Who should be filling in at shortstop currently for the San Diego Padres daily?
With Fernando Tatis Jr. out with a wrist injury, the San Diego Padres need production from the shortstop position. The offense is simply not producing, and the team cannot endure a hole at a position that has been fruitful in recent years.
Luckily, unlike seasons of the past, the Padres have several internal options who can play shortstop.
Ha-Seong Kim and C.J. Abrams are more than capable of filling in at the position until the Padres’ best player returns in a few months. But which of the two should get most of the opportunities at a vital position on the infield diamond?
Kim looked to have the edge heading into spring, but the play of Abrams in Peoria certainly opened the door for the Padres’ No.1-ranked prospect.
Heading into the home opener, Kim has recorded 13 plate appearances compared to Abrams, who has stepped to the plate 16 times for the Padres. There is no clear indication of which player is the favorite to earn the lion’s share of the reps at the position moving forward. The ball is Bob Melvin’s court. It is his decision.
Let’s examine the situation.
The offensive game took some time to earn respect around the league, but Kim certainly showed improvement late last year and into the spring. The right-handed hitter looks more relaxed at the plate, and the natural quickness to his swing is making up for his lack of ability to turn on a real good fastball. There are still some weaknesses, but the Korean-born infielder is only 26 and capable of getting better with the bat. There is some upside here for the Padres.
With the glove, Kim is smooth and a natural at shortstop. His movements around the bag are purposeful and efficient. The future for this young infielder is bright as he brings a plus glove with him to the field each day. The Padres would likely be rewarded by allowing Kim to play the position each day. He would provide plus defense for the team and, with time, could be an offensive threat for the Padres.
The bat is electric. His play on the field is special and exciting. C.J. Abrams will be a successful everyday-type player at the major league level. At 21, there are some natural concerns if he is ready now to contribute. But here we are. Abrams is set to make his debut at Petco Park on Thursday. The slow start with the bat is to be expected, but it is not fair to judge him quite yet. Give the left-handed hitter a few more weeks and several games under his belt before you label him.
Defensively, there might have been some concerns about sticking a rookie at shortstop to begin the season. Abrams has silenced all critics about his glovework, as he has been reliable and solid in his first taste of action on the field. The future for Abrams with the bat is exciting, but he is proving that he is hardly a one-trick pony. The speed element and now the glovework he brings every day are extremely valuable. You can argue that he needs more time, but there is no doubt that he is not overmatched in any capacity by playing in the majors now.
This situation looks to remain like it is. Expect Abrams to play against most right-handers and rest against the tougher left-handed pitchers in the league. Because the majority of the pitchers in Major League Baseball throw right-handed, Abrams will simply play more than Ha-Seong Kim. Is that fair to Kim fans? Probably not. But Abrams is so young, with amazing upside. The Padres will give him every opportunity to play. If he does not fail miserably, they will allow him to develop at the major league level. It would take a catastrophe for the Padres to deviate from their current plan.
Abrams will have tough games. That is inevitable. The Padres would like to observe the young player (first hand) as he battles through these everyday hardships. His response and how it fuels his future efforts will dictate just how far C.J. Abrams goes in the game of baseball. The bottom line is that the Padres have options at the shortstop position. And that is a great thing for a team with championship ambitions. Depth goes a long way towards hoisting that World Series trophy that they desire.