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Talented Margot striving to become superstar

Padres' center fielder not satisfied with simply repeating solid rookie season
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manuel Margot's rookie season was a success by almost any standard. The 22-year-old entered as the Padres' top prospect and quickly entrenched himself as their center fielder of the future.

It's clear, however, that Margot isn't content to repeat the 2017 campaign that saw him finish sixth in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. He has bigger goals. Namely: He wants to be a "superestrella."

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manuel Margot's rookie season was a success by almost any standard. The 22-year-old entered as the Padres' top prospect and quickly entrenched himself as their center fielder of the future.

It's clear, however, that Margot isn't content to repeat the 2017 campaign that saw him finish sixth in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. He has bigger goals. Namely: He wants to be a "superestrella."

Given the unassuming manner in which he talks, there's not a hint of arrogance when Margot says he wants to be a "superstar."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"You have to put in the work, and you have to go step by step," Margot, now 23, said through a team interpreter. "But along the way, you always have to believe in yourself as a complete player. I don't think anybody is ever going to take it out of my mind -- I want to be a superstar."

In the Padres' eyes, there's no reason Margot can't be. He arrived at the big league level with four very impressive tools -- then added some power to his game, launching 13 home runs in 2017.

Margot swiped 17 bags and has enough speed to double that total, and he batted .263/.313/.409 while starring defensively. Last August, Margot stated publicly his desire to win a Gold Glove Award.

"You want a guy that wants to be great in every aspect of the game," said Padres manager Andy Green. "We're always looking for two-way players who can change the game with a glove on their hands, with a bat in their hands or on the basepaths. That's the way we see Manny."

Video: KC@SD: Margot tracks down a fly ball in deep center

Young pieces like Margot, Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe are already in place in San Diego. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias, two of the team's top prospects, could arrive soon.

No question, there's talent in that group. But the Padres probably won't thrive until a couple of those players take steps toward stardom.

Margot is an obvious candidate, though he's not a finished product. He didn't reach base at a high enough clip last season for someone with speed like his.

"If this guy gets on base, he's going to be dynamic," Green said.

Margot can also improve in center. His breaks were excellent, and his wheels are undeniable. But he struggled around the wall, often overthinking his mechanics. The Padres have asked him to simply let his athleticism take over.

On the whole, the Padres were thoroughly impressed by Margot's first trip through a big league season. Whereas some youngsters are overwhelmed, Margot embraced the big stage. He homered twice in the Padres' home opener, becoming the team's first rookie to do so.

Just as impressive, Margot never fell into a rut. Only three times did Margot sustain a hitless streak of three games, and that mark never reached four.

"His best asset is his competitiveness," Green said. "He just doesn't yield, even if his swing doesn't feel good, even if things feel off. He fights every at-bat, puts the ball in play. With his speed, he always has a chance."

Tweet from @Padres: ���He plays to win. He never stops competing. As much as I love the smile, I love his tenacity when he steps in the batter���s box.��� - Green on Margot pic.twitter.com/SQnnF4oLtM

This spring is already different for Margot, who spent last year fighting for a job. He's serving as something of a role model for a Padres farm system ranked No. 1 by MLB Pipeline.

Once, Margot was part of that highly touted system. Now he's a testament to the way those youngsters should carry themselves upon their arrival.

"I'm excited about [the young talent]," Margot said. "You have to be a good example for these other players, and you have to give them a good image of what it is that we want to be. You have to be a good image of a Major Leaguer."

As for his own ambitions in 2018?

"I just want to do everything better than I did it last year," Margot said.

Simple enough, and the next logical step toward becoming a superestrella.

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

San Diego Padres, Manuel Margot