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Around the Horn: Battle looming in right field

January 28, 2019

With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2019 Padres, breaking the team down position by position. Today, we preview the San Diego right fielders.Around the Horn series:C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CFSAN DIEGO -- In 2018,

With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2019 Padres, breaking the team down position by position. Today, we preview the San Diego right fielders.
Around the Horn series:C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF
SAN DIEGO -- In 2018, the Padres' two best offensive players both played right field. Hunter Renfroe spent the first half of the season there, before moving to left when Franmil Reyes took over.
Renfroe made major strides, particularly in the second half last season. He finished with an .805 OPS, a 119 OPS+ and a team-high 26 homers. He was unquestionably the Padres' best hitter over the course of the entire season.
Reyes, meanwhile, grabbed hold of a starting role in July, and he ran with the opportunity, posting an .838 OPS, a 130 OPS+ and 16 homers. He was unquestionably the Padres' best hitter in the second half, after spending most of the first half in the Minors.
Few would argue that Renfroe and Reyes were the Padres' two best hitters last season. But in 2019, there might only be room for one in the starting lineup.
After an ill-fated stint at third base, William Myers is headed back to left field, and it's created quite the logjam in the outfield corners: three righty-hitting power bats for two places. General manager A.J. Preller has not addressed the backlog this offseason, either. He doesn't feel as though he needs to.
Reyes is coming off an offseason knee operation, and Myers missed nearly half of last season with various injuries. Both are fully healthy for the start of camp. But Preller clearly likes his depth and won't be forced into a trade.
"I definitely wouldn't be surprised if we go into the year with the group as it stands in the outfield," Preller said earlier this offseason.
Here's how that group stands, if the season were to start today:
Projected starter: Renfroe
Potential backups: Reyes, Myers, Travis Jankowski, Franchy Cordero
Top 30 prospects: No. 15 Josh Naylor, No. 16 Tirso Ornelas, No. 19 Jeisson Rosario, No. 27 Grant Little, No. 28. Edward Olivares
Best-case scenario
The growth of Renfroe and Reyes in 2018 was no fluke. Both continue their upward trajectories, and the Padres have two corner outfielders who could serve as legit middle-of-the-order power threats.

That would leave Preller with a number of options. Both Renfroe and Reyes are pre-arbitration players, and they're under team control for a long time. Preller could use one of them to trade for a big-name starter. Or he could look to trade Myers, gaining some salary relief.
In any case, if Reyes and Renfroe hit like they did last season, the Padres will hold some useful cards in their inevitable trade negotiations.
Worst-case scenario
Despite his major strides at the plate, Renfroe still only reached base at a .302 clip last season. His swing-happy tendencies return, and pitchers learn to exploit them. Reyes, meanwhile, struggles to overcome offseason knee surgery. When he does, he regresses from his out-of-nowhere second half. (Reyes wasn't a Top 30 prospect, and he was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft prior to the 2018 season).
The Padres have a deep outfield elsewhere, with Myers and Cordero also set to play prominent roles in the corners. They really aren't counting on Renfroe and Reyes to be long-term lineup anchors. But they need at least one of them to be exactly that. They can't afford for both to take steps back in 2019.

A reasonable prediction
Renfroe and Reyes showed an awful lot of promise last season, and it's certainly possible that both continue their rise toward potential stardom. But the sample sizes for both players remain pretty small. Let's say one regresses and one continues to thrive. (Good luck guessing which is which.)
By the All-Star break, the Padres know who their right fielder of the future is. Preller, with a still-crowded outfield, decides to deal one of his bats, and the backup right fielder is packaged in a deal for a starter.
That leaves Myers, Manuel Margot and Reyes/Renfroe as the starting outfield, with Cordero platooning regularly at all three spots against right-handed pitching. Jankowski, meanwhile, continues to serve as a late-game defensive replacement, especially for Reyes, who will probably always have shortcomings defensively. Jankowski, too, should receive the occasional start against a tough righty.

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