The San Diego Padres current centerfield options

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Credit: Getty Images

A glimpse into the current centerfield options for the San Diego Padres this spring.

The San Diego Padres have a giant Help Wanted sign hanging outside of Petco Park.

Trent Grisham is no longer with the Padres. The two-time Gold-Glove defender was shipped to New York with Juan Soto as the pitching-starved Padres needed to do something with their roster after losing nearly 75 percent of their starting pitchers from the 2023 season via free agency.

Some speculate that the Padres sent Grisham east because the Padres were considered the favorites to land Korean superstar Jung Ho Lee. The center fielder signed with the Giants a few weeks after the trade with New York, and that left the Padres in need of a centerfielder.

Or do they?

Here is a look at the men in camp who are presently competing for the job.

Each comes with value, but not one is hardly a household name.


Jose Azocar 

The odds on favorite to begin the season as the starter in center is Azocar. “Sugar” brings experience to the position, though Azocar has only played in 153 games over two seasons with San Diego. There is an upside to his defense, but he really hasn’t shown much with the bat throughout his major league career. His career .633 OPS in the majors leaves little to be desired. There is hope he can project some offense to his game, but at the age of 27, Azocar may ultimately be a career number four-type outfielder.


Jakob Marsee

Marsee is a left-handed hitter and is coming off his first full season of professional baseball. The 22-year-old was very impressive last season, recording a .840 OPS and making it all the way to the Double-A level. Marsee also went off in the Arizona Fall League, where he won the league’s MVP after recording a 1.215 OPS in 24 games and 92 at-bats for the Peoria Javelinas. He is an adequate defender but is still very raw with the bat, with a little over 50 at-bats at the Double-A level. He may need more seasoning but is very close to helping the major league team.


Jackson Merrill

The Padres first-round pick in 2021 is knocking on the door to major league service time. Merrill is a natural shortstop but has played a lot of outfield this spring. The left-handed hitter is playing some center field. though it is still unclear if he will be able to handle the move in early 2024. Merrill’s left-handed swing is smooth, and the power potential is developing. The Padres have a great young hitter on their hands, and his athleticism makes him capable in center. It remains to be seen if this is a move the Padres will really consider moving forward.


Oscar Mercado

Veteran right-handed hitter Oscar Mercardo is an interesting player. The former Guardian, Phillie, and Cardinal has five years of major league service time under his belt. He has played in 298 games (119 in center) and recorded 973 plate appearances. In that time, Mercardo put up a .677 OPS but was very impressive in his rookie year in 2019. He slugged 15 homers that season and stole 15 bases while putting up a .761 OPS in 438 at-bats. His numbers declined from there, though the veteran is considered a hungry player with the ability to play an adequate center field. Keep an eye on him.


Cal Mitchell

Local produce, Cal Mitchell, will be a fan favorite. The former Pirate graduated from Rancho Bernardo High in 2017 as Pittsburgh used a second-round pick on the left-handed hitter. Mitchell debuted in 2022 with the major league team but only earned four at-bats in 2023 and was granted free agency in early November. The Padres claimed the soon-to-be 25 year old,  and the hope is he can contribute in 2024. Mitchell shows some power with the bat but struggles to make constant contact. He will need to impress this spring to make the team.


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Bryce Johnson

28-year-old Bryce Johnson may be the best defender of this bunch. The right-handed hitter played in the Giants’ organization but was released in October. Johnson has only 61 at-bats in the majors in two seasons with San Francisco and struck out 22 times. He has excellent speed on the base paths and is considered a base stealer. Johnson will probably start the year in El Paso but could be in line for playing time in 2024 with the Padres if the team does not upgrade at the position.


Tim Locastro

Recently signed Tim Locastro could be a bench player for the Padres in 2024. The right-handed hitter is capable of playing center but is regarded as a corner outfielder. Locastro has played in seven seasons at the major league level, recording a .664 OPS in 531 at-bats. The Padres need help in center, and that is where his value lies, but at the age of 31, some wonder if Locastro can help the team more than just a game or two a week. Is that really beneficial to the Padres? Especially when you factor in the other holes on the roster. He will need an excellent spring to make this team.

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