|Sportsbook||Win NL West||Win NL Pennant||World Series|
|Over/Under Season Win Total: 82.5 (BetOnline)|
Prospects are a fickle group of players. The leap from the minor leagues to the Major Leagues is the greatest leap of any of the major sports. The game speeds up from college football to the NFL, college basketball to the NBA, and the AHL or college to the NHL, but it is largely the same game. Players are bigger and faster and stronger, but the learning curve isn’t nearly as sharp as it is in baseball.
Lots of guys throw hard in the minor leagues these days. They just don’t know where the ball is going. Some guys even have pretty good breaking balls or offspeed pitches. They just can’t command them consistently. In any pro league, you are talking about the best of the best. In baseball, it’s just different. Pitchers dictate the game to such a high degree and hitting 99 with no location in the minors is a lot different than hitting 99 on the black in the Majors. Breaking balls can have absurd spin rates in the minors, but hitters may be able to lay off or pitchers may not be able to throw them for strikes. At the Major League level, we see a lot of bad swings.
Teams whose hopes rely on young players to graduate to the Major Leagues and have success often come up short. Enter the 2019 San Diego Padres. Don’t get me wrong, there were a ton of bright spots. Fernando Tatis Jr. clearly belongs and may not be far away from being a top-10 player in the game. Chris Paddack came up and shined. Rotation mates Cal Quantrill, Nick Margevicius, and Eric Lauer all had their moments, too, and all before the age of 25.
The Padres are a work in progress. They have one of the best collections of prospect talent in the Major Leagues and it takes time for those guys to develop enough to get to the bigs and then time for them to get acquainted with that level. The irony is that a lot of the “established” Major Leaguers let the Padres down last season. Manny Machado was nowhere near his usual self, at least not in the second half of the season. The Eric Hosmer contract looks worse by the day. Ian Kinsler was so bad that he retired. Wil Myers struggled and had his worst season since an injury-shortened 2014 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The problem with a rebuild is that a lot of things need to go right and most of them need to go right at the same time. That didn’t happen for the Padres in 2019. It hasn’t happened for several seasons in a row. The Padres haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 and haven’t had a winning record since 2012. It hasn’t always been a rebuild, and certainly not to the current degree since AJ Preller began his reign of terror, but this is a team desperate for things to work out.
We’ll see if the young players work out better this season and also see if the older guard can get back on track as well. We’ll also see if rookie manager Jayce Tingler is the guy to lead the Padres back to the promised land of the postseason. Tingler has been viewed as a rising star in the coaching world and has a background on both the executive side and the coaching side, not to mention the ability to communicate well with the Latin American players.
The Padres are something of a riddle. The talent is there to be really good, if it all comes together, but the possibility of another long and arduous season is also too real to ignore.
|BaseRuns Run Differential||-67 (4.25/4.67)|
|3rd Order Win% Record||73.5-88.5|
|Record in One-Run Games||26-24|
|Additions: Seth Frankoff, Juan Lagares, Gordon Beckham, Jerad Eickhoff, Pierce Johnson, Chih-Wei Hu, Jimmy Yacabonis, Kyle Barraclough, Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, Jake Cronenworth, Tommy Pham, Jurickson Profar, Trent Grisham, Zach Davies, Breyvic Valera|
|Losses: Carl Edwards Jr., Robbie Erlin, Aaron Loup, Adam Warren, Manuel Margot, Logan Driscoll, Buddy Reed, Hunter Renfroe, Xavier Edwards, Austin Allen, Eric Lauer, Luis Urias, Travis Jankowski, Nick Margevicius, Ian Kinsler, Nick Martini, Eric Yardley, Robert Stock|
The Padres were busy this winter. Along with a new skipper in Tingler, the Padres have revamped the bullpen with a lottery ticket in Kyle Barraclough and two exceptional relievers in Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan. They also essentially swapped Zach Davies for Eric Lauer and also swapped Trent Grisham for Luis Urias in a deal with the Brewers.
