Monday, March 15, 2021

San Diego Padres 2021 Season Preview

 


       So, the Padres offseason was kind of fun. After an energetic trade deadline, where they seemed to get everyone that they could possibly get, GM AJ Preller decided that the deadline push was not enough after Mike Clevinger had Tommy John surgery. So, Preller went out, backed by a top-2 farm system in the league, and made multiple blockbuster trades, and two in one day. And just to cap off the offseason, he extended his young star for 14 years. San Diego actually became the model organization in baseball, something that we didn't see coming five years ago.

Offseason additions: LHP Blake Snell, RHP Yu Darvish, RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Mark Melancon, IF Ha-Seong Kim, RHP Keone Kela, C Victor Caratini.

Offseason subtractions: RHP Kirby Yates, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, RHP Zach Davies, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Luis Patino, 1B Mitch Moreland, IF Greg Garcia, C Jason Castro, LHP Joey Lucchesi, OF Greg Allen.


Trade Deadline 2020 summary

Acquired: RHP Mike Clevinger, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 1B Mitch Moreland, C Austin Nola, C Jason Castro, RHP Austin Adams, RHP Taylor Williams, RHP Dan Altavilla, OF Greg Allen. 

Traded: OF Josh Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, C Austin Hedges, IF Ty France, OF Taylor Trammell, RHP Andres Munoz, C Luis Torrens, OF Edward Olivares, RHP Gerardo Reyes, IF Hudson Potts, IF Owen Miller, OF Jeisson Rosario, LHP Joey Cantillo, SS Gabriel Arias. 

2020 record: 37-23

2020 placement: 2nd

2020 WAR leader (batter): Manny Machado

2020 WAR leader (pitcher): Dinelson Lamet


Starting Pitchers

While everybody wants to (rightfully) talk about the new rotation acquisitions, we cannot forget about Dinelson Lamet, who finished 4th in NL Cy Young voting in 2020. Lamet had a 2.09 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 69 innings. His 7.5 BB% was a career low, and batters had a .187 xBA against him. Lamet throws a high-90s fastball, and batters went 10-for-125 (.080 batting average) with a 47.2 percent whiff rate against his slider. Thanks to how he was utilized in Tampa Bay, it may take awhile for the Padres to make Blake Snell a starter available to go really deep into games. Of course Snell's game six outing of the World Series has become known worldwide, but he was still really good during the regular season. Snell had a 3.24 ERA while striking out 63 in 50 innings. His breaking ball and curveball had to do a lot of the work last year, as his fastball was unusually bad. Batters hit .326 with a .663 slugging against Snell's heater. Despite Lamet's amazing season, Yu Darvish was even better. Darvish finished 2nd in Cy Young voting, and 14th in MVP voting for the Cubs last year, with a 2.01 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 76 innings. That is a 11.0 K/9, slightly under his career total of 11.1, which is an all-time record. He has relied much more on his cutter than his fastball over the past two seasons, and the decreased usage allowed the heater to shine, as batters had a .138 xBA and a 42.3% whiff rate against it. Before he was acquired from Pittsburgh, Joe Musgrove was viewed as a potential Gerrit Cole or Tyler Glasnow, someone who succeeded after leaving the Pirates. This comes after he had a career season in 2020, as Musgrove finished with a 3.86 ERA, 55 strikeouts and a 3.13 xERA in 39.2 innings. Batters had a .193 xBA and a .305 xSLG against Musgrove, and while his fastball struggled, both his slider and curveball were elite. Combined, batters went 9-for-65 against the latter two pitches, and each had a whiff rate over 50%. Former rookie standout Chris Paddack is on his last chance already, entering just his third season. Paddack had a rough sophomore slump last year, striking out 58 in 59 innings with a 4.73 ERA. Batters crushed Paddack's fastball, hitting 10 home runs with a .308 average against it. He also had a rough hard hit percentage against of 47.4 percent. The one thing Paddack did well was limit walks, with a 4.9 percent BB rate. Lefty Adrian Morejon struck out 25 in 19.1 innings last year, with a 4.66 ERA. The 22 year old Cuban throws a high-90s fastball, and batters hit .167 with a 57.1 percent whiff rate against his split-finger last year. The top pitching prospect in all of baseball is MacKenzie Gore, who could beat out Paddack for the fifth starter spot, or start the year on the team, as Lamet battles an elbow injury that he missed last postseason because of. Drafted third overall in 2017, Gore had a 1.69 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 101 minor league innings in 2019. Either Gore or Morejon could start in the bullpen, but I don't see San Diego wanting to do that with the former. 

