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In Some Depth: The Trouble Spots

Ryan Eisner

Ryan Eisner

Ryan has been writing for Rotowire since 2007. He currently writes about baseball and covers the White Sox.

In Some Depth takes on a different tact this week. Rather than just take a look at depth charts around the league, I decided to take a look at the worst positional situations in baseball, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Below are the teams that have put up the worst OPS marks by position. It should come as no surprise that the list includes a lot of Padres.

Many of these terrible situations were created by insufficient depth behind an ailing star, prospects who are still getting up to speed against MLB pitching, or a lack of effort in fielding a competent bat at the position. Some of these situations are ripe for change, while others may stay the status quo for a while.

Without any further ado...

C: Dodgers .183/.264/.243 in 130 plate appearances

In the mix: Miguel Olivo, Drew Butera
In the minors: Tim Federowicz
On the DL: A.J. Ellis

Miss A.J. Ellis much? The Dodgers lost Ellis to a knee injury after the first week of the season, and the cupboard is bare until he returns later in May. Ellis went 4-for-24 with no extra-base hits before his injury, but Tim Federowicz put up a -10 OPS+ in his 50 plate appearances before getting sent to the minors. The recently-recalled Miguel Olivo should enjoy a playing time edge over Drew Butera, but neither figures to do much once Ellis' rehab is over.

1B: Padres .160/.192/.218 in 125 plate appearances

Starter: Yonder Alonso
Next: Yasmani Grandal, Kyle Blanks

Alonso has yet to hit a home run this season, and he has just one hit over his last 31 at-bats. Worse, manager Bud Black has started to use the first base slot to start Yasmani Grandal when Rene Rivera or Nick Hundley is behind the plate. That trend could continue if Alonso continues to struggle, which would benefit both Grandal and Hundley. Kyle Blanks joined the Padres on Monday. While he is looking like a Quad-A player, he could provide some useful power, particularly on the Padres' road trips.

2B: Padres .159/.230/.248 in 126 plate appearances

Starter: Jedd Gyorko
Next: Alexi Amarista

At least Jedd Gyorko has hit two home runs, which is two more than their first basemen have collectively. It's worth noting Gyorko had neither a good OBP (.301) nor slugging percentage (.444) in his breakout 2013 season, so he will need those home runs to maintain offensive utility. Gyorko is BABIP'ing an incredibly small .205, and he should get the playing time to right the ship. Triple-A Tucson is full of middle infielders who have had limited success with the bat - Brooks Conrad, Tyler Greene and Alberto Gonzalez may all be names that come up if Gyorko receives an extended break.

3B: Padres .173/.235/.264 in 119 plate appearances

Starter: Jace Peterson
Next: Alexi Amarista
On the DL: Chase Headley

I'm starting to get the feeling that the Padres have a pretty bad infield outside of Everth Cabrera. Chase Headley hit 31 home runs and led the national league with 115 RBI in 2012. Since, he has slashed .242/.336/.390 with 15 home runs and a 24 percent strikeout rate. He has dealt with a few minor injuries in the early-goings of 2014, and he suffered a few more significant injuries (fractured thumb, torn meniscus) last season.

Is Jace Peterson the answer if Headley sustains further injury or gets traded? He showed good plate discipline and stole a ton of bases in the Padres' lower minors, but the regular third-base job is a big role for a guy who has fewer than 100 at-bats above High-A. He already has two errors through his first nine games with the Padres, and he has yet to pick up a walk in 23 plate appearances. That doesn't mean he won't turn it around, but he probably won't have a chance to before Headley returns.



SS: Pirates .160/.217/.198 in 116 plate appearances

In the mix: Clint Barmes, Jody Mercer
In the minors: Michael Martinez, Robert Andino, Alen Hanson

Clint Barmes continues to do it all with his glove and do nothing with his bat. Actually, Baseball-Reference has his glove as only a tick above average this season, while FanGraphs has it as a tick below. So he's nothing with the bat and roughly average with the glove, so it makes sense that he has only started nine games (through Sunday) to Mercer's 22.

Yinzers may be clamoring for Gregory Polanco to take over in the outfield for the Jose Tabata/Travis Snider experience, there is no such uber-prospect seen as the savior for the Bucs at short. Alen Hanson maybe the organization's shortstop of the future, but he has a .302 OBP over 265 plate appearances at Double-A Altoona. Meanwhile, Triple-A Indianapolis is littered with the likes of Michael Martinez, Robert Andino and a few minor league lifers.

LF: Mariners .218/.279/.317 in 1111 plate appearances

Starter: Dustin Ackley
Next: Cole Gillespie, Willie Bloomquist, Michael Saunders

Dustin Ackley hasn't been a disaster in 2014, but he hasn't been the force from spring training. He has hit for a .241 average and .302 OBP through 100-ish at-bats while showing a newfound aggression at the plate. He's swinging at roughly 20 percent of first pitches and 67 percent of strikes overall (he entered the season with percentages of 15.6 and 63.6 respectively). The guys behind Ackley in left, on the other hand, have been far from good (Cole Gillespie and Willie Bloomquist have gone a combined 4-for-21 with one extra-base hit while playing left). We may see Michael Saunders play a bit more here after James Jones arrived Sunday to replace Abraham Almonte in center, but it should be the Ackley show for much of the season.

CF: Reds .214/.274/.278 in 126 plate appearances

Starter: Billy Hamilton
Next: Roger Bernadina, Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker

The line on Billy Hamilton was he should steal bases as long as he could get on base. Little did we know how difficult the latter part of that statement would be. Hamilton enjoyed a strong 10-game stretch toward the end of April, but his OBP still sits at a pedestrian .280 OBP for the season. More notably, he has only attempted multiple steals in three games, and his season total of 11 is rivaled by the likes of Eric Young (11 steals), Emilio Bonifacio and Ben Revere (10 each). His hand injury has opened up the door in recent days for Roger Bernadina and Skip Schumaker, but neither would be a daily threat for a healthy, productive Hamilton, especially with Jay Bruce out for several weeks.

Longer-term, I would think there's a good chance Hamilton holds onto the job for much of the season. He was swinging a good bat before his injury (.320/.352/.420, nine steals in 12 games), and the top option at Triple-A would be Jason Bourgeois.

RF: Astros .164/.242/.233 in 128 plate appearances

Starter: George Springer
Next: Alex Presley, L.J. Hoes

I was a bit surprised that the Astros only have one position on this ignoble list, and I was a bit more surprised that it is because of the Astro who has probably received the most in-season buzz. Springer was supposed to be the start of a new era in Houston. Instead, he has struck out 24 times over his first 65 plate appearances. Still, it's safe to say that he is in his "adjustment period" phase, and the on-base ability and power/speed combination we saw in the minors should surface before long. At the very least, the Astros do not seem like the type of organization that will mess around with his development, so he should get every MLB at-bat possible.