They signed Juan Lagares to replace departed outfielder Manuel Margot, who was the cost of doing business in the Pagan acquisition. Tommy Pham is an instant upgrade to the outfield and he’ll help in more categories than Hunter Renfroe.
All in all, I like the Padres offseason. Their ceiling will still be defined by the young guys, but they might have the best bullpen in baseball and enhanced the offense a little bit.
The offense badly needed some enhancements. Petco Park isn’t as unforgiving as it used to be and the Padres offensive numbers were among the most disappointing in baseball. It didn’t help that breakout star Fernando Tatis Jr. was limited to 84 games and 372 plate appearances before his season ended due to injury. The 20-year-old was on a ridiculous pace with a .317/.379/.590 slash, a .398 wOBA, and a 150 wRC+, but he also got hurt twice. He was injured in late April on a play at second base and then hurt his back on a swing in August.
Now 21, Tatis will look to build on what he started last season. Strikeouts are a worry, but he did make a lot of quality contact with a Hard Hit% that ranked in the 80th percentile. He wasn’t particularly good at shortstop and there was some talk of moving him and his elite speed to center field, but that won’t be the case at the outset of the 2020 season.
What are the Padres going to get from Manny Machado? Machado’s first season with the Padres was something of a bust with a .335 wOBA and a 108 wRC+. He hit 32 homers, but also had the highest K% of his career and his BABIP fell to .274, a 30-point decrease from his huge 2018 career year. Machado still rated well in the contact metrics, but he wasn’t elite like he was in 2017 and 2018. Outside of a huge month of June, Machado was pretty pedestrian most of the year and was terrible in August and September with a .209/.305/.348 slash and a .285 wOBA in his last 213 plate appearances.
A return to normalcy for Machado would go a long way for the Padres. Machado and Tatis were the only position players to have at least 3 fWAR last season. Hunter Renfroe was next with 1.9, but he is now gone, taking his high SLG, low OBP offensive numbers with him. Fourth was Manny Margot, who derived just about all of his value from his defense.
It is crazy to think about Tommy Pham in this way, but Pham is the elder statesman of this lineup at almost 32 years old. Pham is an outstanding addition to this lineup. His 12.4% BB% would have been second behind utility player Greg Garcia. He stole 25 bases for the second time in three seasons and also hit 20 homers for the third season in a row. Pham’s launch angle is a bit of a downer when it comes to his offensive profile, but he has well above average contract metrics and actually was in the top 4% of the league in 2018 in Hard Hit%. He grades as an average outfielder per the more traditional metrics, but Statcast isn’t big on him as an outfielder. Either way, he’s going to outhit any of his defensive shortcomings in all likelihood and will definitely help a team that was 26th in OBP.
San Diego just has such a wide range of offensive outcomes. We know that Franchy Cordero has flashed some power and good speed in the minor leagues, but he also only played 24 games last season and 47 in 2018, so who knows what he will do. Eric Hosmer isn’t a very good player per the advanced metrics, but there is a chance that he hits 20 homers again with a respectable OBP. It probably can’t be worse than what he did last season with a .309 wOBA and a 91 wRC+. Wil Myers walks a lot and hits for some power, but also strikes out a ton. Of course, Myers also hit 58 homers over 2016-17 before falling back to 29 over the last two seasons.
Trent Grisham walks a lot and hit at every minor league stop for the Brewers. He actually ran a BB% in the minor leagues around 15%, so he seems promising. Francisco Mejia hasn’t developed into the hitter that everybody thought, but he was once considered the top offensive catcher in the minor leagues. Jurickson Profar has hit 20 homers in back-to-back seasons. The Padres also have Josh Naylor and Taylor Trammell in the minor leagues.
As always, what I am trying to ascertain is how much better the lineup can be and who got replaced. Unfortunately Hosmer is still there. He led the team in PA. Machado should be better, as his disastrous last two months pulled his numbers down a lot. Renfroe was third in PA and, while he hit 33 homers, he made outs over 71% of the time, so Pham is a big upgrade there. Myers was fourth and you take the good with the bad there and hope he gets back on track to being league average or better.
