Friday, July 17, 2020

San Diego Padres 2020 Season Preview


       The Padres entered last year as the new-and-improved team of the league. Their team was led by Manny Machado, who signed a 10 year deal with the club. However, the guy who was not guaranteed to make the roster, thanks to service time rules, outplayed Machado. The Padres, now led by a new manager, need to perform, after another disappointing 5th place finish.

       Offseason additions: OF Tommy Pham, RHP Emilio Pagan, LHP Drew Pomeranz, RHP Zach Davies, LHP Tim Hill, IF Jurickson Profar, OF Trent Grisham, RHP Pierce Johnson, IF/P Jake Cronenworth, IF Jorge Mateo, RHP Jerad Eickhoff.

       Offseason subtractions: OF Hunter Renfroe, OF Manuel Margot, IF Ian Kinsler, LHP Eric Lauer, LHP Robbie Erlin, IF Luis Urias, RHP Adam Warren, LHP Nick Margevicius, RHP Eric Yardley, OF Franchy Cordero, OF Travis Jankowski, OF Nick Martini, C Austin Allen.

       Rotation
Chris Paddack was expected to receive some Rookie of the Year votes after he had a good rookie season. While he didn't get any in the end, Paddack was a better candidate than some people who received votes (looking at you, Dakota Hudson). Paddack finished with a 3.33 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 140.2 innings and a WHIP of 0.981. Paddack throws his fastball more than 61% of the time, and the pitch had a .204 batting average against. Dinelson Lamet, who had an encouraging 2017 rookie season, returned last July after missing 2018 with Tommy John surgery. In 14 starts, Lamet struck out 105 batters in 73 innings with a 4.07 ERA, although he allowed 12 home runs. The big righty had a whiff rate of 48.3% against his curveball and his slider's rate was exactly three percent higher. Zach Davies comes over from Milwaukee after the Padres traded Luis Urias, formerly a top-100 prospect, in a package for Davies and outfielder Trent Grisham. Davies had a career low 3.55 ERA last year, but his 4.56 FIP and 5.7 K/9 were both the worst of his career. Davies struck out 102 batters in 159.2 innings. Left-hander Joey Lucchesi's second season was about as good as his first. Lucchesi finished with a 4.18 ERA with 158 strikeouts in 163.2 innings. Lucchesi was the only Padre to qualify for the ERA title. Lucchesi throws his sinker more than half of the time, resulting in a 48.7 groundball percentage. Former Angels ace Garrett Richards is always hurt. While he has a career ERA of 3.60, he has made just 31 starts since the start of the 2016 season. Richards has had multiple elbow injuries, had Tommy John surgery in July 2018, and had a shoulder injury while recovering from said Tommy John. Richards struck out 11 batters in the 8.2 innings he pitched in last year. When healthy, Richards can have the highest spin rate in baseball, averaging 3431 rpm on his curveball last season, although he only threw it 19 times. His fastball also averaged 2673 rpm. Cal Quantrill, son of former reliever Paul Quantrill, pitched in 103 innings last year, striking out 89 batters. A former top-50 prospect in baseball, the Padres could start Quantrill in the bullpen, and stretch him out when someone (likely Richards) is injured or if anyone gets COVID-19.

