On Thursday the Brewers signed a one year $1.2 million contract with former Padres 2B Cory Spangenberg. Odds are that unless you are in a deep fantasy baseball league or follow Padres’ baseball you have no clue who this is. Spangenberg was the Padres 1st round pick (10th overall) in the 2011 draft. While Spangenberg may not have turned out the way the Padres would have hoped, he is going into his age 28 season with a lot of untapped potential.
Spangenberg, as a rookie, in 2015 accumulated a 2 WAR and was quite productive. What scouts liked about Spangenberg when drafted was his quick bat speed, athleticism, and speed in the field and on the bases. In 2015 he showed plus glove work in the field which contributed to most of his WAR. After an injury plagued 2016 he came back in 2017 and hit 13 home runs and stole 11 bases in 129 games. He is yet to show the entire package scouts were hoping they would see. This past season he struggled mightily with a .235/.298/.362 triple slash and only a .6 WAR on the season. This would be a great opportunity for him to bounce back. Pitchers tended to pitch Spangenberg outside during his first full season in the big leagues but last season they were pitching more right down the pipe.
Maybe pitchers did not fear Spangenberg as much in 2018 and didn’t mind throwing him meatballs. At least he will see good pitches another season. While Spangenberg hit for a worse average for pitches in the zone in 2018 than he did in 2015, his average exit velocity increased by from 84.7 MPH to 89.1 MPH. He hit the ball on average nearly 5 MPH faster in 2018. This is at least encouraging. Unfortunately we cant say that he was just unlucky in 2018 as his BABIP was .344 in 2015 and .344 again in 2018. A big difference is that he struck out 32.8% of the time in 2018 compared to 21.7% of the time in 2015. His plate discipline is nearly identical in all facets except for one category: In zone contact percentage. In 2015 he was making contact 90.3% of the time in the zone but in 2018 just 79.3%. That is a substantial difference. For a guy who has as much speed as Spangenberg he should be putting the bat on the ball. You see that and wonder if he was a participant in the launch angle program to try and get more lift on the ball. Yes he was part of that program. For balls in the zone in 2015 his average launch angle was 1.3 degrees compared to 8 degrees in 2017. Ironically his fly ball and ground ball percentages were about the same in both seasons. A launch angle change clearly was not something to pursue.
The Brewers are simply taking a flyer on him. He is no DJ Lemahieu or even Jed Lowrie who the Brewers were in discussion with. Spangenberg is still young, has good defense and has the ability to play multiple positions. Depending on how the Brewers want him to approach his at bats he could turn into a serviceable player until Hiura or Dubon are ready. With the Brewers struggling at 2B in the past, if Spangenberg is just another failed 2B attempt at least its something the Brewers are used too. The risk here is pretty low while the reward could be sizable given Spangenberg was a former 1st round pick. It is just yet to be seen.
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