Margot was fifth in PA. He’ll be replaced by Cordero and I have no idea how that will work out, as we haven’t seen enough of Cordero to know how the offense translates. We do know that he is likely a defensive downgrade, simply because Margot was really good. Tatis was sixth and, well, he’s just another one of those elite 20somethings.
The Padres did lose Franmil Reyes and his 116 wRC+ to the Indians at the Trade Deadline last season. They also still have a black hole on offense at the catching position unless Mejia really hits. He’s nowhere near the defensive catcher that Austin Hedges is.
All in all, if we throw it all together, I think the Padres lineup is better, but I don’t believe we suddenly see a league average group. Roughly double the plate appearances for Tatis will help and so will Pham and something closer to the status quo for Machado, but there are a lot of below average hitters around this team.
Generally, I start with the rotations. Not here. This Padres bullpen is could be ELITE. Yes, all caps. That’s how you know I mean it. They are outstanding. Kirby Yates was one of the best relievers in baseball last season and now the Padres have added Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan.
Pomeranz posted some uninspiring full-season numbers with a 4.85 ERA, a 4.59 FIP, and a 3.88 xFIP, but remember that he made 18 starts and 28 relief appearances. In the 18 starts, opposing batters slashed an absurd .291/.372/.526 with a .376 wOBA. Pomeranz had a 5.97 ERA in those 75.1 innings. As a reliever, however, he allowed a .165/.226/.278 slash with a .220 wOBA. He went from 18 HR allowed as a starter in 349 PA to three in 106 PA as a reliever. As a reliever, he ran a stupid 47.2% K%. That’s not a typo, y’all. It is very much a small sample size, but the Brewers unlock magic like that with relievers.
He won’t sustain a 47.2% K% I wouldn’t think, but he’s likely to be a well above average reliever. The Rays also used their pitcher whisperers to unlock the skills of Emilio Pagan. Pagan had a 2.31 ERA with a 3.30 FIP and a 3.15 xFIP over his 66 appearances. Pagan had a 36% K% with a 4.9% BB%. A refined slider and a velocity spike helped Pagan after coming over from the A’s. Pagan’s SL% went up to 36.4% last season and he wound up with a 17.6% SwStr% with the new-look arsenal.
Yates had a 1.19 ERA with a 1.30 FIP and a 2.25 xFIP in his 60 appearances, doubling down on the breakout 2018 campaign he had. He had 101 K against just 13 BB. The Padres also bring back workhorse Craig Stammen, who had a 3.29 ERA and outperformed against his 4.12 FIP. Matt Strahm is one of my favorite arms in the system. He only made 46 appearances, 30 of them in relief, and hung a 4.71/4.41/4.27 pitcher slash, but, like Pomeranz, he was so much better out of the pen. He allowed a .347 wOBA as a starter in 81.2 innings and a .270 wOBA in 33 innings as a reliever.
Andres Munoz struck out 30 in 23 innings in his debut season. Trey Wingenter was third in appearances and did hang a 5.65 ERA, but had a 3.61 FIP. His 58.3% LOB% was the reason his ERA looked so bad.
So, the bullpen could very well be the best in the National League if everybody stays in tact. There could even be some others that step up or some of the starters that fall short in the rotation battles could be added. At a minimum, it is possible that Yates, Pomeranz, and Pagan make up three of the top 10 relievers in the NL.
I’m pretty optimistic about the rotation, though maybe not to the degree of some. Joey Lucchesi made 30 pretty good starts with a 4.18 ERA, a 4.17 FIP, and a 4.36 xFIP. I know everybody likes Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet more, but I think this might be the year that Lucchesi makes a huge leap. He did see a decrease in his K% last season and a spike in his BB%, but his command numbers were just so much better. He went from a .306 BABIP to a .271 BABIP. He went from a 20.4% HR/FB% to a 13.9% HR/FB% when most pitchers saw increases. His Barrel% went down from 9.3% to 7.2%. His Hard Hit% went down from 40.5% to 36%. His average exit velocity against went down over a full mile per hour. I like all of those developments, even if his ERA was higher.
