By: Mark Collier
This article was also published on our friend site, Madfriars.com who consistently does a great job covering the Padres minor league system and its players.
The FriarLounge team had the good fortune of getting to spend about five days in Peoria before COVID-19 struck and shut down everything. Below is a recap of some of the players we got to see when we visited Peoria back in early March of this year.
Reggie Preciado - INF/OF
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Collier
Reggie Preciado, a switch-hitting Panamanian was in Padres minicamp back in February and early March, which says quite a bit about what the Padres think of the kid and his potential. Preciado, 16 at the time, is lanky at 6-feet-4 and 185 pounds with tools and potential. Preciado, who only turned 17 in May, was assigned by the Padres to the Dominican Summer League (DSL) March 4 just before things started to shut down in the US as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
In the spring, Preciado was often paired with shortstop CJ Abrams inside drills, so much so they had their own personal handshake.
Preciado played both shortstop and third base during the intrasquad games and held his own with the bat. He almost certainly will put more weight and muscle on his tall frame in the coming years and he could play as either a third baseman or corner outfielder when the dust settles because of his already large frame.
Blake Hunt - Catcher
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Collier
Blake Hunt, a 21-year-old catcher, sometimes gets overlooked in the Padres’ stacked minor league system, particularly with the presence of highly touted catching prospect Luis Campusano. Hunt, a Southern California native from Costa Mesa, was part of the same 2017 draft class as Campusano.
He played last year at Fort Wayne getting over 400 plate appearances and showed some pop and the ability to drive the ball around the field. The 6-foot-4 Hunt is best known for his skills behind the dish and showed poise and leadership behind the plate with the Friars’ pitching staff. He showed a quick pop time while throwing out would-be base stealers during the backfield games and could be one to watch for the future.
Yeison Santana – Shortstop
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
Santana is a shortstop who showed some promise in the short-season Arizona Rookie League in 2019 with a .346/.429./.494 slash line in 185 plate appearances. He is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds with decent speed and could have been bound for Fort Wayne before the pandemic.
He will get looks around the diamond and could profile more as a second baseman. In Peoria, Santana showed quickness out of the box legging out several hard-hit infield singles and looked fluid in the field, bouncing between second and shortstop. Santana has plenty of speed as a top of the order bat but has work to do as a base stealer. He was thrown out in half of his attempts thus far in his career, but there is a buzz about this kid who took a big leap forward from his year in the DSL in 2018.
Justin Lopez – Shortstop/Infielder
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Collier
.Justin Lopez has three years under his belt in the organization after signing out of Venezuela in the Padres’ heralded international class of 2016. Lopez has played second base, shortstop, and third since joining the organization but has yet to put everything together. The switch-hitter has power but needs to cut down on the strikeouts and show more consistency with the bat, after another mediocre line in 2019 at Fort Wayne.
Justin Lopez. (Photo: Mark Collier/FriarLounge.com)
His next season will be his fourth in the system and expectations are certainly starting to grow. In the backfield games at the Peoria Sports Complex, he was aggressive at the plate and hit the ball hard on several occasions from both sides of the plate and was noticeably trying to see more pitches and work on his plate discipline. He spent much of his time in the field at third base.
Joshua Mears - Corner Outfielder
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
On first look, Joshua Mears could pass as a linebacker in the NFL. If you are looking for a comp Justin Upton comes to mind, but Mears a right fielder is even bigger at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds.
The Padres drafted Mears, 19, in the second round last year. He is a raw talent that was clearly working on his plate discipline while in backfield games in Peoria, rarely swinging the bat but going deep in counts and took at least several walks in one of the games we saw. He struck out 36% of the time in his short stint in the AZL last year which clearly needs to improve, but he also had his best month in August and may have been sent him to Fort Wayne.
Hudson Head - Outfielder
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
Hudson Head earned the largest bonus ever for a third-rounder when he signed out of high school in Texas last year. Head had already committed to the University of Oklahoma, but the Padres over-slot offer was enough to convince him to forgo his scholarship. He had 120 AB’s in the AZL in 2019, posting a solid .283/.383/.417 line and played all three outfield positions. He looks pretty fluid in center, his natural position.
