Margot, Jankowski give Padres interesting CF options

Each has defensive tools plus strong offensive potential

Margot, Jankowski give Padres interesting CF options

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

Last week we started to look at the Padres' outfield prospects with a study of left field.

Wrong.

I should have started in center field, because what happens there between Manuel Margot and Travis Jankowski will have a trickle-down effect in left.

Defensively, the Padres appear set in center with either Jankowski or Margot on patrol. Any questions involve offense.

Jankowski has more experience and a short track record. The 25-year-old, left-handed hitter -- whose game both offensively and defensively relies on speed -- hit .245 with the Padres last season with a .332 on-base percentage. He drew 42 walks and stole 30 bases in 383 plate appearances. Jankowski is quick enough to reach first on any grounder that forces an infielder to move.

Margot, who turned 22 in September, has a higher ceiling than Jankowski. He is regarded as the Padres' No. 2 prospect and the 26th overall among Major League teams. The right-handed hitter hit .243 with four doubles, a triple, three RBIs, two steals and four runs scored in a 10-game cameo with the Padres late last season, after hitting .304 with Triple-A El Paso.

Statcast: Margot's first triple

Margot played center during his brief time with the Padres and Jankowski moved to left, where he platooned with Alex Dickerson.

But manager Andy Green elected to move Jankowski because he believed it would be easier for Margot to remain in center as he made his Major League debut. It had nothing to do with who might be better suited to playing center.

So as Spring Training approaches, the Padres have two options in center -- giving them more options throughout the lineup.
• Against right-handed pitchers, the Padres could start the left-handed-hitting Dickerson in left and Jankowski in center.
• Against left-handers, it could be Margot in center and either Dickerson or Jankowski in left.
• Dickerson also looks to be one of the Padres' top designated hitter prospects for Interleague games plus a valued pinch-hitter.

One thing is certain, Margot doesn't figure to be sitting on the bench if he starts the season in the Major Leagues. If he's not starting, he'd probably be best served getting a little more experience at Triple-A. And if both are starting, the Padres figure to have one of the best defensive outfields in the Majors.

Given his performance last season, Jankowski projects to being a top-of-the-order hitter. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder has exceptional speed and is developing into an excellent baserunner. He also has enough gap power -- with 13 doubles, two triples and two homers last season -- to keep outfielders honest. The biggest flaw in his offensive game is the fact that he struck out 100 times in 335 at-bats. He hit .349 when he put the ball in play.

Jankowski has value. A number of other teams this winter approached the Padres about acquiring Jankowski in a trade.

Margot, meanwhile, has untapped potential. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder has the potential for power as a four- or five-tool player. Any question about his speed and ability to play center were answered in one leaping catch above the wall at Petco Park in last July's Futures Game. During the same game, Margot also displayed his ability to go from first to third in a minimum of strides.

Statcast: Margot's leaping catch

Prospects:

Center field is one of the Padres' deeper positions throughout the organization. The top homegrown outfielders in the Padres' system are center fielders Michael Gettys, Buddy Reed and Franchy Cordero. Gettys is ranked as the Padres' No. 10 prospect and Reed is No. 14. In addition, several of the international outfielders signed by the Padres last summer project to playing center.

Gettys, 21, was the Padres' second-round pick in the 2014 Draft out of Gainesville (Ga.) High. He hit .305 last season at both levels of full-season Class A. He had a combined 23 doubles, five triples, 12 homers, 33 steals, 60 RBIs and 77 runs scored with a .363 on-base percentage and .442 slugging percentage for an .804 OPS. But he hit only .157 during the Arizona Fall League.

Reed was the Padres' second-round Draft pick last June out of the University of Florida. After a slow start as a professional, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound, switch-hitter batted .357 over his last 10 games with short-season Class A Tri-City with four steals and eight walks, nine runs scored and five RBIs. He is already considered one of the top defensive outfielders in the Padres' system.

The left-handed-hitting Cordero, 22, batted .290 between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, Double-A San Antonio and a four-game cameo with Triple-A El Paso last season with 24 doubles, 16 triples, 11 homers and 23 steals in 555 at-bats. He scored 79 runs, drove in 54 and drew 39 walks for a .344 on-base percentage and a .794 OPS. Cordero hit better at Double-A than at Lake Elsinore, and he also struggled (.203) in the Arizona Fall League.

Overview: Although they are short on experience in center with the loss of free agent Jon Jay, the Padres have dynamic possibilities in Margot and Jankowski.