San Diego Padres
2016 Record - 68-94
Fifth Place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.43 (23rd)
Team OPS: .689 (29th)
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What Went Right
San Diego has finished above .500 just once in the last nine years and general manager A.J. Preller has created more problems than solutions since being brought on board in August 2014. Major League Baseball hit Preller with a 30-game suspension this past September for hiding medical information on players -- some of whom had been traded to other teams. The front office is a mess and the major league roster is not in a great place either, but there were a handful of positive on-field happenings from this 2016 Padres season. Wil Myers finally stayed healthy and matched production to hype. Ryan Schimpf emerged at age 28 to launch 20 home runs in 89 games as a major league rookie, positioning himself as the starting second baseman leading into 2017. Yangervis Solarte further established himself as the starting third baseman, batting .286/.341/.467 with 15 home runs and 71 RBI in 109 games. Ryan Buchter and Brad Hand became dominant relievers. And the record spending on the amateur international market hints at a renewed commitment to a proper organizational rebuild.
What Went Wrong
The sourest note from 2016 was Preller’s suspension, and the actions that led to it. No team has engaged in trades as frequently as the Padres since Preller took over as general manager, and the Marlins, Red Sox, and White Sox have already voiced their displeasure about not being given the proper medical information on players they acquired from San Diego. What kind of damage will that do to Preller’s ability to make moves this offseason? Will his role change when he returns from the suspension? Will he have a role at all? Beyond the front office embarrassment there was more disappointment. Staff ace Tyson Ross didn’t appear in another game after injuring his right shoulder on Opening Day. Starting catcher Derek Norris completely fell apart, batting .186/.255/.328 in 125 games. Brandon Maurer, considered by many to be the Padres’ closer of the future, finished with a 4.52 ERA. The team was 13 games under .500 and 12 1/2 games back of the Giants by the end of May. James Shields, Fernando Rodney, Drew Pomeranz, Melvin Upton, Andrew Cashner, and Matt Kemp were all traded by August 1, and that group did not yield a whole lot in return.
** San Diego starting pitchers often make for appealing draft-day picks or in-season streamers because of power-sapping Petco Park, but there wasn’t much reward for that strategy in 2016. Tyson Ross was done on April 4, after allowing eight runs -- seven earned -- over 5 1/3 innings against the Dodgers on Opening Day. He could need surgery on his shoulder this offseason, and that rehab may leak into 2017. Drew Pomeranz was good for three months, but he went to the Red Sox in a mid-July trade and registered a 4.59 ERA over 68 2/3 innings with Boston. Andrew Cashner had a 4.76 ERA in 79 1/3 innings with the Padres and then a 5.98 ERA in 52 2/3 innings with the Marlins. Let’s not get into Edwin Jackson.
** Wil Myers finally stayed healthy and matched production to hype, tallying 28 home runs, 92 RBI, 28 stolen bases, and 99 runs scored in 157 games. That is massive fantasy output from a guy with a preseason average draft position (ADP) of 243.5 in Yahoo leagues. There’s no reason to believe he’s going to be a 28-steal guy or even a 20-steal guy moving forward, but Myers is a legitimate offensive talent who could remain undervalued in 2017 on what is likely to be another bad Padres team. Myers won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 with the Rays before having his career sidetracked by left wrist troubles.
** There is talent in the Friars’ farm system, and we got a good look at one of those big pieces down the stretch in September. Top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe batted .371 with a 1.189 OPS, four home runs, and 14 RBI over his first 11 major league games and became the first hitter to put a ball on top of the Western Metal Supply Co. building at Petco Park on September 28 against the Dodgers. Renfroe’s power is legit, and the 24-year-old former first-round pick is penciled in as the Padres’ Opening Day right fielder for 2017.
** Manuel Margot also got his first taste of big-league life in September and showed off his speed with four doubles, one triple, and two stolen bases in 10 games -- eight of them starts. He should challenge for the Opening Day center field job next spring after batting .304/.351/.426 with 21 doubles, 12 triples, and 30 stolen bases in 124 games this year at Triple-A El Paso. Margot and Renfroe helped lead the El Paso Chihuahuas to a runner-up finish in the Triple-A championship. Young catcher Austin Hedges also contributed to that Triple-A playoff run and breathed new life into his prospect stock with a huge regular season.
** Career minor leaguer Ryan Schimpf became a fantasy-waiver-wire gem in 2016, producing an .869 OPS and the aforementioned 20 home runs over his first 89 major league games after coming up from Triple-A El Paso on June 14. But we probably wouldn’t expect more of the same next year. Schimpf has never been considered a top prospect and he batted .163/.270/.349 with 41 strikeouts over his final 100 plate appearances for San Diego. A hot two months does not a star make.
Key Free Agents: None
Team Needs: There are too many to count. What this team really needs is a streamlined rebuilding vision and patience from ownership. A new general manager might have to come first.