       Bullpen
Kirby Yates followed up his surprise 2018 season by topping it in 2019. Although he had a 0-5 record, Yates finished with a 1.19 ERA, 41 saves and 101 strikeouts in 60.2 innings. Yates also made his first all-star team, and finished 9th in Cy Young voting, tied with Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler. The Hawaiian had an xSLG against of .259. In one of two trades with the Rays this offseason, outfielder Manuel Margot was dealt to Tampa for pitcher Emilio Pagan. Pagan, who will have played for four teams in four years when he makes his Padres debut, made 20 saves in 70 innings last year, with a 2.31 ERA and 96 strikeouts. Pagan had an xBA against of .174. Veteran Craig Stammen is back for his fourth season with the Padres. Stammen, who has been a workhorse for the Padres, is 20 games away from pitching in as many games as he did in over seven seasons in Washington. In a career high 76 appearances last year, Stammen made four saves, with 73 strikeouts in 83 innings. Stammen's average sinker velocity of 92.8 mph last year was his highest ever. Drew Pomeranz is back to San Diego, the team that he was on when he made his only all-star appearance, in 2016. Pomeranz had a 5.38 ERA as a starter for San Francisco before he was traded to Milwaukee. The Brewers utilized Pomeranz as a reliever, and he struck out 45 batters in 26.1 innings, with a 2.39 ERA. That was enough for the Padres to give Pomeranz $34 million over four years. Pomeranz threw four different pitches with a whiff rate of at least 20% last year. Matt Strahm started the season in the rotation, but was moved to the bullpen for good. He was better after the move, and finished with an ERA of 4.71, plus 118 strikeouts and 22 home runs allowed in 114.2 innings. 21 year-old Mexican Andres Munoz will miss the season with Tommy John surgery, and the Padres will miss his 100 miles an hour fastball. Luis Perdomo moved to the bullpen full-time last year, and benefitted, with a career best 4.00 ERA. Perdomo struck out just 55 batters in 72 innings. Because of his old role, Perdomo can pitch multiple innings. Six-foot-seven righty Trey Wingenter struck out 72 batters in 57 innings for a 12.7 K/9. Despite allowing an xBA of .197, Wingenter had a 5.65 ERA. His slider had a whiff rate of 46.9%. The Padres acquired Tim Hill yesterday from Kansas City. Hill had a 3.63 ERA with 39 Ks in 39.2 innings. For information about Hill, check out my article from yesterday. Pierce Johnson, who pitched for the Cubs and Giants from 2017-18, is back on a two-year deal after a year in Japan. A former first rounder, Johnson had a 1.38 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. He had a 0.801 WHIP. Johnson has a curveball that had an average spin rate of 2971 rpm in 2018. The final spot is a competition between Michael Baez and David Bednar. Baez, the team's 7th best prospect, per MLB Pipeline, debuted in 2019, striking out 28 in 29.2 innings with a 3.03 ERA. The spot is his to lose.

       Catchers
Francisco Mejia is very close to taking over the starting catcher job from Austin Hedges, but I don't think that he's there yet. Hedges, one of the best defensive catchers in the game, with a 1.92 seconds pop-time to second base, and a 1.53 time to third base. Offensively, Hedges hit 11 homers, which isn't bad for a catcher, but he had a horrible batting average of .176 and OPS of .563. Mejia, who was once the top catching prospect in baseball, hit eight home runs with a .265 average and an OPS of .754 in a career high 79 games played. Mejia has the second best arm strength among catchers. Former Rule-5 pick Luis Torrens has played in 63 games over the last three years.

       Infielders
Manny Machado was disappointing in the first year of his $300 million contract. Machado did hit 32 home runs, but that was his lowest total since 2014. Machado had a .256 average and an OPS of .796, Machado still had an average exit velocity of 91.2 mph, and should rebound in 2020. Fernando Tatis Jr. finished 3rd in NL Rookie of the Year voting, and would have been the runner-up if he didn't miss the last six weeks with an injury. Tatis hit 22 home runs with 16 stolen bases, plus a .317 average and an OPS of .969, moving Machado to third base and stealing the spotlight. Formerly the number two prospect in baseball, Tatis had a .684 slugging against fastballs. Second base was the weak spot of the infield last year, with veteran Ian Kinsler on his last legs, finishing wih a sub-.700 OPS. To improve on that, the Padres acquired a player who barely had a .700 OPS, in Jurickson Profar. Profar, who had a .711 OPS, tied his 20 home runs from his breakout 2018, but hit just .218 with nine stolen bases. Profar improved on his K rate, which was down to 14.5%. Another corner infielder with a big contract, Eric Hosmer, had a slightly better 2019 than 2018. A four time Gold Glover, Hosmer hit 22 home runs with 99 RBIs, a .265 average and an OPS of .735. Greg Garcia appeared in 134 games for the Padres last year, although he only had 372 Plate Appearances. Garcia hit .248 with an OPS of .718, the latter his best since 2016 with St. Louis. Garcia had a high 14.2 BB%. Ty France hit seven home runs in a 69 game rookie season. France also hit the ball hard 42.6% of the time. He can be the back-up corner infielder. Jake Cronenworth has not played at the big league level yet, but is ranked as San Diego's 17th best prospect. In AAA for the Durham Bulls (Rays) last year, Cronenworth hit 10 home runs with 12 stolen bases, a .329 average and an OPS of .934. A pitcher in college, Cronenworth was an opener for Druham sometimes, not allowing a run in 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts, but if he pitches, it will be in a position player pitching situation. Speedy Jorge Mateo, acquired from Oakland for cash, has 283 stolen bases in his minor league career. Recovering from COVID, Mateo could be an asset when a runner starts on second base in extra innings.

