A Look Back at the Padres’ Outfield in 2017

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

As the Padres’ 2017 season has finally come to its conclusion, now is a good time to reflect on the product that we saw on the field this year.

The team entered into their “development” season with some pretty low expectations assigned to them. Critics assumed that they would be lucky to finish the year with 60 wins. This prediction was okay with, and even embraced by, a faction of Padres fans who recognized that “tanking” for a season would produce a high pick in the following draft. Not a bad trade-off for a team looking to compete around 2020.

As it turns out, the team exceeded those preseason expectations and ended the year with a mediocre record of 71-91. Even more impressive was their winning home record of 43-38. Padres fans saw some winning baseball at home this season. Now that all is said and done, the Padres ended the regular season seventh from last, placing them just outside of a top-five draft pick in 2018. Lovers of the tank consider this to be somewhat of a fail.

From another, not necessarily mutually exclusive perspective, the 2017 season truly was a year of development, in which the nucleus of the young team made excellent strides towards future relevance. If one was to conduct an examination of the 2017 Padres, in order to get a feel for where they are headed moving forward, a look at the outfield would be a great place to start.

The 2017 season began with the long-awaited opening day debuts of Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe in the starting lineup. The time had finally come for two of the team’s cherished top-prospects to usher in a new era of Padres outfielders. They arrived on the heels of a successful season in triple-A in 2016, winning the PCL Championship as members of the El Paso Chihuahuas. After their season in El Paso had ended, they were brought up to join the Padres for the last 11 games of the season. Both players showed promise during their short MLB stints in 2016. Renfroe especially impressed by launching four home runs (one reaching the top of the Western Metal Supply Building) and carrying a slugging percentage of .800. The excitement for 2017 had been built.

In 2017, the duo had their ups and their downs. Margot impressed in the home opener, launching two home runs against the San Francisco Giants. Renfroe showcased his greatest known asset, his power, from the start, launching five home runs in March and April.

While the power from Renfroe has always been appealing, he did not prove himself to be a complete player in 2017. While he did hit some home runs at the beginning of the season, he only batted for an average of .216 in the first two months, and it didn’t get much better from there. He ended the season with a batting average of only .231, a walk rate of only 5.6 and a strikeout percentage of 29.2 in 445 at-bats. Those numbers are not what a team is looking for in an everyday player. Not to mention, from a guy who they had placed such high hopes upon.

Credit: USA Today Sports

Renfroe’s fielding was a similarly sad story. He committed nine errors out at his position in right field and amassed an ugly UZR of -5.7 and only 1 DRS in 1,015 inning played in the outfield in 2017. His play in the field was incredibly poor. Knowing that they had to do something to kick Renfroe into gear, the Padres sent him down to El Paso in mid-August. He returned to the Padres when the roster expanded in September and he didn’t do much to bring up his average or cut down on the strikeouts, but he launched another six homers. Renfroe finished the season with 26 home runs, a Padres’ new rookie record.

With Renfroe in 2017, there was one significantly positive aspect to his game. That, of course, was his power production. The rest of his efforts left much to be desired. Hopefully he will make the right adjustments moving forward.

Margot had a much more balanced season. He finished the year with a respectable slash line of .263/.313/.409 with 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 487 at-bats. It would have been nice to have seen Margot show a little better plate discipline as he held a walk rate of only 6.6, compared to a strikeout percentage of 20. While you would like to see a player improve his numbers over the span of a season, at least he didn’t crash at any point. Margot’s second half numbers were pretty similar to what they were in the first. If anything, this shows that he may be very consistent player, even after he came back from a calf injury in June. If he is able to increase his numbers cumulatively, he could become a solid source of consistency in the Padres’ lineup moving forward.

Margot’s play in the field was respectable in 2017. He only committed three errors and put together a UZR of 5.2 and eight DRS in 1,049 innings in center field. Fielding has always been considered a strength of Margot’s and he didn’t really do anything to change that perception. If anything, Margot added a little bit of power to his offensive profile. His 13 home runs were not necessarily expected. All in all, it was a solid year for the rookie center fielder and he seems to be on a good trajectory to becoming a quality player for the Padres in the coming years.

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Benjamin Salom
Baseball is the second most beautiful art form in my opinion. The first is what God does with our San Diego sunsets. Football's pretty exquisite too. I'm Sarah's husband and a Cal alum. I have been a Padres fan since childhood. My first experiences were at the Q watching Tony and the crew in the 90's. I love sports and I love San Diego. I hope you enjoy my thoughts!

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