San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot has positive projections, if he can earn a starting job.
Entering the 2018 season, Manuel Margot was seen as a player the Padres could build around and was often touted as a cornerstone of this franchise. A former top prospect who showed much promise in his rookie season, Margot begins 2019 with a possible spring training battle with Franchy Cordero for the starting center field job. At the moment, Steamer projects Margot to finish as the team leader in fWAR at 2 Wins Above Replacement.
We could go into detail about how that speaks more about the current talent on the roster, but for Margot, these projections show improvement from his 0.6 fWAR season of 2018. Is this type of improvement feasible for Margot? Absolutely.
Margot’s 2018 stat line left a lot to be desired. A .245 average, .292 on-base percentage, eight home runs, and an ugly 52% success rate in stolen bases (71% success rate in 2017). However, there are positive takeaways that show is capable of improving upon these numbers, as his projections show.
First, his pitch selection and patience at the plate. Margot dropped his strikeout rate to 17% last season and lowered his chase rate and first pitch swing rate (both well below league-average). He may not walk much, but Margot isn’t a free-swinger and is able to wait for the pitch he wants to hit. The result? Margot hit the ball harder and more often, putting the barrel to the ball and increasing his average exit velocity by more than 4 mph.
More competition to keep his job, entering the season healthy (a shot to the ribs that caused some missed time and numerous ugly falls on his wrists which surely had an impact on much of his 2018 season), and a little bit of luck could result in a big upcoming season. If Manuel Margot wants to continue roaming centerfield at Petco Park, he needs all of this to come together for a productive year.