During a recent interview with FriarLounge, Head mentioned that he showed up early to his first minor league camp and ended up spending quality time with Padres outfielder Josh Naylor and also minor league outfielder Grant Little. Naylor shared stories of his path to San Diego, who was also a drafted out of high school. Head looked good, showing good plate discipline at times while also being aggressive when getting his pitch.
He grew up emulating the swing and plate approach of former Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton who he watched the Texas Rangers. The Padres had Head batting at the top of the lineup, batting third in the lineup behind CJ Abrams and Tucupita Marcano the day we saw him during a backfield game.
Tirso Ornelas - Outfielder
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Collier
The 20-year old outfielder from Tijuana, Mexico has posted mixed results in three years in the Padres system. His 2019 was a disappointment as his strikeout rate went up at High-A Lake Elsinore, with both his batting average and power numbers down.
In Peoria, Ornelas’s performance was very much like what the Padres have seen thus far, full of mixed results. In his first at-bat against Ryan Weathers, he chased a fastball up and out of the zone while striking out, then against lesser talent later in the game slashed a stand up triple to the gap. Like Lopez, Ornelas’s upcoming season will be a big one for his future. He is a big talented outfielder who has lots of tools and potential, now he needs the results to match.
By: Mark Collier
RHP - CHRIS PADDACK
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
Chris Paddack is currently going through his second spring training with the San Diego Padres club. This spring definitely has a different vibe however as Paddack is vying to be the clubs Opening Day starter, vs trying to simply make the roster. Paddack had a strong rookie campaign in 2019 finishing 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA. The 6’5” Austin, Texas native pitched 140 and ⅔ innings while striking out 153 and had a WHIP that was under 1.0. Paddack had a stunning 14 games giving up one run or less in his 26 starts. In fairness, Paddack often was under an inning or pitch limit, so he did not often go deep into games. One notable exception was when he took a no hitter into the 7th inning against the Miami Marlins, finishing the game with 7 and ⅔ of one hit ball. The tall right hander actually ended up with three games where he pitched at least five innings and gave up only one hit to opposing teams. Looking for a candidate to pitch the Padres first no-hitter? Paddack is certainly near the top of that list. Paddack was also added to MLB’s list this year as a dark horse candidate to win the NL Cy Young along with fellow teammate Dinelson Lamet.
Paddack has certainly faced adversity along the way. At the trade deadline in 2016 Paddack was traded by the team that drafted him the Florida Marlins and was dealt to the Padres for closer Fernando Rodney and unfortunately within a month was diagnosed with a torn UCL and ended up having Tommy John surgery. Battling his way back from injury, Paddack made his way to the AA level in 2018 and then cracked the Padres opening day roster in 2019. While realizing his dream of making the big league club, this didn’t mean 2019 came without its challenges. Paddack was sent back to the minors in June to minimize his inning count which was a humbling yet motivating experience. Paddack struggled against a handful of perennial playoff contenders, namely the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and division rival Los Angeles Dodgers. He was 0-5 against those clubs and certainly the struggles against the division rival Dodgers will be on his mind as he enters the 2020 season as he knows they are the overwhelming favorite to win the NL West. With the ups and downs that Paddack has faced over the last four seasons he is looking to create some stability in his life, with his routine and on the mound, while also having fun and enjoying the ride of being a big league ball player.
