By Jared Enochs and Nick Mailman
The Padres have finished in the bottom two in the NL West in every season since 2014. After undergoing a rebuild that has led to the top farm system in the MLB, the Padres finally made moves – namely, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. – to crack open the contention window. Here’s a look at what they should look like on Opening Day, when they start their campaign to be a sneaky playoff contender:
The Padres have an interesting mix of youth and veterans on the position player side of the roster. They jump-started their rebuilding by again signing one of the top free agents on the market in Manny Machado after spending on Eric Hosmer in the 2017 offseason. They hope Machado and Hosmer, along with veterans Ian Kinsler and Wil Myers as well as MLB freshmen and sophomores Fernando Tatis Jr., Francisco Mejia, Luis Urias, Franchy Cordero, and Franmil Reyes will solidify a formidable lineup for a long contention window. Here’s what the Padres will look like on Opening Day 2019:
*All projected numbers are Fangraphs’ Depth Chart Projections*
C Austin Hedges
2019 Projections: .227/.276/.409, 73 G, 12 HR, 2 SB, 2.0 WAR
C Francisco Mejia
2019 Projections: .249/.295/.396, 80 G, 9 HR, 1 SB, 1.0 WAR
The catching situation will be split evenly between the incumbent, defensive-guru Austin Hedges, and the Padres’ No. 3 prospect Francisco Mejia, whom they acquired in last year’s mid-season Brad Hand trade. Hedges provides familiarity, top tier pitch framing, and some pop (14 HR and .198 ISO in 91 games in 2018). Mejia is touted for his plus bat, posting well over 100 wRC+ at every minor league level.
1B Eric Hosmer
2019 Projections: .266/.337/.429, 155 G, 21 HR, 7 SB, 1.5 WAR
Hosmer was last year’s big offseason addition, providing stability at 1B, championship experience, and a clubhouse presence (if that matters to you). He signed an 8-year, $144 million deal, then the largest in franchise history. Hosmer is well known for being an inconsistent player, and he posted his worst year, by some standards, in 2018. He posted a career-low contact rate, a career-high strikeout rate, and a career-high ground ball rate. Not ideal in today’s launch angle world. Nearly all projections systems are hoping for a bounce-back 2019 given that he will be only 29 years old.
2B Ian Kinsler
2019 Projections: .246/.313/.385, 65 G, 7 HR, 7 SB, 1.0 WAR
Kinsler is not the player he once was, but the Padres are hoping he can provide a similar veteran presence and be a stopgap at second base until their top prospect tandem of Luis Urias and Fernandos Tatis Jr. are ready to take over the middle infielder (which could be very, very soon). Kinsler has recorded double-digit home runs and stolen bases in all but one year of his 13-year career. (In 2010, he hit 9 home runs and stole 15 bags.)
SS Fernando Tatis Jr.
2019 Projections: .228/.293/.398, 117 G, 16 HR, 15 SB, 1.4 WAR
The Padres made it official late Tuesday night: Fernando Tatis Jr. will be on the 2019 Opening Day roster. They are not playing games with his service time and are attempting to put the best 25 guys on their roster at any given time. Tatis Jr. rates as the No. 2 overall prospect in the game with above average marks in every tool. He’s posted double-digit home runs and steals in every year since he went pro. Could Tatis Jr.’s elite tools make the Friars this year’s Braves?
3B Manny Machado
2019 Projections: .280/.349/.507, 153 G, 31 HR, 10 SB, 5.2 WAR
The Padres shocked the baseball world by entering into the sweepstakes for one of this offseason’s top targets. Machado is one of the great young stars in today’s game and has already posted 3 seasons worth over 6 WAR. The Padres locked down the hot corner by giving Machado a 10 year, $300 million deal, albeit with a player opt out after 2023. Although only entering his age 26 season, Machado has already collected 4 All-Star Game appearances, 2 Gold Gloves at 3B, 1 Platinum Glove at 3B, and many MVP votes. The Padres hope he can build on that resume and, with Tatis Jr., form a formidable left side of the infield and middle of the order.
