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Here's a Padres lineup idea for 2017

Could be best defensive outfield in the Major Leagues
San Diego Padres

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

This is nothing I've discussed with anyone in the know.

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

This is nothing I've discussed with anyone in the know.

But for the last month, I've been studying the Padres' position players - at the Major League and Triple-A levels - with a look at the 2017 season.

Sans any trades - and I also know there could be some - what is the best lineup for the 2017 Padres.

I have some thoughts. They might sound crazy to you, but give me a listen.

I'll start with the outfield. I think the Padres have an opportunity to field the best defensive outfield in the Major Leagues. If that is the case, I'd be willing to give up some offense.

We already know what Travis Jankowski can do in center field. Well, Manuel Margot, perhaps the top prospect in the Padres' system, might even be a better center fielder. Remember that above-the-wall catch in right-center in the Futures Game at Petco Park? He might be Jankowski's equal in center with a much better arm. Margot leads the Pacific Coast League in outfield assists.

Now, add in Hunter Renfroe. He's ranked the Padres No. 3 prospect mostly for his bat. He leads the PCL in extra-base hits and ranks second in homers and RBIs. But Renfroe is also an outstanding outfielder, who has played center at times. And like Margot, he possesses an excellent arm.

I say play them all in the outfield. Padres pitchers would love the defensive coverage. Jankowski has proven he can reach base as the lead-off hitter. What better way to find out what Renfroe and Margot could do.

Now, here's the strange part. I'd copy what Tampa Bay did a decade ago and play Renfroe in center, Margot in right and Jankowski in left and cover the gaps from left and center. That would also put your best arms in right and center. Renfroe is a better center fielder than Wil Myers was two seasons ago.

Which brings us to the next part of my plan.

Alex Dickerson has showed he can hit Major League pitching. But he's not a strong defender in left field. He's on my 2017 Padres as either the spare outfielder (always in left) . . . or, at first base.

Yes, Dickerson didn't fare well at first in the minors. But Padres coach Eddie Rodriguez is an excellent defensive instructor. It might work.

Myers, you ask? If Dickerson can play first, I'd be tempted to look at Myers at third. I saw him take ground balls at third last year. He looked solid. He showed the ability to charge balls. He also has the arm, and as we've seen this year, the reflexes to play either corner infield spot.

I'd move Solarte into the mix at second, knowing that you could trade at least two for bullpen help.

Right now, I'm thinking Luis Sardinas is the shortstop and Austin Hedges is the catcher.

If Dickerson doesn't work out as a starter at first, he could be your backup at first, the fourth outfielder and a left-handed pinch-hitter. The rest of the bench would be the backup catcher (Christian Bethancourt?), a spare infielder and . . .

The pitching, that's another column.


• Jankowski opened Wednesday's game with a double to reach base in a 23rd straight game, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues and the second-longest by a Major League rookie this season. Also, the game-opening double marked the 26th time in the 49 games that he's been the Padres lead-off hitter that Jankowski has reached base. He is 18-for-41 (.439) with eight walks (.531). When leading off an inning this season, Jankowski is hitting .344 (33-for-96) with 17 walks for a .442 on-base percentage. During his 23-game on-base streak since July 31, Jankowski is hitting .322 (28-for-87) with 10 walks for a .392 on-base percentage.

• Myers was 1-for-4 Wednesday with a triple and a RBI. Myers is hitting .328 (80-for-244) in 63 games at home this season with 18 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. His home batting average is the sixth-highest in the National League. His road batting average is .201 with six doubles, a triple and eight homers for 27 RBIs.

• Second baseman Ryan Schimpf had a double and a triple in three at-bats Wednesday. He now has 40 hits since first coming to the Major Leagues on June 14. Thirty of those hits have gone for extra bases - 13 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs - to give him a .567 slugging percentage and .346 on-base percentage for a .913 OPS to go with a .225 batting average - the highest differential ever for a Major League player with less than 200 at-bats.

• Right-hander Tyson Ross had a rough first rehab start with Advanced Single-A Lake Elsinore Thursday night. He gave up four runs on three hits and two walks with a strikeout in two-thirds of an inning as the Storm starter. He threw 27 pitches with only 12 going for strikes. He also threw two wild pitches.

• Petco Park will host second-round games of the 2017 World Baseball Classic next March 14-19. The four teams coming to San Diego will be from Pools C (the United States, defending champion Dominican Republic, Canada and Colombia) and D (Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Italy).

San Diego Padres