Right Field Needs a Face-Lift. Now!

Spring is here! 

That’s the good news. Now, for the bad: it was revealed today that hot prospect Rymer Liriano, 21, is going to have reconstructive surgery on his elbow, and will miss the entire 2013 season. The Padres remain high on Liriano, who according to scouting reports is a legitimate five-tool guy.

But what does this news mean for the Padres? For 2013, not much. The plan coming in was to continue the Will Venable-Chris Denorfia platoon for at least most of this year, then call Liriano up in August or September for a cup of coffee, and then begin 2014 as the starting right fielder. 

All of that has now been pushed back a year, which begs a very obvious question: does this mean Padre fans will have to be subjected to not one but two years of this platoon?

This is not good news.

Last August, the Union-Tribune reported that with “Veno and Deno,” Padres right fielders ranked in the top one-third of production in all of Major League Baseball. 

While that may be true, it’s also an overstatement; the reason being that Denorfia is far more productive against lefties than Venable is against righties:

Denorfia (vs. LHP): .337 BA, .390 OBP, .500 SLG, .890 OPS

Venable (vs. RHP): .270 BA, .339 OBP, .440 SLG, .780 OPS

Houston, we have a problem. 

If the majority of starting pitchers were left-handed, then Denorfia would make the majority of starts, and might even contend for a batting title. Instead of being tenth, Padre right fielders might even be in the top five in terms of run production.

But since roughly 60% of starts are made by righties, this means that once again, Will Venable and his so-so numbers will continue to see the majority of the playing time.

And bear this in mind: Venable’s 2012 numbers are an improvement over his previous three seasons!

If the Padres had a lineup like the New York Yankees, this would not matter. But they don’t; they have a lineup like the San Diego Padres. In other words, it’s loaded with way too many question marks: 

  • For the first 50 games, catcher will be manned by Nick Hundley (who hit .157 last years) and John Baker, a decent backup; after this, Yasmani Grandal will be back, assuming he isn’t traded, and that he can perform without PED’s while withstanding heavy media scrutiny;
  • The inimitable Chase Headley will be at 3B (unless he gets traded?);
  • Carlos Quentin will start no more than 130 games in LF, assuming he’s healthy;
  • The inconsistent Cameron Maybin will be in CF, with…
  • the aforementioned duo of Venable and Denorfia in RF.

Translation: given that their offense has too many holes, the Padres need to upgrade right field. Badly. 2013 and 2014 with the status quo is not acceptable. 

So, who should they go after? The most mentioned possibility would have been Giancarlo Stanton, who wants out of Miami. It seems like a perfect fit. But the Padres had already been talking with the Marlins, and they made it clear that any deal would have to include Liriano; more specifically, a healthy Liriano. 

I hope the Padres go after him anyways, but I’m not holding my breath.

Somewhere in MLB-land, there must be an outfielder who can play everyday. How about Jason Kubel or Cody Ross from the Diamondbacks? Kubel especially would be attractive, as he hits for power and would be a much stronger platoon partner with Denorfia than Venable ever was. However, it seems unlikely that their GM, Kevin Towers, would want to part with either of them, even if their outfield is overcrowded.

Or, the Padres could go in-house. Kyle Blanks is a strong power hitter…but he missed the last two seasons with injuries, so he is very brittle. Another possibility is James Darnell. While he is more suited to third base and left field, he could probably do it. 

But something has to be done. Again, I was very hesitant on just one more year with Will Venable starting most of the time in RF. But two? No, thanks.

 Tony Gwynn, where are you when we need you most?


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