The 2019 regular season is fast approaching as the Padres play their last few Spring Training games. What should be some goals for the team in the first month of the season?
It’s finally time to start looking ahead to some real baseball as the regular season is just over a week away. The Padres are about to pack up and leave Peoria, as the sun sets on another Spring Training.
The Padres are looking to make real progress this season. They signed Manny Machado and boast the best farm system in baseball and now look to take that next step towards ending their playoff drought.
Let’s take a look at five goals the Padres should have for the first month of the regular season.
1. Don’t get into an early hole in the standings
In the last three seasons, the Padres have started 6-9, 5-10 and 5-10 again in the first 15 games of the year. That isn’t going to springboard anyone into playoff contention. The Padres have not had a winning record at the end of April since 2010.
This all starts with winning the opening series, which has not happened since 2008. San Diego has not won the opening game since 2014.
A lot of monkeys can fall off of the Padres’ backs with a solid start to the season. Fortunately, the Padres open the season at home against a team many perceive as the worse team in the Giants. FanGraphs projects the Padres to win 79 games while having the Giants down for just 75.
Even if the Padres don’t win the first game, getting off to a better start than last year’s start of 4-10 then 10-20 by the end of April would be a big boost of momentum and confidence. As far as opponents’ winning percentage goes, March/April is projected to be the third-easiest month of the season with opponents with a projected .501 winning percentage collectively. Compare that to a brutal August, which includes the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Phillies, which is at .522 collectively.
Padres need to avoid digging themselves a hole early in April and gain some momentum if they hope to fight towards a .500 season. They need to avoid starting 10-20 like last season at the very least.
Goal: Start 13-17 or better
2. Establish the starting rotation
The Opening Day starter has yet to be announced but most believe it is between Joey Lucchesi and phenom Chris Paddack. Whatever the result of that decision, the rotation needs some clarity. The Friars seem to have about eight or nine pitchers vying for five spots. Lucchesi and Eric Lauer seem to be the only safe bets. Paddack is not a lock only due to the persistent service time debate. Matt Strahm also should be confident in his chances. Robbie Erlin, Jacob Nix, Logan Allen, and Cal Quantrill all seem to be still alive in the race for that final spot.
Since San Diego did not sign a veteran arm to buoy the rotation, it will be up to the young guns to carry this team. Perhaps the Padres will toy with modern ideas such as “bullpenning” or have an “opener.” They will likely try to limit the usage and service time of guys like Paddack, Nix, and Allen. If some of these young arms develop quickly, the Friars could have at least a respectable rotation
As mentioned in a previous article, the Padres are projected to rank 26th in starter WAR by FanGraphs. The first month of the season will expose this rotation for what it truly is, for better or for worse.
Goal: have five clear options for the rotation
3. Manny Machado needs to make a statement
Manny Machado really doesn’t have anything to prove as far as his talent and abilities go. He is a two-time Gold Glove winner, a four-time All-Star with two top-five finishes in MVP voting. He is perhaps the clearest best player on any team and any player not named the Angels and Mike Trout. He has instantly become the face of this franchise and this city.
How sweet would it be to have Machado start out hot? Historically, April has been Machado’s best month. He owns a career .303 batting average with a 125 OPS+ in April, with the latter being the most of any month. He adds a .924 OPS in April, his best monthly mark. Last March/April, he hit .361 with nine home runs on his way to the best overall offensive season of his career.
Machado needs to make an early statement to capture and catalyze the excitement that was built during the offseason. His first seven games will be at his home Petco Park, where he is 8 for 18 with a 1.000 OPS in four career games.
It’s very likely that even if Machado gets off to a slow start, he will still put up big numbers. A fast start would just look great for optics.
Goal: hit at least five home runs with a wRC+ better than 110
4. Resolve outfield logjam
The Padres have a good problem on their hands with the outfield situation. This is certainly a whole heck of a lot better than wondering who, if anyone, could play a serviceable outfield. The Padres have five legitimate options to play outfield on Opening Day and beyond. The first month of the season will go a long way in deciding who will be the three main outfielders for the long haul in 2019.
Pencil in Wil Myers somewhere, with how valuable he can be with the bat. He has been playing a lot of center field this spring, which looks to allow the big bats of Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe to thrive in the lineup as well. That likely will not be the case every game, perhaps just against lefties. Myers, Renfroe, and Reyes all have 30+ home run power.
Manuel Margot is the best of the bunch defensively by a mile. The problem is his bat is lagging far behind his glove, with just an 85 wRC+ in his two seasons in San Diego. If he can show even mild improvement with his bat, he can become one of the better center fielders in the National League.
Franchy Cordero is the wild card here. He possesses other-worldly power as he hit one of the longest home runs in all of baseball last season. The main questions are his approach at the plate otherwise, with his 39.1 percent strikeout rate through 70 career games, and his defense. He occasionally takes some adventurous routes to fly balls but usually makes up for it with his speed.
Myers has played a mildly serviceable center field for the most part, with a few head-scratching blunders mixed in. His ability to maintain his status in center field could hinge the decisions made throughout the outfield.
Most likely, the Padres will go with some combination of Myers, Renfroe, Reyes, and Margot depending on matchups, with Cordero as a late-game baserunning or power option off of the bench. They all should get a healthy amount of at-bats in the first month and it will likely become clear who the three outfielders should be moving forward.
Goal: have three clear options playing every day in the outfield
5. Beat the average attendance mark from the first month of 2018
This is a goal for the fans. The Padres’ average attendance through the end of April last season was 29,073 through the first 17 games. The Friars have 16 home games through April this season and with all the excitement and the ownership willing to spend money on Machado and improving this team, the fans should in part, show their support and appreciation by going to the ballpark.
The Padres, of course, need to do their part by playing well and keeping interest. Opening Day is already sold out and the Padres have a ton of momentum to play with, now the matter becomes maintaining and building off of that momentum into mid-April and beyond.
Petco Park is one of the best ballparks in the league and it deserves to be full night after night. The Padres will win some and lose some but this year, they look to be anything but boring. With giveaways in March and April like a swinging friar bobblehead, family day packages, and poncho fleece blanket night, as well as an exciting new superstar in town, there’s plenty of motivation to head to 100 Park Boulevard.
Goal: beat 2018’s March/April average attendance of 29,073