3 ways Jankowski's injury affects outfield

March 5th, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres received some unfortunate news Monday with word that will miss three months as he recovers from surgery on his right wrist.

Sure, Jankowski was destined to serve as a bench piece. But there's an argument to be made that his skill set -- as a lefty on-base threat with elite speed and defense skills -- was the most unique among Padres outfielders. His presence will be sorely missed.

That said, barring further injuries, the Padres don't expect to add another outfielder to the mix, according to team sources. They're still very confident in the already-deep group that they have.

Here's what Jankowski's injury means for that group:

1. It's time for Franchy to step up

Bone spurs began flaring up in 's right elbow in mid-May last season. He played through the pain for 2 1/2 weeks, but it took its toll and Cordero began to compensate at the plate. His swing path changed, and his elite exit velocity suddenly wasn't elite anymore.

Later that month, Cordero was shut down, and he eventually required season-ending surgery. But it's worth remembering that for the first six weeks of 2018, a healthy Cordero was unstoppable. On May 10, when he estimates the injury began, Cordero was slashing .281/.349/.500 and torching right-handed pitching in the process.

"That's the player I can be," Cordero said Tuesday. "Maybe even better."

With Jankowski on the shelf, Cordero will get his chance. He's expected to be the only lefty outfield bat on the Opening Day roster, and like Jankowski, he can play all three outfield positions. Cordero's defense isn't at Jankowski's level, but it's adequate in center and above average in the corners.

If he can find his form from early last season, it'll be impossible for the Padres to leave Cordero's bat out of the lineup against righties. Expect him to platoon at all three outfield spots, spelling the righty-hitting , and in the corners and in center.

"As long as I'm in the lineup," Cordero said, "the position doesn't really matter to me."

2. Pencil Margot onto the roster

Margot was always a favorite to crack the 25-man Opening Day squad. Even coming off his disappointing 2018 campaign, Margot figured to open the year as the team's primary center fielder.

But he wasn't a lock until Tuesday. Jankowski provided many of the same speed and defense attributes (and arguably was better in both categories). At the start of camp, it was conceivable that Margot could've opened the year in Triple-A with regular at-bats, while Jankowski, Cordero and even Myers shared time in center.

It's hard to fathom that happening right now. Margot is suddenly the Padres' best defensive outfielder by a mile, and he's the only one with a proven track record in center, where he's currently viewed as the starter.

Even if Cordero were to supplant him for regular starts, there's a necessary place for Margot on the roster. His presence late in games would solidify the Padres' outfield defense, and he's an elite speed threat, too, even if his stolen-base numbers need to increase.

3. Could there be room for ?

Conventional wisdom says that Jankowski's injury settles the Padres' outfield race. Early in camp, manager Andy Green acknowledged the six-outfielders-for-five-spots dynamic. Indeed, Margot, Myers, Renfroe, Reyes and Cordero comprise a pretty solid group.

But many of the same questions persist. Notably: How do the Padres plan on splitting time among Myers, Renfroe and Reyes?

"There are some right-[handed] guys -- on the corners especially, with Wil, Hunter, Franmil -- that provide similar skill sets, at least from a hitting perspective," Green said. "Franchy's a little bit different, and Josh Naylor's a little bit different. We're going to look at those guys for the rest of camp."

It's still extremely likely that Myers, Renfroe and Reyes make the roster. They were the team's three best hitters last season, and the Padres have experimented with Myers in center as a way to get all three in the lineup against left-handed pitching.

But Naylor, currently the No. 11 prospect in the Padres' top-ranked farm system, remains an intriguing option. His defense is a huge question mark, but so was Reyes' defense when he arrived last season. Plus, Naylor is a left-handed hitter with an elite on-base profile. Even if he isn't playing every day, he could be a useful bench piece.

"There are definitely choices still to be made, and anybody that's sitting in our Major League clubhouse has a chance to make our club," said Green. "That leaves open the possibility for a number of guys that are sitting in there right now. Josh is one of those guys. We're going to continue to watch and evaluate and continue to figure out what our best mix is."