The Padres are set at the corners. Chase Headley is fresh off of his dream breakout season, and Yonder Alonso had a solid–if not spectacular rookie season, batting .273 with ten home runs and a team rookie record 39 doubles. He only figures to get better in ’13.
But what about the middle infielders? There are only two spots open and three competitors aiming for playing time. Let’s take a look at the positions:
What a difference a year makes! Just nine months ago, the Padres played addition by subtraction when they dumped Orlando Hudson–he the owner of a .260 OBP (that’s on base percentage, not batting average; that was .205).
From June 5 on, Logan Forsythe saw the bulk of the playing time, batting a respectable .273 with acceptable defense. However, Forsythe’s splits reveal that he hit .384 with a .465 OBP and and 1.010 OPS against lefties. Against righties: .222 BA .605 OPS.
This year, management wants Jedd Gyorko to win the starting job at 2B. Bill Center of the Union-Tribune likens him to be a Jeff Kent-type player: average on defense, but he will more than make up for that with his solid offense.
When the Padres released Hudson, they also placed his double-play partner, the equally dismal Jason Bartlett, on the DL. He never played again in ’12.
Taking his place was the speedy Everth Cabrera; despite spending nearly the first two months of the season in the minors, he nonetheless led the league with 44 stolen bases. But in 104 starts, he also committed 16 errors, which works out to about 25 over a full season. Further, his splits favored RHP (.267 BA, .347 OBP) over LHP (.195 BA, .266 OBP).
Also in the mix at both positions is Alexei Amarista. While he is skilled at both middle infield positions and in the outfield, there is concern about his .282 OBP. If he wants to even be considered for regular playing time, he must be willing to take more pitches to take advantage of his good speed. Otherwise, he will only make it as a journeyman utility player. Nice to have on your team? Sure. But not a serious contender to play every day.
Unless he flops miserably in spring training, Gyorko figures to break camp with the Padres, and start at second. He will not be used as a utility man; the team considers him to valuable for that.
Assuming that he wins the starting job, it appears that the Padres may go with a platoon of Cabrera and Forsythe at short, with Forsythe also getting spot starts at second, third, and the corner outfield spots.
Some might object to this, not being big fans of platoons, but I say, what’s the object of the game? It’s to win. Picture this: against lefties, the Padres could leadoff with RF Chris Denorfia (.390 OBP against lefties) and Forsythe. Against righties, they start Cabrera and his blazing speed, and Will Venable in RF (concerns about Venable being mentioned in a previous post).
Until either Cabrera or Forsythe makes a dramatic showing, this seems to be the best way for the club to go forward.