Asuaje coming into his own for Padres

Asuaje coming into his own for Padres

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Padres manager Andy Green was recently asked to identify the biggest surprises of the 2017 season.

Remember, Green knew going into the season that Manuel Margot had the makings of being a Major League center fielder. And that Austin Hedges had proved himself as a big league receiver.

So Green identified three others players -- right-handed pitcher Dinelson Lamet, left fielder Jose Pirela and Carlos Asuaje.

Green knew Lamet had stuff, but he reached the Padres late in May with command and confidence.

As for Pirela, the Padres dropped him from the 40-man roster last offseason only to re-sign him as a free agent. They knew he could hit, but he worked himself into a competent outfielder.

And Asuaje...

"Carlos has improved as much as anyone I've seen, and he's done it on his own," Green said recently of the rookie second baseman.

Remember, late in Spring Training, Green told Asuaje that his game -- offensively and defensively -- wasn't up to Major League standards. Asuaje responded by going back to Triple-A El Paso and successfully addressing his shortcomings.

"You don't doubt guys with his kinds of characteristics," Green said over the weekend. "He has worked incredibly hard and has a ton of self-confidence. He doesn't yield, no matter the circumstances.

"When you look at the package, there's nothing that gets you overly excited about Carlos until you understand what's inside the heart and the 'compete factor' he has. He doesn't fly around the field, it's not a ton of arm strength.

"But he doesn't quit and he has good at-bats consistently. When he's not in the lineup, you usually notice it. I don't know what our record is when he plays and when he doesn't play, but he's been a winning player for us. And that's exciting for us."

Officially, the Padres are 34-29 when Asuaje has started. He is hitting .276 for San Diego, with 11 doubles, a triple, four home runs, 19 RBIs and 26 runs scored.

But Asuaje's value rises when other figures are factored in -- a .347 on-base percentage, a .725 OPS and one error while possessing the greatest range (particularly to his left) as any of the four players on the roster who can play second base.

Pirela also has a .347 on-base percentage, with a .288 batting average and a .490 slugging percentage for an .837 OPS. Pirela has 39 extra-base hits (25 doubles, four triples and 10 homers) in 344 plate appearances.

News and notes 

• Wil Myers has hit in four straight games (7-for-16 with three homers, a double, six RBIs and four runs scored) and eight of the past ten. Over nine games, Myers has gone 15-for-37 (.405) to raise his batting average from a season-low .232 to .246. He has also drawn three walks for a .450 on-base percentage, and has a .757 slugging percentage, for a 1.207 OPS over that stretch.

• Pirela is in a 9-for-29 run (.310) with three doubles, a home run, five RBIs and four runs scored over nine games.

Erick Aybar is 6-for-14 over a four-game hitting streak and is hitting .313 (10-for-32) with a double, a triple, a home run, four RBIs and six runs scored since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 1.

• Margot is 7-for-16 in his past four games, with a double, a triple and four RBIs.