The Padres ill-fated attempt at contending in 2015 resulted in at least one positive, as they were able to swap Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox for a veritable king's ransom. That deal seemed to signal that the team was aware that contention was not a reasonable expectation for 2016, yet it was followed-up by ... nothing. Much of that may be due to the large dollar signs affixed to underachievers like Matt Kemp, Melvin "Don't Call Me B.J." Upton, and James Shields, but it was still a bit strange. After all, everyone the Padres acquired in that deal was poised to be up in 2017, if not later.
Well, apparently Manuel Margot didn't get that memo.
As of this writing, the 21-year-old center-fielder is batting .276/.345/.397 in 179 PA with 2 HR and 14 SB in his first go-round at Triple-A. Those numbers may not jump off the page (particularly in the hitter-friendly PCL), but they are 2% above league-average per wRC+, and he is currently the youngest player in the league. Moreover, he has demonstrated average-ish plate discipline (7.8 BB%) and elite contact skills (10.6 K%) so far - both of which are right in-line with his career norms.
Here is what Bardin had to say about Margot in our Padres top-ten prospects list:
Margot was the prize of the Kimbrel trade, and when acquired, immediately became the Padres' top prospect. Margot reached Double-A Portland last year at the ripe old age of 20 and didn't embarrass himself. His first-class speed has been on display since he began his pro career, but Margot has other plus tools as well, including his surprisingly advanced plate discipline. For fantasy purposes, it would be nice if his power could develop a bit more. If so, Margot would grade out as a very tasty power-speed combo outfielder a la Starling Marte or Charlie Blackmon. Even if the power doesn't quite get there, the speed alone will get Margot attention in the fantasy world as a Denard Span clone. Margot will start out in double-A again this season but will likely be promoted to triple-A sooner rather than later, and a promotion to the majors is certainly not out of the question. With his speed, defensive prowess, and plate discipline, he is a good bet to stick as soon as he gets the chance, even if the power never comes.
Margot is also one of the most highly-regarded prospects in baseball. Heading into this season, he was ranked 14th by Baseball Prospectus, 25th by Keith Law, 39th by our team, and 56th by Baseball America.
The question on everyone's mind is whether or not Margot will develop more power. In real world terms, he can be a stud while hitting five to eight home runs due to his ability to hit .280-plus, steal 30-plus bases, and play Gold Glove defense in center. While that would also make a hell of a fantasy player, as well, double-digit pop could push him into elite territory in his peak years. There is a consensus that Margot could develop fringe-average power, which would make a great deal of difference. Of course, his current home ballpark will not help in that regard.
The Padres current outfield alignment of Jon Jay, Melvin Upton, and Matt Kemp leaves a great deal to be desired. Upton is the only asset on defense, and it is unlikely that none of these players will be around the next time the team contends (unless they are unable to get out from under Kemp's contract, I suppose). Margot could step in today and be the team's best defensive center-fielder, and I would be shocked if he couldn't out-hit the current iteration of Kemp. Calling him up would give the fans a glimpse of the Padres future, while also improving the product on the field.
Despite Margot's youth, I do think that he will be making his big league debut sooner rather than later. The Padres will not be contending this year, and they will have room eventually - either by a trade (Jay will likely head to a contender), or an injury. The Super 2 deadline is rapidly approaching, as well, so they would be playing with house money.
And in a partial season, Margot could definitely help teams in need of a batting average and/or stolen base boost.