If you had asked me in February who I thought that San Diego’s most consistent Outfielder would be in terms of their projected Offensive output during the 2012 season, I probably would have said then-newly acquired Free Agent Carlos Quentin. The home-town guy’s pull-stroke, coupled with the fact that Petco’s dimensions are not quite a death-sentence to Right-handed power hitters made the 2x All-Star and Left Fielder a logical choice to help San Diego’s anemic Offense in 2012 if he could stay healthy. If, being the keyword however. Quentin though is presently working his way back from a knee injury he sustained in Spring Training, and should be joining the big league club in the coming weeks.
My second choices would have likely been either the then newly-locked up and extended Cameron Maybin or the upside-hyped Will Venable. Maybin however has had struggles at the plate so far this season and logged too many Strike Outs, a poor On Base Percentage, and been moved from the leadoff spot in the lineup. Venable has done better than Maybin in regards to his Offensive production, but still has been wrought by inconsistency at the plate and a low On Base Percentage.
My final choices to answer the question would probably have included 2011 pleasant surprise Jesus Guzman and power-hitting but oft-injured Kyle Blanks. Though it appeared that Guzman would have a chance to achieve glory by filling in for Quentin to start the season in Left Field, Jesus’ production has plummeted to the tune of a .217 Batting Average. Blanks on the other hand could have also taken full advantage of Quentin’s injury and notched himself a full-time roster spot in the process. Unfortunately for Blanks, injury struck and Blanks is going to miss the rest of the 2012 campaign due to an injured shoulder.
There you have it readers, the top five options I considered to be the most potent Offensive threats of the Friars’ Outfielders in 2012, and all have been struck by injuries or inconsistent play the first month into the season. In spite of the poor Offensive production or lack thereof from what appeared to be San Diego’s “best” Outfielders so far this season, two other Padres players at the position have quietly been playing some decent baseball over the last few weeks when given their opportunities: Mark Kotsay and Chris Denorfia.
In Spring Training, Chris Denorfia was considered a bit of an afterthought and on the “outside looking in” when it came to starting in what appeared to be a crowded Padres Outfield. Yet a couple of weeks ago I made the point that Denorfia, because of the consistency he showed at the dish when compared to his fellow Outfielders, deserved more chances to start on a regular basis. And since that time, Denorfia has kept producing, and most of all, he has produced when given chances to start. Let’s take a look, shall we:
Since April 16th (the day my post was published), Denorfia has performed quite well at the plate when given the chance to start. In 8 starts, Denorfia has hit almost .393 (11 for 28) with two Doubles, and a nice Walk to Strikeout Ratio of 3 to 3. Denorfia is not the type of player which will provide a lineup with a great amount of power, yet he still leads all Padres’ position players with a .414 On Base Percentage.
Compared to other Outfielders like Venable (.303 OBP), Maybin (.330 OBP), and Guzman (.260 OBP), Denorfia has displayed his consistency of getting on base on a more regular basis. Furthermore, Denorfia has also illustrated a knack for not Striking Out (3 total for season) and a low Strike Out to At-Bat Ratio (3 to 50) when compared to the other three (Venable: 15 to 82, Maybin 25 to 85, Guzman 16 to 69).
But you know what? Efficient production has been something Denorfia has brought to the table for this ballclub since coming over in 2010. In 210 games over the ’10 and ’11 seasons, Denorfia has hit .274 (162 for 591), logged 28 Doubles, 14 Home Runs, 55 RBI’s, and Walked 55 Times compared to 100 Strike Outs over said span. Not exactly awesome, but when one considers how inconsistent San Diego’s Offense has been over the last two seasons, those are still at least comparable numbers to Venable, Maybin, and Guzman.
Granted, you may not ever come home from the ballpark saying: “Dang, I just saw Chris Denorfia make the most incredibly athletic play in the field,” or “Wow, Denorfia hit a couple of moon-shots off of The Western Metal Supply building today.” But you know what? Denorfia is still a solid ball-player that can give your favorite ball club three important things: positional versatility, 100% effort, and solid Offensive output. All three of which “Deno” has put on display so far this season, and for all three he deserves recognition.
At the beginning of Spring Training, I was under the assumption that the team brought Mark Kotsay in to be a solid locker room presence, fill in at First Base and the Outfield sparingly when starters needed a rest, and log some pinch-hit At-Bats when called upon and needed. Thus, the thought that Kotsay would be a big factor in San Diego’s Offensive success when compared to his younger and more talented fellow Outfielders was something I did not consider much. Plus, unlike “Deno,” Kotsay began the year on the Disabled List because of a calf injury and missed the team’s first couple of weeks. Yet for a guy without much fanfare entering the season, Kotsay has done well in his opportunities.
Sure, Kotsay’s 2012 numbers aren’t statistically “sexy” considering he has only played in 13 games: .286 Batting Average (6 Hits in 21 At-Bats), 2 Doubles, 1 Home Run, and 5 RBI’s. Nevertheless, since returning from the D.L., Kotsay has given the Padres a boost on Offense, and collected some crucial hits which were instrumental in two of San Diego’s nine victories so far this season.
Kotsay’s 2 run Double against Washington on April 26th put the Friars’ ahead in a game they trailed 1-0 and eventually won 2-1 when it was all said and done. Kotsay then followed up his late-inning heroics five days later against the Brewers. Deadlocked in a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the 8th inning, Kotsay came off the bench and smashed a 2-run Home Run to put the Padres ahead in a game they held on to win 2-0.
While the 36 year old Kotsay is not likely to assume an every-day starting role like Denorfia might end up doing, he still remains a solid pinch-hitting option like “Deno,” and can do a serviceable job on the diamond at First Base and in Left Field in late innings. Kotsay’s contributions might even become bigger if poor and inconsistent play resumes amongst his peers, and he is given more chances to produce. Yet as of now, he remains San Diego’s most potent Offensive weapon off the bench.
This 9-17 start to begin the season has not been especially fun to watch. Whether it has been the injuries, erratic play, or both, San Diego has appeared to be a team that will likely languish in the cellar of the National League for a decent amount of the season. Still, in spite of the bad fortune and somewhat uncharacteristic poor performances to affect some players on this franchise, it has been nice to see Denorfia and Kotsay doing their part to chip in with some of the team’s recent successes (especially at the plate).
I earnestly hope that the Offense can begin to heat up as we enter the summer. Hopefully Quentin can come back healthy and begin to produce, and Maybin or Venable, or both can start getting on base and doing some damage on the base-paths. As of now however, Denorfia is the team’s most consistent hitting Outfielder, and Kotsay has settled into a solid niche role since returning.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed Friars fans, because it might just be a matter of time before more guys begin to produce. Wishful thinking, I know, but let’s at least look at this from a glass-half-full perspective.
Statistics Courtesy of: http://www.baseball-reference.com/