With Maybin out at least two months and the Padres already likely to carry 5-6 players capable of playing the OF, the roster spot vacated by the 26 year old CF could go to a non-outfieder. One of the names in that mix is Tommy Medica. One issue with Medica is that he only plays 1B, which decreases the flexibility of the team's bench. However if he were to provide more value than just being a bat off the bench, then you could make a strong case for his inclusion on the major league roster.
I think most of us know that Yonder Alonso is a work in progress. He turns 27 in April and has only two full major league seasons under his belt. The first was promising, the second started that way, but was derailed by an injury that is known to affect a player's power numbers even shortly after being given a clean bill of health. So, the Cuban-born first baseman enters 2014 with something to prove.
However, even if you take into account this work-in-progress status there is something in his stat lines that is glaring. Against left handing pitching Alonso has a triple slash line of .244/.307/.350. That's and okay split if you are a glove first middle infielder, but not if you are a first baseman. When you look at the complementary slash line against right handed pitching you get .292/.360/.411, which admittedly still is not great for a first baseman, but if you believe that the bat will develop then it could be the start of something good. That sort of situation lends itself to a platoon.
Tommy Medica took full advantage of his surprise call up last year impressing right out of the gate. He continues to do so in Spring Training. His bat makes you want to find a place for him. His bat also happens to be right handed, the opposite of Yonder Alonso. One could envision a platoon. Medica's major league numbers are a very small sample size, but it that tiny sample lies a mark against that idea. Against left handed pitching he hit .154/.214/.385, which means he had almost all of his successes last year against right handed pitching. The same time of pitching that Alonso hits better against.
Taking a deeper look at Medica's hitting will lead you to his minor league splits. In 2013, he hit for a higher batting average against righties, but he had more pop against lefties. In 2012, his success against lefties is NSFW. In 2011, he also had better splits against southpaws. There are two problems with this data. One is that Medica has never played above AA with much of his platoon advantage success coming at even lower levels than that. That NSFW line was with the Lake Elsinore Storm. The second is that he still always hit right handed pitching really well. Wait, why is hitting well against right handed pitching a problem.
The problem brings us back to Yonder Alonso. If you believe enough in Medica's bat that you are willing to project him as someone who can mash lefties in the majors, you should also be projecting that he will hit righties pretty darn well too. So well that it starts to make you wonder why you would even start Alonso ahead of him. If he is that good then there really should be no problem, but we are just talking about projections. Guesswork. That guesswork could really use some more data points.
Just because you believe in Medica does not automatically mean that you lose faith in Yonder Alonso. Both could be good 1B. What is needed is to find a way to develop both. The logical step is to challenge Medica against right handed and left handed pitching at a level he has not mastered yet and at the same time give Alonso his chance to show he has improved. That is best done by sending Medica to AAA and keeping Alonso as the Padres 1B. If both succeed, that's great. A future platoon could be used down the stretch or in a future season and one could eventually be dealt to help the ballclub elsewhere. If Alonso is better, then maybe Medica can learn to play the OF and be a bench bat. If Medica is better, then you kept his service time clock from ticking too much in 2014 and can make him a cheap 1B solution for 2015 and beyond.
That being said, the goal is still to win in 2014. The club is still best served by limiting Alonso's at bats against left handed pitching. Using Medica to help with that could stagnate some of his development, but also could better the club. Hard to say which is the better path. The other option on the roster is big man Kyle Blanks. Unfortunately, Blanks' struggles in the majors are not associated to pitcher handedness. He has struggled against both to the point where he does not see a platoon advantage. And his struggles against both result in worse numbers than Alonso has against lefties.
In the end, there is no straightforward answer. One thing is clear though. It would be a big mistake to put Medica on the roster and only use him as a bench bat. If he breaks camp with the club, then a platoon with Alonso should be attempted.