The 2017 San Diego Padres do not figure to contend for a playoff spot.
They do have a lot of interesting players on the big league squad that will be competing for starting jobs during spring training.
There are four positions that, barring a pretty major trade, will be up in the air until mid-March at the earliest.
Shortstop is another position that will be open. This position currently has a clear leader (Luis Sardinas), but reports are out that the Padres are looking around (again) for a stopgap solution that will push and compete with Sardinas for a spot in the Opening Day lineup.
The last two positions open will likely be center field and left field. It seems like, with the way the roster is currently constructed, young outfielders Manuel Margot and Travis Jankowski will each be playing one of the two positions.
Barring a Jon Jay signing, or perhaps Eric Thames coming here from Korea, it seems pretty evident that the two are going to start a majority of the games. The only question is, where? Will Travis Jankowski register more innings in CF, or will Manuel Margot?
How They Stack Up:
Travis Jankowski had some really, really nice moments in 2016. Defensively, he was a top 5 center fielder. He registered fifth in center field UZR, second in RngR (The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity), and fifth in total defensive WAR. He made some outstanding plays, and although his arm is average for MLB standards, there were not many situations in which that hurt him.
Manuel Margot, a 22-year-old who was acquired by the Padres as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade, is a major cog in the Padres future. This is a future that the organization hopes will bring a championship to San Diego. Playing amongst older competition, Margot led all Pacific Coast League outfielders this season in outfield assists, and has some serious range and speed that project his ideal fit to be center field. He was also rated as being 12 runs above average in CF in 118 games. However, Baseball America states he still needs to refine some of his reads and jumps out in center field. As a 22-year-old, of course, that is understandable.
Travis Jankowski is the better center fielder of the two on the defensive side. The gap between the two right now is relatively decent, however as Margot matures as a ballplayer, that gap figures to keep narrowing.
Travis Jankowski wreaked havoc on the basepaths in 2016. The Stony Brook alum had 30 stolen bases in 42 attempts (good for 8th in the league), including two steals of home. Although he made a few mistakes on the basepaths, we can really chalk that up as being too aggressive. For a young team, that is OK. Jankowski garnered attention from websites such as Fangraphs as a top base stealer, finishing 31st in all of baseball in BsR. He and Wil Myers helped the Padres lead the league in team BsR by an incredible margin.
Manuel Margot matched Jankowski and stole 30 bases in AAA this year (in 41 tries). He also stole 2 bases in the ten games he played in as a member of the Padres late in the season. It is pretty fun to say that Margot might actually be quicker than Jankowski on the bases, as evidenced by this triple against the Giants in late September.
Check out this stat, courtesy of Carlos Collazo on Twitter:
Among right-handed hitters, only Byron Buxton has managed a quicker home-to-third time. Buxton's fastest is 10.69 seconds.
— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) September 26, 2016
Margot and Jankowski are both tremendous baserunners with outstanding speed. Jankowski already cracked the 30 stolen base in a season mark, and it is not out of the question that Margot will soon do it too. It is too close to name a real winner between the two. I think we all should ask the Padres to televise a race between the two of them!
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