San Diego Blows Up Their Middle Infield

To the surprise of, well, absolutely no one, the Padres whacked second baseman Orlando Hudson on Thursday, sending him to the unemployment line thanks to a line of .211/.260/.317 and rumors of his unhappiness at his situation. At the same time, they placed Jason Bartlett on the disabled list with a strained knee that’s in no way as painful as his unbelievably poor .133/.240/.193 performance. Whether or not we see Bartlett in a San Diego uniform again — his release has been rumored for a while as well — it’s clear that the last-place Padres are committing to youth in the infield, starting with the promotions of second baseman Alexi Amarista and shortstop Everth Cabrera.

Amarista, 23 last month, was acquired by the Padres from the Angels a few weeks ago as part of the trade for Ernesto Frieri. Though his minor league line seems superficially good — .312/.368/.439 — he’s never been seen as a particularly top prospect, ranking 8th on Marc Hulet’s look at the Angels system last winter and profiling as a future utility player. John Sickels, writing at Minor League Ball after the trade this month, viewed him similarly:

The Angels were grooming Amarista as a utilityman and that looks like his best role in the majors. He is an excellent defensive second baseman, is solid at shortstop, and can perform competently at third base and all three outfield positions, although his below-average arm strength can be a problem. With the bat, he’s a contact hitter but lacks power and doesn’t draw many walks. Amarista is an aggressive runner with slightly above-average speed, although he gets caught stealing more often than ideal.

Amarista did steal at least 15 bases in each of his five full minor league seasons, so if he can get on base, there’s potential for value there. It remains to be seen if the Padres commit to him at second base or play him all over; obviously, the latter would be more useful for fantasy players looking to fill out the bottom of the bench. He’s probably worth a flyer in NL-only leagues, though his fantasy value is generally limited.

Cabrera is no stranger to Petco Park, having started 101 games at shortstop back in 2009 as a Rule 5 pick, garnering some down ballot Rookie of the Year support and stealing 25 bases. As that followed a 2008 in which he had stolen 73 bases for Single-A Asheville, he headed into 2010 with some mild sleeper buzz, but hamstring injuries and poor production torpedoed his potential. (Eno Sarris, in May of that year, correctly wondered if he was even rosterable at that point, and clearly the Padres agreed since they went out and got Hudson and Bartlett in the first place.) Last year, he played in just two games with the Padres and was all but forgotten, though he did steal 29 bases with a .370 OBP for Triple-A Tuscon. Cabrera got off to a solid enough start back in the minors this season — .383 OBP, 15 steals in 34 games — and could be considered a decent source of steals, as long as the domestic violence case which is still hanging over him doesn’t impact his availability.

Beyond them, the Padres also have Andy Parrino, who has been backing up both positions so far, though his minor league record of little speed and no power makes him a fantasy non-entity.

In deep NL-only leagues, either Amarista or Cabrera could be intriguing if you believe in speed potential – forced to choose one, I’d probably go Cabrera — but let’s be honest here, these moves were made because the veterans were playing unfathomably poorly, not because the youngsters were forcing their way onto the team. Amarista and Cabrera are joining what looks to be a pretty bad situation in San Diego, and hitting 7th and 8th in a poor lineup (as they did in their debuts last night) isn’t going to lead to a lot of run scoring opportunities. For fantasy value from the Padres middle infield, the best bet is that the recent conversion of 2011 breakout performer Jedd Gyorko from third base to second base at Triple-A manages to stick. Otherwise, you can wishcast on steals from these two, and probably little else.

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Mike Petriello used to write here, and now he does not. Find him at @mike_petriello or

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With Maybin struggling and Venable’s inevitable (inevanble?) summer swoon, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Amarista/Cabrera or both at the top of the lineup in June. I have a feeling that the Padres didn’t trade Frieri – a top bullpen arm – for just some utility player. Call it a hunch but I think Amarista gets a long enough leash to prove useful this summer. Cabrera’s had his chances though and failed more often than he’s succeeded.