2018 finish: 66-96, Fifth in NL West
SI’s 2019 Prediction: 83-79, Second in NL West
Key additions: 3B Manny Machado, 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Adam Warren
Key departures: C A.J. Ellis (retired), SS Freddy Galvis, INF/OF Cory Spangenberg
1. 2B Ian Kinsler
2. 1B Eric Hosmer
3. 3B Manny Machado
4. LF Wil Myers
5. SS Fernando Tatís Jr.
6. RF Hunter Renfroe
7. CF Franchy Cordero
8. C Austin Hedges
C Francisco Mejía
INF Luis Urías
OF Manuel Margot
OF Franmil Reyes
1. LHP Eric Lauer
2. LHP Joey Lucchesi
3. RHP Chris Paddack
4. LHP Matt Strahm
5. RHP Cal Quantrill
RHP Kirby Yates (closer)
RHP Craig Stammen
RHP Adam Warren
RHP Trey Wingenter
RHP Robert Stock
LHP Aaron Loup
RHP Bryan Mitchell
LHP Robbie Erlin
Injured List: OF Travis Jankowski, RHP Brett Kennedy, RHP Dinelson Lamet, RHP Jacob Nix, RHP Garrett Richards (out for season), LHP José Castillo, RHP Miguel Díaz
Movin On Up! All spring it was assumed Fernando Tatís Jr. wouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster because of the Padres’ desire to delay his big league service time, but on Tuesday night, news broke that the team’s top prospect will be in the big leagues to start the year. Tatís is considered all but a sure bet by every talent evaluator, drawing comparisons to the Astros’ Carlos Correa and Machado. He’s just one of a host of promising talents in San Diego’s ecosystem: starting pitcher Chris Paddack has made just seven starts above High-A ball, but is poised to join the rotation after a dominant spring that saw him strike out 20 batters in 12 ⅔ innings. Mammoth outfielder Franmil Reyes will be competing for playing time with fellow powerhouse Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero, but will likely displace somebody with his titanic power and line-drive abilities.
Sell! It feels like we’ve been waiting for years for outfielder Wil Myers to reach his proper potential, and the Padres should consider trading him with their glut of talented young outfielders. The problem for San Diego is that Myers inked a six-year, $83 million extension in 2017, making him all the more difficult to move in a time when most teams are actively looking to avoid adding payroll. It’s not that Myers is bad—he’s always shown gap-to-gap power and a promising extra-base hit rate—it’s that his defense is questionable everywhere and the Padres have plenty of tantalizing young talents in the outfield. Myers is still just 28 years old, meaning he may have a career season in the peak of his physical prime. But if the Padres are trying to build a young core with the goal of eventually displacing the Dodgers, then unloading Myers may be the best course of action to free up playing time for their young outfielders.
Appreciate This Man! Kirby Yates was an absolute nightmare for righthanded hitters in 2018, logging a 1.50 ERA and 41% strikeout rate over 134 batters faced. Yates was quietly one of baseball’s best relievers in 2018, simply because he didn’t have many chances to close for a team that won 66 games in 2018. With a 12.86 K/9 rate and a miniscule 6.8% walk rate, Yates is one of the game’s most valuable relievers even if casual fans don’t know who he is.
A Modest Proposal from Joe Sheehan: The Padres suddenly have a lot of star power, with Manny Machado in on a ten-year deal and top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. set to make the Opening Day roster. After committing $400 million to infielders the last two winters, the Padres need to find cheap pitching. The Padres have had a bottom-three starting rotation in the NL the last three years. Enter Matt Strahm. Strahm, acquired from the Royals at the trade deadline in 2017, was mostly a reliever for the Pads last season, running a 2.05 ERA in 61 1/3 innings. The Padres are moving him back to the rotation this spring, with strong early results (12 strikeouts, no runs allowed in nine innings). Strahm has the skills to be a starter: He is a four-pitch pitcher who works at 93-94 mph, and he held righties to a .149 batting average last year, striking out 29% of the ones he faced.
MLB.TV Rating: 7.3 San Diego is at least one year away from playoff contention, but the glut of outstanding young talent and arrival of Manny Machado make the Padres one of the most hip options of the upcoming season. Machado’s reputation suffered after his controversial “Johnny Hustle” comments during his stint with the Dodgers last season, but he remains one of the game’s elite talents and will embrace a different role—leader, not young stud—in San Diego. Under manager Andy Green, renowned for his competitiveness and intensity during his playing days, it seems unlikely that any lax behavior will be tolerated. If the likes of Tatís, Paddack and Reyes are half as good as several scouts insist they are, then the Padres should be a ton of fun, even if they’re not going to make the playoffs in 2018.
Keep an Eye Out For … The Padres are considered to have the best farm system in the big leagues, and plenty of that talent is arriving or is on its way. Now that Tatis and Luis Urias will be impact players in 2019, look for development from power lefties MacKenzie Gore and Adrian Morejon.
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
This is a team that’s been anointed the best farm system in baseball and they’ve got about four young guys coming up who can make an impact. When does Fernando Tatís Jr. arrive? Whenever service time is up, he’ll be up. He’s absolutely ready. He’s as advertised and he does everything so easily. He’s a big tall kid, with big shoulders and he’s still lean. I saw him hit a rocket to left-center for a homer and he hit the berm on a line.
