Padres should platoon Eric Hosmer at first base this season

(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

Platooning a guy who is set to make $21 million this year isn’t an ideal proposal. But it might just unlock the best possible offense out in San Diego.

Eric Hosmer, coming off his best season as a member of the Padres, is the epitome of a split-heavy player. He bats left-handed and, thus, struggles against left-handed pitching. In his career, he carries a .661 OPS against southpaws. Against righties? He’s hit .824 – over 150 points better.

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That might not be a big enough red flag for some of you out there. How about this? Last season, the 31-year-old slashed .330/.379/.596 against righties – some big-time numbers for a guy who hadn’t really hit his stride since coming to San Diego. Against southpaws, though, he limped to a .204/.245/.367 line.

Now that is a major difference – one that likely cost the Padres runs in 2020.

I’ve talked before about how depth is a major strength of this year’s club. You’ve got all kinds of versatility. In theory, Jake Cronenworth, Jurickson Profar or Ha-Seong Kim could handle second base on any given day. Profar – or offseason acquisition Victor Caratini could be the answer against lefties should the Padres go with a platoon.

Padres have the pieces to make a platoon work for team, Eric Hosmer

Caratini, a switch-hitter who came over from the Cubs in the Yu Darvish trade, OPSd roughly 300 points higher against left-handers in 2020 (.892 v .597). He’ll not only spell Austin Nola behind the plate, but he’s got a decent amount of experience at first, as well – making him a natural fit.

This could make even more sense if the Padres wind up giving top catching prospect Luis Campusano a look at the big league level. He takes Caratini’s reps behind the plate and allows manager Jayce Tingler to mix-and-match Hosmer and Caratini at first as matchups dictate.

Profar is the Swiss Army knife of this roster. Tingler and the Padres know that – it’s why they brought him back into the fold, even after signing Kim to a four-year contract and having no everyday place for him in the lineup. Profar has already embraced the role of utilityman, saying he’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win.

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I know Hosmer broke out offensively in 2020. My suggestion to platoon him shouldn’t be taken as a knock. It’s because I think the changes to his swing could pay off even more this year if he’s put in advantageous matchups. Imagine a Padres offense that puts its best foot forward every day, no matter who is on the mound. That’s what you get with this platoon arrangement.