Another miserable season went in the books in 2018, as the Padres finished 30 games under .500. At least the first season of Eric Hosmer’s eight-year, $144 million deal went well, as he posted a .720 OPS with the second sub-.400 SLG season of his career!
Life in the NL West has been hard, but the Padres really aren’t doing anything to make it easier on themselves. San Diego did get a chance to look at some young arms, as Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer threw 130 and 112 innings, respectively, to get some experience, but it was a shame to see Dinelson Lamet miss the season following Tommy John surgery.
Franmil Reyes showed a lot of potential in his 87 games, but there wasn’t a whole lot to write home about with the offense otherwise. Francisco Mejia came over in the Brad Hand and Adam Cimber trade with the Indians, as the Padres gave up two of their better bullpen assets for a hitter without a position. Mejia slashed .185/.241/.389 in a cup of coffee to end his age-22 season. Evaluators have never really questioned the hit tool, but he better find a way to stay at catcher or pick up another corner position because DH is no longer an option.
The Padres have now missed the playoffs in 12 straight seasons and this year will make it 13. They haven’t won a playoff series since 1998. They haven’t finished with a winning record since 2010. They’ve been at least 16 games back at the end of the season every year since 2010. Manager Andy Green enters his fourth season with 68, 71, and 66 wins in the previous three.
The Padres did shave their run differential down from -212 to -160, so that’s a sign of some level of improvement. The waiting game continues with the young players that are in the organization and on-the-job training for those that have graduated to the big leagues can only help in the long run. The prospect business is a fickle one, as we all know, so it is really hard to gauge this team now and in the future.
There was some talk early in the winter that the Padres were going to make a big splash and get either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper with an eye towards contending in 2020. It looked like that wasn’t going to happen and then the Padres ponied up with a 10-year, $300 million deal for Machado with an opt out after five years after Spring Training had started. Will that accelerate the rebuild? Will there be more internal pressure to move guys up the ranks in the system?
The Padres have now committed huge sums of money to free agents in each of the last two winters. Are the Padres spending money for the sake of spending? Somebody like Machado is a cornerstone and a building block, but this type of blueprint requires the strongest farm system in baseball to do its job and churn out big league caliber talent. With the Machado signing, the clock is ticking.
Season Win Total Odds
2018 Standings Data
Actual Record: 66-96
Run Differential: -150
Pythagorean W/L: 65-97
BaseRuns Record: 67-95
BaseRuns Run Differential: -134 (3.84/4.67)
3rd Order Win% Record: 66.2-95.8
Record in One-Run Games: 22-21
Additions: Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler, Greg Garcia, Aaron Loup, Adam Warren, Garrett Richards, Chris Stewart, Aderlin Rodriguez, Esteban Quiroz, Jason Vosley, Seth Mejias-Brean, Boog Powell, Jacob Scavuzzo, Connor Panas, Ryan Bollinger, Dietrich Enns, Carlos Torres, Todd Van Steensel, Tyler Higgins, Eric Stout
Losses: AJ Ellis, Freddy Galvis, Cory Spangenberg, Colten Brewer, Walter Lockett, Rowan Wick, Carlos Asuaje, Clayton Richard
Somebody had to do it. Somebody had to eventually give Manny Machado the $300 million he wanted. The contenders around the league seemed set on the left side of the infield and/or didn’t want to spend the money with the labor uncertainty on the horizon in 2021. The Padres stepped up to the plate and got it done.
So, the player many believed to be the best free agent in the 2019 class is signed, sealed, and delivered. He went to a team that can certainly use both his offense and his defense. It is a good fit for both player and team. The infield suddenly looks a lot better in San Diego with reliable second baseman Ian Kinsler and a star in Machado.
Greg Garcia appears to be the only other Major League addition on the position player side, as he should be a utility man. Aaron Loup and Adam Warren are the only MLB additions on the pitching side because Garrett Richards is out for the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The losses aren’t significant for the Padres at all. There will be more additions as prospects make their way to the big leagues as the season goes along.
BA: .235 (28th)
OBP: .297 (30th)
SLG: .380 (27th)
wOBA: .294 (28th)
wRC+: 84 (27th)
BABIP: .294 (17th)
K%: 25.1% (29th)
BB%: 7.8% (23rd)
These numbers should look better with Manny Machado in the mix, but the Padres still have a long way to go offensively. Travis Jankowski was the only player in the top 10 in fWAR to strike out less than 20 percent of the time and Freddy Galvis was the only player in the top five to strike out less than 24.7 percent of the time. Strikeouts aren’t the worst thing in the world, but the Padres only had three players with at least 100 plate appearances that walked at least 10 percent of the time.
Strikeout hitters need to at least walk or hit for power in order to balance out the swings and misses. That didn’t really happen. Hunter Renfroe hit 26 homers and managed a .338 wOBA and a 114 wRC+ while leading the team with 1.6 fWAR. Fortunately, he hit righties last season almost as well as lefties with a .335 wOBA and a 112 wRC+. Compare that to a .270 wOBA and a 64 wRC+ in 2017. Renfroe is going to have to continue hitting righties because there are a lot more of them than lefties.
Wil Myers only played half of the season, but it was a decent half-season with 11 dingers and 13 stolen bases. He actually played well at third base and in the outfield, which is where he’ll be this season with Eric Hosmer at first and Machado at third. Myers had a .253/.318/.446 slash with a 107 wRC+, which doesn’t justify his contract, but he’s the least of San Diego’s worries, so long as he stays healthy.
