Monday, May 13, 2024

Never Heard of a Nine-Man Infield Before


It only occurred to me recently how much of the Padres' 2024 revolves around the existence of copious amounts of infielders. Like, there's an SNL sketch about a People's Court type show, but with like 12 judges. And you're led to assume that it's a working model but it didn't need to be that excessive.

The San Diego Padres currently have all of the following infielders active: Jake Cronenworth, Ha-Seong Kim, Manny Machado, Luis Arraez, Xander Bogaerts, Tyler Wade and Donovan Solano. Which is seven. But it gets funnier. Because look at the outfield. ALL THREE OUTFIELDERS CAME UP AS MIDDLE INFIELDERS. Jurickson Profar came up as a 2nd baseman for the Rangers. Fernando Tatis obviously did his time at SS before moving to the outfielder. And Jackson Merrill, the new outfield rookie success this year...came up as a shortstop! That's TEN INFIELDERS. It's really just the catchers, Campusano and Higgy, that have no infield experience. 

But that is honestly the Padres' strategy. Infield first. It's why they signed Ha-Seong Kim when they already knew they had Tatis there. It's why they traded for Luis Arraez even if they already had a working outfield. It's why they brought up Donnie Barrels even if he'd be used primarily as a backup. Considering how lopsided the Padres' infields used to be, with people like Everth Cabrera, Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso doing what they could in singular facets, it's nice that they can overproduce their infield and allow for so many great players coming from there. And yes, so far Luis Arraez is hitting .357 as a Padre and doing his usual thing of contact magic, so they seemed to be onto something there.

Arraez also points out a nice trend of players just absolutely clicking in San Diego of all places. Jurickson Profar is a nice version of this, as we saw how well things went in a place that was a bad fit for him last year. Then the second he gets back to San Diego he returns to form, hitting .295 in the last 14 games of the season. Keeping him around was a good idea, as he's returned to his 2022 levels of dominance, hitting .321 with 27 RBIs, 45 hits and 6 homers. After years of struggling to find a niche, Profar has really come into his own as a versatile, fun piece for teams like the Padres. 

There's been a nice group effort from a lot of this Padres team, with guys like Michael King, Robert Suarez, Luis Campusano and, yes, Donovan Solano, contributing a great deal, and adding depth to a team that's already getting stuff out of some stars [Tatis, Cronenworth, Cease]. It's not a perfect team, and I think we'd all prefer if Bogaerts and Machado were doing better, but this team has soared above expectations so far and might still factor into the NL West race to come.

And hey, at the very least there's no chance of the Padres having the worst infield in the division. They've got like 20 people there.

Coming Tonight: The trade that sent him to Toronto is honestly still feeling pretty even, which is kinda odd considering. 

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