Darron Cummings/Associated Press
One of the biggest stories of spring training for the Padres has been 25-year-old first baseman Tommy Medica, who has followed up his .290 batting average from last season (in 69 at-bats) by hitting .344 with a .942 OPS in his 64 spring training at bats. Though Yonder Alonso will likely begin the season as the team’s first baseman, a platoon is not out of the question given Medica’s torrid performance.
Manager Bud Black has also discussed trying Medica at different positions, via MLB.com’s Doug Miller:
I think in spring training it's a great opportunity to expose players to different positions, and we're doing that with Tom, getting him exposed to the outfield. We've talked about it as a staff and as an organization, about increasing a player's versatility, increasing chances of playing time, and you do that by exposing them to different positions. With Tom, we think he has the wherewithal to play the outfield along with first base. We'll see how it plays out moving forward, to see if we have another potential outfielder on our hands.
Another breakout performer for the Padres this spring was right fielder Alex Dickerson, who compiled a 1.019 OPS in his time with club while showing impressive plate discipline, along with a nice power stroke.
One of the players Padres fans will likely want to keep a close eye on is shortstop Everth Cabrera, who batted a solid .283 with a .355 OBP before his suspension last season. The San Diego shortstop has been unspectacular, with a .264 average and a disappointing 14-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
At the very least, Cabrera is determined to put his suspension behind him and come back strong in 2014.
"I have to come back from zero,” Cabrera told U-T San Diego’s Jeff Sanders. "I did some work every day (this offseason) to get back to normal, to get that momentum again.”
There’s no doubt the Padres missed Cabrera in his absence—they went 28-39 without him, 48-47 when he was in the lineup. He still has time to return to form by the start of the season, but just having Cabrera’s speed and defensive presence has to be a relief for the team that sorely missed him in the latter half of the season.
As a team, the Padres are 9-12 this spring with a few games remaining, though that’s hardly reason for concern, especially given the struggles of other top teams this spring. (Also, the Miami Marlins are 17-10, for some added perspective.)
However, many of the Padres’ starters struggled to get things going this spring. While it’s debatable just how significant spring training statistics really are, it has to be a bit alarming that only seven out of 27 Padres with double-digit at-bat totals are hitting better than .300. The team is also 26th in OBP.
Pitching has also been an issue—the Padres are 24th in ERA. Ian Kennedy (5.59 ERA), Tyson Ross (4.66) and Eric Stults (5.29) have been hit particularly hard, though it should be stressed that these are over relatively small sample sizes. There’s no reason for alarm if the Padres can avoid carrying their struggles into the regular season.