       Outfielders
The Padres acquired Tommy Pham in a swap with the Rays for Hunter Renfroe, and they picked up Cronenworth in the deal as well. Pham hit 21 home runs with 25 stolen bases, with a .273 average and an .818 OPS. While Pham's home runs were about the same as the two years before 2019, his average and OPS were both lower than its predecessors. Pham has a career average exit velocity of 91.3 mph. Former Rookie of the Year winner Wil Myers has hit 30 home runs in a seson before, but only hit 18 last year. One of the few players in the league that does not use batting gloves, Myers had a .739 OPS. Myers' strikeout rate rose to 34.2% last year, nearly a seven percent increase from 2018. Trent Grisham is not a bad fielder, with five outs above average, Grisham is not a bad fielder, but after his error in the NL Wild Card last year, he might not be able to show his face in Milwaukee again. Grisham hit six home runs with a .738 OPS in his rookie year last year. Grisham had a sprint speed of 29.1 ft/s. The 12th overall pick in 2015, Josh Naylor, debuted last year, hitting eight home runs with a .719 OPS. With -7 outs above average, Naylor is not a great fielder, so he could be a full-time DH in 2020. Edward Olivares could be the reason why the Padres traded Franchy Cordero to the Royals. Olivares, who has not played in AAA, was acquired from Toronto in January 2016 for Yangervis Solarte. Olivares hit 18 home runs with 35 stolen bases, a .283 average and an OPS of .801.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (R)
LF Tommy Pham (R)
3B Manny Machado (R)
1B Eric Hosmer (L)
CF Wil Myers (R)
DH Josh Naylor (L)
2B Jurickson Profar (S)
RF Trent Grisham (L)
C Austin Hedges (R)

       Projected Rotation
Chris Paddack (R)
Dinelson Lamet (R)
Zach Davies (R)
Joey Lucchesi (L)
Garrett Richards (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Kirby Yates (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)
Craig Stammen (R)
Drew Pomeranz (L)
Matt Strahm (L)
Luis Perdomo (R)
Trey Wingenter (R)
Tim Hill (L)
Pierce Johnson (R)
Cal Quantrill (R)
Michael Baez (R)

       Projected Bench
C Francisco Mejia (S)
IF Greg Garcia (L)
IF Ty France (R)
IF Jake Cronenworth (L)
OF Edward Olivares (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats:
41-57 record, 5th in NL West
Most home runs: Manny Machado (22)
Highest batting average: Manny Machado (.285)
Highest OPS: Manny Machado (.861)
Best ERA, starters: Zach Davies (3.75)
Best ERA, relievers: Emilio Pagan (1.24)
Most innings pitched: Chris Paddack (109.1)
Most strikeouts: Chris Paddack (108)
Best K/9: Michael Baez (12.7)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 31-29
2018: 26-34
2017: 23-37
2016: 25-35
2015: 30-30

       Prediction
The Padres are progressing. They have an elite bullpen, and it is deep. Their lineup is young, and while it isn't great after the first five hitters, it is decent enough to not finish last. The Padres are much better than the Giants, and a little better than the Rockies, so I predict that they will finish 3rd in the NL West, but still miss the playoffs.

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