San Diego Padres
The Padres and the Reds are two teams expected to take big leaps forward this season. In the case of the Reds, it is because of offseason transactions and additions. In the case of the Padres, it is because of one offseason transaction, but largely because of the promise and potential of young players within the organization. Make no mistake, Manny Machado’s presence is a big deal, but the way the Padres reach their new set of expectations is by the young players taking a step forward.
Many would have argued over the last couple of years that the Padres have had the best farm system in baseball. Now, they have a chance to show it. Ownership has spent money with the signings of Machado and Eric Hosmer. The Padres also inked Ian Kinsler. Those are the types of moves that should pay dividends as young players graduate to the big leagues.
Of course, the Padres have a long way to go in order to threaten a .500 record. Last year’s team lost 96 games and was pretty uncompetitive against upper-echelon competition with a 42-66 record against .500 or better foes. The Padres were also just 31-50 in their home ballpark, which was only better than the White Sox and the Orioles.
The Padres only had one winning month last year, but things weren’t quite as bad as the total picture would suggest, as a 5-20 record in July certainly hurt the most. That’s not to say that the Padres were good otherwise, but they were under 15 games under .500 in the other months of the season combined.
There are a lot of interesting pitchers and a lot of interesting developments with this team that could lead to some betting opportunities.
Money Line Spots
I’m curious to see what sorts of adjusted prices we see. This should be a better team and it would be a surprise if the Padres did not improve, but they were also -150 in run differential last season and won less than 40 percent of their home games. They weren’t even great against teams with losing records with a 24-30 mark.
Still, as you can see, they won 66 games, so there have to be spots we can take advantage of this season. This is a very young rotation. It looks like Cal Quantrill has made the rotation, which gives the Padres five starters 27 years of age or younger. Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi are holdovers from last year. Matt Strahm is now a full-time starter.
What does this mean for bettors? Well, it could mean a lot. Padres starters posted a 5.09 ERA with a 4.71 FIP and a 4.31 xFIP last season. They accumulated the lowest fWAR in baseball. Though Robbie Erlin’s advanced metrics were better, he contributed a 6.23 ERA. He’s in the bullpen. Clayton Richard had a 5.33 ERA. He’s Toronto’s problem. Luis Perdomo had a 7.38 ERA. He’s gone. Bryan Mitchell is in the bullpen with a 4.61/5.76/.5.32 pitcher slash from last year.
The Padres, who still have a solid bullpen with good depth, were 55-85-22 in 1st 5 bets last season. I would expect them to be much better in that department this year. That also makes them more dangerous from a full-game standpoint.
Lucchesi will get the most preferential treatment in the betting markets. I think the other guys will be relative unknowns, so I’d look for spots with them. I’ll talk more about Lucchesi in a second.
With better pitching, and better defense, the Padres should slant towards the under side. If nothing else, we could look at some first five unders. The Padres allowed 464 runs in the first five innings last season. Even with an offense that only scored 3.7 runs per game, the Padres finished up 79-78-5 in the totals market.
This will be a feast or famine offense. It still features a lot of swing and miss. There is no guarantee that Ian Kinsler returns to his former self and Eric Hosmer isn’t a great hitter. I’m expecting this offense to struggle and, in particular, struggle badly with power right-handers. Machado will help, but the Padres ranked 27th in OPS against right-handed starters last season. The irony is that, even with a right-handed-heavy lineup, the Padres were 28th in OPS against left-handed starters.
This looks like an under team to me. Factor in a ballpark that is conducive to pitchers and I’m thinking that an improved pitching staff will balance out the improved offense, in the first five market especially.
Individual Players to Watch
Joey Lucchesi – Lucchesi is an obvious guy to highlight. The young left-hander posted a 4.08 ERA with a 4.31 FIP and a 3.45 xFIP. His HR/FB% of 20.4 percent was extremely high for a guy with a pretty average ground ball rate. Many will be looking for that to positively regress, myself included, so he’ll be a guy that takes money regularly.
Eric Lauer – One guy that could be more of a hidden gem is Eric Lauer. Lauer was terrible at the outset of his MLB career, but settled in to post a 4.34 ERA with a 4.51 FIP and a 4.51 xFIP. Lauer posted a .305/.375/.478 slash against with a .367 wOBA against in the first half. He had a 4.87 ERA. In the second half, he shook off an injury and posted a .221/.318/.354 slash against with a .300 wOBA against and a 3.15 ERA. We’ll see if those gains stick. I’m not rushing to back him, but I think he could carry some value.
Chris Paddack – I’ll reference the “FanGraphs bump” at various points throughout the season. Chris Paddack is a guy getting a ton of love in the stat community after a very impressive Spring Training to win a rotation spot. The 23-year-old was terrific at Double-A last season, but he only made seven starts across 37.2 innings of work. In the low minors, he had elite strikeout rates, excellent walk rates, and exceptional command. The big leagues are different. I want to see how the market evaluates him, especially with all the projection systems gushing about him.