It All Starts With Him

March 12, 2018

Legend has it that the great Willie Mays, playing center field on a particularly windy day at old Candlestick Park, once covered so much ground that he caught a ball in foul territory.


Don’t know if it’s true, but I do know this: Manuel Margot, the Padres’ rising star in center field, seems as if he would be capable of something like this. Margot is the kind of young talent that may just go on to do things that none of us have ever seen before.


While young up-and-comers battle to get noticed this spring, solid veterans fight to either win or keep jobs, and big-name guys like Hosmer and Myers gobble up headlines, Margot is quietly going about his business, trying to build on a sensational rookie season.


Honestly, he had better. Because if the Padres are going to go anywhere in 2018, it all starts with him. The team’s 23-year-old leadoff hitter finished sixth in the National League balloting last season for the Rookie of the Year award. Now, here’s the good news for Padres fans: He’s nowhere near satisfied with that.


A four-tool top prospect when he arrived in San Diego last season, Margot added a fifth dimension to his game by popping a surprising 13 home runs. He hit a solid .263 (with a .409 slugging percentage), stole 17 bases and showed off stellar defense with both his glove and his arm.


Now he needs to do all of that again in his sophomore season – and more.


A free-swinger the minute he steps into the batter’s box, Margot must be more patient at the plate this season. He finished tied for 91st in the National League last season by drawing only 35 walks. (As a result, he finished with a rather paltry on-base percentage for a leadoff man of just .313).


Myers led the Padres in walks with 70. Joey Votto led the N.L. with 134. So far this spring, Margot has walked just twice in his first 30 plate appearances. Imagine how valuable he could be to the Friars if he started approaching Myers and Votto kind of numbers?


For one thing, we know that the more times he’s on base, the more times he could steal second base. The 17 number of a year ago should be doubled in 2018. We know he has the speed to, if nothing else, accomplish this.


After all, how else is he going to race over and catch a ball in foul territory?