Paddack who was given the name “Sheriff” as he is often seen donning a large Cowboy hat and also has an on field demeanor that is very serious, motivated, and determined to be an elite starting pitcher. With ambitions to be one of the best in the game, Paddack recently talked about a few things he is doing to become a better player and person as he enters his second season. He recently spoke with “Ben & Woods” of 97.3 morning San Diego sports talk team in Peoria saying that this year is about “balance”. In search of that balance Paddack first took some off-season advice of some seasoned Padre veterans who recommended when the season was over to take at least a few weeks to pump the brakes, rest, and recharge to recover from the MLB season grind. Paddack obliged by going to one of his favorite spots in Texas to hunt and fish that had no cell phone service. Additionally, he also mentioned he was joined by his brother this past week in Peoria and they spent time talking about their personal goals. In addition to balance in his life Paddack has his eyes set on becoming the ace of the staff, starting on Opening Day (if that’s in the cards for him) and playing meaningful baseball in October this season. Paddack has been through a lot at the young age of 24 and seems ready now that his inning limitations have been lifted to find balance, have fun, and step into a new phase of his career and unleash an even better version of himself against MLB teams. The Sheriff is ready to lay down the law on MLB opponents in 2020.
By: Mark Collier
OF - FRANCHY CORDERO
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
The San Diego Padres have made a flurry of moves this offseason with eyes towards becoming contenders in the National League. Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham, Zach Davies, Jurickson Profar, Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, and others. With those upgrades to the 2020 club there have been some significant opportunities that have not been realized. Shogo Akiyama, Starling Marte, and Mookie Betts who are all outfielders that Preller was in on but for whatever reason ended up missing out on this off-season. With what looks like a full outfield, even after the Manuel Margot trade, it seems that the club was still looking to upgrade over current in house candidates.
As it stands today, the Padres have one outfielder who is locked in as a starter, newcomer Tommy Pham in left field. Even with the departure of Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot in separate trades to Tampa Bay, the Padres have a variety of options with upside that will compete this spring for the final two starting spots. It’s a safe assumption that the Padres will carry five outfielders as they enter the 2020 campaign.The Padres traded 2B prospect Luis Urias and Eric Lauer in order to land Trent Grisham and Zach Davies. With high expectations of Grisham, he is likely to get a long look at being one of the starters with an inside track to the center field job. Franchy Cordero is very talented and if he proves that he can stay healthy (79 MLB games in 2017-19) has an inside track to earning a roster spot and will push for starts in either center or right.
We can’t forget about Wil Myers as we’ve heard his name all off-season dangled in trades as a way to dump his salary. It would seem logical that Myers has an inside track to be an Opening Day starter, if he has a decent spring as the Padres remain saddled with his $20+ million annual salary. His salary alone guarantees him a roster spot and a lengthier opportunity to build trade value in the least. The Padres also have recently acquired Juan Lagres signing him to a minor league contract as insurance in addition to talented journeyman Abraham Almonte who are both unlikely to make the club but offer some nice insurance in El Paso.
Taylor Trammel, who came over in the Franmil Reyes trade had a strong finish to the 2019 season and helped the AA Amarillo Sod Poodles win the AA Texas League title. Trammel could push his way into the conversation but the Padres are not in a rush to bring him to San Diego in 2020. Finally, second year player Josh Naylor, a converted first baseman has some nice upside but is really not an outfielder and is currently blocked by Eric Hosmer at first. Naylor’s name has been part of several rumors this off-season as he profiles more as a DH with his hit tool and limitations in the field. With the DH position looming as a National League addition possibly by 2021, he is a name to keep an eye on, just maybe not in the outfield.
There is an abundance of outfielders in camp with much potential and talent, but outside of Pham, not a lot of proven production. Due to this, the team has had a different trajectory than most years with an edict to win from ownership on down. Let’s start with the Padres pursuit of Mookie Betts. Historically when have the Padres been in on a talent like Mookie Betts, even if it was for a one year rental? AJ Preller is clearly not satisfied with the pieces he currently has in the outfield. The idea has even been floated by local media of giving time to Fernando Tatis in the outfield to have yet another talented option.
So after missing on Akiyama who landed with the Reds, Starling Marte who went to Arizona, and Betts who landed with the Dodgers, what options are left the the Padres and Preller? There are few free agent names still floating out there, the likes of Yasiel Puig but he’s a rather acidic addition to most clubhouses and unlikely to be signed. With the plethora of talent the Padres have in their farm system and young expendable players who were on the roster last year, it is easy to expect that Preller is going to stay active and try to add a significant final outfield piece before opening day in a trade, even if we hear otherwise.
