San Diego Padres: Five Things to Watch for in Early Cactus League Action

Mar 29, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Jabari Blash (62) flies out to right field during the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Jabari Blash (62) flies out to right field during the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Early spring training games are exciting because they serve as the first opportunity for fans to see their team. For the San Diego Padres, what should fans be looking for in the first week or so of Cactus League play?

Cactus League play finally begins this afternoon, as the San Diego Padres take on the Seattle Mariners at 12:10 PM PT in Peoria.

Paul Clemens will take the mound for Andy Green’s club, at least for the first several innings. Some familiar position players will be in action throughout the game, but fans shouldn’t expect the lineup to be anywhere near what it will look like on Opening Day against the Dodgers.

It won’t be all that hard for fans to get excited about today’s game, and even the first few spring training games. With that said though, fans will be looking for certain things from their young club in early exhibition action.

As a guide for fans in watching their clubs first few Cactus League games, we listed our five top things to watch for this coming week.

Renfroe’s approach at the plate

San Diego Padres
San Diego Padres /

San Diego Padres

Hunter Renfroe could become a superstar. The Padres know this, and fans are anticipating what the 25-year-old can do this season. As exciting as a new season for Renfroe can be though, he must be careful to remain within himself. His first eleven games at the major league level were unreal; Renfroe hit .371, drove in 14, and hit four home runs.

The approach at the plate is critical early in spring training. Renfroe must stay within himself, being careful to avoid long swings and being over aggressive. As promising as the rookie’s future is, he still needs to complete his development. Fans should be watching carefully to see how Renfroe approaches his early Cactus League at bats.

Second base competition

One of the most wide open competitions for an every day job with the Padres is at the second base position. The first week or so of spring training games won’t decide which player wins, but could give one of the three competitors a major upper hand if they capitalize on their spring opportunities.

Ryan Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg, and Carlos Asuaje are the three players with a shot at the second base starting role. Schimpf seems to be the favorite coming off of his spectacular show of power in his rookie season, coming in the form of twenty home runs in 89 games. The competition is close though, as Spangenberg has made strides over the last several seasons and is ready for a starting role. The team is going to explore their options at this position, so fans should keep an eye on it.

Aybar and Cowgill

Under the radar, the Padres invited two seasoned veteran position players to Peoria, presumably to compete for starting jobs. Erick Aybar, a former Los Angeles Angel, is all of a sudden in the mix to start at shortstop. Collin Cowgill seems like a much less likely starter in the outfield since the Padres have Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Alex Dickerson, and Travis Jankowski. Cowgill could end up remaining on the roster though if he impresses.

If nothing else, Aybar and Cowgill will serve as mentors to the rest of the young roster. But they didn’t come to spring training for this sole purpose, which is why fans ought to keep a close eye on these two. Cowgill and Aybar will make a first impression, which may just determine what future, if any, they have with the Padres.

Clemens, Friedrich, Jenkins, and Perdomo

The rotation is far from set. Fans can assume that Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver will earn spots, and it seems likely that free agent offseason additions Trevor Cahill and Jhoulys Chacin will as well. This leaves one spot, which will be occupied by one of four starters.

Fans will get to see Paul Clemens in action right away, as previously mentioned. The Padres aren’t sure exactly when they will give Christian Friedrich, Luis Perdomo, or Tyrell Jenkins an opportunity, but they would like to give plenty of time to decide who will be the club’s fifth starter. With the stakes in this competition high, fans should pay close attention early on this spring to the pitchers with a shot to be the fifth starter.

How much do the starters play?

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Early on in spring training, few major league clubs will give their starting position players the majority of the playing time. There is a balance, of course, as the starters need some time to physically prepare themselves for the coming season. But every manager wants to give the non roster invites playing time, and doesn’t want to over exert the starters.

For the Padres, striking this balance will be difficult. With up to four of the eight positions being occupied by players entering their first full season in the majors, San Diego wants to give these youngsters as much experience as possible. On the other hand though, the club needs to figure out which players are even going to make the roster. Playing time early on will be indicative of how confident Green and his coaching staff are in their starters.

Next: Ways to Catch Padres Games this Spring