With one of the youngest rosters in recent memory, the San Diego Padres have an opportunity to experiment with their talent this season.
There are undoubtedly advantages and disadvantages to having a young roster. While most fans will dwell more on the negatives, such as inexperience, the benefits of youth can alter the fortunes of an entire organization.
The San Diego Padres enter 2017 as one of the youngest clubs in major league baseball. In fact, if not for several late offseason additions such as Jered Weaver and Trevor Cahill, the 25 man roster could have easily been the youngest in all of baseball.
Naturally, the club’s youth contributes to the extremely low expectations the Padres have this season. They are projected by the vast majority of baseball analysts to end up with at least 90 losses again, and are often put towards or at the bottom of power rankings.
While fans aren’t very optimistic about 2017, and for good reason, there are some benefits to having such a young team. Building for the future is the most obvious, but even this could be taken a step further.
General manager A.J. Preller hit the nail on the head during Cactus League media day on Tuesday. When asked to elaborate his thoughts on possible experiments this spring previously mentioned by manager Andy Green, Preller said the following:
"We are able to shape our team, our franchise, and our organization the way we want to with this group. So in terms of where guys play, moving guys around the lineup, whether or not we have a veteran crew or a younger crew, we just want to make good baseball decisions. I think some of the things he [Green] was talking about in spring training is more just to find what’s the best combination of guys on the field. I don’t think it necessarily relates to the fact that we can do that because some of the guys haven’t yet had a lot of time in the bigs, I think it’s more just legitimately trying to figure out how to best use their talent."
Experiments Green was referring to included trying Hunter Renfroe at center field, and possibly moving other players around. Preller, while he infused his share of cliches into these particular comments, did admit that the club would be willing to try what they need to in order to find the right combination of players to put a winning product on the field in the long term.
Of course, this is no major surprise. But the fact that San Diego is capable of moving players around due to the fact that they are young and inexperienced is worth noting. This should serve the club well, if they do in fact find a match at a position which they are currently unaware of.
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Once again, this only underscores the significance of 2017’s spring training and Cactus League play. This season, it is not only about the positions on the 25 man roster which are up for grabs. It’s also not just about winning starting jobs and earning playing time.
This spring is critical for the Padres club as a whole because they are still searching for an identity. Experimenting in certain areas in order to find the right combination of players is what San Diego will set out to do. And uniquely for the Padres, this may mean making moves which may seem bizarre and unnatural to fans, knowing that there is no need to leave any leaf unturned.
Most baseball teams will be entering spring training action with a good idea of how their roster and starting lineup will work. There won’t be a whole lot of flexibility for these clubs since their players have their roles etched in stone. For the young Padres though who have yet to find an identity, this spring will be one full of experiments and the search for a winning combination of players. Though inexperience is normally seen as a negative characteristic, it may just work in San Diego’s favor this spring.