Three names the Padres have been linked to this off-season and still possibly available are Nick Senzel, Whit Merrifield, and Kris Bryant. Bryant makes a lot of sense for San Diego as he can play multiple positions and has a history in San Diego as a local college star at USD, but the Cubs will most assuredly be asking a king's ransom to consummate a deal. Senzel is a very talented former top 10 prospect with the Reds who can play second base and outfield, both positions of need for San Diego of which the same can be said for Merrifield, a 2019 AL All Star for the Royals. Both of those organizations have different priorities but would likely mean the Friars giving up multiple impact prospects.
There are likely other names that could be added to the list that Preller has inquired about but the reality is Preller knows 2020 is the year to take a step forward, to make the postseason, or at least come very close. He has to like the upside and potential of his current outfield pieces but entering a critical season for the franchise with his job on the line, the uncertainty for Preller appears to be too much ambiguity for him and Fowler to start the new decade. Padres fans eagerly await to see how this is all going to play out.
By: Mark Collier
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
Catcher Francisco Meija was acquired for All Star closer Brad Hand and relief pitcher Adam Cimber at the trade deadline in July 2018, at the time the number one catching prospect in all of baseball. In 2016, Meija (as part of the Cleveland Indians Class A Lynchburg team), had a notable 50 game hitting streak which at the time, was the longest such streak in the last 66 years and speaks to his ability to consistently put the barrel on the ball as a young player. “Franky”, 24, achieved just 226 AB’s last year, splitting time with Austin Hedges and dealing with a pair of injuries but was a much improved player in the second half of the year. Most notably in August when he hit .348/.394/.606 with four homers.
The switch hitting catcher does need to improve his game management and focus behind the dish which is likely in part why the Padres end of the year interim manager Rod Barajas (and former catcher himself) was retained to help in his maturation as a player. If Meija hits like he is capable of consistently in 2020 and makes strides defensively towards the league average or more behind the plate, he immediately joins the conversation as a top 10 catcher in all of baseball which would mean the Padres investment in Mejia was worth giving up an All Star closer to get him. Meija is a free swinger but has shown the ability to get on base, hit in the clutch, and has significant power for a player of his stature.
Meija effectively passed Austin Hedges on the depth chart last year primarily due to the futility of Hedges bat . Hedges is clearly still the superior signal caller and game manager to Meija which is why he remains on the roster. Hedges greatly supports the maturation of a young developing staff and is an asset with game prep. But offensively he simply seems lost at the plate. Last season Hedges had an anemic slash line of .176/.252/.311 in 312 AB’s. Not horrible for a pitcher, but for a position player historically bad. His 312 AB’s were mercifully not enough to qualify for the all time worst seasons in batting average with Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis setting the mark in 2018 at .168. 2013 Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla and former Tigers slugger Rob Deer both are tied for the dubious honor of second place at a paltry .179 mark.
Hedges seems unlikely to significantly improve his offensive numbers unless he is willing to completely overhaul a very long swing at the plate. If he can’t provide a distinct uptick with the stick, Hedges seems less and less likely to be on the roster beyond the 2020 season and could be dealt at the trade deadline if not before. Assuming Meija hits and improves defensively like the Padres expect, Hedges will lose even more AB’s to his counterpart this season.
The Padres certainly are not short on young talent at the catcher position, which is a great luxury with so many young talented pitchers in the system. Luis Campusano, who played at Class A Lake Elsinore last year was the California League’s Co-MVP, also winning the batting title, hitting .325, and was just named among MLB Pipelines Top 100 prospects list at #50. While being the catching jewel of the system, he has caught the eye of rival organizations and has been a name prominently mentioned in trade talks. Campusano has been invited to big league camp and will get a chance to show his stuff, but is likely a couple of years away from Petco as the Padres need to see how he handles the progression from A ball to AA which is the next step for the 20 year old.
