Stat Treatment: Padres Outfield Logjam


The Dodgers were motivated to trade Matt Kemp because of their outfield logjam.  Ironically, the pending trade plus the one bringing Will Myers to San Diego creates a logjam in the Padre outfield.  Now, the Padres’ four best offensive players – Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, and Seth Smith – occupy the outfield.  They have too many players, not enough spots on the roster, and not enough spots in the lineup.

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With the Matt Kemp deal, the Padres will have four or five outfield spots available on the roster.  Four will be taken up by Kemp, Myers, Upton, and Smith.  Let’s address them first.  Matt Kemp and Seth Smith flat out should not play CF, unless Bud Black wants a calamity in CF with Kemp who had a defensive WAR of -3.1 last season.

If the Padre skipper wants just three of them in the same lineup, he has three options: moving Myers or Upton to CF or Smith to 1B.  Justin Upton has not played CF in the majors.  A -.9 dWAR says that Upton is not even a league average LF.  His range factor per 9 in LF has been 1.88 and 1.87 over the past two seasons (league average 1.82).  That doesn’t indicate that, going into his age 27 season, he will be able to transition to CF where his range factor would have to be 2.46 to be league average.  In fact, Matt Kemp’s 2.10 and 2.11 range factors indicate he would be a better option in CF than Upton.  So, Upton is not an option in CF.

While with the Rays, Myers played almost exclusively in RF.  However, in the minors he played 100 of his 363 games in center.  His range factor per game was 2.34 (major league average CF was 2.46).  That was when Myers was 21 years old and in AA and AAA.  His dWAR has combined for -1.8 over his two seasons in MLB.

Do we really want a player with below league average range in an outfield with two of the following: the poor-fielding Kemp, the below average Upton and the average Seth Smith?  Kemp and Smith have below league average range even in corner outfield spots with range factors per nine innings of 1.63 and 1.95 respectively (league average 2.12).  At any park that would be bad.  In Petco, it could be a disaster.

Last year, the Myers, Kemp, and Upton combined for a -5.1 dWAR.  How much worse would that be with one year of aging and the vast expanse of the Petco Park outfield?  Moving Myers to CF is not an option.  Perhaps Smith could move to 1B – a position he has never played before.  Perhaps Myers could move to 3B – a position he played in the minors.  But this is not about the infield.

With Matt Kemp’s injury problems and the fact that a broken wrist limited Myers to 87 games last year, Smith might just be there for full-time duties if/when one of them gets injured.  But that doesn’t explain Upton’s role.  Or, Preller might have other intensions:

The Padres, therefore, have between zero and two roster spots available for outfielders: Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Carlos Quentin, Abraham Almonte, and Rymer Liriano.  If the Padres keep Smith and Spangenberg makes the Opening Day roster, none of that list of players will have a roster spot.  Liriano will likely land in AAA.  Quentin should be traded to the AL.  That leaves three players vying for anywhere from zero to two spots.

Preller has been creative thus far.  Don’t expect him to be any different with this problem.  But my guess is that Myers will be tested in CF.