3. Outfield Depth is a Good Problem to Have
There were several heated position battles during the spring, and the outfield was certainly near the top of the list. The clear starters are Manuel Margot and Wil Myers, although it’s still a matter of where Myers will play. He seems to be on board with this change back to the outfield, as he has volunteered to play either corner outfield spot as needed. Margot could be in the Gold Glove conversation very soon in center, so that is locked up.
Hunter Renfroe has made a strong case this spring.
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) March 24, 2018
He hit a team-high six home runs during actual spring training games and added another during Monday’s exhibition against El Paso. His home run total was second-highest in all of spring training, Grapefruit League included. Three of those home runs came against right-handers. His handling of righties was the biggest concern for him locking up a starting spot. He still hit only .206 with nine strikeouts in 34 at bats against them, so questions still linger and a platoon could be possible.
Jose Pirela will not be denied. If there was a team MVP for spring training, Pirela would be the front-runner after hitting .385 with a 1.055 OPS while boasting a .459 on-base percentage. He played mostly in left field this spring, with six games at second base. The Friars may want to keep Pirela as an emergency second baseman. His versatility gives him much more value and he will be impossible to keep out of the starting lineup.
That leaves Travis Jankowski, Matt Szczur, and Franchy Cordero out of the starting lineup, and even the roster, to start the season. For Cordero, it’s mostly due to his untimely injury and he may not be down in Triple-A for long. Jankowski hit .195 with 13 strikeouts, thus making him a likely candidate for extra work in Triple-A.
Many believe Szczur has the best chance to make the team of these three right out of camp. This is mostly due to him being healthier than Cordero and producing much better than Jankowski (.240 average, 3 HR, .945 OPS).
The fact that the Padres are going to have to send down one or two players that would have been easily on their roster just a few years ago is a good sign, a sign of progress.
4. The Bullpen Could Be a Strength
Let’s work backwards in the bullpen, starting with the end. The Padres knew Brad Hand was going to anchor this bullpen heading into 2018, especially after he inked a three-year, $19.75 million extension this offseason. He was the Friars’ lone All-Star last season after posting a stifling 2.16 ERA and an ERA+ in the stratosphere at 192. He looks to be the closer once again, although there is talk in the clubhouse that Hand may be used more unconventionally than a true closer. He did nothing to douse expectations during the spring with a 1.80 ERA in five appearances, with six strikeouts.
Kirby Yates will likely be the setup man, and he earned it with a 1.23 ERA in eight spring games. He is coming off of a solid 2017 when, in 61 appearances with San Diego, he posted a 3.72 ERA and 112 ERA+. Craig Stammen is not too far behind. The Padres liked him enough to re-sign him after a career year last season when he had a 3.14 ERA and 132 ERA+ in 60 appearances. These three will likely be the shut-down guys late in the game.
Kauzhisa Makita is also a lock for the bullpen even though he is the pitcher we know the least about. That might be beneficial as that also means opposing lineups have little to go off of. After seven professional seasons in Japan, he makes his way to San Diego with his funky submarine delivery and wiffle ball pitches. He had a solid spring, pitching in eight games, five of which were scoreless outings. He finished with a 4.50 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 8 innings. He certainly brings a different look on the mound. Combine that with Hand’s nasty slider and the bullpen presents some tough angles for hitters to process.
Speaking of tough arm angles, Adam Cimber is the feel-good story of the spring, and not only put himself in the bullpen race, but now has a spot on the Opening Day roster.
It's going down: From out of nowhere this spring, Adam Cimber has earned a place on the Padres Opening Day roster.
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) March 27, 2018
Cimber took his opportunity by the horns and it has paid off – that’s what 10 consecutive scoreless outings in the spring will do for you. He had nine strikeouts and just one walk in the spring as well. He brings yet another unusual arm slot for hitters to deal with. This might be one of the more underrated parts of this bullpen and could make this bullpen into one of the strongest parts of this team, and maybe even be among the better bullpens in the National League.
There are still a few more guys who can make this a solid bullpen in 2018. Phil Maton looks to make another step forward after a solid rookie campaign, when he had a 4.19 ERA, a 99 ERA+ and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The collection of Buddy Baumann (165 ERA+ in 23 games last year), Colten Brewer (1.86 ERA in 10 games this spring), and Kyle McGrath (2.84 ERA in 17 games last year) make for some significant depth.
Last year’s bullpen ranked 24th with a 4.49 ERA, I expect this group to be markedly better.
The Padres brought in two established veterans to plug into the infield, both of which played all 162 games last season. Eric Hosmer was brought in to not only be a steady force at first base, but to also lead the way in the clubhouse. On the field, he has shown what he can be as the everyday first baseman for the next five to eight years. He did struggle at some points during spring, but for established vets like him, it’s nothing to fret about. He ended up hitting .273 with four home runs, 13 RBI and three doubles in 18 games. That’s about par for the course for his career spring numbers. The Friars are hoping he repeats the last two seasons, which each have yielded 25 home runs, over 90 RBI and a combined .292 average.
Defensively, Hosmer has looked like the four-time Gold Glover he is. He made some great picks at first because of low throws along with some solid plays on batted balls. He only made one error in 95 innings at first this spring. He is one of a few steady, veteran gloves the Padres have in the infield now.
The other is Freddy Galvis. In his last two seasons in Philadelphia, he hit .248 with 32 home runs, a .298 on-base percentage and an 88 OPS+. He looked better than those numbers during spring training, batting .269 with a .316 on-base percentage. He also hit two homers during regular spring games and one in Monday’s exhibition with El Paso. Adding the fact that he is a switch hitter, the Padres may finally have a viable bat at the shortstop position. If he can continue this trend and be better than his previous two seasons with the bat, the Padres will be doing cartwheels.
“He’s as consistent as anybody. Hasn’t been the case for us the past couple of years. He’s been as advertised.” – Andy Green on Freddy Galvis pic.twitter.com/qUmqUxB1cp
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 20, 2018
Galvis is more known for his steady glove (18.7 UZR in the last two seasons). This is a welcome sight at shortstop, which is well-documented as a black hole at the major league level in San Diego. Galvis can end all of that, given the fact that most hope Tatis will be ready to take over in 2019. In 19 games, he has displayed his smooth, sure glove numerous times this spring.
The Padres have some optimism heading into the regular season, even with the unfortunate news of Lamet’s injury. There is a hope that this young team will take a stop forward with a few more core pieces in place and build a culture of winning.