San Diego Padres: Back to Normal: Position Battles Come Into Focus
With the World Baseball Classic behind us, the San Diego Padres are finalizing starting roles in the field. Which position battles are most intriguing?
It was, without a doubt, one of the most thrilling World Baseball Classics in recent memory. Dominating baseball news for several weeks this month, the event featuring many MLB stars has now concluded, with the USA rightfully emerging victorious.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league has been hard at work in preparation for the opening of the 2017 regular season. Now, just over a week away from Opening Day, the 30 teams competing for the World Series come back into focus.
The San Diego Padres have one of the youngest rosters in baseball, and one of the most uncertain. Though several players such as Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe have clearly done enough to win starting roles, some positions are still wildly up in the air. Without much time to decide, the club needs to really focus in on their evaluation process.
The most intriguing and confusing position battle in the field is at the often overlooked position of second base. With three on the roster, the Padres have three choices. However, their options are more complicated than they seem on the surface.
San Diego Padres
Ryan Schimpf has been impressive this spring, likely impressive enough to be the front runner in this battle. With Carlos Asuaje and Cory Spangenberg also options though, a possible Schimpf move to third could open up another spot for Spangenberg who is a reliable defender and is consistent at the plate.
But if the Padres are to move the rookie Schimpf over to the hot corner, then why in the world would they have signed Yangervis Solarte to a two-year, $75 million contract? But if they have the ability to incorporate both Spangenberg and Schimpf in the lineup, why wouldn’t they?
Either way, it is a multi-faceted decision for the San Diego coaching staff, one which will certainly depend partially on these final few days of exhibition play.
Despite challenges from all over the place, Luis Sardinas appears to be holding on to the starting shortstop job. Hints have been dropped that San Diego is not confident in the 23-year-old long term, as they used their Rule 5 draft pick on Allen Cordoba, another player in the running this spring.
Just prior to spring training, the club also showed a lack of confidence in the ability of Sardinas this season, as they brought in Erick Aybar to compete for the role. The main question now is, how relevant is Aybar in the current situation? Cordoba probably won’t start, but the Padres don’t seem sure that they want Sardinas playing shortstop every day. Again, it will come down to the final week of spring training.
For the most part, it has been a relatively healthy month for the Padres. Unfortunately though, their one major injury will have a direct impact on the club right away. With left fielder Alex Dickerson sidelined due to a back injury, the club will need to find a replacement until his expected return at mid to late April.
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With rookies Renfroe and Manuel Margot all but securing the other two outfield spots, left field is where all eyes are fixed. The Padres have two options, the front runner being Travis Jankowski and the challenger being Jabari Blash. Blash has been one of the stories of the spring, but Jankowski has found more major league success over the course of his career.
Due to Dickerson’s injury, the club is likely to keep Blash and a fifth outfielder, which is also up in the air. With the dynamic of the outfield now much different, the stakes are higher for aspiring San Diego outfielders in this final week.
Next: Hunter Renfroe: Rookie of the Year Candidate?
The drama of the final days leading up to Opening Day is most fascinating to fans due to the position battles still ongoing. For the Padres, a good portion of their field positions are up for grabs, including the middle of the infield and the final spot in the outfield.