Relief Pitchers

The Padres saw 2019 closer Kirby Yates and standout trade deadline acquisition Trevor Rosenthal leave to the American League over the offseason, but they still have a good bullpen. Drew Pomeranz was the closer after Yates was injured but before Rosenthal came via trade. The left-handed Pomeranz was a reliever for a full season for the first time in his career, and had a 1.45 ERA while striking out 29 in 18.2 innings. His fastball was up by nearly two miles per hour, and batters had a .114 average with a .182 slugging against it. The Padres also signed Mark Melancon, who is a closing option after saving 11 games for Atlanta last year. The soon-to-be 36 year old had a 2.78 ERA while only striking out 14 in 22.2 innings last year. Batters had an average exit velocity of just 83.9 mph against Melancon's cutter, while hitting .167 with no extra base hits against his curveball. Another new acquisition with closing experience is Keone Kela, who was the Rangers closer in 2018. Kela pitched in just three games for Pittsburgh last year, but he had a 2.12 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 29.2 innings in 2019. He has a good mix of a high-90s fastball and a slow curveball, the latter of the two having a .127 average against in 2019. The fourth and final potential closer is Emilio Pagan, who saved 20 games with 96 strikeouts with the Rays in 2019. Pagan was traded after his first three seasons in the league, but that tradition is set to change this year. He had a bit of a down year in 2020, with a 4.50 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 22 innings, while his 10.3 BB% was double his 2019 total. Batters went 1-for-22 against his lethal cutter. Pierce Johnson returned to the MLB last year from Japan, and he was a completely different player. Johnson had a 2.70 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 20 innings. He allowed just 15 hits, although a high walk rate raised his WHIP to 1.200. Johnson's main pitch is a curveball, which had a 2969 rpm and a 48.1 percent whiff rate last year, while accounting for 22 of his Ks. Lefty Matt Strahm is recovering from knee surgery, and will probably miss Opening Day. Strahm was productive last year, with a 0.871 WHIP and a 2.61 ERA. He struck out 15 batters in 20.2 innings, and had just a 4.8 BB%. Austin Adams struck out 51 batters in 31 innings for the Mariners in 2019, and was unhealthy for them last year, before the Padres acquired him. In four innings after the trade, Adams had seven strikeouts. Adams throws a slider and a fastball, and both had elite average spin rates over 2700 rpm. Also acquired with Adams in the trade with Seattle was Dan Altavilla, who had 10 strikeouts with a 3.12 ERA in 8.2 innings as a Padre. Combined with his Mariners stats, Altavilla had a 91.1 mph average exit velocity against, with a 97.3 mph average fastball velocity. Veteran Craig Stammen was a key bullpen member from 2017-2019, but 2020 was his worst season since 2010. Stammen had a 5.63 ERA while allowing 27 hits in 24 innings. On the plus side, he had a 2.5 barrel percentage, a 3.8 BB%, and a 3.35 xERA, suggesting that this was just a blip. Both his slider and curveball had an average against under .200, with a whiff rate over 40%. Tim Hill might get pushed out of the bullpen when Strahm is healthy. The lefty had a 4.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings in 2020, his first in San Diego. Hill limited batters to an 85.1 mph average exit velocity. Michel Baez throws a hard fastball with a mid-80s changeup. He struggled in limited time last year, but had a 3.03 ERA in 24 games in 2019. 

Catchers

The catching spot is uncertain entering the season, thanks to Austin Nola's broken finger. Whenever he returns, Nola will be a stable starting catcher who can also play first base. After a .903 OPS in 29 games for Seattle, Nola slumped down the stretch, with a .705 OPS in 19 games as a Padre. He is a good pitch framer, and had a .280 xBA and a .467 xSLG. Along with Darvish, the Padres acquired Victor Caratini, his personal catcher from Chicago. Caratini is also a good pitch framer, and had a 105 OPS+ in 2019, but he was not good at the plate last year. In 44 games, he had a .661 OPS. If Nola is not good-to-go, then top catching prospect Luis Campusano will be the backup. He debuted in 2020, playing in one game. At High-A in 2019, Campusano hit 15 home runs with a .325 average and a .906 OPS. 

