The 2019 Padres were fueled by sparkling free agent signings, young on the rise prospects, and the promise of the rebuild finally coming to an end. Unfortunately for Padres fans, Manny Machado failed to live up to lofty expectations in year 1, Fernando Tatis was unable to stay healthy for the majority of the season, and the Padres, once again, finished last in their division.
And while the season failed to live up to expectations, it did have some positive points. Fernando Tatis Jr. showed that his promise as one of baseball’s top preseason prospects translated to Major League production. Kirby Yates continued to dominate and established himself as the best closer in baseball. Chris Paddack (albeit on an innings count) proved he has ace potential, which is so coveted in baseball.
With a solid core for now and the future in place, the Padres were buyers this offseason, adding many pieces that can help them push for contention in 2020. With outfield depth and stacking the bullpen, the Padres could be a potential sleeper team in this shortened season. Here are some notable players they’ve added:
Pham looks to provide a massive boost for an offense ranked 26th in the MLB in on-base percentage. The 32 year-old posted a .369 OBP in 2019, which ranked him 30th among qualified hitters. Pham is a perfect fit for San Diego’s offense and should help the younger players with plate discipline. While he could see a little downfall in production, his veteran presence and constant professional at-bats will go a long way for the Friars.
It’s not very often that a pitcher who posted a 2-10 record with a 4.85 ERA gets a four-year deal, but that’s precisely what Pomeranz received this offseason. After posting a 5.97 ERA in 18 starts, the Giants shifted Pomeranz into a reliever role shortly before dealing him to the Brewers at the trade deadline. Pomeranz blossomed as a reliever, posting a 1.88 ERA as a reliever and holding opponents to just a .505 OPS. He should serve as a bridge to All-Star closer Kirby Yates, giving the Padres the potential to have one of the best back ends in baseball. Given the small sample size as a reliever, the four-year deal is a bit of a gamble for the Padres but could pay off huge in October baseball.
One of the first trades of the off-season, Davies gives the Padres another quality arm in their rotation. 2019 was Davies’s breakout year as he started 31 games while posting a 3.55 ERA. While Davies ERA was his career-best, a FIP of 4.56 leaves room for regression, but the pitcher-friendly Petco Park should help Davies’s numbers.
Grisham became well known to fans in the worst way possible, making a crucial error in the National League Wild Card Game. After an offseason trade from Milwaukee, Grisham is competing for a spot in a crowded Padres outfield. In limited playing time last season, Grisham posted a 92 wrC+ and 0.6fWAR in 156 at-bats. Grisham will benefit from the 30 man roster to begin the season but will have to keep up his performance to stay on the final 26 man roster.
Yes, I’m aware that Richards was signed last offseason and pitched 8.2 innings for the Padres in 2019, but he is close to an offseason addition. Richards’ stuff matches with the games elite, posting a curve spin at the 100 percentile mark in 2018. Still, he simply hasn’t had health on his side. Over the past four seasons, Richards has only thrown 147.1 league innings after tossing at least 140 each year between 2013-2015. The shortened 60 game season could help the right-hander stay healthy through the campaign. If the Padres were to fall out of the hunt, a healthy Richards could be a hot commodity at the trade deadline, as he is in the final year of his contract.
Acquired in an off-season trade with the Oakland Athletics, Jurickson Profar looks to take over as the Padres everyday second baseman. After a mini breakout in 2018, Profar’s 2019 was a step back as he slashed .218/.301/.410. While it was disappointing, advanced stats indicate a rebound could be possible. Statcast’s batted ball probability gave Profar an xBA of .251 and an xSLG% of .426, meaning regression towards the mean could lead him to a season similar to 2018. With Brian Dozier having been released in summer camp, expect Profar to get most of the work at second base.
Another reliever out of the seemingly endless Tampa Bay crop, Pagan burst onto the scene to have a successful campaign with the Rays in 2019. In 66 appearances out of the pen, Pagan compiled a 2.31 ERA while converting 20 saves, while posting a strikeout rate within the top 5% of pitchers. In addition to serving as a closer option should all-star closer Kirby Yates not be available, Pagan should form a sharp back end of bridge guys with Pomeranz and Craig Stammen.
Hill was acquired a week before Opening Day from the Kansas City Royals. The southpaw, who throws submarine style, adds to an already deep bullpen. The lefty posted 3.63 ERA across 39.2 innings pitched and 46 appearances in 2019. Hill held left-handed hitters to a .465 OPS, while righties saw him better, posting a .755 OPS. With the three batter minimum in place for the 2020 season, Hill’s numbers could take a hit as he will be tasked with getting both righties and lefties out.
