Padres insider misses the mark with his preferred 2024 San Diego lineup

The Padres do have a lineup problem, but the solution is not to move Cronenworth up in the order.
Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres / Norm Hall/GettyImages

One surefire way to get San Diego Padres fans up in arms is to talk about their ideal lineup. Everyone has their own opinion as to who should be playing every day and where they should be hitting in the lineup.

Some go the traditional route with wanting speed at the top and power hitters in the 3/4/5 spots, while others go the more modern route of wanting the best hitters to get the most plate appearances. Then, there are those who react to every 0-for-3 game by wanting to fire that player into the sun. There's no helping those sorts of people.

While most lineup construction takes care of itself, optimizing a lineup can be tricky. Some players have their preferences on where they like to hit and can have mental challenges adjusting to hitting elsewhere. There's also, of course, planning for how opposing teams will attack the lineup from a pitching perspective.

As of this moment, the Padres' lineup is heavy on right-handed hitters, without question, especially now that Juan Soto is a Yankee. While it's tempting to try and figure out a way to balance the lineup to make opponents think twice about putting their best righty reliever in the game, Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell's proposal for batting Jake Cronenworth third in San Diego's lineup goes a bit too far.

Padres just need to add another lefty bat instead of batting Jake Cronenworth third

Cassavell got a lot right when it came to assessing the Padres' lineup problem. The offense is weighted way too heavily with righties and it showed last year when the Padres' team wRC+ in 2023 against right-handed pitching was just 101 (14th in the league) versus their 123 wRC+ (second in baseball) against lefties. The problem is that Jake Cronenworth isn't good enough to take advantage of his handedness in this way.

Cronenworth is not a righty masher by any stretch. His career 113 wRC+ against righties is only a slightly better performance than his 100 wRC+ against lefties, and his hit tool has been trending in the wrong direction since his rookie season. Breaking up a lineup between lefties and righties is great in theory, but opposing teams aren't going to respect it with their bullpen decisions unless Cronenworth figures out how to hit again. Batting him that high is probably going to cost the Padres more runs than it saves. In this case, the juice isn't worth the squeeze.

To Cassavell's credit, he acknowledged Cronenworth's offensive deficiencies in his piece, but there seems to be a better solution to the Padres' lineup problem than the imperfect one he came up with.

Both Jackson Merrill and Graham Pauley are top prospects that San Diego has in camp right now competing for Opening Day roster spots, and both are left-handed bats with big upside. If manager Mike Shildt wants to break up the top of the order, either would be a better option than hoping Cronenworth finds a time machine and can go back to hitting like it's 2020.

Cronenworth still has plenty of value and should definitely help balance the lineup, but closer to the bottom of it than the top.

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