Infielders

The Red Sox and Astros were competitors in previous years, but the Padres now have the best left side of the infield. After a disappointing first season in San Diego, Manny Machado finished third in MVP voting, and won his first Silver Slugger (yes, his first). Machado had a great case to win the award, hitting 16 home runs with a .304 average and a .950 OPS. His 10.2 BB% was his highest in the Statcast era, and he had a .536 xSLG. Machado's 158 OPS+ was a career best, just like his 14.6 K%. The talk of the offseason was Fernando Tatis Jr., who signed a 14 year, $340 million deal as a 22 year old. Tatis showed that the sophomore slump is a myth, as he won a Silver Slugger and finished fourth in MVP voting. He hit 17 home runs with 11 stolen bases and a .937 OPS. He hits the ball a lot harder than you would think, with an MLB leading 95.9 mph average exit velocity and a 62.2 percent hard hit percentage. He is a pure five tool player, as Tatis had an average sprint speed of 29.4 ft/s, with an elite nine outs above average, a 25 OAA increase from his rookie season. Jake Cronenworth came over as an add-on in a trade, and had a 1.034 OPS as a rookie through August. A weak September lowered his season totals to an .831 OPS. Cronenworth hit .285, but he also had a .325 xBA. He also had a .538 xSLG, with a 28.7 ft/s sprint speed. He also struck out just 15.6 percent of the time. Cronenworth can play all over the infield, and had seven outs above average last year. He mainly played at second base, where he had four of those seven. Cronenworth could lose his job to Ha-Seong Kim, a 25 year old coming over from the KBO. Kim was a great hitter in 2020, mashing 30 home runs with 23 stolen bases, a .306 average and a .921 OPS. Kim also had an .866 OPS over seven KBO seasons. Like Cronenworth, he can play around the infield. Closing out baseball's best infield is Eric Hosmer, who had a .974 OPS against righties, but a .613 OPS against southpaws. Still, Hosmer had his best season in San Diego, with nine home runs and an .851 OPS. His 17.9 K% was his best since joining the Padres, and he also had a 90.8 mph average exit velocity. A four time Gold Glove winner, Hosmer was actually the infield's worst defender last year, with -2 outs above average. Speedster Jorge Mateo can be a utilityman and a speedster for the team. Mateo infamously stole 82 bases as a minor leaguer in 2015, but had just one with a .454 OPS in 22 games last year. He still had great speed last year, with a 29.8 ft/s sprint speed. 

Outfielders

Tommy Pham's first season with the Padres was disappointing, as he played in just 31 games, with a .211 average and a .624 OPS. He did steal six bases, with a 28.2 ft/s sprint speed. For the first time in his career, Pham had an OPS+ under 100. He also had a very good 92.8 mph average exit velocity. He also has a 12.2 BB% in his career. Pham was involved in a stabbing in a club this offseason, but has recovered. Trent Grisham was ran out of Milwaukee after a bad error in 2019, and the Padres took advantage of this, as they acquired Grisham, who hit 10 home runs with 10 stolen bases and an .808 OPS. Grisham walked 12.3 percent of the time, with a 29.1 ft/s sprint speed. He is also a good defender, with seven outs above average in center. After a 96 OPS+ in 2019, Wil Myers had a career season in 2020. Myers hit 15 home runs with a .959 OPS, and received an MVP vote. Myers cut down on his strikeout rate, down to 25.7 from an awful 34.2 percent in 2019. He had a great .583 xSLG, and a 14.8% barrel rate. Myers' 91 mph average exit velocity was his highest in the Statcast era. Jurickson Profar came up as a second baseman, but mostly played left field last year while Pham was out. Like Mateo, he is a former top prospect who is now a utilityman. Last year, Profar had a .278 average with a .771 OPS. While he had just a 27.7% hard hit rate, Profar struck out just 13.9 percent of the time. 

Projected Rotation
Dinelson Lamet (R)
Blake Snell (L)
Yu Darvish (R)
Joe Musgrove (R)
Chris Paddack (R)

Projected Bullpen
Drew Pomeranz (L)
Mark Melancon (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)
Keone Kela (R)
Pierce Johnson (R)
Matt Strahm (L)
Craig Stammen (R)
Dan Altavilla (R)
Austin Adams (R)

Projected Lineup
SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (R)
2B Jake Cronenworth (L)
3B Manny Machado (R)
RF Wil Myers (R)
LF Tommy Pham (R)
1B Eric Hosmer (L)
CF Trent Grisham (R)
C Austin Nola (R)
Pitcher

Projected Bench 
C Victor Caratini (S)
IF Ha-Seong Kim (R)
UT Jorge Mateo (R)
UT Jurickson Profar (S)


Projection

The Dodgers are still amazing, but the Padres are their first real threat in years. It will be definitely fun to watch their budding rivalry, and the Padres are a team that you can root for. Their all-in approach should be a model for everyone else, and for that, I hope they can win a World Series soon. 


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