The overhauled San Diego Padres are ready to compete in a tough National League West division. The additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Morrow, Brandon Maurer, Jose Valverde and James Shields bring a lot of potential to the roster. With all those additions, and the subtraction of Everth Cabrera to the Baltimore Orioles, a hole has emerged at short stop position. Or has it?
Alexi Amarista is currently scheduled to get most of the playing time at shortstop with an occasional start given to veteran Clint Barmes. Amarista has never had a high on base percentage in any level of professional baseball. He just is not that type of hitter. You cannot bat him in the top of the order, despite the quickness he brings to the table. He, in my eyes, is a perfect #8 hitter. The key to his season as a Padre is his defense though. He needs to be steady with the glove for the Padres to succeed.
Let’s be realistic about who Amarista is. He has a career .279 on base percentage in over 1,100 at bats. That is more than enough time to make a reasonable deduction about the player he really is. Amarista is a free swinger, despite his stature (listed at 5 foot 6 inches) the man takes a hack up there. He didn’t make it all the way to the big leagues by taking pitches.
Alexi Amarista does not strike out terribly much, but he does however fail to shorten up with two strikes. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen Amarista swinging out of his shoes with two strikes on him. If the shortstop from Venezuela could make this simple adjustment, he could add more than a few points to his abysmal on base percentage. At his age, 25, he is very capable of adjusting his swing and thought process. It will be a very compelling story to see if Amarista can blossom into an everyday player this season. He did hit .368 in 67 at bats for his Venezuelan winter league team, Los Caribes de Anzoategui this winter.
Defensively he has shown the quickness and strong-arm to be an above average shortstop. He just needs to make the routine plays and take charge of the infield, to truly take his game to the next level. If Amarista can play stellar defense and play in 150 games with a .260/.315/.370 slash line, he will be very important to the Padres. The team has hitters all over the place, his job will simply be to play defense and whatever he gives you with the bat will be a bonus. That should not put too much pressure on the man, he needs to figure it all out for himself.
I applaud A.J. Preller for not panicking and going out and making a hasty trade for a shortstop. The shortstop market is extremely bare right now, Amarista is just as competent as any potential player that could be acquired. Things could change at any time however, as A.J Preller is most surely keeping a watchful eye out. For the time being the “Little Ninja” is the Padres main man at shortstop. Let’s give him a fair shot at the position. He deserves it.