Will the Padres Find Another Big Bopper at First Base?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The question stings, but should be answered with a resounding Yes!  Since the Padres joined Major League Baseball in 1969, the team has frequently had a power hitting first baseman.  Nate Colbert was a rookie with the Padres in 1969, and the Padres star hit 24 homeruns.  In 1970, Colbert hit 38 homeruns, a total he would equal in the 1972 season.  Fast-forward to 1992, and Fred McGriff led the National league with 35 homeruns and won the Silver Slugger award.  In McGriff’s two and a half year stint with the Padres he averaged 34 homeruns and 100 RBIs.  Ryan Klesko approached these power numbers in the early 2000s, but the stinging sensation begins to take hold when the conversation turns to Adrian Gonzalez’s time with the Padres.

Gonzalez’s first full season came with his hometown team in 2006 when he hit Colbert’s mark of 24 homeruns.  The best indicator of Gonzalez’s ability to hit the long ball and drive in runs was his .500 slugging percentage during the ‘06 season.  Gonzalez would eclipse the .500 slugging mark over the next four years and his power numbers appropriately rose.  In 2009, Gonzalez slugged .551 with 40 homeruns and 99 RBIs.  Gonzalez’s ‘09 numbers are the standard for big bopping first basemen playing for the Padres.

Currently, there is good news coming from the first baseman position.  Tommy Medica is the frontrunner at the moment.  He made his debut with the Padres in September, and played like he wanted to be the starting first baseman for the 2014 season.  He hit 3 homeruns with 10 RBIs and slugged .449 in 69 at bats.  Yonder Alonso will be looking to regain the starting position after sitting out virtually all of September with hand soreness.  Alonso finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2012, but while he looks the part of a bopper at 6’ 2’’ and 250 lbs., he is known as a good hitter whose power needs some work.  Phil Plantier, the Padres’ hitting coach, should look to tap into Alonso’s power while maintaining his ability to get hits.  There will be tremendous pressure on Medica and Alonso during spring training, but Padres fans will be excited to see the results of the head-to-head competition.

The Padres have seen plenty of stars at first base, and the potential for the team to develop the next big star is one of the many bright spots to look forward to in the 2014 season.

Topics: San Diego Padres, Tommy Medica, Yonder Alonso

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  • Roy Thomasson

    I don’t agree with this article at all. Sure, the Padres could use a power bat, but first and foremost they need a smart bat who puts the ball in play. They need a Joey Votto much more than an they need a Mark Texeira. I’d like to see a first baseman who can hit liners gap-to-gap with average more than someone who hits 30 homers but bats .240. That’s why I think that Yonder Alonso may be a good fit, especially over Anthony Rizzo. Give Alonso a couple of years to develop his hitting skills, he already has a fine glove. I think he can be a reliable .280-.300 hitter who hits to all fields and drives in runs. I don’t see him hitting mammoth bombs, but I’ll let Kyle Blanks do that.

    • Bernie D’Amato

      Thanks for your comments Roy. Alonso is becoming a fairly reliable hitter, and I’m sure he will continue to develop. I thought Medica had a terrific September, and will provide Alonso with steep competition for the starting position at first base. Hopefully, the competition fuels their ability to hit home runs, but you are correct to say the first objective is to hit for a high average.

      • Roy Thomasson

        I think that people become too obsessed with the power game sometimes, and I don’t think that the Padres (and their payroll) can play with the big boys in that game. The Padres should build their roster around pitching, defense, speed, and putting the ball in play. I don’t want “three true outcome” hitters, I want high OBP, low strikeout rate guys who can grind out at-bats and wear starting pitching down, while testing the mettle of the opponents’ defense.

        Tommy Medica was a nice surprise. The rare player who shows development ahead of schedule. If he continues to progress he might become a significant part of the roster next year. I think the Padres already have a solid core of young position-player prospects (Gyorko, Liriano) and a wealth of pitching talent. This year was fraught with injury, but some young players had the opportunity to step up and showcase their skills. If all of those Tommy John procedures recover properly, we will see an interesting year of young players finally reaching their proper career trajectory.

        I think it’s going to be a fun, competitive, energetic team to watch. I hope they can find a common bond around which to rally. If they do, the Dodgers better watch their back, because the Padres will be gunning for them!

        • Bernie D’Amato

          I think we have the players you are talking about. I’m watching the playoffs right now and can’t wait for next season! The young guys will be hungry and we have the leadership to keep everyone focused on winning. A lot to look forward to in 2014, especially the games against the Dodgers!