Padres have depth, talent in left field

Jankowski, Dickerson bring different skills

Padres have depth, talent in left field

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

Assuming Manuel Margot wins the Padres' center-field job this spring, the club will have an interesting left-field combination in Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson.

The 25-year-old Jankowski -- who will be in center should it be determined that Margot, 22, needs a little more seasoning -- brings speed, defense and the ability to stir things up when reaching base.

Dickerson, 26, a product of nearby Poway High, has more of the power you'd like to see in a corner outfielder. He might also get a test as an emergency backup to Wil Myers at first base, although Dickerson's experience at the position was very limited in the Minor Leagues.

The combination of Jankowski and Dickerson, who are both left-handed hitters, gives the Padres great flexibility. Each would be the Padres' leading left-handed pinch-hitter when not starting, and Dickerson projects as a designated hitter for Interleague games. 

Jankowski is a proven center fielder and will certainly see time there, even if Margot makes the Major League roster out of Spring Training.

With his speed, Jankowski could be the Padres' leadoff hitter, while Dickerson's bat projects to a lower spot in the order. Last year, each reached base around 33 percent of the time.

Another way of looking at it is that left field is one of the Padres' deeper positions. Jankowski is high on the list of several teams looking for outfield help -- particularly on defense and in center field. Several of those interested teams might be willing to part with a mid- to bottom-of-the-order starter for Jankowski. Remember, Spring Training is still two months away. A lot can happen.

And the Padres have a third option at left field in Jabari Blash.

Dickerson split the 2016 season between the Padres and Triple-A El Paso. He hit .257 with the Padres with 16 doubles, two triples and 10 homers with 37 RBIs in 253 at-bats. He had a .455 slugging percentage and a .788 OPS. While with the Chihuahuas, Dickerson hit .382 with 10 homers in 217 at-bats.

Dickerson became the first Padres rookie ever to homer in four straight games (July 24-27) shortly after taking over as the regular left fielder when Melvin Upton Jr. was traded to Toronto. Dickerson injured his right hip on July 29 in a collision with center fielder Jankowski while chasing a drive in left-center.

Although he had played better than expected in left before the collision, Dickerson's range and defense dropped off over the last two months of the season.

Jankowski, meanwhile, spent the entire season with the Padres and shared time in center with Jon Jay until Jay fractured his right forearm on June 28. Jankowski took over as the full-time center fielder until Margot's late-season promotion.

Jankowski finished the 2016 season with a .245 average with a .332 on-base percentage. Jankowski, who, along with Margot, is one of the two fastest Padres, is a line-drive hitter who is also an excellent bunter and a constant threat for an infield hit. He also had 30 steals last season to go with 13 doubles, two triples and two homers in 335 at-bats.

Jankowski's 100 strikeouts are a concern. He hit .343 when he put the ball in play, so cutting down his strikeouts is one of his projects for spring. By comparison, Dickerson struck out only 44 times in 253 at-bats.

Blash, 27, was acquired by the Padres in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft after showing power throughout his Minor League career with the Mariners. He hit .169 with three homers and 34 strikeouts in 71 at-bats with the Padres. San Diego was able to negotiate a deal with Seattle, allowing the Padres to option the 6-foot-5, right-handed hitter to El Paso in late May. Blash hit .260 with 11 homers in 62 games with the Chihuahuas before returning to the Padres on July 31. His season ended on Aug. 19 because of a jammed left middle finger.

Prospects: The most advanced left-field prospect in the Padres' system is Nick Torres. The 23-year-old right-handed hitter out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was the Padres' fourth-round pick in the 2014 Draft. Torres batted .288 with 36 doubles, two triples and 12 homers with 58 RBIs in 129 games between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A last season. At midseason in 2016, Torres was ranked as the Padres' 25th-best prospect, just ahead of Dickerson.

But the Padres' top corner-outfield prospects include four outfielders signed during last July's international signing period plus several recent draftees.

Topping that list is Cuban Jorge Ona, to whom the Padres extended a $7 million bonus last July. The 19-year-old was 14-for-22 (.636) during the under-18 2015 Pan American Games in Mexico with four homers in eight games.

Also on that list is 17-year-old Jeisson Rosario of the Dominican Republic (who at No. 6 actually ranked two spots higher than Ona on the international prospect list), 16-year-old Tirso Ornelas of Tijuana, and fellow Mexican Agustin Ruiz.

The top home-grown outfielders in the Padres' system are center fielders Michael Gettys, Buddy Reed and Franchy Cordero. But there are several other left fielders worth remembering.

Edwin Moreno, 23, hit .267 with 14 homers at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. Tre Carter, 19, batted .298 with a .411 on-base percentage in rookie ball after being drafted in the 11th round last June. Another left-handed hitter, Taylor Kohlwey hit .260 with a .343 on-base percentage after being the 21st-round pick.

Overview: The Padres shouldn't be hurting in left field this season, but the future is even brighter. That best of that future, however, could be four to five seasons away. Ona could be special. The same goes for Rosario. The depth in left could result in a trade to fill needs elsewhere.