If Manuel Margot is any indication of what the Padres can expect in the future, they should expect it to be bright. Very bright, in fact.
Acquired as the centerpiece in the December 2015 Craig Kimbrel trade, Margot was seen as a candidate to potentially blossom as he worked his way through the Padres’ minor league ranks. He was very impressive for both Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso during the 2016 season, and was rewarded with a September call-up, after helping to guide the Chihuahuas to a PCL title.
That very same winning culture is what the front office hopes to bring to the big league club in the not very distant future. With Ron Fowler and other executives predicting that the Padres should be able to seriously contend by 2020, Margot will just be scraping the beginning of his prime, something that all Padres’ fans should be excited to see.
As a rookie in 2016, Margot debuted with an impressive .263/.313/.409 slash line, including 17 stolen bases, in just over 500 plate appearances. What really intrigues me, however, is Margot’s power surge during the campaign. For a player who has hit no more than six home runs in a single season in the minors, Margot shocked everyone by launching 13 long balls this past season, to go with a very respectable slugging percentage of .409, especially impressive as a player who is expected to just hit for average and steal bases.
While Margot has seemingly tapped into power that can possibly lead to 20+ homer seasons in the future, he also struck out 106 times, as opposed to walking only 35 times. There are a number of reasons as to why this was the case, but a combination of a young hitter figuring out big league arms, as well as being hampered for over a month by a lingering calf injury, seem to be the likeliest suspects.
In 2018, I expect Margot to continue leading the Padres’ outfield as the everyday center fielder. After finishing sixth in 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Voting this offseason (which I believe should have been a bit higher), Margot’s prospects for this upcoming season are pointing upwards. Had he not been bogged down by his calf injury last season, Margot may have found himself in the top three of the Rookie of the Year race.
However, I truly believe that Margot will be a centerpiece for the Padres for the foreseeable future. He has all the ability to be able to handle big league pitching and find himself among the elite center fielders in the game (he can win a Gold Glove, if all goes smoothly).
So, as has been the case for the past couple years, and will be for the next couple years, I’ll say again: get excited Padre fans, the future is here, and it’s understandably bright.
It’s been tough being this patient for the past few years, but I’m confident that all this patience will pay off very soon.