Alexi Amarista Could Be the Next Tony Phillips for San Diego Padres

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IJuly 3, 2012

Alexi Amarista is not a very tall player. Baseball Reference lists him as 5'7". Yahoo Sports has him more generously as a 5'8" man. Either way, the 23-year-old Padre is on a very unlikely power streak. He hit a ninth-inning grand slam that sunk the Astros last Thursday. He homered twice last Saturday in Colorado and hit a first-inning home run tonight in Arizona.

The left-handed hitter was hovering around .200 until this recent surge and has proven to be quite a pickup from the Angels after coming over in the Ernesto Frieri trade.

But there is a strange question about Amarista. What position does he play? Is he an outfielder? Is he an infielder? Where does he fit in? This year he has been primarily a second baseman, but has also started at shortstop and appeared in the outfield and third base.

In that regard, he is similar to another player who was once in the Padres' system. Tony Phillips was a major leaguer for 15 seasons. Like Amarista, Phillips played a great number of his games at second base. And also like Amarista, he played all around the infield and outfield.

Phillips was a very valuable player for several organizations—mainly Oakland, but also the Tigers and the Angels benefited from his leadership. And each manager he played for could rely on him to fill in where necessary.

Usually he patrolled second base, but he played as many games in the outfield as he did at second. If the team needed a third baseman, he would fill in. If the center-fielder sustained an injury, he could do the job.

In the 1988 ALCS, he was Oakland's starting left fielder in Game 1 and the starting second baseman in Game 2. He played second base, third base and left field in Game 3 of the 1989 World Series, hitting a home run in the game as well.

His versatility became Phillips' greatest asset. Amarista could follow in that mold. He has played all over the infield and in the outfield in the minor leagues as well.

A low-revenue team like the Padres can benefit greatly with a player like Amarista on their club. He gives manager Bud Black depth at many positions and can fill in holes when he can.

And if he continues to hit home runs, the Padres will make sure there is a spot for him in the lineup.

For a 5'7" man, he could have a towering presence on this Padres team.

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