Everything seemed to be bright for Nick Hundley before the 2012 season started. Hundley had just signed a 3 year $9 million dollar extension, appeared to be at full-health, and seemed to be the “answer” the Padres needed behind the dish for at least the duration of his extension. Oh how things have changed in just over six months. 2012 proved to be an ultimate disaster season for San Diego’s back-stop in so many aspects. Not only did Hundley struggle at the plate, he played so poorly that he was demoted to Triple-A Tucson during the summer (where he suffered a hamstring injury). And even when Hundley was activated and promoted to the big leagues in August, a knee injury shelved him shortly after his promotion for the duration of the 2012 regular season. Unfortunately for Hundley, the job security he once enjoyed just months ago might be in some serious jeopardy next year. In fact, one could make a strong argument that 2013 will be a proverbial “make or break” season for the Friars’ Catcher.
Hundley’s Offensive Struggles
As I alluded to before, Hundley struggled mightily at the plate last season. Not only did he record career-lows in Home Runs (3), RBI’s (22), Hits (32), and Runs (14), his Batting Average (.157 32 for 204), On-Base Percentage (.219), and Slugging Percentage (.245) were downright dreadful.
Do not get me wrong, many of the Friars’ hitters struggled to get on track during April & May this past year. But no player slumped and continuously failed to produce as much as Hundley. Because the team needed at least some consistent offensive production in their lineup, Hundley began to lose playing time during the summer and dropped behind a veteran John Baker, and a highly touted Rookie on the Padres’ depth chart at Catcher.
Yasmani Grandal’s 2012
As bad as Hundley’s poor showing at the plate in 2012 was, the pressure will be on him even more because of how well his Rookie replacement, Yasmani Grandal, played from July to October. During his debut stint in the big leagues, Grandal illustrated exactly why he was such an important piece of the “Latos to Cincinnati” trade last offseason. Unlike Hundley, the Switch-Hitting Grandal produced on a consistent basis at the plate last season. During his 60 game debut, the former Miami Hurricane hit .297 (57 for 226), smashed 8 Home Runs, 7 Doubles, scored 28 Runs, drove in 36 RBI’s, and put up an impressive Slugging Percentage of .469 (.863 OPS).
As nice as Grandal’s production was, the part of the Rookie’s game that I was largely impressed with revolved around his plate discipline. Grandal put up an fantastic 31 to 39 Walk to Strikeout ratio, and was every bit as choosy at the plate as a veteran with 5-10 years of big league experience. Not many Catchers are able to log .394 On-Base Percentages over a 60 game-span, but Grandal did, and had himself quite the impressive first-year audition when he received an extended chance to prove himself.
Not only will Hundley have to keep the talented Grandal at bay next season, he might also have to compete with Baker for playing time if the Padres deem him worthy of staying around in a backup role. Both tasks will not be easy, and Hundley must bring his “A Game” to simply receive quality and extended playing-time. How the depth chart will ultimately shake out during Spring Training and as the 2013 regular season progresses is still a mystery. Nevertheless, the battle for extended playing time behind the plate should be an intriguing storyline to watch next year.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference