Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Franchy, Naylor battle for RF platoon spot

@AJCassavell
February 26, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres' outfield mix is a puzzle with plenty of moving pieces. Trent Grisham is probably the starting center fielder, but he hasn't earned that spot yet. Juan Lagares could be a bench piece, but he needs to win a roster spot. Utility options abound.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres' outfield mix is a puzzle with plenty of moving pieces. Trent Grisham is probably the starting center fielder, but he hasn't earned that spot yet. Juan Lagares could be a bench piece, but he needs to win a roster spot. Utility options abound.

Boil it down to its simplest form, however, and there's one key battle looming for the Padres this spring: Franchy Cordero vs. Josh Naylor.

With a month until Opening Day, Naylor and Cordero seem poised to compete for one of the most noteworthy roster spots available. If Tommy Pham starts in left and Grisham starts in center, there's room for one of those two to play right field alongside Wil Myers.

The case for Cordero

Cordero's primary task is to remain healthy. That's been a chore lately. The hulking outfielder played just 49 games over the past two years because of a series of elbow and leg injuries.

"You just come in with more hunger," Cordero said of the missed time. "... I am 100 percent. And given the chance to show what I can do at 100 percent, it's about showing all of my game, showing what I can do when I put everything together."

When he puts everything together, Cordero is a special player. He hits the ball as hard -- and as far -- as anyone. He covers ground quickly in the outfield and on the bases. The Padres don't have many toolsier players than Cordero, who returned for a short winter ball stint and batted .364/.462/.576 in the Dominican Republic.

"It was good," Cordero said. "Getting out there lets you know that your body is OK. It gave me the opportunity to work on things that I've been trying to work on the past couple years -- staying disciplined and staying in the zone."

Cordero's game has its deficiencies. He has never had success against left-handed pitching, meaning there's little chance he could win an everyday job. In this case, that's fine, because the Padres can mix and match with Myers.

Cordero also has a long, albeit powerful, swing. When he connects, he does damage. But his 38.8 career strikeout rate is far too high. (While Cordero played through a bad elbow in May 2018, his strikeout rate skyrocketed, skewing that data slightly.) On defense, he holds the clear edge, though his routes are suspect.

Cordero, who went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in Wednesday's 8-0 win over the Tribe, has a lot to prove this spring. But he's on the field and capable of proving it, and that's the most important thing.

The case for Naylor

At the plate, Naylor's skill set is very different from Cordero's. He has power, too. But Naylor is a patient hitter who has posted a high on-base percentage at every level.

"I like how slow and calm he is in the box," manager Jayce Tingler said. "I like his ability to get [the] barrel to the ball and hit the ball the other way. ... He's more than just a power hitter."

Naylor debuted last season and posted a .249/.315/.403 slash line in sporadic playing time. He struggled at times. But he was also a 23-year-old getting his first taste of the big leagues.

The biggest flaw in Naylor's game is his defense. It's been less than two years since his move to the outfield and while he's made steady improvements, he's still well below average.

Still Naylor, who went 0-for-2 against Cleveland, might be able to force his way into the lineup with his bat. He doesn't whiff like Cordero, and even when he's struggling, he works walks. Plus, Naylor is historically much better against left-handed pitching. If that carries into the big leagues, he could even earn everyday reps -- forcing a Grisham/Myers platoon in center.

With the arrivals of Pham and Grisham, Naylor needs to elevate his game after a so-so rookie season. He seems up for that challenge.

"I'm very humbled by the opportunity," Naylor said. "I'm just looking to be the best I can be, working hard for it every day. We'll see where it goes."

Three factors that might affect the decision

1) If Grisham struggles, there could be room for both in the lineup. Cordero has plenty of experience in center field, leaving Naylor in right. That could force the Padres to keep an extra righty bat for platoon and defensive purposes.

2) If the Padres keep Lagares as a backup center fielder, Cordero might lose a slight edge. Right now, he's the Padres' second option in center behind Grisham, and San Diego would prefer to avoid using Myers as the No. 2 center fielder.

3) If Taylor Trammell, the team's top outfield prospect, rakes this spring, he might force his way onto the roster. That seems unlikely, but Trammell should arrive midseason. No matter who wins the battle this spring: It won’t end when the season starts.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.