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2019 National League West Preview: San Diego Padres

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Find out what’s happening down in San Diego

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MLB: Spring Training-San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve examined the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies.

Next up: the San Diego Padres. Buckle up.

A look back at 2018

The offseason signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer was an indication the Padres were seriously interested in competing.

But history will tell you they were seriously not competitors.

In the entire MLB, the Padres had the second most strikeouts (1,523), the fourth lowest batting average (.235) and the lowest on-base percentage (.297).

The team finished the season 30 games under .500, with a 66-96 record.

The Friars took last place in the National League West -- 22.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Their worst performance came in the month of July, when they went 5-20, but they leveled off in the following two months, ending with a 24-28 record for August and September.

Top prospects Luis Urias and Francisco Mejia were able to see time in the big leagues in those last couple of months, which could mean the rise of their farm system is on the horizon.

Key additions and subtractions

Freddy Galvis became a free agent after the 2018 season, where he was the everyday shortstop for the Padres.

Galvis appeared in all 162 games for San Diego, becoming one of their top players. His batting average was .248 and he batted in 67 runs while stealing eight bases.

Galvis was looking to sign a multi-year deal, but those intentions did not align with the Padres’, who see a lot of potential in their shortstop prospect, Fernando Tatis Jr.

Galvis would eventually sign a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Joining Galvis in Canada is starting pitcher, Clayton Richard.

Richard heads to Toronto by way of trade, but this move was one that nobody anticipated.

The 35-year-old left hander did not have a great season, but he was one of the best pitchers in their rotation. He got the Opening Day start in 2018 and would finish the season with a 7-11 record. Richard had a 5.33 earned run average in 158 ⅔ innings pitched, but he notched the team’s second most strikeouts (108).

Fans in San Diego were surprised when the team designated him for assignment to make room for the addition of veteran second baseman, Ian Kinsler.

Many seemed to think second baseman Jose Pirela should have gotten the boot.

In any case, the Padres did make room for Kinsler, who became one of the biggest additions to the roster.

Kinsler signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the organization, with a club option in 2021.

The two-time Gold Glove second baseman did not have his best season in 2018. It seems the addition of a veteran player was appealing to San Diego.

And now, for the largest addition to the Padres this offseason … Manny Machado.

Sorry to keep you waiting for so long. I just followed his example.

Machado became a free agent after ending the season with the Dodgers and decided to stay in So Cal. But rather than stay in Los Angeles, he headed to San Diego.

His 10-year, $300 million contract was the largest free agent deal in MLB history, at the time of his signing. Since then, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have surpassed this deal.

In 2018, the All-Star third baseman hit .297 with 107 RBIs while helping the Dodgers reach the World Series.

The addition of Machado gives the Padres another veteran player to help guide the young talent on their team.

Pitching

Eric Lauer was named the Opening Day starter for the Padres this year.

In his rookie season, Lauer threw 112 innings with an ERA of 4.34 and a 6-7 record.

The numbers he put up in Spring Training are quite impressive, though a very limited sample size.

In 10 innings, he has not allowed a run while striking out 12 batters. It’s difficult to use his Spring Training performance as an indicator of how his season will go, but if it looks anything similar, he has a great season in store.

Also projected to be in the starting rotation is left-handed pitcher, Joey Lucchesi.

Lucchesi has had a decent Spring Training performance, allowing five earned runs in 14 innings pitched and notching 13 strikeouts.

Like Lauer, 2018 was Lucchesi’s rookie season. He struck out 145 batters in 130 innings while obtaining a 4.08 ERA.

Matt Strahm primarily pitched in relief last season because he was still recovering from a knee injury, but it looks like his role will be changing in 2019.

Strahm’s Spring Training has been one of the best amongst the Friars’ pitchers. He has only allowed five runs and 12 hits in 17 innings while striking out 19.

He comes into the season with a great case to make the starting rotation and is projected to be the No. 3 starting pitcher.

This is what the complete starting rotation is predicted to look like to start the regular season:

Eric Lauer LHP
Joey Lucchesi LHP
Chris Paddack RHP
Matthew Strahm LHP
Robbie Erlin LHP

Something to be of major concern for the Padres is their lack of right-handed starting pitchers. With top prospect Chris Paddack currently sitting as the sole right-hander, it’s necessary the Padres pay more attention to this situation.

Despite everything, pitching still remains unclear for the Padres. Although their young pitchers look to be promising, it all comes down to the final question: will they actually be able to produce?

Position players

It seems safe to say that the Padres’ infield four will be Hosmer, Kinsler, Urias and Machado.

Urias is typically a second baseman, but with the addition of Kinsler and the departure of Galvis, Urias will likely shift to shortstop to begin the season.

It will be interesting to see how Kinsler’s role may change if top prospect Tatis Jr. is brought up. This would essentially shift Urias back to second base, making Kinsler more of a fill-in player.

Moving on to the outfield, Padres skipper Andy Green has many options.

There are five players currently available to play in the outfield. They are Wil Meyers, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, Franchy Cordero and Manuel Margot. All are able to fill in at any spot, making it a tough decision for Green. But having too much talent is a great problem to have.

Behind the plate at Spring Training, Austin Hedges is having a less offensive showing than top prospect, Francisco Mejia.

Hedges is likely getting the start because of his experience, but Mejia will probably join him in the majors sometime this season.

This is what the starting lineup looks like for San Diego:

Ian Kinsler 2B
Manny Machado 3B
Eric Hosmer 1B
Wil Myers CF
Hunter Renfroe RF
Franchy Cordero LF
Luis Urias SS
Austin Hedges C

Prospects

The Padres have 10 players in the MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list.

As previously mentioned, Fernando Tatis Jr., the No. 2 overall prospect, is a shortstop who will see time in the minor leagues to get more experience before getting called up.

Other than major league Spring Training, the highest level Tatis Jr. has seen has been Double-A ball.

In his 2018 Double-A season, Tatis Jr. batted .286 with 16 homers and had an on base percentage of .355 in 88 total games.

Just to the left of him is second baseman prospect, Luis Urias.

Urias is ranked No. 23 on the MLB Pipeline, but his experience in the big leagues at the end of the 2018 season has him on track to start the season on the major league roster and make the Opening Day lineup at shortstop.

Seven of the top 100 prospects happen to be pitchers in the San Diego Padres system. This is great for them because starting pitching is not their strong suit.

The two pitching prospects who are most likely to see time in the majors this year are Chris Paddack and Logan Allen.

We’ve discussed Paddack and his role as the only right-handed pitcher on the projected starting rotation, so let’s take a look at Allen.

Allen was the Double-A Texas League pitcher of the year in 2018. He finished his season with a 2.54 ERA, 14 wins (between Double-A and Triple-A) and 151 strikeouts.

His 2019 Spring Training numbers aren’t that great, however. In just 823 innings, he has earned seven runs, leaving his ERA at an elevated 7.27.

With a few more months in the minor leagues, Allen can prepare himself to get in on big league action, come midseason.

It’s safe to say the future looks bright for the Padres.

With the No. 1 farm system in the MLB, it’s only a matter of time before the Padres start making a serious run for the NL West title. And if it’s not this year, then it will be very, very soon.

Projected finish

The Padres are projected to tie for third place with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West this season, according to the Baseball Prospectus (PECOTA) projection. Baseball Prospectus has San Diego finishing exactly at .500. I agree with this projection. The future talent on the team looks very strong and intimidating, but I don’t think they will be able to bring it all this year. What do you think?

Schedule against the Dodgers

The first time the Dodgers and Padres will face off in 2019 will be on May 3-5. You can get tickets here.