Padres manager Bud Black recently said on San Diego’s sports radio XX1090 that “Carlos Quentin is not on track to come off DL when 15 days is up.” When asked if Quentin will play again this season, Black’s answer was short and sweet, but not exactly encouraging given Quentin’s injury history: “I think so.”
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Carlos Quentin is singed through 2015 with a mutual club option for 2016. He is set to earn $9.5 million next year, and $8 million in 2015, with a $10 million mutual option in 2016 and a $3 million buyout with 320 games played through 20013-2015. The Padres signed Quentin with a no-trade clause because they were able to get a discount on Quentin in regards to production per playing time.
The problem: With an already anemic offense, where is the production going to come from if Quentin misses significant time? His injuries are well documented, and the Padres signed him knowing he would miss some time. So, they didn’t break the bank here, and it was a reasonable contract given his injury history and the market for true thumpers, but that doesn’t take away from the fact the Padres need a reliable middle-of-the-order threat.
The Padres do not have comparable options if Quentin is out for any significant time. Jesus Guzman has fared well in limited time in Quentin’s absence, but he’s a sub-par defender at best and inconsistent at the plate without the true power potential. In addition, with Cameron Maybin down and outfielder Kyle Blanks also out with an Achilles issue, the Padres do not have an obvious go-to prospect.
So, what are the internal options?
Recently, the Padres promoted Jaff Decker, who homered last night to notch his first MLB hit, but will he be a mainstay outfielder? Decker, 23, has had his troubles in the minors to say the least. The last few years, Decker battled various nagging injuries and didn’t look like the player the Padres drafted out of high school in the first round (42nd pick) of the 2008 amateur player draft.
Last year, the promising young outfielder, who is regarded as a pure hitter with gap power only batted .201/.369./339 (albeit a small sample size) due to injuries in 174 at-bats with four homers and 16 RBI. The year before, he batted a underwhelming .236/.373/.417 with 29 doubles, two triples and 19 home runs in 496 at-bats. The Padres coaching staff was perplexed by how such a pure hitter was struggling so mightily.
I believe Jaff was rushed through the Padres system way too quickly. He was a high-school draftee who battled injuries while trying to advance rapidly. I like Jaff a lot and believe he has a lot more to show in his professional career; after all, he’s only 23 years old.
Having said that, I am not sure he’s the answer right now to provide protection for the young position players during Quentin’s absence. However, upon promotion this year to triple-A Tucson, Decker hit .293/.389/.450 with 23 doubles, one triple and nine home runs (10 counting the one last night for his first MLB hit) in 331 at-bats.
The Padres also have Reymond Fuentes, who came over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade and who’s stock has been rising rapidly. Fuentes, 22, has accumulated rather pedestrian numbers since becoming a Padre. Although, he’s held his own, batting .275/.342/.369 with 15 doubles, nine triples and five homers. In 2012 with the Padres double-A affiliate in San Antonio, Fuentes hit a meager .218/.301/.302 with 20 doubles, four triples and four home runs.
This year, however, Fuentes has been producing in double-A with a triple slash of .316/.396/.441, 21 doubles, two triples and six homers in 345 at-bats, which garnered him a promotion coinciding with Decker’s. Fuentes’ performance has catapulted him back on the Padres prospect radar.
With Cameron Maybin’s injury questions in center field, could Fuentes push the envelope and take over in the foreseeable future? While this is good news for the Padres, one thing is certain: His production will not replace Quentin’s.
If Kyle Blanks could stay healthy, he would likely be the Padres’ first option, but, ironically, it’s been harder for him to stay on the field than Quentin. Bottom line, the Padres are very thin at the corner outfield spots in the higher levels of the minors due to injury or lackluster performance. If Quentin is down for any significant time, the Padres will likely look outside the organization if they expect to compete next year — barring any fountain-of-youth formula miraculously found for Quentin’s knees.
It should be noted that Padres top outfield prospect Rymer Liriano, who had Tommy John surgery in the beginning of the year after suffering arm issues playing catch, could play winter ball this season. It would be a stretch to think he would be ready come spring training.
It should be interesting to watch the Padres offseason moves, how they view and evaluate the players they do bring up, and how the maturation process goes. The Padres intend to play Decker more than having him sit on the bench, but only time will tell. He does have talent and could regain his once top-prospect form.
In the meantime, the free-agent crop for right fielders is bleak. The Padres could go out and take a flyer on a guy like Cory Hart who’s been injured all year, looking for a low-risk, high-reward player as insurance. Still, the counter argument would be do the Padres really need another player coming off an injury?
Hopefully, the Padres don’t lose Quentin for a significant time, because he’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and the Padres need his production and protection to complete in 2014.