There figures to be a ton of competition in both the infield and the outfield heading into the 2018 MLB season. Let’s go through a few of the expected positional battles that we can look forward to in Spring Training for the San Diego Padres.
Spring training begins next week, and the San Diego Padres currently have eight infielders and seven outfielders competing for starting jobs. The team traded for Freddy Galvis in December, and he will man the shortstop position, with Wil Myers cemented at first. Barring the unexpected, Manuel Margot will play center, but right fielder Hunter Renfroe faces competition, and the left fielder will definitely be a player to be named.
When the San Diego Padres reunited with third baseman Chase Headley in December most observers assumed the team could easily move Headley in the offseason and that the real target had to be 26-year-old pitcher Bryan Mitchell. However, thanks to the trade and the downright frigid hot stove league, Headley remains a Padre and adds to a crowded infield.
Moving infielder Yangervis Solarte to the Toronto Blue Jays in January cleared out some of the crowd, but the team still has multiple players competing for playing time at second and third including Headley as well as Cory Spangenberg, Carlos Asuaje and Christian Villanueva.
Prospect Luis Urias has moved so rapidly through the system that he may see major league playing time sometime during the season.
Breaking down the 2017 San Diego Padres and what to expect in 2018
Last season, the Padres did not fare well defensively by any measure. According to FanGraphs, the team ranked 28th with -6 DRS (defensive runs saved) and -4.1 UZR/150. The Padres also had a run differential of minus-58 and a fielding percentage of .981.
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Second baseman Carlos Asuaje actually improved his defense over the course of the season, but Cory Spangenberg, shortstop Erick Aybar, and now-departed third baseman Ryan Schimpf made large contributions to those negative numbers.
Outfield defense suffered as well with right fielder Hunter Renfroe actually committing nine errors. Thanks to injuries to both Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson, Jose Pirela, normally a second baseman by trade, played leftfield until he injured his finger.
Rule-5 draftee Allen Cordoba, Matt Szczur, and Franchy Cordero also saw time in left. The latter has moved up the prospect rankings, and although he’s a center fielder by trade, Cordero may force his way into the outfield.
Home run fever may have overtaken baseball, but the fact remains that winning teams depend on solid defense as well as offense. Teams that made it to the playoffs last year, like the Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins, all rank near the top in fielding.
The addition of Galvis definitely shores up the shortstop position, but the San Diego Padres’ front office must weigh defense heavily in deciding which of the above candidates will man second and third base in 2018.