A Reality Check on the Padres’ Future

Credit: MiLB.com
Credit: MiLB.com

OVEREXPOSURE TO HIGH-RISK INVESTMENTS – PROSPECTS

Trading quality, established MLB talent for prospects is like trading investments with long and strong records of returns for lottery tickets—or to be more fair—junk bonds. I know some are thinking, “all the scouts say these guys are going to be great…what do you know?” Well, the scouts’ batting average isn’t very high. One in six signed draftees will ever see a single minute of MLB action. Even fewer play for any length of time—and still fewer excel in that length of time. If they excel over that time—the Padres would need to be willing to pay those players good-sized contracts to see them stay. Is it all possible? Absolutely…like tornadoes in San Diego. It’s possible. It just isn’t probable.

Even high first-round picks rarely pan out. The Padres have had eight Top-Ten first-round picks since 2000. How’d it go? The best of them was Tim Stauffer. Some were traded away (Trea Turner, etc.). Then there were the Matt Bush‘s and Donavan Tate’s. I’m not saying none of our prospects will pan out. I’m saying VERY few of them will pan out. That’s the data.

At the beginning of the season, one publication remarked, “Your number one prospect Javier Guerra is your shortstop of the future.” Now batting .200 at Lake Elsinore and injured he clearly isn’t. Today, the comment next to him in Baseball America’s Top 100 now reads: “Guerra’s 2016 season has been a disaster. He’s still ranked solely on the memory of the power and defense he showed in 2015.” He could rebound, but the odds are looking longer every day. That’s baseball.

THAT’S THE WAY THE BASEBALL ROLLS

Prospects are a high-risk business. To build with that risk as the future’s foundation without a plan to balance the franchise at the MLB level isn’t a plan. It’s foolhardy, and leads me to believe the Padres could be entering the Jeff Moorad cycle of perpetual, cheap “rebuilding for the future,” instead of a concrete, balanced plan of wise, broad, organizational renewal from MLB on down.

I’m not all negative on the Padres future. I’ll write soon on reasons for optimism. Here, I’m offering a reality check for both my fellow Padres fans and yes, even Padres management. Based on the imbalance in the organization and the youth of the current star prospects, we are looking to 2019 or 2020 before the playoffs are likely to be sniffed, and that’s only if the Padres make some free agent signings and have unusual success with their prospects.

Most of the Padres best talent is in the low minors (high-risk), and the talent in the high minors largely plays the same position—and that position isn’t pitcher. A.J. Preller needs to tweak his plan by re-balancing the franchise, acquiring some prospects who are old enough to vote, and bringing in some legitimate major league talent to provide leadership and play alongside the youngsters as they mature.

Help us see a more well-rounded plan, A.J. We want to keep the faith.

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Tim Spivey
Tim is a former pitcher and avid, life-long baseball fan. He is also a husband, father, pastor, writer, and professor...who drinks a lot of coffee.

3 thoughts on “A Reality Check on the Padres’ Future

  1. Fun fact, I actually made an account simply to reply to you this lone, pessimistic, joke of an article. This is sincerely one of the most off-base, and negative articles referring towards the Padres as i’ve seen in some time, and that’s certainly saying something. Nearly EVERY statement you made in this article is, at best, biased and controversial, and at worst, ignorant. Let’s start with the “Lack of quality pitching”. While Clemons has been very inconsistent, he also isn’t expected to be the 1-3 in a major league rotation. Do you honestly believe Preller thinks for a second that Clemons will be an anchor in the Padres 2019 Rotation, regardless if we’re contending or not? He’s eating innings, so that out young pitchers don’t have to (same with Edwin Jackson, and Clayton Richard). Perdomo has also been lights out in the second half, and generally speaking, since he joined our rotation. His era is inflated heavily due to him getting hit hard and often in the first 2 months or so of the season. Cosart, since being acquired and slotted into our rotation, has been phenomenal as well, currently with an ERA under 2.50 in San Diego (whilst also showing insane improvements in tempo and command). And as for Tyson Ross, he wasn’t “lit up” in LE (though rehab stats matter very, very little). His issue was his command and walking batters, which is who he is. He will always be a tad erratic with his delivery and natrual movement on his pitches. You then convinentley skip EVERY promising pitcher we currently have in El Paso, and San Antonio, while (of course), doing best to curb enthusiasm on the pitchers currently working on minor changes and mechanics in the low levels, such as Ft. Wayne and Tri City. Eric Lauer, whom you group with Morejon, Quantrill, and Espinosa, is NOT “years away”; if you bothered to read his scouting report out of Kent State, he was expected to move very quickly through the minor leagues, although more than likely having a low ceiling to go along with his high floor, a-la Mike Leake when drafted by Cincinatti. Seeing as he’s surpassed nearly all expectations thus far, many believe he’ll get a cup of coffee next year in SD, depending on the success of our team and our pitching staff.

