The Padres’ center field options for 2024

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Padres A.J. Preller
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The San Diego Padres traded their starting centerfielder Trent Grisham. Who will play the position moving forward? 

In this week’s Juan Soto trade, the Padres packaged their centerfielder Trent Grisham in the deal.

Grisham will play in the Bronx next season, and that leaves the Padres with a glaring hole in the outfield. The team will need to replace two of their three outfielders from the 2023 season. Grisham won two Gold Gloves with the Padres, and his defense will surely be missed. The problem with Grisham is that he regressed badly in the last two seasons, struggling to hit over .200. The Padres need offense, and it was time to move on.

The Padres saved over $30 million in the deal and will surely utilize the money somewhere.

New pitching talent acquired from the Yankees will help fill out the pitching staff, but you get a sense the team would still like to add a veteran or two in the rotation and an option late in the game. Who knows which direction the Padres will go this winter? They can attack their needs in several different directions.

The largest need is glaring, though.

Who will play center field? That is not just a position you can stick someone at.

Is there a player on the roster, or do the Padres need to acquire someone through trade or free agency?

Let’s examine the options.

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In-house options

Fernando Tatis Jr.

This may be the easiest fix, but you get a sense the ball club doesn’t want to move Tatis from right field. And why should they? As Tatis won an N.L. Gold Glove and was also recognized as the league’s best defender, winning a Platinum Glove. There is no doubt he could handle the change, but it may be wise to just leave him alone and allow him to grow as a player in right.

Putting Tatis in center field would immediately make him one of the best at the position in all of baseball. For lineup purposes, putting Tatis in center would free up the Padres to get offensive weapons to play the corners next to him. It is tempting and something to consider this winter if the team cannot find a suitable replacement for Grisham.

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Azocar

Azocar can play the position at a high level defensively, but some wonder if the bat plays every day. Last season, Azocar put up a .231/..278/.363 batting line in 55 games and 91 a-bats. Bob Melvin used the fleet-footed outfielder as a defensive replacement late in games.

There is no reason to think Azocar can produce at the major league level every day. Throughout his whole minor league career, he only surpassed a .800 OPS once. And that was done in El Paso (a hitter’s haven) during the 2022 season. The 27-year-old right-handed hitter has speed to his game and is best used as a fourth outfielder at this point in his career.

Jakob Marsee

Marsee had a fantastic 2023 season and emerged as one of the Padres’ best young prospects. The 22-year-old was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 MLB Draft out of Central Michigan University. Marsee started this past year in Fort Wayne (Single-A baseball) and ended it by playing in the AZL for the Peoria Javelinas and winning the league MVP. In total, Marsee put up a .840 OPS with 16 homers and 46 steals. He walked 98 times and put up a .413 OPS in 456 at-bats.

You may need to pump the brakes on Marsee, as he has 16 games under his belt at the Double-A level. Despite the fact he put up a 1.215 OPS in Peoria this fall, he is still very raw. It may take time for him to reach the majors. Or maybe, just maybe- he could emerge in the spring for the Padres. He will be given an opportunity to play this March. It will be up to him to try and earn a major league job. Being the starting center fielder on day 1 of the season? That would be a tough task to accomplish.

 

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