Carlos Quentin‘s injury adds a whole new dynamic to the left field discussions, but for this piece, we’ll focus strictly on the log jam that has developed in left field and first base. The depth at each of these two positions offers comfort and frustration. The team has comfort in knowing that if (and when in the case of Carlos Quentin) someone is injured, they have capable replacements available. However, the depth offers a great deal of frustration to players proving themselves in the minors and during spring training.
Let’s start out with a list of the Padres players currently on the 40-man roster in left field and first base:
Now, let’s go beyond the 40-man roster to include some of the bright young talent coming up through the minors.
Of course there are other players within that organization that can develop at each position, but in total, that’s nine different players looking to fill two positions on the field. Yonder Alonso and Carlos Quentin have the starting jobs in these two positions, and it’s a good idea to have at least two players at each spot waiting in the wings. So what can the Padres do with the remaining players (some of which have already moved positions to get a better shot at the major league roster) at each position?
It wouldn’t make sense for the Padres to shed talent in their farm system, but it does make sense to replace some of the talent at log-jammed positions with prospects that play a position in which there is more need. I talked with Nathaniel Stoltz of Seedlings to Stars about this, and he had this to say:
"I wouldn’t sweat the LF/RF designation too much. I mean, heck, my A’s ran Jack Cust out there in right field for a couple of years, even though he was far better suited to left (well, DH, really, but you know what I mean). Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any player who had great [defensive] numbers in left but poor ones in right–while there’s some difference there, I’m not sure I’d treat it as a very cut and dry “We have LFs and need RFs” sort of thing. And anyway, arguably San Diego’s top prospect, Rymer Liriano, is a RF."
I’ve always felt there was only one main difference between playing left and playing right myself, and that’s throwing arm. So, I tend to agree with Nathaniel here. If the Padres can shift some of their “left field” talent to right field, there is no reason to consider a trade. However, the team does have one glaring area of need.
ESPN’s depth charts do not even list a third or fourth option for the Padres at shortstop, so it’s clear the team needs to address this hole quickly. Jason Bartlett may earn himself his automatic option and be back for 2013 (not that the club necessarily wants this), but beyond that, the Padres do not want to rely on Everth Cabrera as their every day starting shortstop.
On the prospect front, the Padres have a few players that may pan out, but some of those players switched positions to add shortstop to their repertoire. Some of the prospects include:
Valdez has had a strong spring, and he may move up in the eyes of the organization. So far this spring, he is batting .316/.435/.526 in 19 at-bats. Valdez’s biggest concern is his defense. He committed 31 errors in 121 games at short last season with Lake Elsinore.
With the lack of a true breakout prospect at shortstop, the Padres may consider a trade involving one of their players at a log-jammed position for a higher-rated shortstop prospect. Nathaniel Stoltz agrees, shortstop is an area of need:
"I’m a big believer in both Jonathan Galvez and Vince Belnome, and obviously Spangenberg’s in the organization as well, so I’m not too worried with 2B. SS is a bit more troubling with Jace Peterson as the best prospect, so that’s what I’d zero in on most."
With Nathaniel’s help, we zeroed in on a few organizations that may fit the bill for a trade including at least a highly-touted shortstop for something the Padres may be able to offer. Those teams include, the Rays, the Rockies, the Reds, and the Angels. Here’s a look at what each team has to offer at the shortstop position according to Seedlings to Stars (I’d encourage you to click on each team and read the scouting report on each of these players):
Aside from Hak-Ju Lee, who tops the Rays prospect depth chart at shortstop, the team has four shortstops in the top five “best of the rest” listings.
Again, the Rockies have a lot of depth at shortstop.
Of note here, is the following quote from Wally Fish of Seedlings to Stars: “The only area of the minors that lacks some semblance of quality and depth is in the OF.”
There’s a lot less depth here, but not necessarily less quality.
With the organizations and players in mind, the next step is deciding who the Padres could part ways with. Will Venable is penciled in more a the starting right fielder for the Padres, so it’s doubtful the team would give him up. Jesus Guzman proved himself too much with the bat, so regardless of his lack of a position, the team won’t be getting rid of him. Finally, I’d put Jaff Decker on the probably-not-going-anywhere list, but he’s not untouchable. That leaves Kyle Blanks, Matt Clark, Cody Decker, and Jeremy Hermida as possible candidates.
Of course, we have to consider what each of the potential trade teams are willing to take in return. A Jemery Hermida trade for a top-ranked shortstop is probably not going to fly. However, a deal including Kyle Blanks may be attractive. Blanks is a big powerful outfielder/first baseman. His power number has likely been stifled by Petco Park, but he is just 25 years old and could prove to be a major offensive threat in a hitters park. He would be the primary trade bait here.
The Reds play in a bandbox, and they lack depth in the outfield. This should make them a prime target for a trade including Kyle Blanks. The Padres may not even have to give up a prospect, but that may be a long shot. So let’s assume San Diego has to toss in a prospect along with Blanks, who would it be? I’d prefer Cody Decker over Matt Clark, but that’s personal preference. Either of those two could be included in the deal as long as the Padres get enough back.
The Reds have a lot of depth at shortstop and I’d like to see the Padres get two players in return for a deal including Blanks and a prospect. Billy Hamilton is so highly regarded, it is unlikely the Reds will part ways with him, but they may be willing to deal Zack Cozart (who is major league ready) and Didi Gregorius.
These possibilities, of course, are just fantasy right now. To our knowledge, the Padres are not even considering a trade that would unclog the log jam at first base and left field. They do not seem focused right now on improving their depth at shortstop. However, these things turn on a dime. It would be shocking to see any more major action before July, but come trade deadline, it would not be surprising to see the team shopping Kyle Blanks.