Remember just a few years back, in 2015, when the Padres were the “winners of the off-season”?
General Manager A.J. Preller and his team did the unprecedented in San Diego and brought in a handful of impact players. I remember I was getting some newspapers from the gas station to wrap up dishes for a house move. The stack of papers that I brought home headlined the Matt Kemp trade. At the time I really couldn’t believe it. It had been so long since the Padres had made any substantial trades that it seemed like a small miracle.
In the weeks following, Preller brought in the likes of Justin Upton, Derek Norris, James Shields, and Wil Myers, among others. The culmination of the wild off-season was the deal that brought over Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. from the Braves on the eve of opening day. I’ll admit, I was excited. I believed that the sky was the limit for 2015 Padres. I’ll also admit that I was naive.
There were others like me who were longing for a sweet taste of what the ’98 season had provided. We Padres fans hadn’t known that kind of winning in so long. Maybe we let our emotions fuel our fantasy. There were others who lived more in reality and recognized that there are no shortcuts to greatness. They were the ones who were critical of Preller’s dismantling of the farm system in exchange for mismatched pieces. In this case, history is on the side of the detractors. The 2015 season was not a success. The team finished the season below .500 and most of the high-profile starters from 2015 are gone today.
The reason I bring up 2015 is because the Padres have since done an about-face and entered into a true rebuild. The contrast between the current off-season and 2015 is like night and day. The Padres have been very quiet on the trade and free agent markets so far this off-season. They did, however, make a killing in the most recent amateur draft, international signing period, and rule 5 draft.
The point is that the Padres are being shrewd and calculating. They aren’t sacrificing the future for momentary glory. The plan is for the Padres to be winners in 2019. With this plan comes an understanding that there will be a few low expectation seasons in the interim. As a fan who wants the Padres to win all the time, it can be hard to be patient and trust the process.
The Padres do already have some nice pieces coming together. There are some higher-level prospects who are just about ready to usher in the new era. It’s safe to say that if you want a glimpse of the future, pay attention to the outfield in 2017.
I think it’s apparent that Hunter Renfroe will not be going back down to Triple-A in 2017. He will likely become the Padres starting right fielder. He had a monster introduction to the majors at the end of last season. In 36 plate appearances he slashed .371/.389/.800 with four home runs, one of those being a grand slam. Yeah, he’s pretty much a lock. He’s seasoned in the minors long enough.
With right field figured out, the Padres are left with a decision to make in center and left field.The current roster has Travis Jankowski, Alex Dickerson, Jabari Blash, and Manuel Margot vying for the remaining outfield slots. Published on December 7, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune interviewed manager Andy Green who said:
When we look at it from an outfield perspective, there’s five guys we genuinely believe are legitimate major league outfielders, and that’s a point we feel really good about… My early expectation in December would be going with four out of five of those guys and one of those guys ends up in the minor leagues. They are all optionable outfielders.
So it looks like, Renfroe aside, one of the other four outfielders will start the season in Triple-A. But who will that be?
Alex Dickerson showed himself to be a serviceable player last season. In 285 at bats, he showed some power potential, hitting 10 home runs and driving in 37 RBI. The fact that he’s left-handed makes him a valuable platoon option in left field. He could also increase his value by becoming Myers’ backup at first base, a position he played in college and early in the minors. It seems likely that Dickerson will earn a spot on the big league roster in 2017.
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