Alex Kielar | October 30th, 2019
The San Diego Padres entered the 2019 season with fairly low, but also promising expectations, so their 70-92 record is a bit disappointing but also somewhat expected. The Padres signing of stud third baseman Manny Machado in the offseason skyrocketed their expectations, and their young core led by shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and pitcher Chris Paddack gave them a look at their bright future. Their ultimate fallout was their young players and older players not being compatible enough to play well together, and their bullpen struggles. One big problem was also communication issues between the manager and the team, as the Padres fired Andy Green before the season even ended. Now let’s get further into the Padres season.
What Went Right
Fernando Tatis Jr. was one of the most impressive rookies throughout the league this season before suffering a season-ending back injury in August. He would have definitely been in the running for National League Rookie of the Year if not for the injury, as he slashed .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs, 53 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, and a 4.2 WAR in 84 games. His .404 wOBA (first among shortstops) and 150 wRC+ (11th in the majors) would have placed him in the elite ranks of shortstops with the likes of Gleyber Torres and Carlos Correa.
Free-agent acquisition Manny Machado had a decent first year with the Padres, as he slashed .256/.334/.462 with 32 home runs, 85 RBIs, and 109 OPS+ in 156 games. Eric Hosmer also had a decent year offensively as he slashed .265/.310/.425 with 22 home runs, 99 RBIs and a 93 OPS+. Hosmer’s 99 RBIs represented a Padres team-high. Austin Hedges didn’t bring much to the table offensively at catcher, but he did save a league-best 22 runs (DRS).
Pitching wise, closer Kirby Yates had one of the best seasons for any pitcher and in my opinion should have won the Reliever of the Year Award, which was given to Brewers’ closer Josh Hader. Yates was third in the league in K% (41.6%), second in xFIP (2.25), second in HR/9 (0.3), third in wOBA (.228), and first in saves (41).
Chris Paddack was another impressive rookie for the Padres and should be top three in rookie of the year voting, which we all know will be run away with by Pete Alonso. Paddack was fifth in the league in WHIP (0.98 WHIP) and seventh in opponent batting average (.202), among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched.
What Went Wrong
The Padres as a team were one of the worst offensive teams in the league, as they were 28th in team batting average (.238), 26th in OPS (.718), 24th in wRC+ (88), and second in K% (26.3%). They also didn’t show much discipline at the plate with an 11.9% swinging-strike rate (4th in the league) and just a 74.2% contact rate (28th in the league).
The Padres showed promise early on in the season, as they were 45-45 at the All-Star Break and in the wild card hunt. But they only went 25-47 to end the season to finish at 70-92, finishing last in the National League West. They seemed to lose their mojo of a fun team and clubhouse and stopped playing loose. They definitely underperformed and GM AJ Preller made the move to fire Green and move the team in a new direction under new management. They brought in former Rangers’ coach Jayce Tingler as their new manager of choice. A lot of the struggles had to do with the bullpen giving games up late and it let them down repeatedly.
The Padres were also just an average defensive team, 13th in the league in DRS (19) and in UZR (ultimate zone rating) (3.2), while also committing the fifth most errors in the league with 116.
Impending Free Agents
The only free agent for the Padres is reliever Craig Stammen who has been pretty effective and versatile for them the last few seasons. If he leaves for another team, they will need to find a solid veteran bullpen presence, with guys like Will Harris and Joe Smith as possibilities.
The main order of business for the Padres this offseason will be to fix their pitching issues. They will probably look to make some moves in free agency and/or trades for starters and bullpen help. Another order of business would be to acquire another bat and one that doesn’t strike out so much to help strengthen their lineup. That could mean they move one or both of Wil Meyers and Hunter Renfroe, who along with Eric Hosmer combined to strikeout 450 times. The front office has stated that 2020 has been the goal year for their rebuild to reach its peak/end so they should be very busy in order to skyrocket those expectations.
2020 Players to Watch
The most exciting players to watch for the 2020 season are the aforementioned duo of Paddack and Tatis Jr., along with Machado who looks to improve on his debut season with the team. But another young arm who should see his debut in 2020 is potentially an even more of a player to watch. Gore will begin the year in Double-A and his debut will be very hyped up and he could end up joining Paddack as one of the best one-two punches in the league. Gore has elicited Clayton Kershaw comparisons with his trademark curveball. With the Padres need for pitching, Gore should end up being a big piece to their 2020 season.
The Padres certainly have the talent in the room to be a .500 or better team, they just weren’t able to put it all together in 2019. They are still a very young team and will only get younger especially if they trade away some of their veterans. They have several promising prospects who should be making their debuts in 2020 who will only help the cause. They will definitely need to address their bullpen if they want to succeed but a core of Paddack, Tatis Jr., Machado, Urias, Luis Urias, and eventually Gore will be something to be reckoned with.
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