Every year since 2009, I’ve spent some time before the season starts trying to find out what fanbases are thinking about their team. It’s so easy to get myopic, especially with Twitter, so it’s a good chance for us (and by us, I mean me) to take a step back and remember there are 29 other Major League Baseball teams. We’ve got current bloggers, former bloggers that indulge me still, and this year a few media folks chiming in as well. Get out the bat, ball, and glove: it’s time once again to play some pepper.
San Diego Padres
66-96, fifth in NL West
Website | Twitter
Last year’s Pepper
San Diego. A team that was less than competitive last year and a team that wasn’t on the radar for big moves. Until they were. The late acquisition of Manny Machado sent Padres fans into an unexpected frenzy as their team landed one of the biggest fish available. Sounds nice, huh? We’ve got some Padres folks here today to talk about this team and, occasionally about things that aren’t Manny Machado.
|Scott Dunsmore||Ghost of Ray Kroc/The Kept Faith||GhostofRAK|
|Jodes Paranal||Gaslamp Ball||jodes0405|
|Richard Dorsha||East Village Times||outsidepaint|
C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? What was good, what was bad, what else should they have done?
Scott: IT WAS THE GREATEST OFFSEASON IN PADRES HISTORY!
Jodes: It’s safe to say this was one of the better offseasons in a long time for Padres fans. I’m still reeling from the Manny Machado signing – something I honestly didn’t think was going to happen. That was obviously the highlight of the offseason, though I also really like the Garrett Richards acquisition. After Machado, I was a little bummed about not being able to snag Bryce Harper as well (I know, greedy), but I would have also liked to see the Padres try to find more high-level pitching. I’ll just have to be patient and see how the young pitchers in the system develop, and/or what kind of staff AJ Preller can piece together over the next few years as the Padres become more competitive and start to seriously contend.
Richard: This would have been a totally different answer 2 weeks ago. In the simplest terms possible, Padre fans are losing their minds over Manny Machado. His signing makes sense in so many ways. First, despite the Padres’ top farm system, the organization is woefully thin at the third base position. In fact, it was pretty much the only position without sufficient depth. Machado not only solves that conundrum, but it also allows the team to shop Hudson Potts, who would have been the third baseman of the future, to try and find a pitcher. I don’t think AJ Preller is done wheeling and dealing this Spring. I fully expect the team to acquire a starting pitcher before opening day. What was bad? I mean… they didn’t get Bryce Harper, also.
C70: Greg Garcia isn’t obviously a key to the season or anything, but as a former Cardinal we have a soft spot for him. What’s his role going to be with the team this season?
Scott: WHO CARES? THEY SIGNED MANNY MACHADO! GREG GARCIA CAN GO TO HADES FOR ALL I CARE!
Sorry. Sorry. I don’t know what came over me there. Garcia is a San Diego (Valhalla High) native, so this is a sort of homecoming for him. Having said that, the best he can hope for is a utility infielder role. I would not be shocked to see him start the season with the Padres and then get sent to AAA when Fernando Tatis Jr. gets called up.
Jodes: Padres fans have a soft spot for him also, considering he is a native San Diegan and how excited he seems to be coming back here to play. Like you said, he’s not a key to the season, but he will still play an important role as a utility guy off the bench. That he is a lefty and can serve as a backup shortstop are definitely valuable assets, especially after the team parted ways with Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje over the offseason.
Richard: He has the inside track to win a spot on the opening day roster, albeit on the bench. His left handed bat is key because this team predominantly hits from the right side. I don’t how many starts he’ll get, but he’ll back up at short primarily. Even though he’s a former Cardinal, he is also a local (he grew up and went to high school in a San Diego suburb). I’m also looking forward to seeing him play defense, I’ve been told he’s pretty good in the field. I’m pulling for him to contribute.
C70: Garrett Richards moves to the NL after a career in the other league. What are the expectations for him this year?
Scott: Nothing. I expect to not hear anything about him until 2020. And even then, I will expect nothing.
Until the Machado signing, Richards and Ian Kinsler were the big pickups of the 2018-19 offseason. To say Padres fans were excited would have been not only a lie but a lie of such massive proportions that it would have bordered on delusion.
Jodes: As someone still recovering from Tommy John surgery, the expectations for him this year are minimal. The Padres just recently moved him to the 60-day injured list and he isn’t even expected to be back until late this season or possibly even next season. But beyond that I think the expectations are considerably high thanks to his success in the past. The Padres invested in him for the future, knowing he wouldn’t be much help in 2019. But by 2020-2021 much of the Padres’ incredibly talented farm system will have made (or will soon be making) it to the big leagues, and Richards will hopefully be a key part of those teams. So this year, I would say we’re just hoping he is able to rehab from surgery, regain his health, and start to return to form so that he can be ready to lead the next groups of pitchers to come up from the minors.
