Aug 10, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso (23) and shortstop Alexi Amarista (5) react after Alonso drove in Amarista with a sacrifice fly against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. San Diego won 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
While the Padres added some star power to their outfield, the infield overhaul hasn’t been nearly as exciting, and may not be finished. The current mix includes Yonder Alonso and perhaps Tommy Medica at first base, Jedd Gyorko at second, Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes at short, and Yangervis Solarte and Will Middlebrooks at third.
Only Gyorko, at 26 years old and coming into the second year of his 5-year contract, seems a lock to start. And we may see a battle for third base between Solarte and Middlebrooks. Of course, any predictions while A.J. Preller is at the helm could blow up with another blockbuster trade this week. But for now, that seems to be the case at second and third. At first base and shortstop , more interesting decisions remain to be made.
First baseman Alonso put up disappointing numbers last year, slashing .240/.285/.397, after hitting in the .280 range with good OBP numbers the two previous years. At a position that is counted on to put up big offensive numbers, Alonso has never hit more than 9 homers in a season, nor driven in more than 62 runs. The line-drive hitter needs to get his average up in the .300 range to be a real contributor to the offense, and while he occasionally goes on tears where he ropes doubles off the wall for a week or two, he hasn’t shown the consistency to hold down the first base position on a team with World Series aspirations. But with the only other real option being Medica, who has light-tower power but goes through long dry spells, the Padres may still be on the lookout for a more solid option at first.
Shortstop is interesting. Amarista has been a backup for his entire career, and is not much of a hitter. The general perception among Padres fans is that he not good enough to be a starter. But at the position where defensive prowess is valued much more than offensive skills, Amarista has an above-average glove. New addition Barmes is also above average on D. Neither will get on base as much as 30% of the time, so both will need to hit at the bottom of the order. With no decent shortstop remaining on the free agent list, will the Padres consider making an upgrade via trade?
The shortstop conundrum leads us nicely into our next area of concern: Defense.