Myers returning to CF to provide OF flexibility

San Diego could use several outfield combinations in 2019

February 25th, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres have options galore in the outfield, where their spring competition features six players who saw time as regular starters last season. Determined to get the most out of those options, manager Andy Green plans to get creative in Spring Training.

That means, yes, is headed back to center field.

"You're going to see all sorts of variations here in the next 30 days," Green said. "We want to leave here knowing what the best choices are for us and what's possible for us."

One of those variations will feature Myers in center. It's easy to see why the Padres might want him there. Essentially, if Myers is a center-field option -- even with subpar defense -- it would allow the Padres to use any combination of three outfielders they'd like.

Specifically: the Padres could field an outfield with Myers, Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes -- three imposing right-handed hitters -- against certain lefties.

Myers has a bit of a history in center, of course. When the Padres traded for Myers ahead of the 2015 season, general manager A.J. Preller moved him to center and he floundered. The situation was similar, with righty-hitting sluggers Matt Kemp and Justin Upton playing next to him.

This time, however, Myers almost certainly wouldn't be relied upon for the bulk of his starts in center. (He might not play there at all, depending on which other outfielders make the team.) But the Padres want to find out if he's capable, and there's no better place for that than the Cactus League.

"I don't think we're far off from getting a look at him in center," Green said. "We already have a great deal of comfort with him in left."

Green recalled a game last September against Texas in which Joey Gallo -- a left-handed slugger -- started in center field for the Rangers to combat righty Jacob Nix.

"Gallo isn't an everyday center fielder by any stretch," Green said. "But there's times where it makes sense for your club."

Myers made his first spring appearance Monday, going 1-for-3 as the left fielder in a 6-4 Cactus League loss to the Cubs. But he isn't the only outfielder being shuffled around this spring. Franchy Cordero will play all three positions, and he started in center on Monday, making an impressive running grab at the left-center-field warning track.

Myers isn't the only outfielder being shuffled around this spring. Franchy Cordero will play all three positions, and he made his first appearance as a center fielder on Monday against the Cubs.

Cordero is a solid defender in the corners, but it's extremely important that he makes strides as a center fielder this season. If he can platoon at all three positions, it could be a huge advantage for the Padres, given Cordero's .253/.343/.474 line against righties last season.

It seems likely the Padres carry five outfielders on their Opening Day roster -- especially given the number of April off-days, which should allow for a seven-man bullpen.

Here's a look at five different ways the Padres could line up in the outfield:

Option 1: LF Myers, CF Manuel Margot, RF Renfroe/Reyes

Pros: With three righty hitters, this is probably the Padres' best two-way option against left-handed pitching (and the safest bet for the Opening Day alignment against San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner). Margot's elite defense is hard to omit.

Cons: Among Myers, Renfroe and Reyes -- the Padres' three best returning hitters against left-handed pitching -- one is on the bench.

Option 2: LF Myers/Renfroe/Reyes, CF Travis Jankowski, RF Cordero

Pros: Against dominant right-handers, the Padres could use this alignment to get both Jankowski and Cordero into their starting lineup. Both have had success against righties in the past.

Cons: Myers, Renfroe and Reyes weren't particularly poor against righties, so why leave them out? All three boasted a wRC+ of 100 or better against right-handers last year.

Option 3: LF Myers, CF Cordero, RF Renfroe/Reyes

Pros: This is the Padres' best offensive alignment against right-handed pitching, and Cordero's presence brings balance to an offense that's righty-heavy in the infield and at catcher.

Cons: With Cordero in center, there's a significant drop-off from the Gold Glove-caliber defense often provided by Margot and Jankowski.

Option 4: LF: Myers/Renfroe/Reyes, CF Margot, RF Cordero

Pros: If Margot hits like the Padres think he's capable, this might be the best two-way alignment against right-handed pitching.

Cons: Like Option 2, only one of the Padres' three big-time right-handed bats is in the lineup.

Option 5: LF: Renfroe, CF Myers, LF Reyes

Pros: This alignment seems especially possible if Margot's struggles continue. The Padres would only use it for a game or two per week against left-handed pitching. And Margot or Jankowski could serve as a late-game defensive replacement.

Cons: Offensively, none. But that is not a good defensive outfield, to say the least.