The day is March 4th, 2016. Why does that matter? Well, the San Diego Padres just played their first few official Spring Training games of the new year.
Last year the Padres brought in additions of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Will Middlebrooks, James Shields, Craig Kimbrel, Derek Norris and Wil Myers. The entire city was pumped up, and were ready for San Diego to become a great baseball town once again.
Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out that way. The starting pitching didn’t meet expectations, the outfield defense proved to be a problem, and they weren’t able to put together months of good baseball, which is what it takes to be one of the 10 playoff teams every season. However, 2016 will be a different look.
The Padres split ways from Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit, moving strong bullpen arms for young prospects that should help in the near future. Ian Kennedy signed with the defending champions, Justin Upton signed a mega deal with the Tigers, Gyorko was dealt to St. Louis, and Alonso was moved for a left-handed arm. While doing this, the Padres were able to sign free agent shortstop Alexei Ramirez, acquire Jon Jay from St. Louis, and sign free agent reliever Fernando Rodney.
The 2016 San Diego Padres will not have the expectations they did in 2015, and that may very well be a good thing. A.J. Preller brought in a new leader, Andy Green. Green is now calling the shots as the manager of the Padres and players are already saying good things. Skip Schumaker, who is doing his best to make the 25 man roster, said Green reminded him of Tony Larussa with the fire he brought. The men in the locker room in Peoria, AZ truly believe they can win, through pitching, good defense, and timely hitting.
So, if the Padres don’t have all these big names anymore, who is going to step up? That man is Cory Spangenberg. If you go and watch the Padres play, you will fall in love with his game. He is a ball player, he plays hard every game, and does all the little things to help the team win.
Cory was selected in the 2011 amateur draft, #10 overall by none other than the San Diego Padres. He was born and raised in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania and attended Abington Heights High School. The Padres took the chance on Spangenberg because of his undeniable ability to put the ball in play, his speed, and sound defense.
In 2013, Cory split time between the San Antonio Missions and the Lake Elsinore Storm and put up outstanding numbers. During this time, he had a batting average of .292, an OBP of .346 and was able to steal 36 bases. Cory played nearly every game during this run, and that is one of the things Cory will enjoy most this season. After trading away Jedd Gyorko this offseason, the torch was officially passed to Spangenberg. This will allow Cory to get everyday at bats and get comfortable being in the starting lineup, rather than getting spot starts here and there like he has in previous stints with the Major League club.
There are many reasons why Cory is destined for a big 2016. The first reason, which I have already mentioned is his usage. Cory is going to get every opportunity to be successful at second base under new Manager Andy Green. Andy Green is a big fan of “Spangy”. Last year as the Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach, he noted that Spangenberg easily hit the ball the hardest of any Padre.
Andy Green is big on putting the ball in play, playing the game right, and running the bases. Cory Spangenberg does all three of those things very well. Andy Green has made it a clear priority for Spangenberg and fellow teammate Travis Jankowski to work on their bunt game as he wants to incorporate speed and bunting as much as possible this season. This is going to be huge for Spangy, guys like Dee Gordon can be successful by playing sound defense, running like the wind, putting the ball in play and laying down a beautiful bunt from time to time.
Another key for Spangenberg in 2016 is going to be the hitters behind him. The lineup is still up in the air on how things are going to shake out. However, if it were me, I would bat Spangenberg and newly acquired outfield Jon Jay back to back, and have Matt Kemp and Wil Myers follow as the three and four hitters. If that is indeed what Andy Green decides to do, Spangenberg is going to see fastballs, and he is going to see good pitches to hit at the top of the order. Spangenberg feasts off fastballs, always has and always will.
The biggest improvement in Spangenberg’s game compared to last season is going to be the speed. He was only able to swipe nine bags last year, and that is unacceptable for the pure speed that Cory brings to the field. Part of it was limited opportunity, and a lengthy DL stint. With this said, if Cory is able to stay healthy and gets the opportunity to be penciled in as the starting second basemen for 140+ games, he will steal at least 25 bases this season. Personally, I believe he will steal 30+ bases. The combination of playing time, getting on base, and a manager that loves to run can very easily be deadly for opposing teams.
The last thing that I will mention is Cory’s defense. Last season the Padres had the 4th best fielding percentage at second base in the MLB. They had a fielding percentage of .990, a very high and impressive number. Cory last season in 70 games, had 264 chances and only committed four errors in those chances. That was good for a .982 fielding percentage. His arm has been the only concern, but at second base his arm is more than capable of getting the job done. It is also going to be nice for Cory to get used to having an everyday shortstop in Alexei Ramirez, as the shortstop position for the Padres recently has been a disaster. Together, defensively, Ramirez and Spangenberg should play elite defense up the middle, and will make the pitchers feel very comfortable pitching to contact in the lower half of the strike zone.
I expect big things out of Cory Spangenberg in 2016. If the Padres have a shot at being a contender this season, Spangy will be a big piece of the puzzle. He’s no longer a kid, and this is the opportunity he has been waiting for to be the man at second base for the San Diego Padres.