(Photo: Charlie Neibergall, AP)
by Patrick Awtrey
2017 Record: 71–91 (4th in NL West)
2017 Payroll: $91,963,878 (27th)
All player projections from Steamer
Projected 2018 Lineup:
- CF Manuel Margot, .259 AVG/.311 OBP/.402 SLG, 1.9 WAR
- 3B Chase Headley, .247 AVG/.326 OBP/.377 SLG, 1.0 WAR
- RF Wil Myers, .251 AVG/.337 OBP/.464 SLG, 2.0 WAR
- 1B Eric Hosmer, .284 AVG/.354 OBP/.473 SLG, 2.4 WAR
- LF Jose Pirela, .265 AVG/.316 OBP/.416 SLG, 0.8 WAR
- C Austin Hedges, .231 AVG/.278 OBP/.413 SLG, 1.4 WAR
- SS Freddy Galvis, .247 AVG/.295 OBP/.377 SLG, 0.8 WAR
- 2B Carlos Asuaje, .251 AVG/.318 OBP/.359 SLG, 0.1 WAR
Projected 2018 Rotation:
- Clayton Richard, 191.0 IP/3.92 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 2.8 WAR
- Dinelson Lamet, 140.0 IP/4.09 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 1.9 WAR
- Luis Perdomo, 153.0 IP/4.32 ERA/1.44 WHIP, 1.8 WAR
- Bryan Mitchell, 109.0 IP/4.08 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 1.5 WAR
- Tyson Ross, 108.0 IP/4.53 ERA/1.49 WHIP, 1.0 WAR
Heading into this past offseason, the Padres had a lot of room for improvement. Offense was the weakest area, with their 3.7 runs PG in 2017 being the fewest in the majors. No matter how much they spend, it won’t make them immediately competitive (remember how heading into 2015 they brought on Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, and James Shields only to finish with a worse record than the year before?) Yet, they already had a starting caliber player at every position except for shortstop and all of them are still developing. They also have one of the best farm systems in baseball. In light of this, the organization should be saving money for later. Why, then, did they sign Eric Hosmer?
As you may have heard, the Padres picked up Hosmer for $144 million over eight years. Many think it’s ludicrous. Given everything above, it is. Although he put up the best numbers of his career in 2017, slugging .498 with 25 home runs and 4.1 WAR, his career WAR of 9.9 over seven full seasons tells a different story—during 2018 we should expect a regression to the mean. The Padres already had Myers at first base, so Myers will now play in right field. They already had a crowded outfield, so that concern is amplified. So, in exchange for a marginal offensive boost, their roster has become less efficient. This might seem to indicate that Hosmer got overpaid. Relative to his playing ability, he did, but baseball is about more than stats. Hosmer’s proven leadership and experience playing in high-pressure situations will enhance the development of the entire team. Moreover, Hosmer brings a national reputation to a franchise that has been without a face for years. Fan morale is the same reason they reacquired Chase Headley.
Aside from these moves, the organization pretty much followed the recommendations I made in my Padres Offseason Preview. They traded infielder Yangervis Solarte and kept closer Brad Hand, whose contract they extended. Regarding their shortstop deficiency, they traded for Freddy Galvis as an inexpensive, short-term solution that will allow prospect Fernando Tatis to take over in a few years. Although they didn’t bring back Joulys Chacin, the Padres rotation was destined to remain mediocre anyway.
This is not the year of the Padres. Nevertheless, they are on their way to being contenders in a few years and should prove slightly better in 2018 than in 2017. Offensively, Hosmer is taking Hunter Renfroe’s slot in the lineup because of Wil Myers moving to right field. Even if Hosmer regresses, he is still a better hitter than Renfroe. Myers, who hit 30 homers in 2017, should continue to provide the most power of anyone in the lineup. Margot will keep getting better. Galvis should end up being an upgrade over Eric Aybar. At third base, Headley was only slightly better in 2017 than Corey Spanberg and probably won’t improve. Jose Pirela, whose .490 slugging average and 2.1 WAR made him the club’s best hitter in 2017 despite playing in only 83 games, is likely to regress. Defensively, the most interesting development is Hosmer’s replacement of Myers at first. Myers has 9 defensive runs saved at first base throughout his career, whereas Hosmer, despite winning four gold gloves, has -21.
In the rotation, Chacin’s absence will be significant considering he had 2.3 WAR in 2017. It is less significant, however, given that he probably would not have reproduced the same figure this year. Clayton Richard now leads the group. He pitched decently in 2017 with a 4.23 FIP, though he is getting older. Behind him, Lamet and Perdomo are still developing and should continue to improve. The same can be said for Bryan Mitchell, who came over with Headley. Tyson Ross, who produced 8.4 WAR for the Padres during 2013–2015 before getting injured, has returned to the organization and will likely be the fifth man. He’s only 30, so he may be able to channel his prior dominance. The Padres bullpen should remain decent. Hand is already one of the best closers in the game, and his momentum is encouraging for the franchise. Behind him, the combination of Yates, Stammen, and Maton provide solid support. Kazuhisa Makita is new from Japan and it will be interesting to see how he performs.
Overall, the Padres have a lot to look forward to. Every publication ranks their farm system near the top; MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus rank it first. Their current roster is young, and most of their better performers are still developing. At some point in the not too distant future, they should have a good two or three years in which they make the playoffs (likely via wildcard) and have a least one legitimate shot at a World Series title. This year, it’ll be best to just enjoy the baseball and accept that they still have a ways to go.
The Padres won 71 games in 2017. Many think this was a fluke and that they should have won far fewer. Manager Andy Green, one of the team’s most important assets, has been credited with the outperformance. Good managing is not an accident, and so it should be expected to continue. That said, the team’s slight overall improvement should translate to a few more wins.
Predicted Record: 74–88
Player to Watch: Eric Hosmer (duh)
As I said, Hosmer should not be expected to live up to his contract based on stats alone, nor should he be expected to reproduce his numbers from last year. Nevertheless, expectations will be high, and so the question is how much he can mitigate disappointment by performing as well as he possibly can.
Player to Watch: Luis Urias
The Padres expect Luis Urias to take over at second base in the near future, and it may happen this season. Carlos Asuaje is the weakest bat in the lineup and will likely spend some time on the bench. Pirela has experience at second and will get time there, but not at the expense of his primary role in left field. Therefore, Urias may end up platooning until he manages to claim the position outright. According to MLB.com, Urias is the Padres’ 3rd best prospect and MLB’s 36th. He has excelled in the minor leagues, sporting an almost .400 OBP over two full seasons between A+ and AA. He also has some speed and a solid glove.
Player to Watch: Hunter Renfroe
The Padres have an interesting situation in left field. Jose Pirela’s amazing 2017 earned him the starting job. The problem is that with Myers moving to right field, Hunter Renfroe seemingly has nowhere to play. Renfroe hit 26 home runs in 2017 and is certainly deserving of some starts. Myers wouldn’t be asked to platoon, so Renfroe’s best chance to play is in left. At the same time, Franchy Cordero makes a case for playing time as well. Given the team’s preference for Pirela to play every day, Pirela will get some starts at second, thus making some room for Renfroe and Cordero while also bridging any gap between Asuaje and Urias. Eventually, the Padres may trade Renfroe, so be on the lookout for that. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.