If the Padres have a MASH unit, it involves the utility infielders.
At the start of spring training, it seemed that the only roster battle would be for that job, with the top candidates being two 25-year-olds, Nicaraguan Everth Cabrera and Logan Forsythe—the Padres' first-round draft pick in 2008.
Forsythe was at a disadvantage, because he has only played four games at shortstop (and they were last year at Triple-A Tucson). The smart money was on Cabrera, who showed promise in 2009 after being acquired from Colorado in the Rule 5 draft.
Mickey Koke of Through the Fence Baseball writes, "Cabrera was exciting to watch, and after hitting .255, with 18 doubles, eight triples and 3 home runs for the Friars that season, it seemed only the sky was the limit."
Cabrera is an interesting case. According to Bill Center of U-T San Diego.com, Cabrera might have been the Padres' regular shortstop a couple of years ago had he not suffered one injury after another.
Cabrera's litany of woes include a fractured hamate bone in his left hand in April of 2009 which required surgery, rehab and a visit to the 60-day DL, two right hamstring strains during the first half of the 2010 season that cost him six weeks, and last year, he broke the hamate bone in his other hand, costing him another two months on the DL.
As if that weren't bad enough, when he came back, he strained his shoulder sliding into second on a steal attempt, causing him to end the season on the DL.
"Over the past three seasons," Center reports, "Cabrera has been physically ready for just over 50 percent of the games on the schedule."
Forsythe is a good hitter who plays second and third, and according to Center, he's viewed by some as the Padres' second baseman of the future.
Forsythe hit extremely well in the minors, posting a .414 on-base percentage in four seasons. He tore up Triple-A pitching in 2011, showing some pop as he posted an OPS of .973—a monster number for a guy who hit only eight home runs. His stat line was .326/.445/.528 in 46 games. That earned him a call-up, but he hit just .213 with a .568 OPS in 62 games with the big league club.
He was also slowed a bit by a second surgery on his left knee in as many years.
At the start of camp this spring, Forsythe ran into more misfortune, aggravating an old foot injury. John Schlegel of MLB.com reports that he went back to San Diego to undergo surgery for a sesamoid bone fracture that he originally injured in college.
He's expected to miss the next eight weeks.
This would seem to make Cabrera a lock for the last roster spot, correct?
Not so fast.
As Koke observes about Cabrera, injuries have played a big role, "but even when he appears healthy, he is so inconsistent, it’s incredibly frustrating".
Enter the versatile Andy Parrino, a 26-year-old New Yorker who was a late-round draft pick of the Padres in 2007. In his five years in the minors, Parrino has played every infield position, along with both corner outfield positions.
Like Forsythe, he tore up the minors with his bat. He started 2011 with Double-A San Antonio and crushed opposing pitchers to the tune of a .927 OPS to go along with a .303/.388/.539 stat line in 40 games. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Tucson, where he continued his torrid pace, posting a .327/.399/.484 stat line with an OPS of .883.
Also like Forsythe, he struggled in his major league call-up, hitting just .184 in 44 MLB at-bats in 2011.
However, according to Mickey Koke, "The coaches seem to love his work ethic and drive—he has a 'ballplayer' mentality. You know, hustle your tail off, get dirty and do whatever the team asks of you."
Parrino has ended up playing considerable more innings than Cabrera this spring, partly due to another Cabrera injury—this time shoulder tightness, which has kept him out of a few games.
"We're seeing a little of what we saw last September," Padres manager Bud Black told Corey Brock of MLB.com about Parrino. "With Andy, versatility is big. We need that player on the bench who can play shortstop. That's the primary focus for that guy."
Parrino has already started games at second base, third base and shortstop this spring. Koke reports that he's been working in the outfield in morning drills and could see time out there as well.
Although Parrino started as the dark horse in this competition, I would not be surprised to see him win the reserve infielder slot.