The San Diego Padres are close to being contenders. There are still issues with the team that need to be resolved and here is a look at five of them.
As a whole, the past decade for the San Diego Padres has been a relatively forgetful one. The Padres haven’t totaled a winning season since 2010 and haven’t made a playoff appearance since 2006, among the longest such droughts in all the major leagues.
However, 2019 is signaling a new era in Padres baseball and the city of San Diego. After signing Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million deal, it’s clear that general manager A.J. Preller and the rest of the Padres’ front office is ready to contend in the NL West. The page is close to being turned.
Teams do not just go from basement occupiers (which the Padres have generally been for the past decade) to instant contenders, though.
If the Padres are to become true perennial contenders and win the World Series title that Peter Seidler and Ron Fowler have been talking about bringing to San Diego so much recently, there is a need for improvements. Prospect capital and free agent signings help, but there are other issues that still bring anxiety when the final roster takes shape for Opening Day.
With that being said, here are five goals the Padres need to accomplish this year if they are to be playing meaningful games late in the season and possibly making a push for a playoff spot. While some of these may seem more obvious than others, it’s paramount that the Padres take the steps necessary to improve their club this year and signal that 2019 is a turning point for the franchise.
1. Improve On-Base Percentage
It hasn’t been a secret that when the Padres are successful, they usually get by on defense and pitching. Their past two playoff teams were anchored by solid pitching (including 2006 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy), but their hitting has been poor to mediocre on an annual basis. Namely, OBP has been a troublesome area for Padres hitters, and one of the reasons why they have churned through nine hitting coaches since the opening of Petco Park in 2004.
Now, there are some areas where there will be natural increases in OBP and the caliber of hitting as a whole. Luis Urias and Ian Kinsler figure to boast sizable increases in getting on base over last year’s middle infield carousel of Freddy Galvis, Jose Pirela, and Cory Spangenberg, among others. Package that with the call-up of Fernando Tatis, Jr. at some point this year, and the steady presence of both Machado and Eric Hosmer, and the Padres seem to figure at least decently in this category.
The area where they will have to make up the most ground is in the outfield. Last year, Padres outfielders showed some flashes of positivity, but also a variety of negatives. Wil Myers held his ground in 2018, but has failed to showcase the same form he did in the first half of the 2016 season. Franchy Cordero opened eyes and showed his raw potential, but failed to stay healthy and struck out at an equally unhealthy clip. Manny Margot has the potential to be a Gold Glove outfielder, but consensus holds that he took a step back offensively. If the Padres are to see themselves among the contenders in September, it’ll be because they’ve found a way out of their decade-long offensive rut.
2. Bolster the Starting Rotation
In 2018, the Padres starting pitching staff was arguably the worst in all the major leagues, with only one pitcher (Joey Lucchesi) accruing a WAR above 1.0. Understandably, last year was more about trial and error than it was about continued success, and the Padres pitchers looked like those of a team going through a rebuild.
Now that the calendar has flipped to 2019, the Padres need to start finding out what they have with their young arms. Yes, Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer look like they can be solid innings eaters for the foreseeable future. Chris Paddack has the makings of an ace as he continues his dominant run through the Cactus League.
But what the Padres will have to come to terms within the next year or two is the idea of trading for a frontline, controllable starter. They’ve flirted with the possibility with the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, but the ask was deemed too high. They’ve also explored the idea of trading for Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer, as well as signing a slew of free agent starters.
However, none of these moves have been made, and the Padres will almost certainly roll into the season featuring at least three (my guess) starters with no more than one season of big league service time. Yes, there are more prospects on the way. But sometimes prospects don’t pan out, and there will be a need for a veteran presence on this staff if the Padres are going to contend for a championship.
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