PEORIA, Ariz.—Manuel Margot is by no means the first Padres prospect lauded for his smooth actions in center field.
Ruben Rivera, obtained in a 1997 trade with the Yankees, made astounding catches near or over the wall. Though his bat failed him, Rivera served as a versatile reserve on the National League-champion Padres in 1998.
The sight of Donavan Tate gliding across outfields only enhanced his stock when the Padres chose the Georgia teen No. 3 overall in the 2009 draft. Injuries and substance abuse problems derailed Tate, a .229 hitter who signed with the Dodgers as a minor league free agent in November.
Caveats stated, Margot had a splashy spring training. Patrolling the outfields in Arizona, he resembled a potential long-term answer.
“Manny Margot moves at a different rate than everybody else on the diamond right now,” big league manager Andy Green said. “He’s got a ton of range in the outfield.”
For now, the Padres are committed to veteran center fielders Jon Jay and Melvin Upton.
But they assigned the 21-year-old Margot to Triple-A El Paso, only one level below.
Margot signed with the Red Sox for $800,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. The Padres obtained him and three other prospects for closer Craig Kimbrel in November. Margot spent the second half of 2015 at Double-A Portland, hitting .274/.326/.419 with 28 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in 64 games.
In spring training, the righthanded batter went 7-for-22 (.318) with three doubles, a triple, a walk and five strikeouts.
Green said Margot’s athleticism brought to mind a young Jose Reyes, who memorably glided through agility-ladder drills when he and Green were Mets infielders. Green recalled the contrast between Reyes and the other Mets.
“You’d see Jose Reyes go through, and it was almost like the roadrunner following the coyote,” Green said.
“The way (Margot) moves reminds me of Jose.”
• Shortstop Javier Guerra, the No. 1 prospect in the system, hit two home runs in four games for Panama in a World Baseball Classic qualifier. The 21-year-old will begin the season at high Class A Lake Elsinore.
• While the Padres evaluate slugging left fielder Jabari Blash, a Rule 5 draftee who made the Opening Day roster, the club’s 2013 first-rounder Hunter Renfroe will test his new, less-violent swing against Triple-A pitchers.