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
Ian Kinsler. They signed him kind of quickly. They gave him a two-year deal and he’s going to be a utility guy. When Tatís gets there, Luis Urías moves over to second. Now they have Manny Machado, and they’re going to have a tough time looking at the second year of Kinsler’s contract.
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
Eric Hosmer. He’s a true gamer, and he’s got one of the better baseball faces in the game. He always has that look that he’ll do anything to beat you. He’s a great guy. He’s got better protection this year and sometimes there’s just too much pressure right after you sign a big contract. His power numbers were down last year, and that impacts you because you want to prove that the team was right to believe in you. Now he’s got Machado, Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe alongside him.
What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?
Tatís and Francisco Mejía. How could you not say Tatís? It’s his time. The only thing keeping him down is the service time. I love the way Mejía commands the staff — I don’t see pitchers shaking him off, he gives a great target and doesn’t move too much. It’s going to be a 60-40 platoon with Austin Hedges, so Mejía has a chance to make the club. Hedges is a plus defender, but just isn’t the hitter I thought he’d be.
What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?
Austin Allen. He hasn’t been that good behind the plate during the spring. The bat is intriguing, but he’s slow-footed and just doesn’t sit very well back there. He might change positions, and it won’t be hard to convince him to move when you have Hedges and Mejia there.
Who gets the most out of his talent?
Manuel Margot. He’s going to be the centerfielder there. He’s a really good player, just a prototypical leadoff guy. He impacts the game with his speed, steals bases, hits for average, makes contact, and plays great centerfield. He goes about his business professionally. If Machado is hitting third, Margot better be in scoring position by the time he gets up. He’ll steal 30-40 bases.
Who gets the least out of his talent?
Travis Jankowski. He brings everything that Margot does, but he can’t get into the everyday lineup. He’s a lefty on a team full of righties. Now he’s broken his wrist and he’s probably done with this team. There are so many guys running by him. He has to fight off Franchy Cordero, Franmil Reyes and Wil Myers.
Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?
Chris Paddack. This is a righty whose stuff just jumps out of his hand. He’s got a plus changeup that plays up because he repeats his delivery and location so well. It’s such a hard pitch to pick up and he’s forced himself into the rotation. He’ll be No. 1 eventually but he’ll start out as the No. 3 guy. I think he’s big and strong enough to get 25 starts this year.
Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?
Hosmer. Just watch him back when the Royals were in the World Series. He takes advantage of other teams’ weaknesses. I think he could hit second for them or fifth. He can adjust his swing in any situation. When he needs to get big he can do that and he can shorten up too. He gives them a ton of versatility.
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
Franmil is a big guy with a short swing and big-time power — he shoots balls out of the yard. They definitely should not mess with his swing. Sometimes you want to increase the angle of certain guys, but Franmil has success hitting his homers. Launch angle doesn’t work with all hitters. The last thing you want to do is tell him how to do it when he gets to the big leagues. … Hunter Renfroe is a guy with length to his swing and can loft the ball out of the ballpark. He can hit it a ton.
Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.
Paddack and Machado. Machado has always been one of my favorite players, top-three in the game. I wish he wouldn’t have made the ‘Johnny Hustle’ comment because it dents his reputation. He’s so special on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he can straight up rake. Tatís says Machado has been great to him and Machado says he wants to be the mentor that J.J. Hardy was to him. I love the signing. It’s a great place for him.
Name the guy (or guys)on this teams that you would never want in your clubhouse.
I couldn’t come up with a guy on this club. They’re young guys, they’re all trying to establish themselves as major leaguers. Of course you want Machado, you can’t honestly say you don’t want him even after his comments last fall.
Whose effort could use a jolt?
Wil Myers. He needs to step up and define who he is. He got paid a lot of money and he’s changed positions three times already. I want him to just settle into a position. He was supposed to be a cornerstone, one of the guys to build around.
Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?
Paddack. He’s got poise beyond his years. He’s got a chance to be a star in this year. He’s got good control and he throws strikes. You don’t think he’s going to give up a big inning. As for the plate? Machado and it’s not even close. He’s one of the best hitters on the planet and nothing really seems to faze the guy.
Who don’t you want in that situation?
I wouldn’t want Luis Perdomo out there. He’s been given every opportunity to be a starter or reliever and he just hasn’t taken it. He may not even make the team. It’s a combination of high-pitch ABs, not being able to put hitters away and just overall inconsistency. He can’t put it all together.
At the plate it’s Renfroe because he’s too prone to the strikeout. I don’t know if he starts Opening Day. I’ve talked to five people over there and they don’t know how much Jankowski’s injury helped the situation. There are some on the Franmil team and then some on the Renfroe team and some on the Cordero team.
Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?
I think Trey Wingenter is going to occupy a very important role in the bullpen. He sits in the 96 MPH range and he has a wipeout, swing-and-miss type slider. He’s a really aggressive guy who goes right at hitters.
Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?
Definitely. Andy Green can relate to the younger players but commands with a really firm hand and he has the respect of the players on the team.
What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?
The Dodgers are clearly the favorite. I don’t know how Colorado is going to be. I can see the Padres jumping into second place this year, and definitely next year. In 2021, I think they can dethrone the Dodgers.
Emptying the notebook:
This is one of the most interesting teams in baseball this year. Not often do you see so many young players at so many different positions with the opportunity to make an impact and take the team to the next level. It’s not hype here, I think they’re for real.