Projecting the 30 man Opening Day Roster
- Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS)
- Tommy Pham (LF)
- Manny Machado (3B)
- Eric Hosmer (1B)
- Wil Myers (RF)
- Trent Grisham (CF)
- Jurickson Profar (2B)
- Francisco Mejia (C)
- Josh Naylor (DH)
- Luis Torrens
- Austin Hedges
- Greg Garcia
- Ty France
- Edward Olivares
- Chris Paddack
- Garrett Richards
- Zach Davies
- Joey Lucchesi
- Dinelson Lamet
- Kirby Yates
- Drew Pomeranz
- Emilio Pagan
- Andres Munoz
- Craig Stammen
- Matt Strahm
- Pierce Johnson
- Javy Guerra
- Cal Quantrill
- Tim Hill
- Adrian Morejon
Who will be X-Factors?
Fernando Tatis Jr.
Possibly the most electrifying young player in baseball, Tatis Jr.’s debut season was phenomenal when he was on the field. With gap to gap power, speed, and strong defensive glovework, Tatis was a fan favorite immediately. The issue was health, as he only appeared in 84 games due to hamstring and back injuries. If Tatis Jr. can stay healthy for the 60 game season, he could be a potential dark horse MVP candidate and the key to a Padres postseason push.
The former top prospect acquired in the Brad Hand trade began to find his stride in 2019. After struggling at the plate with a .633 OPS in 2018, Mejia broke out with a .754 OPS in his age 23 season. Splitting time with defensive specialist Austin Hedges in 2019, Mejia looks to solidify mostly everyday catching duties this season. If there is one area Mejia could use improvement, it’s his pitch framing. Statcast had him rated in the 31% percentile in framing, while Hedges is widely recognized as the best pitch framer in baseball.
After missing all of 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, Lamet returned to the mound just before the all-star break last season. The 27-year-old right-hander posted a 4.07 ERA and a 3.91 FIP across 14 starts in the season. Like Richards, Lamet could benefit from a shorter season due to his recent surgery. With a fastball that averages 96 MPH and a wipeout slider, Lamet could provide high quality above average innings in the back end of a Padres rotation that is vastly underrated.
The Padres pitching staff as a whole looks to be their best chance to carry them to the postseason. With Chris Paddack looking like a potential ace for this years to come, the Padres have found their answer for the ace of the staff. Richards provides some of the nastiest stuff in baseball, while Davies looks to continue off his 2019 breakout campaign in Milwaukee. Joey Lucchesi and Dinelson Lamet are close to proving themselves quality big league arms, who could leap forward in 2020. These five arms give the Padres one of the more underrated rotations in baseball.
The bullpen could arguably be the best in baseball. With all-star Kirby Yates holding the closer duty, and quality bridge guys to get to the 9th, this could help the Padres shorten some games. As noted above, giving Pomeranz a four year deal is a gamble, but could pay off for San Diego. With Pagan, Craig Stammen, and newly acquired Tim Hill serving as above average relievers, the bullpen looks to be the Padres’ biggest strength.
Offensively is where the Padres could struggle. While Tatis, Machado, and Pham will provide lots of fireworks at the top of the order, the rest could struggle. Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer, who each was initially scheduled to make over 20 million this year, both posted a negative bWAR in the 2019 season. To lengthen the lineup, the Padres need bounce-back years from both. Francisco Mejia and Trent Grisham remain mostly unproven at the big league level, and while both have promising futures, the Padres need them to tap into their long term value now. Jurickson Profar should have some batted ball luck this year and could provide some unexpected impact to the Padres lineup. If the Padres were to be in contention at the trade deadline, I would expect them to be in the market for a second baseman or outfielder.
The 2020 season looks to be the Padres’ most promising season in some time. With a mix of dynamic young players and established veterans, the Padres could push for a playoff spot. While the Dodgers look likely to run away with the National League West, the Padres could put themselves in a wild card position, especially playing ⅓ of the schedule against the Giants and Rockies.
Fangraphs projection: 31-29
My Projection: 33-27
The Padres could win anywhere from 26-36 games, I believe. With a stable pitching staff and deep bullpen, I think they save the offense in some low scoring games. Thirty-three wins will bring the Padres close to a playoff spot; in all likelihood, 33-34 wins will be the threshold for the National League’s second wild card spot, and the Padres are as poised as any team in the NL to make a run for it.