On a pitching-first ball club like the San Diego Padres, good hitters tend to stick out like sore thumbs. Okay, sore thumbs might not be the best choice for an analogy when dealing with a squad that has been hit so hard with injuries of late, but you get the picture.
In Tuesday’s 8-6 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Padres fielded a lineup that looked as close to the projected Opening Day lineup as we’ve seen in a game all spring. While some of the regulars are starting to show signs of life at the plate, Tommy Medica has been one non-regular who has been hitting with regularity all spring.
Entering the game, Medica’s 11 at-bats tied for the team lead and with a .727 batting average on eight hits that include two doubles and a homer, Medica has definitely been a bright spot in what has been a dull spring so far offensively for the Padres.
The former 2010 14th-round pick entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning and remained in the game replacing Yonder Alonso at first. After going 1-for-3 on the day at the plate, Medica’s .643 batting average on 17 at-bats is not only the best average on the Padres, but it’s the best in MLB of any player with at least 10 at-bats this spring.
For everyone reading this and thinking, “Spring Training stats mean nothing,” let me take you back to 2013, when Medica was called up to assist the Padres’ injury-riddled roster. Playing in 19 games, Medica hit .290 with a .380 OBP and hit three home runs for the big club — proving that what we’re seeing right now is legit production and not just bloated Spring Training numbers.
While all that is great news for Padres fans — San Diego, we have a problem. The problem the Padres face is having a player showing the ability to offensively help a team that struggles offensively, but having nowhere to put him.
Drafted as a catcher, Medica’s sapped arm strength due to a torn labrum suffered a couple years ago has forced him from behind the plate, basically leaving him without a true position — a huge problem in the DH-less NL. At this point, first base seems to be his only option position-wise as Medica spent his 19 games with the big club in 2013 playing first base in place of a then-injured Alonso. Now that Alonso is healthy, first base for Medica is not an option — or is it?
Alonso has played 16 games in the outfield in his career, but would the team really want to have an outfield with two defensively challenged players on the corners in Alonso and Carlos Quentin? Could a Headley trade force Alonso to third, making room for Medica at first? Could a trade of Medica to an AL team for some talent the team can actually use?
I don’t make those decisions, I just write about them — but at the very least, Medica has to win a bench spot on the 2014 roster, as he has proven that he belongs with the big club in some way, shape, form or fashion in 2014. The Padres have a very good player on their hands with Medica, and I look forward to seeing how they handle him.