LF Wil Myers
2019 Projections: .244/.323/.445, 147 G, 25 HR, 20 SB, 2.3 WAR
Myers was originally signed to be their primary first baseman but moved off the position and into the outfield to accommodate the Hosmer signing. If one position change wasn’t enough, Myers also spent time at third base after his long Injured List stint in the middle of 2018 that limited him to 83 games. After that rocky 2018, the Padres will move Myers back to the outfield, hoping a stabilized (and less demanding) position can help him stay on the field. A career year would mean joining the 30-30 club, a feat he almost achieved in 2016. For context, only Boston’s Mookie Betts and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez were in the club last year, the first two to do so since 2012.
CF Franchy Cordero
2019 Projections: .247/.303/.431, 59 G, 9 HR, 7 SB, 0.9 WAR
CF Manuel Margot
2019 Projections: .259/.309/.403, 107 G, 9 HR, 13 SB, 1.7 WAR
While San Diego’s catcher platoon allowed two players of different skill sets to receive similar playing time, center field will be shared by two similarly skilled and toolsy players: Margot and Cordero. As Margot bats righty and Cordero hits from the left side, they should form a more traditional left/right platoon. Per Baseball Savant, both Cordero and Margot are elite speedsters with sprint speeds faster than 95% of all MLB players.
RF Hunter Renfroe
2019 Projections: .247/.295/.467, 76 G, 16 HR, 2 SB, 1.0 WAR
RF Franmil Reyes
2019 Projections: .255/.325/.466, 133 G, 27 HR, 1 SB, 1.9 WAR
Both Renfroe (26 HR and .256 ISO in 117 G) and Reyes (16 HR and .218 ISO in 87 G) proved they have elite power (even in Petco Park) in 2018 and are hoping to build on last year with another strong campaign. Both players have high strikeout rates and low walk rates, and even minor improvements in these categories could lead to a breakout. This platoon is like the catcher platoon; whoever plays better will grab a greater share of the role (and maybe could steal some playing time from Myers in left.)
INF Greg Garcia
2019 Projections: .240/.339/.330, 43 G, 2 HR, 2 SB, 0.4 WAR
UTL Jose Pirela
2019 Projections: .259/.311/.390, 12 G, 1 HR, 1 SB, 0.1 WAR
With three platoon situations on the roster, three bench spots have already been claimed by whoever does not start at catcher, center field, and right field on any given day. In order to provide depth, the Padres will also carry at least one utility infielder, most likely waiver claim Greg Garcia. Garcia can play all over the infield. Utilityman Jose Pirela is on the bubble. Depending on whether the Padres choose to carry 13 pitchers or 13 position players will likely determine Pirela’s fate. He does have an option remaining so he can be sent to the minors freely. Other options for the 25th spot are discussed later.
2B Luis Urias
2019 Projections: .247/.331/.357, 132 G, 7 HR, 4 SB, 2.0 WAR
While not projected to be on the 2019 Opening Day roster, Urias is noteworthy. He is the Padres’ No. 4 prospect and is the Padres’ second baseman of the future. He had a small cup of coffee at the end of the 2018 season that was cut short by a hamstring injury. He struggled in Spring Training recovering from that injury and lost his spot on the roster to Tatis Jr. Fangraphs reports a 65 (on a 20 to 80 scouting scale) future hit tool and a 55 overall future value, which means they believe he will develop to be an above-average starter while also manning a position with a defensive premium. Urias should be up in the bigs very soon.
Projected Opening Day Lineup (v LHP Madison Bumgarner)
- 2B Ian Kinsler
- 1B Eric Hosmer (L)
- 3B Manny Machado
- LF Wil Myers
- RF Franmil Reyes
- SS Fernando Tatis Jr.
- C Austin Hedges
- CF Manuel Margot
- LHP Eric Lauer
The Padres will boast, by far, the league’s youngest and most inexperienced starting rotation. After posting the highest ERA by a pitching staff last year, the Padres will continue the youth movement by starting the season with 5 starters that have combined for zero full big league seasons between them. As a result, look for the starting rotation to be pretty fluid this year, as there are many other pitchers and prospects that will get starts at the big league level this year. In addition, the Padres may experiment with an opener at some point this year as another effective method of saving their younger pitcher’s arms and still be very effective as a staff. With all this in mind, there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to the pitching staff this year.
