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.