Potential Road Blocks to the Padres Rebuild

(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

The year is 2021.

It is the perennial Game 7 of the World Series. MacKenzie Gore is on the mound, trying to complete a three-inning save in a tight 2-1 ballgame. The energy within the confines of Petco Park is unlike any other it has experienced in its short lifetime. The atmosphere in the surrounding Gaslamp District is similarly intoxicating. With each pitch, the intensity and excitement exponentially increase. As the 0-2 pitch crosses the plate… we all snap back into reality.

As die-hard Padres fans, we have all had these dreams. We all remember being a naive kid at spring training trying to rationalize a way the Padres could somehow squeeze into the postseason and make a run. Heck, we have probably done this as adults as well. These pipe dreams of Padres’ success have been extraordinarily irrational, until now.

The optimism surrounding this team is unique, but certainly justified. The depth, the swagger, and everything in between has a different feel to it. Unfortunately, right now, there is no concrete evidence of major league success, but merely a feeling of hope.  

There is nothing in the world sports pundits and experts love more than these feelings. They run with them and subsequently make bold and often crazy claims for ratings that fans buy into and spread like wildfire. Take Skip Bayless for example. Not to rehash bad memories, but how many times has he predicted the Chargers to be the “favorite to win the AFC West” in the last decade?

This is not to suggest that all predictions of success and failure are based purely on gut feelings.  There are many who use facts and reason to base their opinions. And there are plenty of reasons to LOVE this Padres team moving forward. However, it is tough to ignore the track record of the San Diego Padres. You are looking at a team who has never won a World Series in its 49-year history and has only made two appearances; the last being two decades ago.

Past performance does not have much predictive validity for future performance when using a 49-year sample, but it is certainly tough to overlook as a fan. Thus, while excitement and optimism are warranted, it may be wise to take a step back and evaluate some legitimate concerns the Padres have moving forward and how those concerns may snowball into a roadblock for future success.

This piece will attempt to address a few of those glaring issues and potentially lay out contingency pathways the front office can take to resolve them. Wake up Padres fans, this is a little taste of reality.

Eric Hosmer

Many drank the Eric Hosmer Kool-Aid months ago when the team signed him to the largest free agent contract in team history. He is still fairly young and was only a couple of years separated from a World Series championship run with the Kansas City Royals. There were certainly reasons to be excited by his presence in a Padres uniform. The biggest concern was his offensive performance and how it would fair over the eight-year contract we all should be hoping he opts out of. That concern has proved itself legitimate in 2018 as he has not lived up to the hype that came with his massive contract. 

Credit: AP Photo

Arguably, the most concerning and glaring statistic from Eric Hosmer’s first year in San Diego is his ground ball to fly ball ratio, which sits at 1.60. This means that Eric Hosmer is hitting a ground ball nearly twice as many times as he is hitting a ball in the air. The only player worse in this category is Ian Desmond with a 1.74 ratio. These two are outliers in this respective category as number three on the list, Joe Mauer, has a 1.11 G/F ratio.  When you dig in a little further, you come to find that Eric Hosmer leads all MLB first basemen with 210 ground balls and is fourth in this category when you consider all other positions. This is not the type of production you want to see out of anyone, especially from someone who just received an extremely lucrative contract. 

Additionally, you can see how these numbers translate into his overall offensive value.

For example, Hosmer’s wRC+, which currently rests at 92, is the worst he has had in his career since 2012. Essentially, Hosmer has created 8% fewer runs than the average player, even when taking into consideration the fact that he plays half of his games at Petco Park. To put this into perspective, both Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges have a better wRc+ at this point in the season. While the sample size is smaller for the both of them, it is still an eye-opening statistic nonetheless.

To be clear, none of us expected Eric Hosmer to recreate his previous two years of 25 home runs, especially when changing to a more balanced ballpark. However, for him to struggle as much as he has when it comes to elevating the ball, it is time to be slightly concerned about the progression of his offensive production as we get deeper into his contract. The more problematic issue here is that there are not many plausible options for this to be remedied. The Padres have bought into him for the next eight years unless he opts out for some unforeseen reason. One thing is certain: if his performance continues to trend downward, no team will give him more money and the Padres will be stuck with his massive contract. However, given his contract is front-loaded, the Padres may have some options if they want to experiment with someone new at first base.

If, and it is a big if, Hosmer consistently underperforms throughout the 2019 season, it would be wise for the Padres to find a buyer. They would likely have to take a hit with his contract, but it would free space to try out a guy like Josh Naylor. Naylor recently turned 21 and is tearing it up in Double-A San Antonio. He is currently slashing .306/.395/.465 and is certainly a guy to keep an eye on moving forward as the Padres begin cherry-picking who they want when playoff contention begins. 

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Tanner Wrape on Twitter
Tanner Wrape
Hey everyone! My name is Tanner Wrape and I am a proud alumni of the University of California Riverside. I received my Bachelors Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Political Science. I am now living in Washington, D.C. getting my Masters Degree in Forensic Psychology at George Washington University. Currently, I am interning at the George Washington Program on Extremism which is a think-tank dedicated to better understanding terrorism, extremist ideologies and radicalization.

