For the first time the past decade, Padres general manager A.J. Preller has not “won the offseason,” though it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Preller pulled off the most interesting move of the offseason, bar none, by trading Hunter Renfroe to Tampa Bay for Tommy Pham. Pham has been one of the most underrated players in baseball over the past three years, being worth 13.6 fWAR since his breakout season in St. Louis in 2017.
While Renfroe was one of baseball’s premier power hitters for a point last season, he is far from the all-around outfielder Pham could be for the Padres. Pham’s production has gone down slightly each of the past couple seasons, but even with normal regression, he should still be a very good player for San Diego.
After signing a $300 million contract in San Diego prior to last offseason, Manny Machado only had a 108 wRC+, a far cry from the elite player Preller paid for. It’s unfair to project him to repeat that performance, as he should improve off of last year, but it’s going to take a pretty massive turnaround before the contract is considered a “success.”
One guy whose past season was a success was Fernando Tatis, Jr. If it wasn’t for an injury which caused him to miss almost 80 games in his rookie year, Tatis would have ran away with the Rookie of the Year award. A similar production in 2020, without the injury, should vault him close to MVP consideration, especially if his glove becomes an asset instead of a liability, which it has been so far in his young career.
Eric Hosmer has been nothing short of abysmal since he left Kansas City for San Diego a couple years back. You, the reader, have been more valuable to the Padres so far in your career than Eric Hosmer has been. Maybe he turns it around this year but if the Padres are expecting any sort of value out of Hosmer coming into the season, they don’t deserve to win.
If Hosmer sucks, they are likely to have Wil Myers off the bench, though that isn’t much better. Myers was at least worth a positive fWAR last season, though only 0.5 He was also thrown around in rampant trade rumors this offseason, so there’s no guarantee he sticks around all year.
The back half of the Padres lineup leaves a lot to be desired. Trent Grisham, who was one of the key to the Nationals’ 2020 World Series championship, was acquired from Milwaukee in the Luis Urias trade earlier this offseason. Grisham wasn’t good at the plate last year, though he does give the Padres a valuable outfield glove.
Francisco Mejia, acquired for Brad Hand a few years ago, is someone with untapped potential. However, in now three stints at the Major League level, he has yet to even be a league-average bat. He doesn’t necesarily have to be a silver slugger to be valuable, but he then needs to be good behind the plate, and that also hasn’t happened. I’m not ready to give up on Mejia, one of the best bat-first catching prospects in recent memory, but it’s getting close to that point.
Franchy Cordero missed almost all of 2019 with a quad injury, but he is going to be the Hunter Renfroe replacement. Cordero has all the power in the world, though he struggles massively actually getting bat on ball. He also has blistering speed on the basepaths, which makes him a very valuable weapon should the Padres use him correctly.
The final cog in the lineup is Jurickson Profar, who is only one year removed from a really good final campaign with the Rangers. He isn’t going to win you a championship, but he’s a solid starter many teams in contention could be clamoring for at the deadline should the Padres fall out of contention.
Their depth is… very interesting to say the least. Austin Hedges may as well bring a golf club to the plate, but he could very well be the best defensive catcher in baseball. It’s due to this (along with Mejia’s ability to play other positions) that, although it hampers your lineup, it would not surprise me to see Hedges get more starts behind the plate than anyone wearing the brown and yellow in 2020.
Brian Dozier, currently a non-roster invitee, was very solid last year. Much like Profar, he isn’t the star player that will win you championships, but does provide nice insurance should their be an injury somewhere. Juan Lagares is going to look to rebound back to old form, though even that old form isn’t incredibly valuable.
Josh Naylor is another guy that could be counted on to play a big role in the lineup. Naylor, much like Cordero or Renfroe, has a ton of power potential, though he doesn’t swing and miss quite as much. He wasn’t awful in his first major league stint last year, but it will take an incredible spring for him to make the opening day roster.
Their rotation is one massive question mark. Chris Paddack was incredible last year, but sent back down midseason to save his arm. It’s possible, as many guys do, that Paddack hits a wall halfway through this year and his production falls. However, should it not, there is your ace.
Garrett Richards is good. He’s not good sitting in a trainer’s room however, somewhere he’s been a lot in recent years. Zach Davies was really good last year in the hitter’s paradise that is Miller Park, and a move to Petco should help him. Expect him to have a really good year for the Friars.
There are a lot of people seemingly infatuated with Joey Lucchesi, but to me, he’s just a guy. He’s a solid back of the rotation pitcher, but that’s all he is. Luckily for San Diego, if everything breaks right, that’s all he will be. One injury though, and Lucchesi is thrown into a bigger role, and that’s not a winning strategy.
Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet are both vying for that five spot, with Javy Guerra in the bullpen and Cal Quantrill and Adrian Morejon likely to start in AAA. It’s not horrible depth but you would prefer much more.
Luckily for San Diego, they have one of baseball’s best bullpens. It’s not a stretch to say Kirby Yates and Emilio Pagan were the two best relievers in baseball last year. Both of them have some of the nastiest stuff you are going to see on a Major League mound in 2020. Having one set up the other allows the Padres to turn every game into a seven inning contest, which can mask the lack of depth they have offensively.
Drew Pomeranz was also very good last year in Milwaukee after transitioning to a bullpen role, where he will stay in 2020 with the Friars. Assuming that was not a fluke, the back end of this bullpen may be better than any other unit in baseball. They also have Craig Stammen, who has shown flashes of being an elite reliever throughout his career.
I’m very intrigued by this team. They have a lot of good pieces here, but they are a couple wrong turns from it all collapsing. It’s not playoffs or bust, given that they are still relatively young, but it’s fair to be disappointed if they don’t make the playoffs. However, given how strong and compact the NL is this year, I’m not expecting it.
Projected Divisional Finish (NL West):
Projected Opening Day Lineup and Rotation (Fangraphs 2020 fWAR Projections for each player in parentheses):
Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS (2.8)
Tommy Pham, LF (2.8)
Manny Machado, 3B (3.9)
Eric Hosmer, 1B (0.2)
Franchy Cordero, RF (0.7)
Jurickson Profar, 2B (1.9)
Trent Grisham, CF (2.0)
Austin Hedges, C (1.1)
Chris Paddack (3.2)
Zach Davies (1.7)
Garrett Richards (1.1)
Joey Lucchesi (2.5)
Dinelson Lamet (1.8)