The San Diego Padres are all about the future at this point. Over the last few seasons the team has taken us all on a personnel roller coaster ride.
Most of us rose to varying levels of excitement in the winter of 2015 when A.J. Preller brought in a flurry of big names from around the league. Those of us who entertained that moment of excitement then experienced the drop-off when we realized that the puzzle pieces didn’t fit.
Expectations were more realistic at the start of 2016, and we understood that the Padres were not likely playoff contenders in the N.L. West. The club was pretty far below .500 at the break, so the front office basically just cleaned house, replacing many of the expensive big names with highly touted prospects. Simultaneously, they went wild in the international draft and had a fine showing in the amateur draft, restocking the farm with more young talent.
Within a very short period of time, the Padres have created one of the top farm systems in the league. So my point is that the future is looking pretty bright, and there maybe actually be some hope on the horizon. That is why I’m personally excited about the Padres’ two Minor League Players of the Year Hunter Renfroe and Dinelson Lamet.
Just last night, I had to add an addendum to my Top Five Moments of the 2016 Padres Season story, because four days after I originally wrote it, Hunter Renfroe hit a 435 foot blast to the roof of the Western Metal Supply building. He became the first player in Petco Park’s 13 year history to hit a ball up there during an official game. He did it in his seventh game as a big leaguer. The result was that I felt it necessary to award his historic bomb with the number one top moment of the season, tying it with Melvin Upton Jr. stealing home.
At the beginning of the season, MLBpipeline.com ranked Renfroe as the number three prospect in the Padres’ system. He has won awards this season almost as often as he has hit home runs. First, he won the Pacific Coast League MVP award. With Triple-A El Paso he hit 30 home runs, had a slash line of .306/.336/.577, and was instrumental in the Chihuahuas winning the PCL Championship. And that’s how he won that award. Really, that’s how he won the Minor League Player of the Year award, since his success in San Diego didn’t count towards that one.
On September 21, after the PCL championship was won, Renfroe was called up to the Padres. Through 11 games he hit four home runs, (including the Western Metal Supply bomb and a grand slam), 14 RBI and a slash of .371/.389/.800. He was named the National League player of the week for the last week of the season. So in summation, if they give certificates for these awards, Renfroe’s bedroom must look like a doctor’s office.
Renfroe won the Padres Minor League Player of the year award as a hitter, Dinelson Lamet won the pitching award. His name might not be a name as recognizable as Renfroe’s. Back in May, when Lamet was still in Lake Elsinore, my editor wrote a story called Dinelson Lamet- A Name to Remember and it seems that he was right on the money.
In 2016 Lamet was a pleasant surprise. At the beginning of the season he was the Padres’ number 18 prospect by MLBpipeline.com. He started out the season in Class-A Advanced in Lake Elsinore, went 7-1 with a 2.35 ERA and moved his way up to Double-A in San Antonio. In San Antonio he posted a 3.39 ERA and was sent up to Triple-A El Paso right before the PCL playoffs. He too had a part in the Chihuahuas championship, pitching 5 2/3 innings in the playoffs. Across all three levels, Lamet ended the season 12-10, with a 3.00 ERA and 158 strikeouts over 150 innings pitched.
I find Lamet to be a very crucial prospect at this point because pitching is real need for the Padres next season. I’m feeling quite comfortable with the lineup next year. I think things are looking great in that department. It almost even seems that the team could be competitive as soon as next year; if you look at the lineup alone. The pitching staff is a mystery though. I have no clue what the club is going to do. Maybe Tyson Ross will be back? Healthy and productive? Maybe not. Might Colin Rea be okay without surgery and able to return? Who knows? The fact that Lamet is in Triple-A and seems like he could be somewhat close to a promotion provides me with a certain sense of encouragement. I hope he’s able to mimic Renfroe’s success in adjusting to the majors. He certainly seems adaptable to change if his dynamic 2016 season, across three levels, has shown us anything.