San Diego Padres need Travis Jankowski’s defense and speed

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31: Travis Jankowski
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31: Travis Jankowski /

Keeping outfielder Travis Jankowski in AAA as he makes his full recovery may be a move the San Diego Padres regret, as his speed and defensive versatility are valuable assets to the club.

Obviously the Padres have chosen offense over defense by leaving Travis Jankowski in El Paso rather than bringing him back to San Diego. Jose Pirela will continue to play left field because of his bat. However, sacrificing defense will not help this team get to .500 let alone become competitive. The Padres need Jankowski’s defensive prowess, but the team also needs his speed on the base paths.

Jankowski has been out since April 24th with a foot injury initially diagnosed as a bone bruise but later discovered to be a fracture. He began a rehab assignment on July 15th and was optioned to the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas on Friday rather than recalled to the Padres.

“If we didn’t have someone up here playing as well as Pirela, we’d probably bring Travis back right away,” Padres manager Andy Green told Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union Tribune on Friday. “Travis is a superior defender to just about everyone in the game of baseball—not just the few guys here.”

Pirela has been an offensive spark especially at the top of the lineup and is batting .286/.325/.495. He too has above average speed. However, he is not renowned for his defense.

In fact, the team’s defense, in general, has been sub standard with both ESPN and Fox Sports ranking the team at 27th in fielding. For fans that think defense doesn’t matter, consider the fact that last year in the regular season the Chicago Cubs held opponents to a .255 average on balls in play, the lowest in 40 years. That defensive prowess helped the Cubs win the division and the World Series.

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No one will argue that the Padres need help offensively. The team ranks last in most offensive categories with a woeful .234/.300/.400 batting line. However, the defense doesn’t exactly shine with -20 DRS (defensive runs saved). The Padres rank #28 in DRS, much lower than any team in the division (with the Dodgers ranking #6, the Rockies #14, the Giants #15, the Diamondbacks #20).

While Manuel Margot ranks ninth of center fielders in DRS with 1.5, other regulars like Wil Myers (-4) and Hunter Renfroe (-12.6) have been below average. The Padres pitching staff has a 4.68 ERA, and lousy fielding just compounds pitching woes. Green’s defensive shifts can only go so far in compensating.

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Jankowski can play all three outfield positions, giving Pirela, Margot, and Renfroe some time off in the last two months of the long, long season. Considered one of the 10 speediest players in the game, Jankowski can also be used as a pinch runner, providing havoc on the bases and giving long suffering fans a bit of a thrill.