Part of the reason so many people are high on the Padres farm system is their depth at each position. At just about every spot on the field, the club has multiple talented prospects ready to jump at the opportunity for a big league call-up. Up until recently, that depth has been just a bragging right, not a necessity. Now, with Carlos Quentin out a couple weeks and uninspiring news surrounding Kyle Blanks‘ shoulder, the Padres may get an early shot at showing how that depth translates to the field.
Quentin had surgery last Monday on his left knee. While a relatively minor procedure, he will still miss a couple weeks at minimum. Blanks started experiencing left shoulder pain the same day as Quentin’s surgery. The pain has now kept him out of games for over a week with no definite resolution on the horizon. For now, Blanks is relying on cortisone injections to help speed up his return to the field.
Under normal circumstances, the loss of these two projected 25-man roster members who play the same position would have been devastating. For the Padres, that may not be the case. If Blanks misses any considerable amount of time, to the point where he lands on the DL, the Padres have at least three options at left to replace Blanks and Quentin.
The team has been scrambling to find playing time for Jesus Guzman ever since he broke out last summer. Now, they should be able to give him an extended audition in left field during regular season games. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, but his offense begs for a spot in the lineup. For Opening Day, Guzman has probably leapt to number one on the depth chart in left field.
James Darnell has been the team’s spring and minor league renaissance man. He’s now played games at multiple spots in the outfield and at third base. From all accounts, it looks like he will get the nod to start the season with the big league club. It’s a huge opportunity for him to show off his talents early in the season. He’s been a late season call-up before, and quite frankly, he has failed to impress. In 18 games last season, he hit .222/.294/.333. With a shot early in the season, perhaps Darnell will feel more comfortable. Breaking camp with the MLB club has to be an easier transition than a late season call-up.
Matt Clark is the least likely to get a shot in Quentin’s and Blanks’ absence. He has put on quite a show this spring, but from everything that’s been said, and from reading between the lines, the Padres want him at first base, not left field. Clark, though, was moved to the outfield last season, so slating him as your club’s future first baseman doesn’t quite make sense. It doesn’t look like he is going to be given the shot he deserves, but I know I’m not the only one high on him. That’s why I’m starting the Free Clark movement. If ever there were a time for the Padres to give him his chance, it would be now, in left field to start the season.
Despite some concerns I may have with Clark’s future in the organization, the Padres have plenty of options to replace Quentin’s and Blanks’ bats. On paper, the Padres should be in good shape. Of course, the game is played between the foul lines, and stats from the spring and from previous years don’t matter. The Padres are now forced to prove their depth and number-one farm system will actually benefit them in the regular season.
Jesus Guzman, James Darnell, and Matt Clark are all viable options for temporary duty in left field. Guzman should get the brunt of that time and he is no longer of the “prospect” category. He is a big leaguer. James Darnell is interesting if for nothing else his position changes. Obviously, his exposure at the major league level has been limited, and he deserves a lot more at-bats before drawing any conclusions. It will be exciting watching these players fill the gap, but at the same time, it will be a little nerve-racking.
As much as any Padres fan wants to see their young talent, it’s more important to start the season strong and play with the players who are slated to start all season long. Unfortunately, there is no choice in this situation. The Padres are forced to show off their depth.