Five Goals for the Padres During the First Month of the Season

Credit: MLB

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.

Credit: AP Photo

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.

Credit: Getty Images

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.

Credit: AP Photo

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

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

8 thoughts on “Five Goals for the Padres During the First Month of the Season

  1. My main goal/hope is for fans to realize that we’re also with Manny not in “win now”!

    So adding a veteran wouldn’t make any sense! Go in the season with Lucchesi, Strahm, Allen, Paddack and Lauer/Quantrill/Nix

    let them get their feets wet and they’ll be ready when we come to “reach the playoffs/ win now” in one or two seasons! Don’t forget 2 starter will also come back from TJS next season.

    Give Reyes, Renfroe, Margot +150 games this season to see if they are really OF of the future otherwise we’ll have to react.
    Meyers will never be part of that=> trade him! Not because of his talent because he never could stay healthy in OF over a full season!

    So for me this season is again about developing players, being consistent and giving them playing time! Problem is that will not happen with Green as manager so my second so if he’s still on pace for 150 different lineups I hope AJ will react and bring in an experienced manager=> that’s my goal number 2.

    Number 3 if BA is as shitty as in the last decade PLEASE go and find a good hitting coach we’ve the best pitching coach in the league so hopefully we’ll finally be able to find a decent hitting coach as well.

  2. I have been going to Padres games since the PCL days, I went with my Dad in 1963 (first game). I have seen the good times and the atrocious times. I look at this season, and with Machado’s ability, the players who have a little “seasoning”, and the new kids on the way, the Novartis of this organization is exciting. I live in Louisiana now, but I haven’t forgotten my Padres. And I can’t wait to go back to the original mustard and brown unit’s. Thanks, David Cook.

  3. Hmm.
    1) For Machado not to press. Lots of players do after big signings or trades. Just be Machado.
    2) Trade for a starter. For a team that wants to win now, this rotation is not developed enough.
    3) Trade an OF. And end the Myers in CF foolishness. This was tried in 2015 to shrieks all around.
    4) For Myers to stay healthy. He’s productive when healthy. If he isn’t traded.
    5) For Hosmer to change his launch angle and rebound. The biggest disappointment of 2018 is the most important player for 2019. He plays a position that is all about putting up heavy duty numbers at the plate. A bounce back year and all is forgiven, another turd-year and the team will need to make tough choices, like platooning him. SD is not NY or Philly, but there’s a limit to how patient fans are with underperforming players making so much money.
    So if you’re looking for an early indicator of whether the team can reach .500, watch Hosmer. He hits nothing ground balls and there’s trouble. He hits the ball in the air and there’s hope.

    1. I’d disagree with number two – Preller sees the upside in the young pitchers he’s assembled and is willing to use this season to give them an extended audition at the major league level. He has not only 2-3 others waiting for their chance this year, he’ll have 2-3 more next year plus Lamet and Richards returning from TJ, so now’s the time to see what they can do.

      I’ll disagree with number three too. The Myers to CF was just for Spring Training to get corner outfielders some extra work, and settle once and for all that Myers is strictly a 1 or 2 game fill-in there during the season. The best outfield from left to right is Myers, Margot, and Reyes, with Renfroe spelling Myers and Reyes on their days off, but with Myers’ injury history and Jankowski out until June or July, there’s a standard 5-man outfield in place, with Franchy serving as a lefty bench bat spelling Margot. If Jank hadn’t gotten hurt, Franchy probably would have been sent to El Paso to work on his defense.

      For number four and five, I’m keeping my fingers crossed: that Myers can avoid the nagging injuries, and that the odd-year magic returns for Hosmer. Myers’ health is unpredictable, and I can argue Hosmer was done in by the big contract pressure and the change of leagues, but other than that, his weird odd/even year pattern is all I’ve got.

      As for Nick’s five goals, all look do-able, with the possible exception of establishing the rotation. That many young and inexperienced starters means there will have to be extra starters plugged in to eat innings, since none of the likely starting five on opening day should be counted on to pitch 200 innings. We’ll likely see several minor leaguers called up to fill in for several starts each, and that’s probably what Preller wants, since he’ll have more pitchers coming up in future years to evaluate, with fewer chances to give them enough innings. Number one, though, is don’t get buried in the standings, and having the Giants in for the first four games is a big help.

  4. Good stuff.
    I think I would swap out #3 (Machado) in favor of determining who will be our primary catcher. A 50/50 split just won’t work indefinitely there. We all want to see a return on investment with Machado. Whether he starts off strong or has a 2018 Hosmer-like (below career avg.) season doesn’t change the fact that he’s playing nearly 100% of the time. I’m curious what Green values more the first month: hitting potential and run manufacturing or defense/game-calling.

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