LHP Eric Lauer
2019 Projections: 8-9 W-L, 4.39 ERA, 139.0 IP, 125 SO, 56 BB, 1.0 WAR
Having just been named the Opening Day Starter, 23-year-old left-hander Eric Lauer will get the ball first for baseball’s youngest and most inexperienced starting rotation. Lauer edged out Chris Paddack and Joey Lucchesi for the Opening Day nod with a sensational spring in which he did not allow a run in 10 innings, surrendering only 2 hits. Drafted 25th overall in the 2016 Draft Class, Lauer made his debut shortly after fellow pitcher Joey Lucchesi in early 2018. In 23 starts, Lauer threw 112.0 innings to the tune of a 4.34 ERA. While his pitching arsenal may not stand out as elite, but his pickoff move certainly does, as he picked off 10 runners last season alone.
LHP Joey Lucchesi
2019 Projections: 11-11 W-L, 3.86 ERA, 169.0 IP, 170 SO, 57 BB, 2.2 WAR
The 25 year old, Left-handed starting pitcher was the first player from the 2016 Draft Class to make their debut. Debuting just before Lauer early in the 2018 season, Lucchesi made 26 starts, throwing 130 innings. Along with Lauer, he was one of 13 rookie pitchers to throw 100+ innings last year. Of those 13 rookie pitchers, Lucchesi ranked second with 10.04 K/9, ranking just behind Cardinals’ righty Jack Flaherty and ahead of Dodgers phenom Walker Buehler. There is plenty of room for improvement for Lucchesi, who surrendered 23 home runs on the season. He relies on mainly two pitches, a sinker, which he threw 63.4% of the time, and a changeup/curve (which he calls a “churve”) that is thrown roughly 35.8% of the time. Look for him, as part of his development as a starter, to develop a third pitch to utilize to help him get through the lineup multiple times. He averaged five innings per start last year.
RHP Chris Paddack
2019 Projections: 9-8 W-L, 3.77 ERA, 142.0 IP, 147 SO, 34 BB, 2.3 WAR
Early entry into “Feel-Good Moment of the Year,” Andy Green emerged from the dugout to remove Chris Paddack from the game a little earlier than expected on Monday night. Green had seen enough. Paddack’s dominant spring culminated in that moment as Green informed him that he made the Opening Day roster and will make his big league debut this weekend against the Giants. He has done nothing short of dominate this spring, recording an impressive 24 strikeouts and 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched. The 23-year-old right-hander certainly earned his spot in the starting rotation. Paddack’s best pitch is his changeup, which scouts see as having the potential to be an elite pitch. He is currently ranked as the Padres fifth best prospect.
LHP Matt Strahm
2019 Projections: 6-6 W-L, 3.80 ERA, 99.0 IP, 108 SO, 38 BB, 1.4 WAR
Strahm’s final spring start was also pushed back to Tuesday, meaning he is lined up to follow Paddack in the rotation. The 27-year-old left handed pitcher pitched mostly out of the bullpen for the Friars last year, appearing in 41 games. He compiled 69 strikeouts in 61.1 innings. His 188 ERA+ ranked first on the team last year.
RHP Cal Quantrill
2019 Projections: 2-3 W-L, 4.84 ERA, 47.0 IP, 34 SO, 18 BB, 0.2 WAR
While Cal Quantrill hasn’t pitched stellar during Spring Training, he has performed better than fellow prospect Logan Allen. As a result, we are anticipating Quantrill to make the team and be the 5th starter. The 24-year-old right-handed pitcher reached Triple-A last year and is ranked as the Padres No. 12 prospect.
RHP Kirby Yates
2019 Projections: 32 SV, 3 HLD, 3.32 ERA, 65.0 IP, 88 SO, 23 BB, 1.1 WAR
Yates returns to the Friars for a third season, this time as the projected closer. As one of the go-to options out of the bullpen for Manager Andy Green, Yates had a sensational 2018 in which he logged a 12.9 K/9 rate and a WHIP of 0.921 across 65 appearances. Yates will have to replicate his 2018 success if the Padres bullpen is going to be reliable.