Manny Margot plays good center field defense and Franmil Reyes has a booming thunderstick in the box. He hit 16 homers in just 285 plate appearances last season and will be counted on for a lot more this year. Fellow free swinger Franchy Cordero has plus power potential. The Padres will at least be interesting to watch. Reyes slashed .318/.385/.548 over his last 49 games and hit the ball really hard. Reyes was 14th in average exit velocity among batters with at least 150 batted balls last season.
That Machado guy was 24th. Machado is a career .282/.335/.487 hitter coming off of a stellar .297/.367/.538 season with a career-best .377 wOBA and a 141 wRC+. He’s also played four straight full seasons, so the health questions are a bit unfounded. Three of his last four seasons have featured as least 6.2 fWAR. Moving back to third base will net more defensive value. It will hurt his positional adjustment on offense, but it’s not like the Padres are worried about that. He’s a stud and a star and a key cog in what could be a much improved lineup with less Freddy Galvis and less Jose Pirela.
We’ll have to see how quickly guys like Cordero, Luis Urias, Francisco Mejia, and Fernando Tatis Jr. hit their strides. This is a lineup that could look substantially different late in the year.
ERA: 4.41 (21st)
FIP: 4.10 (17th)
xFIP: 3.99 (10th)
K%: 22.4% (15th)
BB%: 8.3% (14th)
LOB%: 71.1% (22nd)
It really seems like the Padres pitching staff was worse than that. That’s probably because the starters were terrible. While the Padres had those numbers as a full staff, the starters were 27th in ERA at 5.09, 25th in FIP at 4.71, 19th in xFIP at 4.31, 24th in K% at 18.8 percent, 23rd in BB% at 8.6 percent, and 26th in LOB% at 69.9 percent. The bullpen really carried this unit last season.
That’s not to say that the starting rotation is bare. Joey Lucchesi was solid in his 26 starts with a 4.08 ERA, a 4.31 FIP, and a 3.45 xFIP. His 20.4 percent HR/FB% will come down this season and he struck out 145 in 130 innings. Eric Lauer had a 4.34 ERA with a 4.51 FIP and xFIP in 112 innings, which wasn’t great, but he won’t turn 24 until June and allowed just a .221/.318/.354 slash and a .300 wOBA in his final 34.1 innings of the season.
But that’s about where it stops. Robbie Erlin’s overall numbers weren’t bad, but he posted a 6.23 ERA and a .307/.331/.483 slash with a .347 wOBA against in 56.1 innings as a starter. He allowed a .231 wOBA and posted a 2.05 ERA in 52.2 innings as a reliever. He’s, unfortunately, slotted into the starting rotation to open the year. So are Bryan Mitchell and Luis Perdomo, who were both bad last season.
Quite frankly, the Padres set up as an excellent team to use the Opener concept that gave the Rays so much pitching success last season. It doesn’t appear to be in the plans as of yet, but it would make a lot of sense. Dinelson Lamet is still out while recovering from Tommy John surgery and Garrett Richards is expected to miss the entire season. Starting pitching help is coming in Chris Paddack, Logan Allen, and Cal Quantrill, but the higher-upside pitching prospects have a long way to go.
Fortunately, the Padres project to have a strong bullpen again, even with the losses of Brad Hand and Adam Cimber in the Francisco Mejia deal last July. Reclamation project Craig Stammen led the team in fWAR and posted a 2.73 ERA with a 2.19 FIP and a 2.97 xFIP in 79 innings. Kirby Yates posted a 2.14/2.54/2.64 pitcher slash in his 63 innings. Matt Strahm is a personal favorite and he was strong in 61.1 innings with a 2.05/3.36/3.84 pitcher slash. Robert Stock was strong as well with a 2.50/2.71/3.92.
The Padres will hope to follow the Brewers blueprint of getting a five-and-fly and turning it over to the bullpen. They certainly have the right type of relief group for that. Whether or not the starters can hang on is the question.
Positives & Negatives
The time was probably right to buy Manny Machado. The Dodgers have a firm grasp on the NL West, but wins are available with the other four teams. The Rockies are currently second on the totem pole, but the Padres can now build around Machado and position themselves to make a real run at the second Wild Card. The teams in the other two divisions will beat up on each other, so the Padres could find a way into that discussion.
The Padres were better defensively last season. They accounted for 48 defensive runs saved. Of course, if UZR is your fielding gauge, they were terrible. That’s still better than 2017 when the Padres had exactly zero defensive runs saved and were bad in the UZR department. They were -27 defensive runs saved in 2016. They’re getting more athletic and added a great third baseman in Machado, a solid second sacker in Kinsler, and have a good foundation with Austin Hedges behind the plate and a crop of young outfielders.
Pick: Under 78.5
Manny Machado is a big deal, but the Padres have to make a monumental leap to get over this number. The bullpen is good, but it is not better than last season’s version that had Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. The rotation is still subpar, even with the on-the-job training acquired by Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer last season.
The lineup is going to be very high-variance. Machado and Ian Kinsler are professional hitters, but we don’t know much beyond those two and Wil Myers. Will Hunter Renfroe be able to post above average numbers against righties again? Can Franmil Reyes avoid the sophomore slump and build off of last season? How about Franchy Cordero? Will Francisco Mejia provide anything?
This is a team that won 66 games last season. Even the most optimistic of projections on the Padres would struggle to add 13 victories, even with the Diamondbacks mid-rebuild and the Giants doing whatever it is that they are doing. Outside of the Marlins and maybe the two NL West teams, there aren’t any pushovers in the National League. This looks like a season win total line for the Padres for 2020, not 2019.
This is one of my stronger opinions. This team will be interesting to watch and will be better, but this is not a team that will improve by 12 games this season in my estimation.