After winning the Manny Machado this offseason, expectations were high for the Padres heading into the season. Alas, it’s been more of the same for them; they’re currently 16 games below .500 and will finish well out of the playoff race once again. This is definitely a disappointment for the franchise, and that was demonstrated on Saturday, when they fired manager Andy Green. Though it can be argued if Green was to blame for the team’s struggles, the message is clear: the rebuilding phase is over for the Padres. No matter who their new manager is, that’ll be clear next season; they should be considered one of the favorites to make it to the playoffs, and possibly even the World Series, next year.
With the addition of Machado, the Padres were supposed to have a fearsome lineup. Instead, they rank just 22nd in the MLB with an 88 weighted-runs-created plus (wrc+). At the center of this has to be Machado, who has just a 105 wrc+ and has also declined defensively. Yet, he’s actually hitting the ball hard at a career-high rate (42.8%) and should be expected to return to his superstar status next season. Although rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr.’s absurd .410 batting average balls in play (BABIP) means he’ll likely regress last season, there’s a reason he was the second-best prospect in baseball heading into the season; he’s a future star in the making. With outfielder Hunter Renfroe’s power-speed combination, the likely progression of young infielder Luis Urias, defensive-minded center fielder Manuel Margot, and an underrated catcher pairing of Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia, there’s a lot more talent in the lineup than they’re being given credit to; even though Eric Hosmer and Will Myers are well overpaid, Machado and Tatis Jr. have enough of a supporting cast for this team to be successful next season.
Heading into the season, the main concern with the Padres’ intention on contending was their pitching staff, which was both thin and inexperienced. However, with a 4.20 FIP, they’re actually the seventh-best staff in all of baseball, which sets them up perfectly to contend next season. As of now, their rotation next season would be as follows:
With a 4.79 K-BB ratio, Paddack has exceeded expectations greatly as a rookie, and could definitely take the next step to becoming the ace of this pitching staff. Meanwhile, San Diego is only now enjoying the benefits of Lamet and Richards, who each missed over four months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Considering each accumulate strikeouts at terrific rates and have performed well this season, the Padres have to be excited about both pitchers’ outlook next season. Additionally, Luchessi and Lauer have each established themselves as solid middle-of-the-rotation starters; they’ll be able to fill out a rotation headlined by an impressive threesome. Heck, we haven’t even mentioned the bullpen, which may be the team’s main strength. Kirby Yates’ 7.69 K-BB ratio and 1.31 FIP illustrates how dominant he is, and young relievers Andres Munoz, Gerardo Reyes, Trey Wingenter, and David Bednar all have tremendous upside. With Matt Strahm and Luis Perdomo serving as either multi-inning relievers or options in the rotation, it’s clear that in both the rotation and bullpen, San Diego is deep with a lot of talented pitchers.
If San Diego didn’t have enough young talent on their major league team, beware of their farm system, which remains arguably the league’s best. Need pitching help? In Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez, the Padres have two electric pitchers capable of filling in the rotation or the bullpen. If they really want to go all-in, they have the best pitching prospect in baseball in MacKenzie Gore, who is currently making a mockery of minor-league pitching and looks like a future Cy Young winner. A potential hole in the outfield? They traded for outfield prospect Taylor Trammell at the trade deadline, who is capable of playing all three outfield spots well and has excellent plate discipline. A major reason the Braves have dominated the NL East is their ability to call up prospects from their deep farm system, and San Diego will likely follow suit next season.
With a lineup that should improve next season, an underatted pitching staff, and an incredible farm system, the Padres are poised to be a serious playoff contender in 2020, and could even challenge the Dodgers for the NL West. That means around a 20-game improvement from this season; whoever manages them next season will be the clear front-runner for NL manager of the year. The Padres need to garner more attention before it’s too late; a sleeping giant is forming right in front of us, and it would be foolish to ignore it.