Naylor, Myers excel in new roles vs. Dodgers

Outfielders' key hits assure Lauer a win in stellar start

August 3rd, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Moving past Franmil Reyes was never going to be easy. The happy-go-lucky slugger was a booming presence in the Padres' clubhouse and a beloved figure in San Diego. The fan reaction to this week’s trade was visceral.

But and are doing their best to make the transition as smooth as possible. In a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Friday night, their contributions proved decisive.

Naylor smashed a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth as the Padres staged a three-run rally against starter Dustin May, who was making his big league debut. Myers, who went 3-for-5, singled to start the threat, and he tacked on an RBI knock in the seventh as well.

It was precisely what the Padres envisioned when they explored trade possibilities involving Reyes. They knew moving their everyday right fielder would free up playing time for their other slugging outfielders -- Naylor and Myers chief among them.

“We believe in both those guys,” said Padres manager Andy Green.

It was a gamble. Reyes had solidified himself as the most reliable of the bunch, while serious question marks lingered around Naylor and Myers. In sporadic playing time, both struggled this season.

Myers was relegated to a bench role in mid-June. But even then, the Padres were adamant he would soon play an important role in their success. They told him as much -- even if there wasn’t an obvious path to everyday playing time.

“They’ve been very clear about wanting me for the future,” Myers said. “That was cleared up with the trade. I’ve got to take this as an opportunity to go out there and get back to where I’ve been over the years.”

Myers is owed $67.5 million over the next three seasons, so there were other factors at play in the Padres’ decision not to move him. They’re invested (heavily) in seeing Myers turn things around.

But that sentiment extends beyond dollars and cents. Myers is a better defender than Reyes, and his athleticism gives the Padres more options. He can play center. He can steal bases.

“We know it's been a hard road for Wil for a while,” Green said. “But we know Wil can play. We know Wil's really good. For us to be good, Wil brings an athleticism and a skill set that we've needed. ... Wil being in the mix is better for us.”

As for Naylor, the Padres envision a ceiling that might be higher than Reyes’. So what if Naylor has struggled early? He’s 22. When Reyes was 22, he was coming off a .785 OPS season at Double-A, then he was exposed in the Rule 5 Draft.

Their defensive shortcomings are similar. But Naylor has a different offensive profile. He’s got raw power -- though not to Reyes’ degree -- but he’s a lefty on-base threat, and that’s precisely what the Padres are sorely lacking among their outfield options.

“The more opportunity he gets, the better he's going to play,” Green said.

Right now, the Padres view Hunter Renfroe as an anchor. Myers and Naylor could solidify the short-term outfield. Then, presumably next summer, Taylor Trammell will join the fray. The 21-year-old Trammell arrived from Cincinnati in the trade, and he’s MLB Pipeline’s No. 30 overall prospect.

Even without Reyes on board, the Padres’ long-term outfield picture is bright.

Lauer power

’s somewhat inexplicable dominance of the Dodgers continued Friday night.

The Padres left-hander worked six innings with Cody Bellinger’s two-run home run as his only blemish. Lauer allowed three hits, no walks and struck out six. It was his sixth career start against L.A. He owns a 1.72 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in those outings.

“I like the intensity of these games,” Lauer said. “I like the feel of the stadium. I just like facing them. I don’t know, it feels like a rivalry game to me, and it always feels like it’s got a little extra to it.”

Lauer leaned heavily on his fastball, and for good reason. The pitch has averaged 91.5 mph this season, but it sat 93.3 on Friday, and he used it for nine swings-and-misses. He credited a mechanical fix he’d made between starts.

“That was the best I’ve ever seen him, and hands down the best fastball he’s had.” Green said.

As if Lauer’s gaudy numbers against the Dodgers weren’t enough, he added a no-look between-the-legs snare to rob Max Muncy on a sixth-inning grounder.

“It was one of those reactionary plays,” Lauer said. “You throw your glove down and hope it goes in there.”

Lauer took a moment, seemingly stunned that he had the baseball. Then he set his feet and fired to first base, breaking into a wry grin.

It was that kind of night for Lauer. For some reason, against the Dodgers, it always is.