts the ball in play and has no issues hitting against left-handed pitching. He is a gamer and his teammates simply rave about his commitment and his abilities in the clubhouse.

The Verdict

This will probably go down to the wire. Injuries can always happen and make things less complicated, but if all remains as it is, this will be one of the last decisions of camp. There is a scenario where both make the team, but if that happens, Christian Villanueva probably wouldn’t. Villanueva is out of minor league options, so the team will probably keep him. Sadly, the loser of this battle will most likely start the year in El Paso. He should hold his head up though, as there will be a time in the season when he will get an opportunity. That is just the nature of the game. Both men will be prepared no matter what the outcome. That, you can surely count on.

2 thoughts on “Spangenberg/Asuaje battle will go down to the wire

  1. I think it would be foolish to let either of these guys go to AAA. First off, what kind of morale killer would it be? They both have played their @$$&$ off and one has to go to El Paso? I’d go with two catchers. Maybe go with Lopez since he’s hitting so well and ask Ellis to go to AAA until June 1, then decide.

    If anything, work a trade for one of them and/or Headley. Spangenburg can play 2B, 3B and LF and probably could handle SS if the game is out of hand to let Galvis have a breather.

  2. Raffy Lopez is being rumored to be possibly making the team, is signed to a MiLB contract so he can start the year in AAA. They like his LH bat off the bench on a mostly RH roster of the Padres. But Spangy has more ML time, has shown more in past seasons and IMO would be a strong option as the LH bat off the bench also. He has versitility in the field, 2B, 3B, and OF. He could slide into a part time role at 3B once Headley is moved. This season is ALL about finding out which pieces that take the next step and where we need help from outside the organzation. We have trade chips available. Some of these MiLB guys who need to be added to the 40 man roster after the 2018 season need to sort themselves out also. We could package them up with Headley, maybe a Rotation piece or bullpen guy to move them before the deadline. We have NEVER had these type of numbers issues BEFORE in this organzation, it is a really nice problem to have.

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