Spangenberg looks to be second to none for Padres

Young 2nd baseman attempting to solidify top of batting order for San Diego

Spangenberg looks to be second to none for Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cory Spangenberg made the most of his chance to play every day during the final two months of the 2015 season. In doing so, the speedy second baseman earned himself that same opportunity this year -- and the Padres have every reason to believe he'll make the most of it once again.

Spangenberg spent much of 2015 in a bench/utility role for San Diego. He even spent a couple of weeks at Triple-A El Paso and another month on the disabled list with a knee injury.

When the Padres moved Jedd Gyorko to shortstop in mid-August, Spangenberg -- once a highly touted prospect -- was given the keys at second base. He batted .294/.373/.460 from that point on, and the late-season production earned him a starting spot entering camp.

"I started getting more playing time, and I was playing every day, regularly," Spangenberg said. "I think my approach got better, and then I started seeing the pitchers for a second and third time. I just got a little bit more familiar, more comfortable."

Spangenberg's speed, coupled with his ability to reach base, make him an appealing option in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, manager Andy Green said.

"His athleticism is off-the-charts," Green said. "He moves around as well as anybody in the game. I think you saw that speed last year. I want to get it to play on the bases more."

Spangenberg, a left-handed hitter, hit southpaws as well as he hit righties last season, meaning his presence behind fellow lefty Jon Jay shouldn't be much of an issue.

Defensively, the metrics had Spangenberg pegged as a solid second baseman last season (although the 70-game sample size is far too small to draw any conclusions). The consensus in the organization is that Spangenberg's range, coupled with that of offseason signing Alexei Ramirez, should solidify the middle infield.

"Just to be able to be up the middle with Alexei, that's going to be a lot of fun this year," Spangenberg said. "It's just an athletic position. You have to pay attention, every pitch, what pitch is coming. You have to be on your toes all the time."

It's undoubtedly a critical year for Spangenberg, given that it's the first time he has entered camp with a starting job locked up. But he's not about to put more emphasis on this season than any year in the past.

"Every year is crucial," Spangenberg said. "The day you stop thinking it's crucial is the day you fall off and the day somebody else is going to take your job. Every year should be a big year."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.