Most of the discussion this offseason regarding the San Diego Padres' lack of depth in the outfield has centered around the loss of Juan Soto. This isn't all that surprising given that Soto is one of the best hitters on planet Earth, and losing a player of that caliber is going to be felt in a big way when the Padres' offense takes the field in 2024.
However, San Diego also traded away center fielder Trent Grisham in that same deal and his loss is not a small one.
While Grisham is certainly a flawed offensive player that strikes out too much and has some real hit tool concerns overall, his glove in center is undeniably awesome. He won two Gold Gloves with the Padres and put up Outs Above Average marks in the very good-to-elite range in each of his five seasons in the league. While the Padres' offense may benefit from replacing him, replicating his defensive value isn't going to be easy.
Unfortunately, this free agent and trade market is decidedly lacking when it comes to outfielders. The Padres were connected to Michael A. Taylor this offseason -- a VERY similar player to Grisham -- but the most recent report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has the Padres instead looking inward this spring at their options for center, with one sticking out like a sore thumb.
The Padres need to give Jakob Marsee a chance to stick in center field
In Rosenthal's report, he mentioned three internal names in San Diego's search for outfielders in top prospects Jackson Merrill, Jakob Marsee and Graham Pauley. Both Merrill and Pauley are high end offensive talents that certainly warrant consideration, but both guys are infielders by trade, and putting them in center field straight away for their first look in the big leagues may be a bit ambitious. However, Marsee does have plenty of experience in the outfield and may be the answer the Padres have been looking for.
Across two seasons in the minors after being selected in the sixth round of the 2022 MLB Draft, Marsee has posted back-to-back .800+ OPS seasons at the plate while playing sound defense in the outfield. His 2023 season was particularly eye-opening as he cranked 16 home runs while stealing 46 bases in High-A and Double-A. What has him in consideration for a big league roster spot, though, is his performance in the Arizona Fall League this year, where he was named the league's MVP after posting a 1.215 OPS.
While Marsee doesn't have the physical tools of some of the other prospects mentioned, or the defensive ceiling that Grisham had, he just does a lot of things very well and he gets the most out of the tools he has. He's a smart baserunner despite not being the fastest guy, has strike zone awareness beyond his years which makes him an OBP machine (in addition to having some pop), and should be able to play all three outfield positions if needed. He just gets the job done every time he's out there.
We'll see how things shake out this spring in the Padres' outfield soon enough, but don't be surprised if Marsee ends up being a heavy favorite to win a spot out there assuming he performs well early this spring.