Padres News: Alexi Amarista Ready to Compete for Starting Job


San Diego Padres utility man, Alexi Amarista, has been keeping busy this off-season with one thing on his mind, shortstop. With the Padres cutting ties with troubled former All-Star, Everth Cabrera, the starting shortstop position is up for grabs and Amarista is ready to give newly acquired shortstop veteran, Clint Barmes, and the unproven,  Cory Spangenberg, all the competition they can handle come this Spring Training. 

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As Jeremy Loeks wrote earlier this week, Barmes is a twelve-year veteran infielder with good defense, but a low batting average and Spangenberg has done well enough in his big league appearances, but may still be too green for a full time gig in the majors.

The Padres official website put up a story this week highlighting Amarista’s off-season play with Venezuela’s Caribes de Anzoategui team in the Caribbean Winter League. Alexi hit .388 in 67 at-bats with 10 runs, two doubles, one triple and one home run during the regular season there. Currently in the post-season, he’s 3-for-5 in two games. Momentum he hopes to bring with him into Spring Training.

As far as a utility player and defender, I love Amarista. He’s got terrific base running speed and although he makes the occasional infield error, he’s been a pretty consistent and dependable infielder and outfielder since he was acquired from the Angels in 2012. Dick Enberg calls him, The Little Ninja, during his broadcasts, a nickname originally given to him by former Padres catcher, John Baker, presumably for his short stature and quickness. If you’ve been to Petco Park and witnessed an Amarista stolen base, you may have heard a quick blast over the sound system of Vanilla Ice’s Ninja Rap (gah, I just shuttered at the memory of the Ninja Turtles dancing). He’s a fan favorite and it’s easy to see why. There’s a lot to love about a guy who can easily play every position on the field, with the exception of pitcher and catcher.

That being said, I don’t see Amarista getting the starting job. His bat is just too inconsistent and if you’ve been paying attention to the Padres’ busy off-season, they’re focused on power. I tend to agree with the general consensus out there that Amarista and Barmes will be splitting time at shortstop once the regular season starts or until a better option presents itself. Preller and the Padres signed Barmes for a reason and that alone makes me think he has already got a spot with the club come Opening Day. I’m personally rooting for Spangenberg to make a big impression this March, and take the next step after watching him in the minors for so long.

Lastly, if the Padres somehow manage to pull it off and win the growing bidding war for Cuban shortstop phenom, Yoan Moncada (fingers-crossed), Amarista will be playing on borrowed time and likely be gone once his recently signed 2-year deal runs out. That’s probably how much time Moncada would need in the minors before he’s ready for The Show, if he’s as good as everyone projects.

What do you guys think, are you rooting for Amarista to get the starting shortstop job or should the Padres be looking elsewhere?

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