It feels like just last year the Padres were sending out their team calendar with the majority of the months taken up by players who didn’t play for them. Now look at them! Out of all of the 30 MLB teams, the San Diego Padres are without a doubt one of those teams to watch out for – seriously!
In the last few 30 in 30s, we’ve seen a lot of bottom-feeding teams with bright futures, but none of them are as bright as the San Diego Padres. And in 2020 we saw the reality of just how good they could be when the farm comes to the show.
Fernando Tatis, Jr. IS A BEAST
OPS is an interesting metric because of what it tells us about a player, but it can also actually hide things about a player’s abilities. For example, Barry Bonds‘ 2004 OPS was a preposterous 1.422. The average fan will look at that number and say “yeah, the dude mashes dongs, no wonder his OPS is huge,” the interesting thing is how his walks played into that number.
Bonds was walked more times in that season than any other point in his career. Even further, Bonds walked more times than any other player in a single season. Without his equally preposterous .604 On-Base Percentage, aided by walks, more than half of them being intentional, his OPS would have still been high, but not insanely large.
What does this have to do with Tatis, Jr.?
In his injury-shortened 2019 season, Fernando Tatis, Jr. led all MLB shortstops with a .969 OPS. Xander Bogaerts, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor– all of them had a lower OPS than Tatis, Jr. Did they hit more home runs? Yes. Did the strikeout less? No. Did they walk more? Yes, actually. So what’s the difference?
Fernando Tatis, Jr. is a dangerous hitter who can take you to all fields and can fly on the base paths. Despite only playing half the season, he still had 6 triples, which puts him just outside of the top 10 for this year. In 84 games, he had 106 hits. If he replicates those numbers in the second half, he could potentially win the batting title.
Playing in only 84 games, Tatis Jr. proved to the league that his bat was one to be feared. Not bad for a guy who was traded for James Shields.
But of course, all good things must end.
After setting the Padres on fire, the living highlight reel suffered a string of injuries that shut him down for the remainder of the season. This was a smart move for San Diego, as Tatis Jr. has been having back issues for a while. And as someone very familiar with back injuries, fixing them now will help in the long run.
Playing just over half the season, and still putting up these numbers is amazing for Tatis, Jr, earning himself a spot as a finalist for NL Rookie of the Year. This kid is going to be something special in the years to come, and he’ll be doing it at a fraction of the cost of some other big names on his team.
Chris Paddack. Flame Thrower.
Chris Paddack entered the 2019 season as the #66 ranked prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America and a mid-thirties prospect according to Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com. Ahead of Paddack on those lists was Mackenzie Gore, who honestly might as well be the second coming of Christ based on the anticipation of his MLB debut.
Paddack wasted no time stepping out of Gore’s shadow and put up some truly insane numbers for March/April. Over the first month of his MLB career, Paddack started six games for the Padres. Over that 6 game stretch, he held opposing hitters to just 14 hits and 7 earned runs. That’s good enough for a 1.91 ERA and a 0.697 WHIP, putting up a whopping 9.7 K/9. The guy was on fire.
And still, Pete Alonso was named April’s Rookie of the Month.
This, obviously, didn’t sit well with Chris “I am Greg Maddux” Paddack, who had some things to say about it. And honestly, he’s not completely wrong there. Paddack was insanely good in the first month, but could he maintain?
The answer is yes and no. Paddack’s first start in May was against Alonso’s Mets and he went with the “put up or shut up” approach. Over 7.2 innings, the young Padres starter fanned 11 Metropolitans allowing no runs and just 4 hits. Way to make a statement, Chris. Also, the Mets were/are trash.
His second May start is where things began to crumble, and a pattern began to emerge. After his first seven starts, Paddack posted a 6-6 record, getting touched up for 4+ runs by big swinging teams. Paddack had 5 games over his final 19 starts where he gave up 4 or more earned runs. Those teams were the Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees and the Phillies twice, all of them boasting lineups with serious power.
Paddack’s ERA would steadily climb over the remainder of the season, topping out at 3.84 in late August, but that doesn’t mean that his season was lost. On the contrary, Chris Paddack is my #1 player to watch in 2020 for that exact reason.
Early on thisseason, when he was hotter than hell, Paddack shot venom at other Rookies. As time went on and Paddack faltered other rookies like Mike Soroka and Dakota Hudson pulled ahead of him, eventually earning Rookie of the Year votes. Paddack received zero Rookie of the Year votes, despite having a solid season in his first year.
After being passed over for Rookie of the month in the first one of his career, he then failed to make the ROY ballot at the end of the year. There is no way Chris Paddack doesn’t remember that every time he takes the mound in 2020. No way.
The biggest offseason acquisition for the Padres was Manny Machado. The Padres have been very active over the last few years in snagging the top available free agents each offseason. Paired with their ability to evaluate prospects, San Diego has been slowly constructing a competitive team. First it was Eric Hosmer, and this past offseason it was Manny Machado, the former Baltimore Orioles phenom.
Manny, much like Hosmer before him, had a tough debut season on San Diego, underperforming across the board. That was always going to happen. Manny Machado came from an Orioles team with guys like Adam Jones and Chris Davis, who took the franchise superstar roles, allowing Manny to be the young powerhouse star.
Now that he’s one of the highest-paid players in the league, Manny’s job description has shifted. No longer can he be the young hotheaded, free-swinging, recklessly negligent player he was for both Baltimore and Los Angeles. He’s got to be THE guy and that’s a role that takes time to settle into.
But if there’s one thing I know to be true about Manny Machado, it’s that he’s ferociously competitive. The longer this team struggles and he’s the cause, the more likely you’ll see him show up in a big way.
The Padres are unlike any other basement dwelling team, in that their future is just around the corner. By acquiring Tommy Pham for Hunter Renfroe and a “Slap-d**k prospect”, the Padres now have an insanely potent offense. And it’s one that’s only going to age like a fine wine.
The Padres were the second youngest team in the majors, with an average player age of 26. This team is built on youth and with the majority of their farm system still honing their talents. The Padres are priming themselves not just for a championship run, but a championship reign.
Cheri Bell of FanSided’s Padres site, Friars On Base, perfectly summed up this upcoming season for San Diego.
“If the Padres coax consistent production from Hosmer, the two other outfielders not named Tommy Pham, whoever is manning second base, and even mediocre production from the catching position they could easily win over 85 games in 2020.
It is not overstating matters to say that much of the success of 2020 rests on the production and leadership from Tatis Jr and Machado.”– Cheri Bell, Friars On Base
That’s the blueprint, and frankly it’s one the Padres could easily accomplish.
For years, the team that plays in PetCo Park has been an absolute disaster. But it’s possible, that 2020 is the year of the Dads.
You have been warned. The Dads are coming.
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