Since the beginning of the season, Padres fans have known that the team will not be good, especially in the wins column. The only hope was that prospects from the Friars system could develop into players on the verge of stardom. To that end, today was an exceptional day, as the rookies helped San Diego to a 7-4 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Since the beginning of the 2017 season, the team has been very ineffective at drawing walks and getting on base, evidenced by their MLB-worst team OBP. of .678. However, both players turning 3-2 counts into walks is a good sign for improvement. While walks may not beef up a player’s stats, they give following batters an opportunity to drive in runs. As a result of those walks, Cory Spangenberg came up big in the same inning. With one strike, the third baseman lifted the ball over Matt Kemp‘s head and into the left field corner. Had it not been for the young outfielders, Spangy would not have had the chance to add to his RBI total and give the Padres the lead.
The second inning was uneventful for the first-years except that Carlos Asuaje got his first of three hits this game.
Otherwise, Manny Margot took charge again in the third inning. On a 1-1, 87 mph two-seamer from Bartolo Colon, the Dominican-born player smacked a sharp single to right field. That’s when dreamy and exciting skills were showcased. While Wil Myers was at bat, Margot, who played his first MLB game yesterday since being placed on the DL, stole second and third. Nothing but his elite speed could do such a thing so easily. But speed has always been the center fielder’s biggest and best tool. The interesting fact about Margot’s stolen bases is that in the 47 games that he played in before getting injured, he had five stolen bases but was also caught stealing five times.
If that aggressiveness and good spot selection is sustained, then he has the ability to change a multitude of games. The opposing pitcher will rarely be one that throws at a peak 90 mph like Colon, but Margot’s speed will still be enough for a game’s momentum to change in favor of the Padres. For this game, a run scored and the Padres’ offensive attack continued. Lastly, Asuaje yet again got a hit, which landed in front of the right fielder, Nick Markakis. While his potential does not match that of Padres’ prospect, Luis Urias, the Venezuelan is a superb contact hitter and he is now starting to show it at the major league level. With this hit, he has four over his last two games. If Asuaje hopes to keep a regular role with the Padres beyond a bench player, he will need to keep up that kind of inning.
The fourth inning saw the Friars’ young hitters contribute once more. With two outs, a spot in which the team has struggled to a MLB-worst .203 batting average, Manuel Margot provided another spark. By hitting a ground ball to center fielder, Ender Inciarte, he kept the offense alive in a spot where the team usually fails. Two batters later, Hunter Renfroe tripled to right, a hit which improved another MLB worst, 281 RBI with two outs. Additionally, he did so with two strikes, a count which causes him to fish for balls at an alarming rate. Instead of swinging at a non-strike curve ball or fastball up in the zone, he drove in a run. As such, the young offense is both exciting and able to succeed in high-pressure spots.
Finally, the last two important times of offensive intrigue were in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Asuaje worked a batter’s count of 3-1 before hitting another single to right. His ability to control the strike zone and get ahead is something that fans haven’t seen too often from Padres players. Asuaje proved that patience is a key element of the game and instrumental in getting on base. His pre-planning is refreshing to me as I’m tired of seeing our hitters swing at pitches that shouldn’t be swung at and then looking at pitches that should.
In the sixth, Renfroe continued to show off his ever-growing patience. Such a trait was never a part of his game in the minors, as evidenced by the fact that he had only two in April, but he’s becoming better at taking a walk. In June, he has failed to get on base much, with only four walks going into the game, but hopefully the two he got last night changes that. His walks are important as he has had setbacks in the average department, exemplified by his .175 average this month.
Overall, the Padres’ rookies had a breakout today. As a group, Renfroe, Margot, and Asuaje got six of the team’s total twelve hits, three of the seven RBI, and four of the seven runs. They also helped score runs with two outs, a situation which the Padres’ hitters have struggled in. Instead of swinging at pitches outside the zone and looking at pitches inside the zone, the young guys showed how to work into a favorable count. As a result, the Padres gave fans a glimpse at a great future, one where the home team scores almost every inning and the youngsters provide most of the firepower.