3. Brad Hand
2018 Projections (Steamer): 65 innings pitched, 28% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate, 3.32 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 0.8 fWAR
There is no relief pitcher in baseball who has had a more surprising string of success over the last two years than left-hander Brad Hand. After toiling in the Marlins organization for nearly eight years, Hand broke through in a big way after being claimed on waivers by the Padres in the beginning of the 2016 season. Since then, Hand has been nearly untouchable, striking out 215 batters to just 61 walks while posting a 2.56 ERA and holding batters to a .192/.269/.316 slash line and .256 wOBA. Very quietly, Hand has become one of the most valuable relief pitchers in all of baseball, and the Padres made him even more valuable when they signed him to an extension that keeps him in San Diego through at least 2020 with an option for 2021.
Despite signing Hand to an extension, it’s still unclear if Hand will really be a part of the Padres next good team. At just 28 years old, it isn’t out of the question that Hand can still be pitching well in 2020 when the Padres should be ready to field a competitive team. However, pitcher health is always questionable, so anything can happen between now and then. At this point, Hand is either a highly valuable trade asset this season or next, or perhaps a member of the Padres roster through the remainder of his new contract in 2020 or 2021. Either way, Hand will be an immensely valuable asset for the Padres for the foreseeable future. And that’s a crazy thing to think about giving that he was a waiver wire claim in 2016.
2. Wil Myers
2018 Projections (Steamer): 142 games, 615 plate appearances, 10.9% walk rate, 25.5% strikeout rate, .251/.337/.464, 113 wRC+, 0.6 BsR, -10.2 DEF, 2.0 fWAR
Where do you even start with Wil Myers? You would probably struggle to find a more disappointing player on the Padres 2017 roster than Myers. Given his 2016 breakout of sorts, many fans expected even bigger things for Myers in 2017. While Myers did have the best power season of his career with a career-high 30 home runs, he saw a sizable decline in his batting average, a slight decline in his on base percentage, and even bigger declines in his baserunning and defensive value. All told, Myers was not nearly the same player he was during his big first half of the 2016 season.
Going into 2018, it appears there is once again optimism for Myers. With Hosmer now behind Myers in the lineup, there is some hope that Myers can put together a more productive season at the plate now that he has less pressure to be the guy in a weak lineup. Now he can be the secondary guy in a much improved lineup in 2018. The more interesting thing to watch will be how Myers adjusts to being moved back to right field, his original big league position way back in 2014 with the Tampa Bay Rays. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Myers have a solid season after somewhat disappointing in 2017. Long term, Myers is probably in San Diego to stay, although there remains a possibility that Myers could be a trade piece somewhere down the line. With his big contract, though it is not as big as Hosmer’s contract, Myers may end up being hard to move. The more likely scenario is he ends up being a good but not great option for the Padres over the next few years while the likes of Hosmer, Urias, Tatis, and others take the spotlight. At least in an ideal world.
2018 Projections (Steamer): 135 games, 604 plate appearances, 6.5% walk rate, 17.4% strikeout rate, .259/.311/.402, 90 wRC+, 0.0 BsR, 7.0 DEF, 1.9 fWAR
This was definitely a tough call to make, but there is not a player on the Padres 40-man roster who has the potential upside of Manuel Margot. Because Margot plays a premium position in center field, and does it with solid defense and a good amount of speed, he has the possibility to be one of the core pieces of the Padres immediate and long term future. Acquired by the Padres in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to Boston, Margot has been biding his time the last several years with a new team waiting for his chance. That chance came in 2017, with Margot playing the entirety of his season in the big leagues. A few injuries cut into Margot’s playing time a little bit, but he was still able to see a sizable amount of playing time in center field in San Diego.
All told, Margot played in 126 games with over 529 plate appearances to his credit. Although Margot was somewhat uninspiring at the plate, he did put together a league average season by fWAR given his defensive and baserunning contributions. Margot was a clear plus in center field and also provided 17 stolen bases and overall solid baserunning on the year. Going into 2018, Margot looks to build off his debut season, although his projections look eerily similar to his 2017 season. At this point, Margot is going to need to move his overall batting line closer to league average, or perhaps add even more power (he hit 13 home runs last year), in order to become an above average regular in center. However, even without much offensive improvement, Margot should still have a pretty safe floor as a slightly above league average contributor in center field because of his defensive and baserunning value. On top of that, he seems slotted in to be the Padres leadoff hitter for the next several years as the team turns the corner. If he can unlock more at the plate and push himself to the 110-115 wRC+ range with 15-20 home runs, Margot could place him into all-star caliber player territory. With the safe floor and that kind of upside, Margot is clearly the most valuable player currently on the Padres 40-man roster.