Luis Torrens, the 23-year-old catcher who was a Rule-5 pickup as you might remember from his year with the Padres in 2017, is coming off a strong campaign at AA Amarillo with a line of .300/.373/.500 and 15 HR’s. Keep an eye out for him at Petco as a reserve catcher if the Padres deal with any injuries in 2020, or if Hedges continues his struggles or is traded. He is pretty close to major league ready with more experience than most young catchers due to his year at the big league level. Blake Hunt is another name to be on the lookout for who was a Padres MLB Pipeline top 30 prospect and has shown advanced skills for his age.
The Padres are fortunate to have at least three catchers as options entering the 2020 season. However, it's also safe to say that the Padres catching position entering spring is a bit of a wild card with plenty of uncertainty simply because the Padres haven’t seen enough from Francisco Meija at the major league level to know what they truly have. If healthy, Francisco Meija has a chance in 2020 to stake his claim as the starting catcher for the San Diego Padres now and into the future.
By Mark Collier
2B GREG GARCIA
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
As the 2020 season is set to begin, a contested position battle will be for the second base job with former top prospects, career journeymen, and international talent set to duke it out. What can be forecasted, is that a fierce competition in Peoria will bring out the best in talent and ultimately send to Petco the player whose talents rose above the rest.
Newcomer Jurickson Profar is likely the favorite to get the most time at second base as we head into spring. Jayce Tingler and AJ Preller clearly have an affinity for him as Preller was rumored to be in on Profar last off-season before being traded to the A’s from the Rangers and was willing to part with not one but two top 30 team prospects to acquire him in Catcher Austin Allen and Buddy Reed. Reed, a talented yet raw athlete who has not lived up to his potential thus far in his career, was the player to be named later in the deal.
Profar, a former top prospect himself with the Rangers, actually had the distinction of being the top prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com in 2013 and is set to become a free agent at the end of the year. 2020 is a critical season in his career, being managed by a familiar face who has known him since he was a teenager and wants him to maximize his talent. Preller is hoping that Tingler can move Profar closer to the player he was projected to be when he was a Ranger. Padre fans certainly hope Preller can catch lightning in a bottle with Profar, hoping that he is one of those late bloomers who hits his stride entering his prime in a contract year.
Profar has a variety of outcomes possible for 2020 that range from starter at second base to a super utility job. Heading into this spring he will need to prove he is not a defensive liability after a rough 2019 which resulted last year in 11 throwing errors and an ugly -10 Defensive Runs Saved mark. His $5.7MM salary will give him some latitude in camp but will go only so far for a team with an edict to win this season.
Greg Garcia was a nice pickup last year who ended the year with a .364 OBP which is something the Padres covet in a bench role. He most certainly will be one of the first bats off the bench in 2020 as he has the ability to take a walk, drawing 53 in 372 plate appearances last year. You can envision him getting a handful of starts and entering the game after late inning pinch hitting duties.
Esteban Quiroz is a second baseman Preller picked up last off-season from Boston and showed similar plate discipline as Garcia last year at El Paso (AAA) but is much more of a power bat hitting 19 homers and drawing 52 walks in 366 plate appearances. Quiroz’s line was .271/.384/.539 and also showed well in the Mexican league this off-season. He’ll be in big league camp this spring and despite his smaller stature at 5’7 he could make a big push for time on the big league roster as a 28 year old in 2020.
You can’t forget about Ty France who is a natural third baseman and SDSU alum but also found himself in the mix at second base at times in 2019. France hit a whopping .399 at El Paso last year and showed signs of being a valuable depth piece for San Diego or a potential trade chip. He was serviceable at second but will only see time there if he can get on base at a higher clip and improve his plate discipline. He is a young player and very capable of making strides and has hit at every level challenged with. The Padres have to be intrigued by his power at the plate.
