San Diego Padres: Fanfest and the 25 man Roster

Mar 21, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Erick Aybar (8) throws to first baseman Wil Myers (4) to put out San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (not pictured) during the third inning at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Erick Aybar (8) throws to first baseman Wil Myers (4) to put out San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (not pictured) during the third inning at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Diego Padres held their annual Fanfest on Saturday, and then released their 25 man roster. It was quite a weekend indeed.

The San Diego Padres hosted their annual Fanfest celebration on Saturday and it was notably different from past celebrations. Regretably missing activities on the playing field and in the clubhouse, they also choose not to list any of the players, coaches or alumni participating so that fans had no choice but to line up for autographs without knowing who would be showing up to sign their memorabilia. This approach prevented fans from getting specified items signed and left everything to chance.

In past events, fans received a schedule when entering the park that listed all activities, where they were located and all Padres participating in the autograph sessions. There were also on field activities for fans as well as a clubhouse tour that allowed fans to see inside Petco and view where the players and coaches hang out and work during the season.

Not even the ushers and staff working the event admitted to knowing anything about the Padres coming to the event or any schedule as to when the normally scheduled Q and A’s with staff, players and broadcasters would take place, as well as who would be involved.

Suffice to say that the lack of organized communication led to lots of confusion and frustration among fans, who had to ask repeated questions of the in park staff to find out what was going on and where.

Poorly organized from the fan stand point, Fanfest had one redeeming quality. It coincided with the release of the 25 man roster and allowed the fans who managed to be at the right place at the right time a chance to question the manager and general manager about the construction of the 2017 Padres roster.

San Diego Padres
San Diego Padres /

San Diego Padres

Those Q and A sessions revealed the thinking that went into the most unusual Opening Day roster in baseball. While standing in line to get a signed ball from Austin Hedges and Erick Aybar, I read a twitter post from beat writer AJ Cassavell listing the 25 players that made the roster for the 2017 Padres. To say that I was surprised is putting it lightly. I believe it is safe to say that the majority of fans who follow the team closely were also surprised.

Soon after the release of the roster, Padres manager Andy Green appeared on stage with broadcasters Ted Leitner, Jesse Agler and Tony Gwynn Jr (so great to have Tony involved) to address the fans and take questions from the broadcasters and the fans. Green was joined by face of the franchise Will Myers for this session. Green provided the meat and Myers the charm and humor for the length of the session.

For those not yet aware, the 25 man roster differed from what many expected in a couple of significant ways. Expected starters aside, the lineup will not feature either Cory Spangenberg or Jabari Blash, who will both start the season at Triple A, despite very good performances in spring training.

Green’s explanation on Spangenberg consisted of a desire to see him play every day to make up for so much lost time last year. Stating that sharing second and third base with only a few appearances per week would not serve him well in his development as an everyday player. This made it clear that the Padres feel he is a better utility player than Ryan Schimpf and that is not the role that best serves him going forward.

The outfield roster has three players listed and is minus a legitimate fourth outfielder. The twitter conversation that followed the roster release showed Cassavell guessing that Rule V player Allen Cordoba will most likely be the regular relief in the outfield.

And yes, all three Rule V players (Cordoba, C Luis Torrens and P Miguel Diaz) made the roster, along with utility man Christian Bethancourt. Green expressed during the Q and A that they view Cordoba as a super utility type that showed during spring training that he can play multiple positions and develop into a very valuable tool for the team during the season.

The experiment that is Christian Bethancourt is now being seen as primarily a relief pitcher who will also be used as a pinch hitter and managed very carefully in those roles. He can be an emergency catcher or outfielder but will most likely be used as an extra pitcher and pinch hitter on the days he is not available to pitch or can follow one role with the other in the same game.

The catching situation is fascinating.

Hedges will be the everyday catcher, but this will be his first full season as a major league starter and will need support and rest days. This brings us to the  Hector Sanchez/Luis Torrens dynamic. Sanchez provides experience and a switch hitting bat while Torrens has an advanced defensive profile and no experience above A ball. How the Padres use this back up catcher profile will say a lot towards their success this season.

Handling the pitching staff is the major responsibility for every catcher and having Sanchez available will be a big advantage but Torrens must play on occasion to aid his development. Sanchez also figures to be the primary back up to Will Myers as there is no other player on the roster who has played first base with any regularity, not even in spring training.

The utility players will be Cordoba, Luis Sardinas and Bethancourt. Cordoba faired best during the spring with Sardinas not performing well and Bethancourt focusing on pitching. All three have played the outfield but I am at a loss as to Sardinas’ role on this team. Cordoba is a shortstop, as is Sardinas, and it is understandable that the Padres don’t want to put all their eggs in the Erick Aybar basket but neither of these players has a successful track record and Cordoba played in short season Appalachian League last season.

The bullpen is talented and deep. And they will need to be with the starting rotation as it is. The locks were Brad Hand, Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer. They will be joined by long man Jared Cosart, Bethancourt, Craig Stammen, Jose Torres and Rule V’er Miguel Diaz.

Stammen was a minor league sign during the offseason and was added to the roster this past week. Torres is a talented lefty who won his job with a 2.70 ERA. It gives the Padres an extra lefty reliever to complement Buchter and Brad Hand, who figure to be late inning relievers most of the time.

Miguel Diaz was acquired from the Twins and was the top pick in the Rule V draft. The Padres see him as a possible rotation option in the future but he will be utilized according to his performance for the year. His spring consisted of appearances in 7 games with 8 innings pitched allowing three hits and two runs, four walks and five strikeouts. That resulted in a 2.25 ERA and a .125 average against. This differs from his history of four seasons in rookie ball with the Brewers organization that yielded inconsistent results.

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The roster structure is the result of the Padres desire to hold onto all of the acquired talent on their spring roster. Moving Blash and Spangenberg to the minors while giving jobs to under performing Rule V players allows the team to retain talent they value even though the major league depth might suffer. Green elaborated that both Blash and Spangy will be there when needed.

To allow the Padres to add Sanchez and Craig Stammen to the 40 man, pitcher Keith Hessler was waived and Colin Rea was added to the 60 day DL while Carter Capps, Christian Friedrich, Alex Dickerson and Buddy Baumann were placed on the 10 day DL to allow space on the 25 man roster.

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I do believe Andy Green when he says there is a plan and that they believe they can win games with this roster but time will tell how many games that will be. I do start this season with a more pessimistic outlook than normal because of the starting rotation. I dearly hope this group proves me wrong and the season will be more exciting than the experts predict.

This fan base and city deserves an over performing team for a change. Let’s hope this team provides it.