Padres have options to fill second-base role

Schimpf, Spangenberg, Asuaje could step up in 2017

Padres have options to fill second-base role

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Who plays at second base will be one of the Padres' biggest questions to answer next spring.

It is not for a shortage of candidates. The Padres actually have three -- Ryan Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje -- for the position.

Each has a plus, but each also came out of the 2016 season with some unanswered questions. Additionally, the most interesting second baseman in the Padres' system is still a year or two away. That would be Luis Urias, who was both the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year for the Class A Advanced California League in '16 at age 19.

Here is a closer look at the Padres' second-base candidates:

Schimpf
As astounding as Schimpf's Major League debut was last summer at the age of 28, questions remain about whether the production is sustainable. And as impressive as some of Schimpf's numbers were, there were also holes in his game.

Schimpf had never spent a full season at Triple-A when the Padres signed him as a Minor League free agent last winter. After a strong start with Triple-A El Paso (.355 average, 15 homers, 48 RBIs in 51 games), Schimpf got his first call to the Major Leagues on June 14. In 89 games and 276 at-bats with the Padres, Schimpf hit 20 homers and drove in 51 runs. Forty-two of his 60 hits went for extra bases, giving Schimpf a .533 slugging percentage.

Among players with 25 or more hits, Schimpf's 69.5 percent ratio of extra-base hits was the highest in the Major Leagues. Only one Padre second baseman has ever hit more homers in a season, and Schimpf is only the third player in Padres history to hit more than 20 homers as a rookie -- and, remember, his rookie season didn't start until the Padres' 66th game.

Plus, Schimpf draws walks -- 42 to be exact for an on-base percentage of .336. But he also hit only .217 and had 105 strikeouts in 276 at-bats. He was an all-or-nothing producer in the style of Mark Reynolds. Teams with high on-base percentage players elsewhere in the lineup have successfully deployed a Schimpf-style player deep in their lineup. The problem is that the Padres aren't really a strong on-base percentage team.

Defensively, Schimpf was adequate at second, particularly when playing in short right during the Padres' shifts. He seemed more at home at third when playing there while Yangervis Solarte was absent.

Asuaje
Acquired with center fielder Manuel Margot, shortstop Javier Guerra and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen on Nov. 13, 2015, in the four-for-one trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to Boston, the 25-year-old left-handed hitter was ranked the No. 21 prospect in MLBPipeline's midseason ratings last summer.

Asuaje's RBI single to center

After an award-winning season with Triple-A El Paso, Asuaje was promoted to the Padres and went 5-for-24 in seven late-season games. Before that, Asuaje was named the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-PCL postseason team that earned the PCL title.

Before his Sept. 21 promotion to the Padres, Asuaje hit .321 for El Paso with 32 doubles, 11 triples and nine homers for 69 RBIs. He led all Triple-A players with 172 hits and tied Margot for the PCL lead with 98 runs scored.

Spangenberg
Remember, Spangenberg was the Padres' starting second baseman at the start of the 2016 season and is only 25. The left-handed hitter has speed and great range. However, he missed the rest of the season after suffering a strained quad on April 19. Spangenberg has a history of injuries and was hitting only .229.

Spangenberg's athletic grab

But Padres fans remember the end of the 2015 season, when he hit .271 with a .333 on-base percentage and four homers in 108 games (303 at-bats). He is very athletic, and his play around the bag was improving when he was injured.

Prospects
A line-drive hitter to all fields with a very low strikeout rate, Urias ranks as one of the Padres' Top 30 prospects. The right-handed-hitting Urias batted .330 with a .397 on-base percentage for Lake Elsinore last season while drawing more walks (40) than strikeouts (36). Urias will not be a power hitter and doesn't steal a lot of bases, but he is athletic around the bag and has plus instincts.

Another young prospect to watch is Eguy Rosario. The right-handed hitter came to the Arizona Rookie League late last summer after hitting .341 in the Dominican Summer League with a .421 on-base percentage and 21 steals in 53 games. He went 11-for-29 with seven walks in seven games in Arizona.

Looking ahead, there is also the possibility that the Padres will move one or more of their young shortstops to another position.