Last but not least, two additional players who are knocking on the Petco Park door in Jake Cronenworth, an intriguing two way prospect acquired in the Tommy Pham trade. With the addition of an extra roster spot in 2020, his ability to hit, play a middle infield position along with a mid-90’s fastball as a pitcher, he could be a nice long relief option similar to Javy Guerra who is not the hitter Cronenworth is. FInally, we can’t forget about Owen Miller who played at Amarillo last year. Miller has done nothing but hit and get on base since he joined the organization. With this position being crowded already he is likely to spend the majority of the year at El Paso but will continue to be part of the infield conversation for the next several years and is also understandably a possible trade chip for the Friars with CJ Abrams moving through the system. This second base depth has also made it easier for Preller to deal both Luis Urias and Xavier Edwards this offseason.
The real answer here is: Time will tell. Depth is an enviable problem to have and with a gluttony of talent on hand for camp, competition will be key to success for second base and beyond.
By Mark Collier
1B - Eric Hosmer
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
Eric Homser has been a four time Gold Glove award winner, a World Series champion, a Silver Slugger recipient, and a one time all star, who brought home the games MVP trophy when the mid-summer classic was hosted by San Diego in 2016. AJ Preller liked what he saw in Hosmer (he hit the game winning HR for the American League squad), enough so that he brought Hosmer to San Diego on a seven year $144 million contract as spring training began two seasons later in 2018.
After two underwhelming seasons as a Padre, Hosmer now moves into his third season in San Diego with a clear expectation for the success of the team. A new decade, a clean slate, brown is back, a healthy face of the franchise in Tatis, the addition of Tommy Pham and some other up and coming talent may be just what Eric Hosmer needs to right the ship. Hosmer is an energy guy. He’s not the same type of “energy guy” as Tatis but in the same way that he is a better player when there is some pressure to the situation. He is a ballplayer who plays for big moments and feeds off the energy of his teammates and the fans. Remember when Hosmer helped the Royals win a championship in 2015? He had had plenty of big moments in clutch situations and was brought to San Diego in part because of his experience in the postseason and his leadership in the clubhouse.
Eric Hosmer led the team in RBI’s in 2019 with 99 and also led the team in average at.265 (excluding Fernando Tatis, .317 in 334 AB’s.). Hosmer also hit 22 HR’s in 619 at bats.
When he has two outs with runners in scoring position, he hit .373/.472/.537 where he had 34 RBI’s (more than a third of his season total) and six walks in 74 plate appearances. He also had great success against his old pals in the American League hitting .350/.381/.688 in 80 at bats in interleague play. The Padres had one of the worst months of September to my recollection going 7-20 and Hosmer was hitting equally as dismal, hitting .170/.218./298 which supports the case that he is an “energy” guy and the games need to effectively matter for him to be at his best. It was pretty clear the team had thrown in the towel on Andy Green and the 2019 season and his production was simply uninspiring in September.
Many Padre observers are frustrated by Hosmer’s splits, righties versus lefties. His inability to hit lefties last season leaves the Padres wondering what 2020 will hold. If the organization is serious about trying to compete for a Wild Card spot or division title, this will not get it done while trying to dethrone the Dodgers. Speaking of the Dodgers and the NL West, perplexed is a good description to go with to describe his performance against the NL West teams in 2019. Here are the numbers for Eric “Papo” Hosmer in 75 NL West games.
BA/ OBP/SLG - (Batting Average, On Base %, Slugging %)
Perhaps facing the Dodgers the games are on a bigger stage. With numbers not great, but certainly better than the rest of the NL West it makes you wonder. Eric Hosmer played 56 games against the Dbacks, Rockies, and Giants and was lackluster, there is no way to sugar coat the numbers. That is more than a third of his games played against the teams they are going to play the most, the teams they have to beat to win a division. It’s nice to see the performance against the Dodgers. However, the Padres need more consistency in 2020 from their first basemen with the bat as well as the glove. His 14 errors committed, are the same amount he had across the previous three seasons combined.
If Hosmer does continue to struggle against lefties and division foes what are the Padres coaching staff supposed to do? Can the Padres justify a platoon for a $20 million player? Are the Padres willing to swallow their pride and sit Hosmer against lefties or do they give him a chance to make adjustments? It seems they would need to prepare for both scenarios as we are no longer on the cusp of 2020. The year we start to compete is upon us.