Richard: Richards was signed for the same reason as Machado and Hosmer. The team expects him to be recovered and fully healthy when it makes its big push for contention in 2020. That said, he could make some appearances with the big club this year. He’s already rehabbing his arm and I haven’t heard about any setbacks, yet. The team will take it slow but if he makes enough progress he could see some light work in 2019, as a part of his rehab plan. But, to be clear, he was specifically signed to be in the rotation in 2020.
C70: What is your general outlook for 2019? Where will they finish in the division?
Scott: Third place. Improved record, but not quite to .500. Let’s say 79-83, but that’s me being all sunshine and lollipops. And that’s only because the Diamondbacks and Giants have actually gotten worse since last season. The Dodgers and Rockies have pretty much stayed the same.
Jodes: It’s generally positive, though I don’t see them winning the division just yet. Adding Manny Machado definitely moves them up the rankings, but most of the Padres’ talent is still in the minors. That said, I would predict a third place finish in the division.
Richard: The window for this team opens next year. The fan base has been waiting (kinda)patiently since 2015 for the team to return to contention and we’re almost there. That said, the 2019 season should be interesting. Adding Machado’s offense and defense instantly improves the infield. I think Hosmer rebounds from a bad 2018 season, Wil Myers should be healthy and Hunter Renfroe showed tremendous progress last year. This team will score runs, no doubt.
The pitching is just a huge question mark. No one knows who gets the opening day start, or the second day and so on. There are plenty of options in both the minors and the majors, there’s even been chatter about using a six-man rotation, but no one knows anything concrete. I’d really like to think the team will be at or above .500 for the first time since 2010, but I’m not sure they have enough pitching to make it. 78 wins is the high-water mark, in my opinion.
C70: What’s the biggest question for this team going into the season and what’s the answer to it?
Scott: The answer was Manny Machado. The question was third base.
The second question is the rotation. As far as the answer? 🤷🏻♂️
The Padres ownership has already come out and said they’re not planning on adding any starting pitching to the roster before Opening Day. These pitchers are all so young and inexperienced that there is just no way to predict what’s going to happen. All we can do is hope for the best and that Bryan Mitchell suffers some sort of season-ending injury before Opening Day.
Jodes: How quick does the pitching get here, and do any of them have that extra gear to become a true ace of the staff? Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, and Jacob Nix figure to break camp with the team and build off of varying degrees of successful rookie seasons but all currently profile as mid rotation starters. Of the next group behind them (Logan Allen, Chris Paddack, and Cal Quantrill) Paddack is the one that has fans dreaming back to the days of watching Jake Peavy come up. After missing all of 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery Paddack returned last year and put up solid numbers between high A and AA (120 strikeouts to 8 walks with a 2.10 ERA in 90 innings). Going forward the Padres will continue to monitor his innings which could lead to a decreased workload later in the season, but look for him to be up with the big league team by May, if not earlier.
Richard: Probably gave it away with the last question, but it’s the starting rotation. I don’t think any Padre starter collects 30 starts this year, and I’m not sure anyone makes it to 25. The team is probably going to throw a bunch of arms at the proverbial wall to see what sticks. Some guys are back from last year: Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Luis Perdomo, Bryan Mitchell (heaven help us). Then, there are some young guys, Chris Paddack being the most interesting. Dallas Keuchel would be a nice solution (but only on a 3-year deal) as well as Gio Gonzalez (for 1 year, or 1 year with an option). Or, as mentioned before, trade a prospect or 2 for a starter.
C70: What do you expect will give you the most joy watching this team on a regular basis this season?
Scott: The infield defense, especially if and when Tatis Jr. is deemed ready for the big leagues. Machado, Tatis Jr., Luis Urías, and Eric Hosmer should make it almost impossible to get on base on a ground ball against the Padres.
Jodes: I think this team really has a fire lit under them since the Padres signed Machado. Seeing the players react to that news with such excitement was awesome, and the general atmosphere in San Diego since then has been electric. I think that excitement and hope for the future will make this season a really fun one. It’s the first time in a really long time that Padres fans have a true superstar on the team, and not only will it be fun to watch him mash at Petco Park, but I think he’ll make the team more competitive and just raise the overall level of talent around him.
Richard: The young studs are on the way and some will arrive this year. Saying I am excited to see the kids play would be a large understatement. Fans are eagerly waiting Fernando Tatis at shortstop and I will make a point to buy a ticket to be at the yard for his debut. I don’t think the team wants to start his free agent clock this year, so I don’t think he comes up until late in May.
Then, there’s the arms. I’ve already mentioned Paddack and he is a complete stud with 3 different major-league quality pitches he can throw for a strike in any count. After those 2, there’s just a list of pitchers I can’t wait to see at some point this year: Adrian Morejon, Luis Patino, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill. Throw in Francisco Mejia and Luis Urias who played last year and this team is young and talented. Things are starting to get really, really exciting. My poor wife will be a baseball widow for a significant portion of this season.
My thanks to all of the above for taking time out of standing in line for a Machado jersey to give us some insight. It certainly sounds like San Diego is a team on the rise and we’ve seen teams open their window a little sooner than expected. Maybe that’ll be the Padres!