While my work deals with some heavy topics, sports have always been a great way to wind down and relax. I have been a fan of the Padres since I was a little kid and I played baseball up through high school. Hit me up on Twitter if you ever want to chat about anything.

This article has 22 Comments

  1. When Preller arrived he went for it bycdealung from a mediocre farm system. As fans, we haven’t had anything to get excited about for awhile before that. It didn’t work out and we really only lost Tre Turner in the process. After that he changed course, hit a homer on the International front and now has a future blue print for success with our farm. Once those guys are mostly up in the next 2 years, he can fill a remaining weakness with a trade. But we have to be excited he’s exploring all trade options in case a smoking deal comes along like the Kimbrel trade. I’m digging where we are headed!

  2. Heck, by 2021, Hosmer could have been traded away, or could be a really good player for us. His contract is backdated in the Padres favor, making it easier to deal him later in the contract. So, he may be a boon for us, either hitting and playing a strong 1B, or by netting us other players to meet needs.

  3. Has anyone seen an interview where Hosmer was asked about how he might be working on hitting fewer ground balls? Is he just being obstinate (as one article suggested)?

  4. All teams, even teams like the 2017 Astros, add proven talent from the outside. Preller has indeed built a well regarded farm system, but he inspires no confidence whatsoever in his acumen in trading for proven MLers. Think back to the Kemp trade, or the Shields signing, the Kimbrel/Upton acquisition, or adding clubhouse cancer Derek Norris. Terrible moves all. Not interested in “ancient history” ? Then look at recent moves like the Myers extension or the Hosmer signing.
    There is a very clear Jekyll & Hyde pattern at work here: great when trading veterans for prospects, hopeless when adding veterans. At some point we’ll have to add a veteran to push us over the threshold. Based on past performance there is very real reason to be concerned.
    As for Hosmer, the only path forward is to hope he rebounds, then trade him to some other desperate team. With Myers we are also hoping, that he can play 3b passably. Teams that hope miss the playoffs, team that expect play in them.

    1. The Kimbrel trade to Boston was not good? Getting Tatis for Shields? Mejia for Hand? Preller has not exactly had magic beans to trade now has he? Let’s see how AJ trades over the next two years. Preller has drafted and developed players very well and Padre Fans are just now starting to see this. To pick apart AJ Preller for a few trades is disingenuous at best.

      1. You missed the point Daniel. In terms of Preller actually dealing for MLB players (or signing them) he has whiffed every time. Tatis and Mejia weren’t MLB players during the trades. In terms of Preller picking up MLB ready players who can come in today and do their job, lead a clubhouse, or at least contribute, we are lacking completely. You can’t build a winner without successful role players and leaders. The Padres currently have one, sort of, and yeah, it’s Hosmer, sort of. A very very expensive and seemingly average ballplayer. That’s not worth 120 mill, just as Myers wasn’t worth 85 mill. Ugly. Keep in mind too, it’s easy to trade for prospects, just look up the word “prospect”. They’re all projection and hope. He’s going to look great there. Meanwhile, look at the Padres’ record since Preller took the helm. He might be among the worst GM’s we’ve ever had.

  5. Those negative moves formerly were due to saving money , however the ownership has a different philosophy. We’re in a creative critical consciousness that changes the way things are done to achieve new powerful results.

    1. And next year, when we lose 90 games, do we keep saying the same thing? At what point do we get to see .500? A GM’s job is to create a winning ballclub. First it was 2019, now what? 2021? We have no pieces in place to compete, let alone contend in the next 3-5 years. That’s a fact folks.

  6. ” the chances of Preller making a destructive move are nearly nonexistent.”

    ??? Like the Headley / Mitchell deal, the Hosmer deal, the Shields deal, Melvin Upton, etc., etc.
    Start taking a critical look at the GM. There’s a lot not to like

    1. The Melvin Upton deal got us a legitimate prospect in Olivares, for half of a season of Upton, when we were well out of the race..

      Headley/Mitchell seems like a major misfire, but it only cost us roughly $11m this year, and Mitchell has years to POSSIBLY turn it around.

      Shields was an error, but he rectified it by eating most of the contract and getting Tatis jr, BEFORE he was on the prospect radar.

      I don’t think you know what a “catastrophic error” is, my dude.

          1. Yes, Tom, but how does this compare to falsely accusing someone for being a racist? Yes, just like you did in a comment section here. And then you won’t own up to your harmful allegations, but you complain about this small slight?

          2. Really James? I call Diane (and EVT) out for her indefensible and flagrant slander (libel) and incoherent false accusation of racism of millions of people, and you can’t respond or delete the harmful comments? And Tom also incoherently and falsely accuses me of racism for pointing out the obvious, and you leave his slander, but delete my comments? Seriously? Delete away…………….while knowing exactly what you are doing, and not caring at all about the truth…….and delete away.

  7. By 2021, Owen Miller and Xavier Edwards will be on the team. All championship teams have some weaknesses, but the ’21 Pads will have fewer than most.

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