RHP Craig Stammen
2019 Projections: 4 SV, 13 HLD, 3.61 ERA, 65.0 IP, 65 SO, 20 BB, 0.6 WAR
After appearing in only five major league games in 2015 and 2016, Stammen has found himself again as an integral piece of the Padres bullpen. Last year, Stammen recorded the highest strikeout to walk ratio of his career. His 5.18 SO/W ratio nearly doubled his career average ratio of 2.64 SO/W. Coupled with the fact that Stammen was able to limit the long ball last year, surrendering only 3 home runs over 79 innings pitched, he has become a weapon out of the bullpen.
RHP Adam Warren
2019 Projections: 1 SV, 10 HLD, 3.61 ERA, 45.0 IP, 43 SO, 16 BB, 0.2 WAR
Free-agent signing Adam Warren provides Green with a proven middle, long relief option out of the pen. Warren has experience playing meaningful baseball, having played for the Yankees for the majority of his career. Warren is as consistent as they come, consistently posting an ERA in the low to mid 3.00s. A great clubhouse presence, he will bring great experience of a winning culture to a team on the rise.
LHP Robbie Erlin
2019 Projections: 2 SV, 18 HLD, 3.91 ERA, 93.0 IP, 78 SO, 19 BB, 0.8 WAR
Left-hander Robbie Erlin is expected to start the season in the bullpen after not making the rotation. He split time as a starter and reliever last season. After pitching to the tune of a 4.21 ERA over 109.0 innings last year, he will have to provide quality appearances out of the pen and in spot starts. Expect him to be counted on to make some spot starts this year to support the young, inexperienced rotation.
RHP Phil Maton
2019 Projections: 0 SV, 1 HLD, 3.86 ERA, 25.0 IP, 27 SO, 9 BB, 0.0 WAR
Right-hander Phil Maton is expected to provide middle relief for the Padres. After a very successful spring, look for him to take a step forward in his third full season out of the pen for the Friars. While he increased his K/9 to 10.5 last season, his walk rate also increased. If he can carry over the success he had this Spring Training, his opportunities in high leverage situations could increase.
LHP Aaron Loup
2019 Projections: 0 SV, 6 HLD, 3.43 ERA, 40.0 IP, 42 SO, 16 BB, 0.1 WAR
Left-hander Aaron Loup joins the Padres bullpen after splitting last season with the Blue Jays and Phillies. It is clear that Loup has more success against left-handed batters than right-handed batters, as the .302 wOBA vs. lefties and .395 wOBA vs. righties indicates. Loup will have to prove he is still the effective left-handed reliever he has proven to be in the past in order to have his team option picked up for 2020.
RHP Bryan Mitchell
2019 Projections: 0 SV, 1 HLD, 4.53 ERA, 20.0 IP, 15 SO, 9 BB, 0.0 WAR
After starting more games than coming out of the bullpen last year for the Padres, Bryan Mitchell has officially been relegated to the bullpen this Spring. While he can certainly provide a spot start in support of the young and inexperienced rotation, he will start the year in relief. Mitchell has something to prove this year as he was not effective as a starter and has yet to really establish himself as a reliable arm during his five-year career, as evident by his career 5.15 ERA.
Other arms that will figure into the pitching staff (and maybe the 25th roster spot) include Robert Stock, Luis Perdomo, Trey Wingenter, Gerardo Reyes, and highly touted prospect Logan Allen. Pitchers that are battling injuries at the moment but are still looking to return to action by the end of April are starter Brett Kennedy and relievers Brad Wieck and Miguel Diaz.
Chasing the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West looks to be a tall task, but the Padres are finally taking steps towards that goal. 2019 will be the year when they break out of the “bottom two in the division” streak and be a competitor for a Wild Card spot in late August. The future looks bright in sunny San Diego.
Top Image: Twitter: Lance Brozdowski