    As for the upper minor leauges, and our “lopsided organizational depth”, such as outfield, you quicky contradict yourself by pointing out how many outfielders we have, and how this isn’t a good way to field a contending team, despite how in the paragraph prior, you stated how “1 in 6 prospects approximately” make an impact in the big leauges. SS isn’t a “ridicously lean” spot in our minor leauges, either. In fact, we have several shortstops who can handle the position defensivley, such as Jose Rondon, Javier Guerra, Luis Sardinas, or Alexi Amarista, while we have others who seem to hit well enough, but lack the ability to play short defensivley, such as Franchy Cordero. So while we may not have the highest ceiling at shortstop, we possess passable depth, at worst, at the position, throughout the organization. The same can be said for third base, as what we lack for one or two can’t miss prospects, we have quality depths, as we have raw players with high upside, such as Fernando Tatis Jr, as well as players with little left to prove in the minors, such as Carlos Asjuae, or the aforementioned Rondon (who some profile better as a super-utility player due to his defense prowess).

    And while you’re certainly correct by saying (and thinking) that the vast majority of our high-risk prospects won’t make a major impact, or one at all, to say it’s “like trading in investments for junk bonds/lottery tickets” is foolish. Even if they don’t make, they all still have value, be it as depth, or even as potential trade chips if OTHER prospects pan out and we suddenly don’t need as many as we do at the moment.

    I realize there are many different types of fans, different levels of patience and different needs to keep certain fans, as opposed to others. That’s fine. If you want to be doubtful, or just skeptical or preller’s vision, that’s fine. But attempting to convince or persuade others to match your personal levels of skepticism, particularly fresh off of one of the best International Free Agent signing period in recent memory, not just for us, but for ANY team, comes off as overly pessimistic, and it’s the last thing we as a fan base need.

    1. Hi William,

      I appreciate the passion, but I’d suggest respectfully your way of approaching the issues are the reason I wrote the article. Every point you make assumes the rosiest possible scenario–and grants insanely charitable reviews to every person you mentioned–except Clemens. If it makes you feel better, I don’t only read the scouting reports–I follow the players throughout the season–daily–which is how I shape my opinions. Here are some things for you to consider.

      -At present, Lamet is the only MLB-caliber starting pitching prospect at AA or AAA…and he’s not ready yet either. In the case of Eric Lauer, for instance, you don’t go from Tri-City to MLB in one season. That requires–years…whether 2 or, more likely, 3. MLB.com pegs his arrival as 2018. Notice I said, “FULL-TIME” in the article with regards to the pitching prospects.
      -Perdomo’s last 2 outings have been great, but they also came against the DBacks and a Stanton-less Marlins team. He’s improving, but you don’t judge someone’s performance on 2 starts. His August has been OK–not great. As I note, both he and Cosart show promise (as I mention in the article)–but I feel like you see them as Walter Johnson and Christy Matthewson after a couple of good starts.
      -Regarding the OF…my point was we have too much depth–that is all or nearly MLB ready. 1 in 6 doesn’t apply at that level. That’s the difference between them and all others discussed. I though I was clear on that…apparently not.
      -The fact is we have no credible SS who can play at the Major League level…and none at AAA–though they just place Rondon there–who struggled in his brief stint this year. Amarista? Come on. I like him…but he can’t even stay in the majors. Rondon is our best shot at this point–but his bat is a long way off. You have to have both to play in the MLB. Note, I didn’t say we didn’t have anyone with a glove–I said we are ridiculously thin in terms of people who can play in the majors (requires both bat and glove). Fernando Tatis Jr. is 17…not playing at Petco any time soon.
      -Your last sentence is important–and the point of the article. Too many Padres fans simply assume everything–every prospect–etc. is going to turn out great–like only patience is required. Far from it. Maybe that’s not what you’re saying…but it feels that way. I am pessimistic about the vision because it is high-risk and out of balance. Others are too. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not trying to win over other fans. I’m sharing my opinion. Those who disagree with you aren’t ignorant, a joke or anything else. They just disagree with you.
      -I just think it’s waaaaay too generous to see all the prospects you mention panning out and doing at a speed unknown to the minor leagues. Once/if they make the majors–assuming they will be stars is another leap of faith I’m unwilling to take. Maybe we will be exempt from the 1 in 6 (Baseball America’s study, not mine). I doubt it.

      What we need to do as a fan base is to stop blindly obeying ownership and expect credible answers–especially given the last “plan” didn’t work. I refuse to believe the Padres can’t field a non-embarrassing MLB team and rebuild the farm system at the same time. It’s unacceptable to surrender two-and-a-half seasons of baseball to the flames and say, we are depending on our prospects in a few years. The organization IS out of balance and has gaps at positions throughout the organization…and most non-outfield top-shelf prospect talent is a few years away (high-risk). There’s plenty of reason for concern. Keep the faith.

      1. Wholeheartedly agree finally something worthwhile to read in this rag! Followed them since inception and the condition of our pitching and prospects has never been worse. No credible mlb team trades an all star talent for an 18 year old. Only the very worst put all their eggs in drafting…tell me what mlb team period…has absolutely no starter from their minors getting a cup of coffee start in September? What credible organization decides Jabari Blash improves the team and gets NOTHING for 60 million invested in Matt Kemp who also cost us a catcher with more than 20 bombs for our biggest rival? We are hands down the worst run franchise in MLB…The only good to come of the franchise is the glimmer of hope they give the Chargers getting new digs..lest we have ZERO major league sports in town…

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