If Wil Myers is with the club still on Opening Day he would certainly be a platoon option at first for with Hosmer. Front office executives literally cringe at the thought of suggestion of this idea I’m sure, but with Myers having less assurance of having an outfield spot a platoon could work if the Padres continue to be saddled with his contract. What I am suggesting is two $20+ million per year players platooning at first base. The idea of any coach or executive having to step up to the microphone to answer questions about a platoon of $40+ million in team salary may be enough for this to never come to fruition. In admittance of poor judgement and failed signings is never easy, but in terms of roster construction, this could make a lot of sense as long as egos aren’t crushed and feelings prove to not be fragile.
Obviously, It really makes very little financial sense, but is probably the best scenario today assuming Myers is still with the club. To be fair to AJ Preller, I don’t think many of us could have predicted Myers stark production decline after he signed the first mega deal with the club.
Here are the splits for Myers and Hosmer from 2019:
Based on the current roster, other options that could platoon with Hosmer at first base are newcomer Jurickson Profar and holdover Ty France. Depending on health and camp, Profar could slot anywhere from the starting second baseman to a super utility player roving around the diamond. Ty France would be a logical platoon partner, with a .509 slugging percentage against southpaws last year in limited duty. Ideally, Hosmer rebounds to his 2017 form that saw him make an all star appearance in route to a .318/.385/.498 slash line which encouraged the Padres front office to make a Jayson Werth style signing to signify a change in culture and competitiveness that the new Padres ownership are embracing.
With spring training upon us there is uncertainty at a position where the Padres are paying for certainty. The path to the first winning season in over ten years becomes a lot more clear with a successful Eric Hosmer in the middle of the lineup.
By Mark Collier
On Friday December 6th the Padres finalized a deal that brought Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Tommy Pham to the Padres along with infield prospect Jake Cronenworth in exchange for slugger Hunter Renfroe and MLB #72 ranked prospect Xavier Edwards, and a minor league player to be named later.
Pham, 31 has a propensity for getting on base and stealing bases which puts him in select company. Over the past three seasons, only 2019 AL MVP Mike Trout, 2019 NL MVP Runner Up Christian Yelich, and perennial MVP candidate Mookie Betts had a higher on base percentage among outfielders that also had at least 50 SB as well. Pham is in elite company with this crew and he now brings his talented resume to the top of San Diego's lineup being guided by first year manager Jayce Tingler. The Padres feel they are ready to compete in 2020 and a healthy Pham will be a critical component to their success.
Tommy Pham: 2019 Playoff Performance
Tampa Bay Rays
Written By Mark Collier
RP - MATT STRAHM (Photo Credit: Mark Collier)
One very notable rule change that will take place in the 2020 MLB season is once a team makes a pitching change, now that pitcher must face a minimum of three batters or get three outs, obviously whichever comes first.
Why does this matter?
First off, the days of lefty specialists (such as former Padres Ryan Buchter) who would come in to face a a single hitter is effectively being phased out of the game. Why? Presumably as part of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's goal of speeding up the game. The goal here is to eliminate the amount of pitching changes and mound visits.
What makes this update significant is that this rule change changes the strategy of the game which is fairly uncommon for MLB rule changes.
Managers also now have to give even more consideration to how and when they'll use their bullpen arms and general managers now likely will target via free agency or in trades pitchers for the middle innings who can get out both right handed and left handed pitchers. In all likelihood many of these players will be converted starters or bullpen arms who are used to throwing an inning or two.
- What pitcher should I bring in given the requirement to face three hitters?
- Who are the next three hitters?
- Will we see more starters converted to relievers? Drew Pomeranz and Matt Strahm come to mind.
Spring Training will be a good opportunity to see the rule change in action. I'm currently not sold on this update to be honest, but I do understand the reasoning behind it. Its safe to say that by early March 2020 we'll know more about how drastic this change will be for players and managers. Fingers crossed that this is an improvement that helps the game.
By: Mark Collier
LHP MACKENZIE GORE (Photo Credit: Mark Collier)
Well Padres fans...we made it. The year the franchise promised us we would be competitive and make it to the postseason is on the horizon. So naturally we should start to talk about how we are going to accomplish this feat.
