The San Diego Padres entered 2021 with high expectations, and rightfully so. The team entered the season with rising superstar Fernando Tatis Jr., complemented by established veterans like Manny Machado, Tommy Pham and Yu Darvish. On top of that, they added 2018 American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell to bolster an already strong rotation. Dinelson Lamet put up a fantastic 2020 campaign, as did Trent Grisham and Wil Myers. There was no reason to believe the Friars wouldn’t continue to ascend into baseball’s elite class.
Instead, they plummeted. It started with injuries to Tatis Jr. and Grisham, and it ended with poor second-half performances from Darvish and Adam Frazier. The Padres finished 79-83, 28 games back of the first-place San Francisco Giants. The team had World Series aspirations, yet finished below .500 for the 10th time since 2011. Since the conclusion of the 2021 regular season, San Diego has fired manager Jayce Tingler. It wasn’t all ugly though, albeit disappointing. For that, let’s shine some light on a handful of players worthy of recognition.
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Manager: Jayce Tingler
Position: Third in NL West
Postseason: Missed playoffs
Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tatis Jr. missed 32 games due to multiple shoulder injuries in 2021, but he was still the biggest star in San Diego. In 130 games, the 22-year-old slashed .282/.364/.611 with a wRC+ of 156 and a .403 wOBA. Outside of RBI’s, he led pretty much every offensive category for the Padres this season. Had it not been for those two major shoulder injuries, he may very well have walked away from this season with his first NL MVP Award. He still didn’t disappoint when it came to delivering memorable moments, however.
Fernando Tatis Jr. covered up one eye after he hit a home run off of Trevor Bauer! pic.twitter.com/tq1TmNy7dI
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 25, 2021
Defensively, he accumulated -7 defensive runs saved (DRS) between shortstop and the outfield, but was still a net-positive when it came to Outs Above Average (OAA). He will have to tighten up defensively if he wants to take that next step, but he’s still a rising star and will make Padres fans very happy for the next decade.
Starting Pitcher of the Year: Joe Musgrove
Joe Musgrove got his season started with a bang. After six shutout innings in his first Padres start, he outdid himself by no-hitting the Texas Rangers in his second.
Start your day with all 27 outs of Joe Musgrove’s no-hitter. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/iIUx4c5QOL
— MLB (@MLB) April 10, 2021
He rounded out the 2021 campaign with a 3.18 ERA, a 3.65 xFIP and a 3.69 SIERA. Overall, he was simply more consistent than Darvish was this season, though Darvish suffered from an astronomically high and unsustainable home run rate after the foreign substance crackdown. He put up comparable peripherals to Darvish this season, but ultimately, consistency in run prevention gives the nod to Musgrove.
Reliever of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year: Craig Stammen
Though he had an ERA and FIP worse than closer Mark Melancon, Stammen takes home the Reliever of the Year Award for the 2021 Padres. In 80.1 innings as a reliever, the right-hander posted a 3.29 xFIP and a 21.4 strikeout-to-walk rate. This season, the veteran right-hander led the Padres bullpen in xFIP and SIERA (3.03). While his peripherals were worse than they were in 2020, he shaved over two-and-a-half runs off his ERA in 2021 (5.63 to 3.06). He also improved his strikeout numbers and cut his walk rate slightly. He was reliable all season long and is somebody the Padres should consider picking up the option on.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ha-Seong Kim
When the Padres signed Kim from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), they expected a lot of power, with a knack for getting on base. He hit 30 home runs and a .397 OBP in 2020. However, he launched just eight home runs in 2021, with a wRC+ of 70, 30 percent below average. Still, he was a wizard in the field for San Diego at three different positions. Kim was a part-time player, but accumulated 18 DRS in just 573.2 defensive innings. If you prorate that over a 900-inning sample size, that rounds out to 28 defensive runs saved. His defense certainly made up for lack of offensive production.
What’s Next for the San Diego Padres?
The San Diego Padres are a team that, first and foremost, needs a new manager. On paper, they still have an incredibly talented roster, but struggled with injuries in 2021. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that they’ve been looking externally at a list of seven veteran managers. Other reports indicate they are also looking to interview the recently-fired St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt.
Avoiding Tommy John surgery with Lamet is huge, and as they already have right-hander Mike Clevinger on his way back from his bout with the procedure. They’re a team that, on paper, should be vying for an NL West crown for a while, but they need to establish that winning culture during spring training next March. Only time will tell if they can button up those issues.
Follow Jordan Leandre on Twitter @JordanLeandre55
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images