Today's Free Picks for
Posted on March 19
San Diego over 71½ -105
It wasn't too long ago that the San Diego Padres made an ill-advised attempt to quick fix the roster and contend. During the 2014-15 offseason the Padres added Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, James Shields, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers in an effort to turn around a team that went 77-85 in 2014. The club then went 74-88 in 2015, and GM A.J. Preller started the process of tearing things down.
As a result, the Padres now have one of the game's top farm systems, but the big league roster is well short of postseason caliber. That doesn’t mean they’re going to lose over 90 games. Squint your eyes and you can see the makings of an above-average offense in San Diego. The Padres still have some holes in the lineup but so what. All teams are flawed and we don’t need anyone to go nuts to go over 71½ victories. Here is the starting eight that Manager Andy Green figures to run out there come Opening Day:
CF Manuel Margot
2B Carlos Asuaje
RF Wil Myers
1B Eric Hosmer
3B Chase Headley
LF Jose Pirela
SS Freddy Galvis
C Austin Hedges
Margot is a stud who looks destined to become a dynamic 20-homer, 40-steal, Gold Glove caliber leadoff man. Asuaje has the skills to play in this league for a decade as a high on-base middle infielder. Hedges’ is a top notch defensive catcher with pop, and those guys are hard to find. Headley and Galvis are stopgaps, not long-term solutions, but there are some nice pieces here. We can’t shake the feeling that this is the year Austin Hedges becomes a complete ballplayer, as there is no question that a next gear is waiting for him. The meat of the order (3, 4, 5 and 6) could be anywhere from below average to deadly so let’s put it somewhere in-between those two. We’re big fans of Wil Myers. Essentially, the LF field spot looks fluid going forward. Pirela has enjoyed a terrific spring, going 14-for-30 with two HR and 11 RBI’s and it suggests that his 2017 breakout (.288/.282 BA/xBA) may not have been a one-off. It sounds like he'll factor into LF and a hotly contested 2B spot early on. 2019 free-agent-to-be Freddy Galvis projects to fill the gaping Padres SS hole for most of, if not all of 2018 -- or at least until uber-prospect Fernando Tatis is ready. Galvis was unable to repeat that 2016 20 HR season but as a seventh or eighth spot batter the Padres could do a lot worse and he’s not in there for his bat.
What we know for sure is that San Diego has been named by many former and current players as the greatest place to live and play in because the weather is perfect 365 days a year. Baseball in San Diego is in a rare optimistic moment, and the addition of a real leader like Hosmer as well as the character of the team has the clubhouse very optimistic by all reports out of spring training. That’s a good place to start
That brings us to the starting rotation. The Padres have some young interesting arms, but this club was near the bottom of the league in rotation ERA (4.70) and rotation WAR (+7.5) in 2017, and it's hard not to see a major improvement. The starting rotation will likely look like this:
LHP Clayton Richard
RHP Tyson Ross
RHP Bryan Mitchell
RHP Dinelson Lamet
RHP Luis Perdomo
Ross is back with the Padres following arm problems in 2016-17 and an uninspiring showing with the Texas Rangers last year. He's in camp as a non-roster player but is healthy, and is expected to land in the rotation. Mitchell, Lamet, and Perdomo are all young and have good arms, though they're still trying to figure things out at the MLB level. Matt Strahm, Robbie Erlin, Jordan Lyles, and Colin Rea are among the depth starters. Actually, San Diego’s #1 starter might be their worst.
Luis Perdomo has not been able to turn some of his skill flashes into results yet but he’s close. A lot of that inconsistency can be blamed on his deep struggles against lefties but his skills become very roster-worthy against RH bats and feature a healthy combination of strikeouts and groundballs (8.1 K’s/9, 68% GB%) A minor tweak against lefties and things begin to look entirely different.
Dinelson Lamet posted a 4.57 ERA over 21 starts in 2017 but experts are speculating on his potential, which was especially evident in his electric skills in the first half when he averaged 12.2 K’s/9. His premium ability to generate whiffs gives him intriguing breakout appeal in 2018.
Chase Headley and RHP Bryan Mitchell were acquired by the Padres on Dec. 12, in exchange for a package including OF Jabari Blash. Obviously the key here was Mitchell, who posted intriguing Triple-A numbers—3.25 ERA, 66/13 K/BB with a big groundball tilt in 64 IP—in 2017, mostly as a starter. The 26-year-old has struggled at the MLB level (4.94/4.90 ERA/xERA over 98 IP in a mixed role over the past four seasons), and had seemingly run his course with the Yanks but he’s shown flashes and now has an established role along with piece of mid while playing for a team that wanted him. Let’s also not forget that Tyson Ross enjoyed three fine seasons in San Diego between 2013 and 2015, posting sub-3.50 ERAs and huge groundball %’s while whiffing more than a batter an inning. He now heads back to Petco after pitching in that minefield in Arlington. Yeah, there are a lot of what ifs here but that can be applied to many rotations. What if they all slightly improve from a year ago when this team won 71 games?
In lefty Brad Hand, the Padres have a bona fide shutdown closer, who could be part of a championship caliber bullpen. Beyond him there are some, well, let's call them interesting arms. They might be more useful to the Padres long-term as possible trade chips than roster players but all bullpens are made up of former starters that couldn’t cut it as a starter so they were demoted. Here’s a look at the pen but we’re not going to spend a lot of time on it because bullpens are extremely unpredictable. They are like turnovers in football in that every year the order from top to bottom is completely different:
Closer: LHP Brad Hand
Setup: RHP Craig Stammen, RHP Kirby Yates
Middle: LHP Buddy Baumann, HHP Carter Capps, RHP Kazuhisa Makita, RHP Phil Maton
Long: RHP Jordan Lyles
Capps is the wild card. He had a magnificent 2015 season with the Marlins in which he struck out 58 batters in 31 innings with a 1.16 ERA -- but he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. The Padres got him as a reclamation project in the Andrew Cashner trade and he hasn't been nearly as dominant since returning from elbow surgery. If Capps can regain his form as he gets further away from Tommy John surgery, it'll be a nice boost for the Padres. If not, oh well.
Eric Hosmer is just 28 years old and in his prime. Clearly, the Padres did not sign Hosmer only for his bat and glove. There are plenty of first basemen who hit like Hosmer -- who hit more than Hosmer, really and while his glove is good, it's not $100 million good. The Padres signed Hosmer because he's a quality player and a championship caliber clubhouse guy. They want him to be at the center, as they incorporate young players into the lineup just like what happened in Kansas City. The Padres are not delusional. They know Hosmer won't put them over the top in 2018 but he’s a player who helps on the field and even more so in a young clubhouse. Hosmer is an instant respect dude. Young players look up to him and he's the type of player a potentially good/rebuilding team wants mentoring their youngsters. It is also entirely possible that Tatis and Luis Urias will make their MLB debuts in 2018. Both reached Double-A last season and they're just that damn good.
In summarizing, the Padres are clearly making strides. This is a team that won 71 games a year ago and this year they’re being asked to win just one more lousy game to go over the number. It’s proven that pitcher’s arms get worn out less in San Diego. It’s also a market that gets very little exposure, as folks on the West Coast watch Giants, Dodgers and Angels while folks on the East Coast that stay up to watch baseball late at night do the same. This is a market that is completely unaware or uninterested in the Padres and we trust that they are being greatly overlooked here, which prompts us to move in hard on a bad number. Padres should easily go over 71½.
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San Diego over 71½ -105 (Risking 3.15 units - To Win: 3.00)