He is the next player to deserve mention in the 2017 Padres outfield discussion. As soon as he came up from El Paso to join the Padres in June, he was the picture of consistency. Pirela, who is considered a utilityman, once primarily an infielder, forced his way into the lineup with his prowess at the plate and took a hold of the positional hole in left field.
By season’s end, the position was Pirela’s to lose. In 321 at-bats Pirela slashed .288/.347/.490 with 10 home runs and a wRC+ of 122. His BABIP was at .343. This means that when he put the ball in play, he was doing it well. Although he is not primarily an outfielder, Pirela held his own in left field. He only committed three errors and put together a UZR of 4.1 with four DRS. You wouldn’t have expected Jose Pirela to be the Padres’ front-runner for the starting job in left field entering in the 2018 season, but that absolutely is the case as of now.
The talented outfielder had his struggles during his stint with the Padres this season from May to July (like striking out 44 percent of the time). He slashed .228/.276/.424 with three home runs and a BABIP of .400 in 92 at-bats. He put together a 1.2 UZR and two DRS. His defense in center and left field was definitely serviceable. On top of that, he has been ranked as the ninth fastest runner in all of MLB in 2017, sprinting 29 feet per second according to Baseball Savant. For the rest of the season in Triple-A, he tore it up, batting .326/.369/.603, swiping 15 bags, and holding down a wRC+ of 146. Cordero should be part of the Padres’ long term plans. I can see him being a fourth outfielder and if he really catches fire, a potential starter on a good Padres team. It seems we got a preview of what’s to come for this almost graduated top-prospect.
His season started out rough. He slashed a pathetic .145/.242/.164 in 64 plate appearances. He was placed on the DL in April and remained there until August. When he was activated on August 4, he was promptly optioned to El Paso. In El Paso, he seemed to underperform, slashing .266/.350/.317 in 157 plate appearances. He did swipe eight bases, but the batting numbers are atrocious in the PCL. He was brought up to the Padres in September, during which he batted .240 with six hits in 25 at-bats. The jury is still out on Jankowski’s future with the Padres. He didn’t have much of a season.
The lanky outfielder somehow wrangled himself some playing time in 2017. His offensive output was anything but surprising though. In 164 at-bats, Blash slashed .213/.333/.341 and striking out 33 percent of the time. What’s even worse is that he didn’t really even excite us with his power, as he only hit five home runs on the season. The cost of teaching Renfroe a lesson in August was us fans having to endure Blash in his place in right field. We really learned nothing new from the experience.
This man was a reasonable fourth outfielder for the Padres in 2017. He really just faded into the background, to be honest. The Padres acquired him from the Cubs on May 8, and he really did a good job of playing as he was needed from day to day. As a Padre, he averaged .240 with 3 home runs, 15 RBI, and 40 hits in 176 at-bats. His defense in the field was serviceable. There isn’t really much criticism warranted against Szczur. He had a purpose on the team and he seemed to fulfill that purpose. If there’s a spot on the roster for him next season, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have him return.
The youngster was tough to watch in 2017. He gets cut some slack because of how young and inexperienced he is due to his status as a Rule-5 draft pick, but the 21-year-old did not finish the season strong. In the second half of the season, Cordoba slashed .128/.268/.191 with a 32.1 strikeout rate. The silver lining is that he did make it through the season on the 25-man roster, so now he is officially a member of the organization. With the proper time to develop in lower levels of the system, Cordoba could be a valuable prospect in the years to come. His defensive showing in the outfield wasn’t horrible, which also bodes well for Cordoba’s future. The small fish in a big pond will get to be a big fish in a little pond next season.
I’m not really going to bring Cory Spangenberg into this discussion at any length because he really isn’t an outfielder, but he did spend limited time in left field, so he did contribute on occasion. It seems unlikely that he will spend much time in the outfield moving forward but it could happen. Spangenberg slashed .264/.322/.401 with 13 home runs in 444 at-bats this season. Most of these innings were spent defensively at third-base. Not bad for a guy who surprisingly started his season in El Paso.
The one player that was truly missed this season was Alex Dickerson. He was presumably going to be slated as the team’s starting left fielder in 2017, but a back injury kept him out for the entirety of the season. His left-handed power was sorely missed and should provide a serious boost if he is able to come back healthy in 2018. There might be something of a position battle between him and Pirela for the left field spot during spring training. More to come on that.
The way that the Padres’ outfield performed in 2017 was pretty much in line with the rest of the team this season. There was a lot of growth, and with that, a lot of growing pains. Some players made strides and others took a few steps back.This is all to be expected in a development season. While there were some disappointments, there was also plenty of exciting baseball. The building blocks of the future have been laid and the outfield is part of the foundation. Expect to see this team tighten things up next season. We are one season closer to competing.