By Mark Collier
2B GREG GARCIA
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
As the 2020 season is set to begin, a contested position battle will be for the second base job with former top prospects, career journeymen, and international talent set to duke it out. What can be forecasted, is that a fierce competition in Peoria will bring out the best in talent and ultimately send to Petco the player whose talents rose above the rest.
Newcomer Jurickson Profar is likely the favorite to get the most time at second base as we head into spring. Jayce Tingler and AJ Preller clearly have an affinity for him as Preller was rumored to be in on Profar last off-season before being traded to the A’s from the Rangers and was willing to part with not one but two top 30 team prospects to acquire him in Catcher Austin Allen and Buddy Reed. Reed, a talented yet raw athlete who has not lived up to his potential thus far in his career, was the player to be named later in the deal.
Profar, a former top prospect himself with the Rangers, actually had the distinction of being the top prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com in 2013 and is set to become a free agent at the end of the year. 2020 is a critical season in his career, being managed by a familiar face who has known him since he was a teenager and wants him to maximize his talent. Preller is hoping that Tingler can move Profar closer to the player he was projected to be when he was a Ranger. Padre fans certainly hope Preller can catch lightning in a bottle with Profar, hoping that he is one of those late bloomers who hits his stride entering his prime in a contract year.
Profar has a variety of outcomes possible for 2020 that range from starter at second base to a super utility job. Heading into this spring he will need to prove he is not a defensive liability after a rough 2019 which resulted last year in 11 throwing errors and an ugly -10 Defensive Runs Saved mark. His $5.7MM salary will give him some latitude in camp but will go only so far for a team with an edict to win this season.
Greg Garcia was a nice pickup last year who ended the year with a .364 OBP which is something the Padres covet in a bench role. He most certainly will be one of the first bats off the bench in 2020 as he has the ability to take a walk, drawing 53 in 372 plate appearances last year. You can envision him getting a handful of starts and entering the game after late inning pinch hitting duties.
Esteban Quiroz is a second baseman Preller picked up last off-season from Boston and showed similar plate discipline as Garcia last year at El Paso (AAA) but is much more of a power bat hitting 19 homers and drawing 52 walks in 366 plate appearances. Quiroz’s line was .271/.384/.539 and also showed well in the Mexican league this off-season. He’ll be in big league camp this spring and despite his smaller stature at 5’7 he could make a big push for time on the big league roster as a 28 year old in 2020.
You can’t forget about Ty France who is a natural third baseman and SDSU alum but also found himself in the mix at second base at times in 2019. France hit a whopping .399 at El Paso last year and showed signs of being a valuable depth piece for San Diego or a potential trade chip. He was serviceable at second but will only see time there if he can get on base at a higher clip and improve his plate discipline. He is a young player and very capable of making strides and has hit at every level challenged with. The Padres have to be intrigued by his power at the plate.
Last but not least, two additional players who are knocking on the Petco Park door in Jake Cronenworth, an intriguing two way prospect acquired in the Tommy Pham trade. With the addition of an extra roster spot in 2020, his ability to hit, play a middle infield position along with a mid-90’s fastball as a pitcher, he could be a nice long relief option similar to Javy Guerra who is not the hitter Cronenworth is. FInally, we can’t forget about Owen Miller who played at Amarillo last year. Miller has done nothing but hit and get on base since he joined the organization. With this position being crowded already he is likely to spend the majority of the year at El Paso but will continue to be part of the infield conversation for the next several years and is also understandably a possible trade chip for the Friars with CJ Abrams moving through the system. This second base depth has also made it easier for Preller to deal both Luis Urias and Xavier Edwards this offseason.
The real answer here is: Time will tell. Depth is an enviable problem to have and with a gluttony of talent on hand for camp, competition will be key to success for second base and beyond.