It’s been a long time since the San Diego Padres have had a winning season and an even longer time since they’ve sniffed a playoff spot. Since 2008, the Padres have reached 80 wins just once, and last season was their worst since their 63-99 2008 campaign. They finished the season 68-94, good for last in the National League West.
With a month and a half until Opening Day, this Padres team is beginning to take shape. A lot can happen in spring training, but as it stands now, their lineup consists of some familiar faces, as well as young guys ready to make a name for themselves. Here’s how I think the Padres lineup will look come Opening Day.[Milkins]
- Travis Jankowski LF: After a promising rookie campaign, specifically on the basepaths, Jankowski will likely start the season as the Padres’ leadoff hitter. The 25-year-old worked a walk in 11 percent of his plate appearances and slashed .245/.332/.313 in 131 games. He made great use of his legs last season, swiping 30 bags and covering a lot of ground in center. Jankowski’s 26.1 percent strikeout rate could hurt his chances of staying in the lineup on an everyday basis, but his on-base abilities and plus speed makes him my choice for the leadoff spot.
- Manuel Margot CF: The Padres’ top prospect will have a chance to develop with the big league club in 2017. In his cup of coffee with the Padres last season he hit .243 with two steals in ten games. Before his September call-up, Margot enjoyed a great campaign in his first stint in Triple-A. In 124 games in El Paso, Margot batted .304 and stole 30 bases. The 22-year-old should take the number two spot in the order when the season starts and could make an impact in the Padres’ offense for years to come.
- Wil Myers 1B: Myers finally emerged as the face of the Padres after a terrific 2016 season. Once a top prospect, then considered a bust, Wil Myers finally showed everyone what he was capable of. The Padres locked up their star with a six-year, $83 million deal after his breakout season. He hit .259 with 28 homers and 28 stolen bases last season. Myers also notched his first All-Star Game in front of his home fans. Myers joined Mike Trout and Mookie Betts as the only players to reach the 25 mark in both homers and stolen bases. Hitting from the three hole, Myers will set out to prove he can follow up his 2016 campaign and put the Padres on his back.
- Hunter Renfroe RF: On a team without a clear-cut power guy, the Padres will write in a guy with just 11 major league games at the cleanup spot. Renfroe’s raw power was put on display in the minors. He lead the Pacific Coast League with 30 homers, and made good use of his cup of coffee hitting four homers in those 11 games. His poor plate discipline in the minors is worrisome. However, Renfroe has the bat control and power that could translate into a surprising season for the 25-year-old.
- Yangervis Solarte 3B: The surprising story that has been Yangervis Solarte continued in 2016. As the 29-year-old put together his best major league season fans took notice. Despite missing more than a month, Solarte hit .286 and set career highs in homers, 15, and RBIs, 71. He has the hot corner locked down and will see everyday action hitting from the number five spot.
- Ryan Schimpf 2B: The second baseman surprised everyone in 2016, smashing 20 homers in just 276 at-bats. His all-or-nothing swing is uncharacteristic for his body type and position. This unorthodox style led him to strike out 105 times last season at a 31.8 percent rate. His .217 average could use improvement. If he swings for the fences less, it would make it very difficult to remove his bat from the lineup. Schimpf will hit from the six spot to start the season.
- Austin Hedges C: Padres fans have been patiently waiting for one of their top prospects to emerge as the everyday starter behind the plate. After the Padres traded Derek Norris this offseason, Hedges will finally get his shot. He slashed .326/.353/.597 with 21 homers and 82 RBI in 82 games at Triple-A. Hedges has seen just 178 plate appearances at the big league level. Lucky for him he’ll hit out of the seven spot in a low-pressure role for the Padres.
- Luis Sardinas SS: The 23-year-old lacks any standout skills at the plate, but he has a chance to be an on-base threat from the bottom of the order. Sardinas has decent speed, stealing 108 bases in seven minor league seasons, and plays a solid shortstop. He finished 2016 strong, hitting .287 after being traded to the Padres in August. His solid statistics should carry that strong finish into 2017.
The San Diego Padres have a lineup of unknowns. However, that could be the very reason that leads them to surprising people in 2017. They’ll look to rebound from their last place finish when the season begins. San Diego begins their season against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 3rd.