Lauded for his ability to put bat on ball, he hit .294 in his time in the minors. When Jedd Gyorko became the starting second baseman in 2013, Spangenberg no longer was the top option at second. The Padres began experimenting with him in the outfield, but once Gyorko was shipped off to St. Louis, Spangenberg once again was the top man.
With a full MLB season under his belt, he came into 2016 as the presumptive starter.
But after tearing his left quad muscle only 14 games into the 2016 season, Cory Spangenberg has seen two other viable starting options at second base emerge at the major league level.
Carlos Asuaje, acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, had an excellent year at the Triple-A level. He hit for a .321 average, along with 52 XBH, which fits his profile as a contact hitter with gap power. Ryan Schimpf was signed as a minor league free agent during the 2015 off-season, after spending six years in the Blue Jays system and never being called up to Toronto.
After being called up in June, he proceeded to produce extra base hits at an outstanding (and likely unsustainable) rate. Out of his 60 hits, 42 went for more than a single, an astonishing 70% XBH rate. His 20 home runs put him 12th among second baseman, despite having less than half the plate appearances.
So where does this leave Spangenberg heading into 2017?
His former status as a first round pick should leave him in a good position, as well as being the primary second baseman in 2015. However, his injury could potentially leave questions regarding his speed and range at second, which were both plus tools for him. Over five minor league seasons, he had 108 stolen bases with 40 unsuccessful attempts, giving him a 73% success rate. However, his quad injury could take some of his speed away, which is a vital part of his game.
Before his injury, he had an obvious speed advantage over Schimpf and Asuaje on the field. Schimpf and Asuaje have 36 and 31 career minor league stolen bases, respectively. Also, defensively, Spangy holds an advantage, as Schimpf looked much better at third in limited action than at second, while Asuaje has played second base, third base, short stop and left field. Spangenberg is, at this point, locked into second base, so should it come down to it, Asuaje could play a utility man role. However, as part of the Padres young core, that’s not likely in the books, as Andy Green will look to give him as much playing time as possible. So it mostly comes down to whether they prefer the power of Schimpf, the gap power of Asuaje, or the contact and speed of Spangenberg.
How will it all shake out?
Most any scenario could unfold. Spangenberg could be the full-time starter, or he could enter a timeshare. One possible solution is for third baseman Yangervis Solarte to be traded (already rumored to be shopped by A.J. Preller) and move Schimpf over to third base, leaving second base down to just Asuaje and Spangenberg. Also, consider that Asuaje has minor league options remaining, so he could start the year in Triple-A, and rejoin the major league club if Spangenberg struggles. Another option for Preller and company is to have Spangenberg and Asuaje split time there, but as mentioned above, Green will want to give Asuaje as much playing time as possible. Both Asuaje and Spangenberg are left-handed hitters, thus eliminating a possible platoon.
The road to a starting job for Spangenberg is much murkier than it was to start 2016, now that Schimpf and Asuaje are in the organization. Overall, he should be given the first look over those two, since he has a longer track record with the Padres. They have also invested a lot more in his development. Preller should always do what’s best for the Padres future, and if Spangenberg doesn’t look like the Padres future at second, he should move on to Asuaje. We will see what he decides in the near future.