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San Diego Padres
2021 Record: 79-83
Third Place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.10 (14th in MLB)
Team OPS: .722 (16th in MLB)
What Went Right
Well, the first half was pretty fun. And there was actually a whole lot to like about this team all the way into early August. Fernando Tatis Jr. delivered tremendous numbers when healthy: 42 home runs, 97 RBI, 25 stolen bases, and 99 runs scored in 130 games. The 22-year-old superstar also put a career-high .292 batting average and career-best .975 OPS across his 546 plate appearances. Manny Machado recorded 100-plus RBI for just the second time as a big leaguer, ranking top 10 in that category among all major league hitters. The trade for Joe Musgrove couldn’t have gone better as he rolled to a 3.18 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 203/54 K/BB ratio in 181 1/3 innings. He threw a no-hitter on April 9 at Texas, the first no-no in the 53-year history of the Padres franchise. Jake Cronenworth built on his strong rookie showing from 2020 and was a 2021 National League All-Star.
What Went Wrong
The headliner here is obviously the brutal 12-34 win-loss stretch that extended from August 11 to the final day of the regular season on October 3. It cost manager Jayce Tingler his job -- in his second year and first full season at the helm -- though there is some chatter that he might have lost the clubhouse before the late downturn. The rotation fell flat in the second half due in large part to injuries but also poor performance. Padres starters combined for a 5.41 ERA after the All-Star break, better only than the Rockies, Orioles, Pirates, Cubs, and Rangers. Adam Frazier, acquired from the Pirates in late July, batted just .267/.327/.335 in 211 plate appearances with San Diego. Before the trade, he was slashing .324/.388/.448 for Pittsburgh. Eric Hosmer, inked to an eight-year, $144 million free agent deal in 2018, batted just .269/.337/.395 with 12 home runs in 151 games. Wil Myers, making $22.5 million this year and due another $22.5 million in 2022, hit .256/.334/.434.
** The word for now is that Tatis will not require surgery on his left shoulder. If he carries a clean bill of health into Padres camp next February and there are no stability issues throughout Cactus League play, he figures to go at the very top of fantasy baseball drafts next spring. Through parts of three MLB seasons, Tatis has averaged 48 home runs, 116 RBI, 31 stolen bases, and 125 runs scored for every 162 games played. He was selected No. 1 overall in our early mock draft for 2022 here at NBC Sports EDGE.
** Musgrove is almost certainly going to be a top-20 pitcher in most standard drafts next spring. He went 54th overall -- the 16th starting pitcher off the board -- in our early mock draft for 2022. Yu Darvish will be a worthwhile bet for a bounceback too -- he went at pick No. 100 in that early mock -- and it’s also easy to fall in love with the strikeout rate of Blake Snell. Mike Clevinger will be an interesting case coming off Tommy John surgery. He’s already 11 months removed from the procedure and resumed throwing in September.
** Mark Melancon carries a $5 million mutual option for 2022 and will probably want to negotiate or head elsewhere for what could be his final big payday. The 36-year-old right-hander -- he turns 37 next March -- led all major league relievers in saves (39) this past season despite tallying only two across limited opportunities in the Friars’ faulty final month. He finished with a 2.23 ERA in 64 2/3 innings. There are early rumblings that Dineslon Lamet might get a shot at the closer gig in 2022.
** Trent Grisham went as a top-80 pick in a lot of fantasy drafts for 2021 and mostly failed to meet the hype, hitting .242/.327/.413 with 15 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 132 games. He tallied 10 homers and 10 steals during the 60-game season in 2020, a 162-game pace of 27 dingers and 27 swipes. Maybe the heel issue lingered well beyond his first-half IL stint? The soon-to-be 25-year-old may fall closer to pick No. 150 in drafts next spring as the industry weighs whether he can rebound.
** There was some fantasy hype around Ha-Seong Kim when he signed with San Diego for four years, $28 million in late December. He had slashed .306/.397/.523 with 30 home runs, 109 RBI, 23 stolen bases, and 111 runs scored over 138 games with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2020, but those numbers didn’t translate in his rookie MLB campaign. Kim never hit higher than sixth in a game he started for the Padres, and he finished with a .202/.270/.352 batting line over his first 117 big league games.
** Will it finally be time for MacKenzie Gore next year? A mainstay on top prospect rankings since he was drafted third overall out of high school in 2017, the young left-hander took a large chunk of time off this past summer simply to work on mechanical issues. He logged only 50 1/3 innings (12 starts) between four different minor league levels. Gore did touch 98 mph in the final frame of his five-inning Arizona Fall League debut earlier this month, though nobody has ever questioned his raw stuff.
Team Needs: Finding a new manager is at the top of the offseason to-do list for general manager A.J. Preller. And then there might have to be a hunt for pitching depth, which would have been a crazy thought just six months ago. In general, this roster is still very talented and well-rounded despite the second-half frustrations. Better overall on-field execution is required in such a tough division.