Paddack had a 3.33/3.95/4.05 pitcher slash in his 140.2 innings with strong K and BB metrics. The long ball caught up with him a little bit as the season went along, but he has had all winter to work on a third pitch. The fastball and the changeup were very good, but the separator would be a third pitch. You can see that with Paddack’s splits. He allowed a .194/.248/.351 slash with a .255 wOBA in the first half. He allowed a .218/.266/.418 slash and a .284 wOBA in the second half. All of those numbers are good, but he allowed 12 HR in 82.1 innings in the first half and 11 in 58.1 in the second half. As hitters got the book on him, he surrendered more homers, particularly during a rough August.
It was nice to see Dinelson Lamet come back last season. After showing flashes in 2017, Lamet had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2019 and actually worked 73 MLB innings with a 4.07/3.91/3.44 pitcher slash. Command was an issue at times, but he’s had that problem in the past. The stuff had bite and he struck out 105 batters with a 33.6% K%.
We’ll see how long the Garrett Richards experiment lasts. When healthy, he can be great, but the health part has been really hard for him. He worked 207.1 innings for the Angels in 2015. Since then, across all levels, he’s worked 162 innings. He’s got a bowling ball sinker and a good slider to induce a lot of grounders if he can go every fifth or sixth day.
I’m also curious how long Zach Davies holds off the guys with more upside, like Cal Quantrill, Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, and maybe even MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino. Davies is a pretty average guy that has good enough command to offset a low strikeout rate. There are a ton of high-upside guys in this system for the Padres and they may get aggressive with them now.
Positives & Negatives
In theory, this should be a team that gets better every year. This is a very young squad. Even Machado won’t turn 28 until later this season. The Padres need the development curve to keep working and that will steadily increase the team’s ceiling. Of course, some of those guys won’t make an impact in 2020.
Tingler is a big question mark as well. Will he adopt a very aggressive managerial approach akin to Rocco Baldelli? I thought Baldelli was an asset for the Twins in a big way. It sure seemed like Chris Woodward also helped the Rangers overachieve. Young managers that understand the analytics seem to be having that effect league-wide. The Padres do have some five-and-fly contenders and will have a strong bullpen. I think the Padres are one of the teams with a manager that can have a big impact in the win-loss column.
Pick: Under 82.5
I’m not there yet with the Padres. I fully realize the exciting potential of the under-25 crowd that they have accumulated and some really high-upside arms are working their way up the system. This could very well be the year that the Padres make the leap that gets them to a respectable record and then 2021, if we have a season, could be the year that they really make a push for the Wild Card Game.
There are a wide range of outcomes with the Padres and those are typically the season win totals that I like to bet on, but this is not one of them. I think the Padres have both a high ceiling and a low floor. We saw the low floor last season with 70 wins. They’ll be better than that, but a 5-6 win improvement wouldn’t shock me. I do think that a 13-win improvement would, however, shock me. That is why the pick is on the under here.
I just don’t want to underestimate the young talent that they have. I don’t want to underestimate what a return to normal for Machado, a full season of Tatis, the inclusion of Pham, and the continued development of the pitching staff could mean. This is a team that could honestly finish anywhere from 90 wins to 70 wins.
I would maybe be more confident in betting the under if the bullpen wasn’t so good. The Padres had a good bullpen on a bad team last season, but they could have an elite bullpen on a decent team this season and that could very well be the difference between going over and going under. As I said, I believe this is the best bullpen in the National League. They are going to protect the vast majority of the leads that they are given. The question is just how many leads they will be given.
This is the highest-variance team in baseball this season for me. With 29 other betting options, I can confidently pass on a bet here, but the pick is on the under for the guide.