San Diego Padres
2020 Record: 37-23
Second Place, NL West
Team ERA: 3.86 (8th)
Team OPS: .798 (4th)
What Went Right
Quite a bit. The Padres had the second best record in the National League -- third best in baseball -- and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. There are a lot of reasons why San Diego was so good, but chief among them were the left side of the infield. Manny Machado is an MVP finalist and for good reason; he hit .304/.370/.580 with 16 homers, 47 RBI and six steals while not missing a game in his second season in brown and yellow. Fernando Tatis Jr. did not make that group of finalists, but he looked like the favorite -- perhaps a prohibitive one -- for most of the year until a late swoon. Even with those struggles, the 21-year-old shortstop posted a .937 OPS, homered 17 times and stole 11 bases while looking like a player who someday could be the best in the game. Wil Myers had easily his best season as a member of the Padres, and while he played in only 55 games because of the truncated campaign, the 29-year-old slugged .606 with a .288 average and 15 homers. Eric Hosmer actually drove the baseball (.517 slugging percentage, 9 homers) to go with a .287 average, and Jake Cronenworth is a Rookie of the Year finalist after hitting .285/.354/.477 in 192 plate appearances. The pitching -- for the most part -- was pretty good, too. Dinelson Lamet was outstanding with a 2.09 ERA and 93/20 K/BB ratio, and Zach Davies surprised with a 2.73 mark in his 69 1/3 innings. After Kirby Yates went down, Drew Pomeranz proved to be very effective in the late innings with four saves, a 1.45 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings against 10 walks.
What Went Wrong
Geography. Because the Padres were in the same division as the Dodgers, San Diego didn’t win their division, and had to face Los Angeles in the NLDS. It didn’t go well, as the Padres were swept and sent packing earlier than a team that was on pace to win 100 games (99.9 to be exact, but we round up) would have liked. On top of the Dodgers just being really, really good, a very large reason that series went poorly is that the Padres didn’t have Lamet or Mike Clevinger -- who was acquired in a deadline deal from Cleveland -- for that series, and both pitchers will continue to have health questions going forward. Chris Paddack was a huge disappointment as well with a 4.73 ERA in his 12 starts, and San Diego didn’t trust the 24-year-old in the postseason. The injury to Yates also took a toll on the bullpen, as San Diego traded for Trevor Rosenthal to serve as closer down the stretch, and Emilio Pagan along with Craig Stammen both struggled with ERAs of 4.50 and 5.63, respectively. And while there weren’t many offensive disappointments for the Padres, Tommy Pham qualifies as one. He was limited to just 31 games and 125 plate appearances, and a .211/.312/.312 line in that time-frame was not what San Diego signed up for -- or in this case, traded for.
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** The Padres got absolutely nothing from the bats of Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia, so they acquired some help behind the plate from Seattle in Austin Nola. Nola was excellent with Seattle as seen in his .903 OPS, but wasn’t nearly as good after the trade; hitting .222/.324/.381 with 74 plate appearances in San Diego. Still, the soon to be 31-year-old was impressive for most of the season, and considering how much the Padres gave to acquire Nola (Taylor Trammell, Andres Munoz, Ty France) it seems very likely he’s the long-term backstop, and he does offer fantasy appeal because of the positional value.
** In addition to getting Davies from the Brewers in the deal for Luis Urias and Eric Lauer, the Padres also received Trent Grisham, and there was a lot to like about what the 23-year-old did in 2020. Yes, he hit only .251, but he also got on at a .352 clip with 31 walks, homered 10 times and was successful on 10-of-11 steal attempts this summer. Because he’s a patient hitter and willing to hit in two-strike counts, he’s never going to hit for a high average, but the power and speed is legit, and he should continue to hit near the top of a loaded San Diego lineup.
** There weren’t many closers better in 2019 than Yates; and in fact, the only one you could argue was better was Josh Hader. The same cannot be said this summer, as Yates was awful with a 12.46 ERA -- albeit over just six games -- before he had season-ending elbow surgery in August. As disappointing as the summer was, this is a pitcher that had a combined ERA of 1.67 in 125 appearances in 2018-19 with 191 strikeouts in 123 2/3 innings. There’s risk because Yates turns 34 in March and essentially missed the season, but there’s an awful lot of reward that comes with it.
** Garrett Richards was signed in 2019 with the goal of having him pitch in the rotation in 2020, although he did make three appearances last year, and it went well, for the most part. The former Angels starter struck out 46 hitters against 17 walks over 51 1/3 innings, and his 4.03 ERA was good enough for an ERA+ of 106. The 32-year-old offers obvious health risks himself considering he hasn’t thrown 100 innings since 2015, but the swing-and-miss stuff was apparent in 2020. He’s a free agent, and depending on where he lands, should be of interest to fantasy players -- particularly in either AL or NL-only formats.
** Assuming Richards leaves in free agency -- and even if he doesn’t -- the Padres have some very intriguing young options that should help the rotation in 2020. The best of these is MacKenzie Gore, who didn’t make his debut this summer, but still ranks as the top pitching prospect in baseball. We also Luis Patino this summer, and he impressed at times as a 20-year-old despite a 5.19 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. Adrian Morejon is also interesting as a left-hander who registered a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 19 1/3 frames. These are all better long-term options, but have a chance to provide help in 2021, as well.
Team Needs: Even with Lamet, Clevinger, Paddack, Davies and a ton of young talent, it seems likely that the Padres will add another starter. It’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll address the bullpen after it disappointed in 2020 despite Pomeranz pitching well. San Diego also could add another bat -- especially if there’s a designated hitter in the National League this summer -- to one of the best lineups in baseball. Even if there’s just minimum upkeep, the Padres look like one of the best teams in the sport going forward.