For the first time in years, the San Diego Padres have several legitimate options at a particular position.
Jose Pirela, Alex Dickerson, and Franchy Cordero are the front-runners to becoming the next Padres left fielder. With Manny Margot and Hunter Renfroe presumably owning sole possession of center and right field, left field is virtually wide open.
Jose Pirela has constantly been one of the most productive hitters since being called up in early June. Pirela would be the one to receive first “dibs” at becoming the starter, so it’s probably his job to lose in spring training. Pirela, soon to turn 28, slashed an impressive .288/.347/.490 in 83 games in 2017. This was especially commendable considering Pirela had spent the first portion of the season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
He hit 10 home runs with the Padres, but struck out at a 20% clip, which was on par with the rest of the team. While greatly improved, his defense still remains suspect. However, being a recently converted outfielder, the ceiling for what Pirela is capable of defensively has yet to be seen. Watching Pirela play, it’s hard not to get excited about what he could be capable of if given a full season of opportunities. Few players hustle as visibly hard as he does. For someone who isn’t known for his quickness, he seemingly wills himself to become a speedster of sorts. His maximum effort on the base paths make him a constant threat for extra base hits and stolen bases.
Alex Dickerson has a difficult road ahead of him.
Currently recovering from his second major back surgery, Dickerson had previously been renowned as one the best hitting prospects in the Padres’ organization. The Friars have an extremely right-handed-heavy lineup and the addition of a powerful left-hander like Dickerson could prove to be quite valuable. If he can return to form, there’s a strong chance he could out-hit all other competitors to earn the starting job. Dickerson is another “bat first” player, so the hope would be that his defensive ability would continue to see vast improvements. He would offer slightly more power and OBP upside than Pirela, but his injury-prone past could make him difficult to rely on for an entire season. He would also relieve the egregious strikeout rate that has plagued this team for several seasons. His strikeout rate was an above-average 15.4% in 2016.
If healthy, the Padres could possibly position Dickerson to be second to only Wil Myers as the “face” of San Diego. His offensive potential is still unseen, but most fans are aware of his background as a Poway High School graduate. The Padres could market him as a hometown hero of sorts and position him to bring in as many local, casual fans as possible. Especially at time when many San Diegans are looking to latch on to any type of figure that will represent and show pride in their city.
Franchy Cordero would be the “Dark Horse” of the race for left field, but he has a very real chance of taking over the position completely. He’s shown a great mix of power and speed in Triple-A, and even showed some flashes of success in his brief call-up to the big leagues. He did, however, become an easy out for pitchers after the scouting report got out on him and his weaknesses.
Like Dickerson, Cordero could bring great value simply by being left-handed and possessing power upside. The 23-year-old continuously opened eyes in El Paso, hitting a staggering 18 triples, stealing 15 bases, and also smashing 17 home runs. It’s dangerous to rely too heavily on Pacific Coast League numbers, but seeing such success in such a young player is, at the very least, noteworthy. He would also be the strongest candidate from a defensive standpoint. The one major downside with Cordero is his strikeouts. He had 23 walks 2017 while striking out 118 times. He’ll have to reduce his strikeout rate, but his upside is as high as anyone in their organization.
The current lineup for the Padres is full of strikeout-heavy hitters. If possible, management should be investing in players that can offer a higher OBP. The power is nice, but there are already power hitters in the lineup. There’s plenty of speed-dependent players on the roster as well. The trick for general manager A.J. Preller will be to find certain players that offer a solid hit tool with the ability to also steal bases. The strikeouts are up throughout the league, but they hindered San Diego especially due to of the lack of runners that were on base during the surge of home runs in 2017. The Padres still have a year to figure out what exactly they want to do in left field, but luckily for them, they have three qualified options.