As the Padres extreme streakiness continues out of the gates in the second half, losing their first four games, the overriding goal needs to remain precise.
Before the dawn of Spring Training and the eve of the 2019 season, most resolute goals and aspirations seemed to be towards the 2020 season with the 2019 campaign seen as more of a stepping stone to the team’s ultimate destiny. The direction this team is heading towards should be unwavering and unabashed.
2019 is the coming-out party for some of the key figures of the most competitive Padres team since the days at Qualcomm where guys like Tony Gwynn, Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, and Trevor Hoffman roamed the field. With that being said, it will ultimately feel like a teaser trailer for the intended feature film to come next year. The roster’s construction from top to bottom will be discussed at length moving forward as A.J. Preller and Co. continue to add and subtract to formulate the right blend ingredients that will result in the first world series championship in team history.
As we look towards the position player group, it is low hanging fruit to say that third base, shortstop, and first base are spoken for. Most of the other positions have players fighting for these spots such as the corner outfield spots between Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, Wil Myers, and company and the second base and catcher spots which are both screaming for someone to claim them. Second base has been a hodge-podge of Greg Garcia and Ian Kinsler while Luis Urias has been inauspiciously missing in action. Neither Garcia nor Kinsler has any long term value to the team, and the hesitation in promoting Urias has led some in the industry to doubt his mechanics regardless of his absurd Triple-A numbers. This has led to speculation that the team might be targeting someone from outside the organization a la Whit Merrifield or have someone else in mind to fill this role in the offseason through free agency.
The second half, along with the performance of the team will open eyes as to what the plan with second base is. Long term, don’t be surprised if streaking prospect Xavier Edwards pushes the narrative sooner then most pundits think. Recently promoted to High-A Lake Elsinore as a 19-year-old, he could open some eyes with a strong second half and position himself to start in Double-A to begin the 2020 season.
The catcher position is now one of the deepest in the organization with prime prospects loitering the minor league rosters up and down the ladder. With Austin Hedges demonstrating sterling defense yet failing to hit his body weight, the position has started to shift to Francisco Mejia handling the lion’s share of catching duties. With recent improvements to his defense, the team is cautiously optimistic of his future. With Austin Allen, Luis Torrens, Luis Campusano, and Blake Hunt among others beating down their perspective levels trying to edge their way to the Show, the team not only has “now” pieces but a plethora of long term possibilities in reserve. One thing is to be certain; the catcher position is not settled and won’t be until someone takes the reins and runs with it.
The corner outfield positions are exciting and muddled at the same time with only Renfroe seizing a full-time role with his combination of power, timely hitting, and vastly improved defense. Myers has retreated into a shell of his former self with a severe lack of confidence. He could be finding himself in a “change of scenery” deal, but his contract is as difficult as one you’ll see for a player who should still be in his prime years. Of anybody on the current roster, he’s seemed to push himself out of the franchises future more than anyone.
Reyes, with all his upside with the bat, remains an enigma, hitting his 26th home run Tuesday night in Miami, but too often he is his own worst enemy, chasing breaking balls off the plate. His defense has improved but will never be a strong suit which, in the NL West, with the cumulative most square footage of all division outfields, is a prominent detractor to his defensive chops or lack thereof.
Providing depth behind these three is another group of question marks with converted first basemen Josh Naylor and oft-injured Franchy Cordero teasing with tools yet dragging their feet in the production category. Outside of Myers, who looks destined for another organization, it’s hard to see an outfielder on the major league roster able to impact the game with multiple tools consistently aside from Renfroe. Keep in mind with Cordero’s outlook, health is the main driver in getting the tools to turn into production, and at least to this point across three major league seasons, he’s amassed a whopping 246 AB’s. The minor leagues don’t show much depth behind this group with Sod Poodle outfielder Edward Olivares the lone bright spot in the upper minors.
The biggest question mark moving forward for the roster has to be center field, where players at the major league level currently have either ran into injury (Cordero) or have just been ineffective in large sample size (Manuel Margot). The ability of the centerfielder to “quarterback” the outfield has been worthless in San Diego since Mike Cameron left town. It is imperative when looking at roster construction that the team targets a centerfielder through trade since the minor leagues have no heir apparent.
This upcoming offseason also does not provide a realistic target through free agency that addresses the team’s needs, leaving the trade route the most logical course of pursuit. The rational targets could be players from teams with one foot in, one foot out of the contending pool like the Pirates and Nationals with Starling Marte or Adam Eaton respectively. Another route would be to target a high upside prospect at the higher levels of the minor league ladder through trade and leverage other prospects of depth or major league pieces that are redundant to fill these hole.
Maybe a team barreling to a playoff spot in a tough division like Atlanta might be apt to part with a Cristian Pache or Drew Waters or Cincinnati with 2018 Futures game MVP Taylor Trammell. As much as the Padres would like to acquire them, their existing teams want to hold onto them. A trade for a center fielder of immense value is going to hurt, as it should if both teams are to be happy with the transaction.
When all is said and done on Opening Day 2020, I envision the starting nine having a very different look than its 2019 counterpart.