First things first. Ron Fowler has stressed progress so let's aim high but also be realistic for 2020. Let’s grab a wildcard spot, which means we should target at least 90 wins. For perspective, the Brewers had 89 wins this past season which was the lowest win total of any playoff team. As a lifelong Padres fan, a win total plus 90 seems daunting, but the bar has been set high and we should now expect more from this team and the franchise that seems ready to settle for nothing less than winning...or else “heads will roll.”
So how do we win at least 20 more games and grab a wildcard spot?
If you watched this years World Series the mantra, “you can’t have too much pitching” rang true yet again. Scherzer, Strasburg, Cole, and Grienke are the type of pitchers that are going to help a franchise get into the postseason and win games in the World Series. So I started asking myself, if the Padres had a postseason game today who would get the starting nod? My bet is that it would be Chris Paddack. The reins are off this year and the “Sheriff” seems poised to take a major leap forward and establish himself as ace material. Chris will also need to show he can beat clubs like the Dodgers which will gave Jayce Tingler the confidence to want Paddack on the hill in the biggest of situations. We saw the signs in 2019 and a step forward in 2020 will be crucial to us sniffing the postseason.
Behind Paddack there are a handful of talented and also unproven arms that will inevitably be in the rotation from the opening series or at some point during the season that each have different things to prove in order to earn a spot. There is room for optimism here, but a dose of reality is needed here before we go further. The options we have today will not lead this club to 90 wins.
Garret Richards returns the rotation and should have with improved stamina and overall arm strength. He will need to be able to give the Padres north of 150 innings while providing much needed veteran stability to the rotation while winning 12-15 games.
Dinelson Lamet and Joey Luchessi will also need to provide consistency and build on last years performance. If one of them can take a big leap forward (my money would be on Lamet) this will ease the burden on the bullpen as well as Richards and Paddock. Lamet has the potential to be an ace for the Friars.
Mackenzie Gore and Luis Patino seem destined to make their appearance in San Diego at some point. It would not be practical to expect either of them to throw over 100 innings at the big league level, but would be exciting if one of them showed dominance from the beginning, but is not something we should expect their rookie seasons.
The reality is the most important arm on this years staff is not even with the club today. It has become very very clear that the AJ Preller led Padres need to land an ace. Someone who has proven their worth either in the postseason or at the top of a rotation and is ready to grab the reigns at the top of youngest staff in the majors even with Garrett Richards as part of the group. This staff ace is going to cost us in dollars or prospects but this move is necessary for Preller who has effectively been put on the clock by Ron Fowler to turn this team into a winner.
The Padres have young unproven rotation talent so they desperately need someone like a Zach Wheeler or Madison Bumgarner to take the top spot in the rotation. There are other candidates we’ll consider like Cole Hamels, but only as a secondary option, he is no longer an ace. My ideal pitcher for the Padres to land is Madison Bumgarner as he brings a winning pedigree and attitude the Padres need right now and is a big game pitcher. A three year deal with a fourth year as an option seems fair, but at this point in the offseason we simply don’t know enough about what Bumgarner will command but the good news is that the Padres are already showing interest. Plus, MadBum can rake for a pitcher which is nice for a club who could use some more offensive production.
At the end of the day I don’t think the Padres can compete with what Strausburg or Cole will command on the open market and they will have to put their stock in the youth and a select veteran or two. With the money the Padres spent on Machado and Hosmer the club needs to make some smart plays on putting together an improved rotation for 2020. We simply can’t afford to invest money in a veteran arm that doesn’t produce. More bluntly, our investment in a frontline starter cannot yield a James Shields result.
Clearly there are other elements to this ball club that need to be addressed, but no area is more glaring than the starting pitching. I’m not as concerned about the offense which needs to improve but areas of deficiency will be addressed in some capacity. The reality is two years ago that Clayton Richard was our Opening Day starter. We’ve come a long way since then and there is still work to do, but there is reason for optimism.