We started with two easy positions, but now it gets interesting. While the starting jobs at catcher and first base have been clear for a while, second base is up for grabs to say the least. The Padres have intriguing candidates with vastly different skill sets at the major league level, and the picture gets even more interesting when we peer into the crystal ball of prospects arriving in camp.
Current 40-man roster members: Ryan Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg, Yangervis Solarte, Carlos Asuaje, Allen Cordoba
Non-roster invitees: Jose Pirela, Dusty Coleman, Luis Urias
For Cory Spangenberg a .294/.373/460 second half in 2015 represented the breakout that Padres scouts dreamed of when they drafted him with the 10th overall pick in 2011. The job was his to start the 2016 season, but his campaign was cut short by a quad strain that just wouldn’t go away. Maybe he tried to come back too quickly, but now he’s reported to camp with no limitations. Hopefully the speed that was his calling card has come back up to full speed too.
An affliction of leg injuries swept through the Padres’ second basemen corps of Jemile Weeks, Yangervis Solarte, and Alexi Amarista. Meanwhile, unheralded journeyman Ryan Schimpf found lightning in a bottle and started tearing the cover off the ball in AAA to the tune of an audacious 1.160 OPS. After his number got called in June, he kept mashing, incredibly producing more extra base hits than singles through the end of the season. The power show was impressive to say the least. Many see his performance as unsustainable, but he’s out to prove the naysayers wrong. Contrasted with Spangenberg, the team has an interesting match of lefty bats: Spangenberg with contact and speed, Schimpf with plate discipline and impressive power.
Meanwhile, Yangervis Solarte recovered from his hamstring injury early in 2015 to have the best season of his career while dealing with personal tragedy, establishing himself as a team leader both on and off the field. A contract extension solidifies his near future with the organization, but where he will fit on the field is less certain. His first full season as a third baseman was a success, but he is being considered at second as well. Being a switch hitter among lefty hitters, he might see some time at second based purely on pitcher matchups.
The Dark Horses:
Carlos Asuaje was seen as the toss-in as the fourth member of the return in the Craig Kimbrel trade, but his stellar performance in AAA in 2016 brought him into the spotlight. His .321/.378/.473 line combined with excellent defense earned him the PCL’s Rookie of the Year award. Detractors point to his slight frame, suggesting that he’s unlikely to develop much power, but he does everything else so well that the lack of power may be overlooked. Likely the best defender out of this group, Asuaje will be in consideration for the starting job this spring, but he’s probably buried too deep in the depth charts to make the Opening Day roster.
Jose Pirela came to the Padres via trade after the 2015 season. Considered a bat-first second baseman at the time, he’s spent most of his time in the outfield since coming over to the Padres. Meanwhile, the bat hasn’t taken the step forward that he needs to be considered for an MLB job, which was likely the reason for his DFA and subseuqent release last winter. He’s back on a minor league deal and could get a call if a need should arise and the bat shows some life.
Dusty Coleman is a journeyman glove-first shortstop who was signed as a free agent this offseason. With experience at second and third, he’s likely to be at the ready in El Paso as injury depth.
The Long Shot:
Luis Urias has become a phenomenon around Padres prospect circles. The 19-year-old out of Mexico shocked everyone by winning the California League MVP award last season, while also being the youngest kid in the dang league. He’s undersized, listed generously at 5’9”, but they say that he can barrel up any pitch with quick hands and an approach mature beyond his years. He’s athletic enough to get some looks at shortstop, but the general opinion is that second base will likely be his future home. It’s highly unlikely that we will see him at the major league level this year, but you definitely want to keep an eye on him this spring and beyond.
Bringing the picture into focus
Schimpf has power. Spangenberg has speed. Solarte has experience. Asuaje has balance. Beyond that, it’s an open competition. Two of these players will probably be the starting second and third baseman, the third should make the team as a backup, and the rest provide much-needed depth, but it will be interesting to see how these players stack up. While we watch the battle for the present roles, look ahead to the talent that should be making their way up behind them. This will be a fun group to follow.