With the San Diego Padres season in the books, it’s time to look back one last time at the notable moments of 2019.
The San Diego Padres finished 70-92 in what was a tale of two halves of the season. The Friars went into the All-Star break at .500 at 45-45, but the wheels fell off entirely in the second half, including a 7-20 September. However, there were moments in 2019 that give Padres fans hope for a fun, possibly even contending 2020 season.
Best hitter: Fernando Tatis Jr.
This one might be the easiest of them all. Even with only playing in 84 games due to two injuries, Tatis still led the team in WAR (4.2) at the season’s end. He finished with a .317 average, 22 home runs and a stellar .969 OPS. His 152 OPS+ was better than the likes of Pete Alonso and George Springer (with the caveat, of course, that Tatis’ sample size was much smaller). Night-in and night-out, Tatis did something to impact the game.
2019 Fernando Tatis Jr.#Padres
.317/.379/.590 slash line
4.2 WAR in 84 games
22 HRs, 61 Runs, 16 SBs
.969 OPS, 151 OPS+ pic.twitter.com/eokRltKj74
— James E. Clark 3 (@EVT_JClark) August 17, 2019
He led the Padres in most offensive categories, including average, OPS, OPS+, on-base percentage, and triples. One of the most encouraging signs was that he never really went into an extended slump. His worst month was August, where he hit .255 with still a .843 OPS. Had he been given a full season of work with similar production, he would not only have been a shoo-in for N.L. Rookie of the Year, but would be putting up numbers worthy of MVP discussion.
Best pitcher: Kirby Yates
The story of Yates will never get old. He was a cast-off, claimed off of waivers by San Diego from the Angels at the beginning of the 2017 season. There is no way even the Padres could have expected him to perform the way he has in a Friars uniform. This year he was Major League Baseball’s saves leader with 41 with a stifling 1.19 ERA and an ERA+ of 358, a number even Trevor Hoffman could not touch in his best years.
Kirby Yates, Filthy 87mph Splitter. 😷 pic.twitter.com/GearzwUqTf
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 11, 2019
He did not allow a run in a save situation until June 23rd. Yates was blatantly robbed of the Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year award in 2019 as no other pitcher could stack up to his numbers. His only downfall was being the best pitcher on a 92-loss team.
Most significant surprise moment: Trade of Franmil Reyes
There are likely many reasons why the Padres went from a 45-45 first half to a second-half that saw them sink to 22 games below .500. A popular thought is it all started when the Padres dealt away clubhouse and fan-favorite Franmil Reyes to the Cleveland Indians in a three-way trade that netted Taylor Trammell for San Diego. He was more than just a big bat, and it was big (27 home runs, 120 OPS+). His teammates loved him and fed off of his energy. Coincidence or not, after the trade at the deadline on July 31st, the Padres seemed to play with a lot less flare and enthusiasm.
— Robert Flores (@RoFlo) May 29, 2019
The trade was also surprising because it was not for a front-line starting pitcher like most fans hoped, but for yet another outfield prospect. The Padres traded a once-budding-prospect-turned-big-league-slugger into another unproven prospect. The skeptics are abounding for this trade, but it will all depend on what becomes of Taylor Trammell. For now, this seemed to gut the team and city of the energy the lovable giant Reyes brought each day.
Most disappointing player: Wil Myers
Wil Myers was given a six-year, $83 million contract before 2017 to be a leader and a force in the lineup. Then, when the Padres signed Eric Hosmer, the thought was the pressure would come off of Myers which would enable him to play better. A similar idea came when the Padres landed Manny Machado. It just has not worked out. Myers’ bat was virtually nonexistent for most of the season. From April 21st to the end of the first half, Myers hit .187 with a 77 OPS+ in those 67 games.
Wil Myers went 468 🤯
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) May 12, 2019
He heated up as the season drew to a close with a .312 average and .897 OPS in September. However, the gaping hole he left in the lineup for most of the season could not be undone in just a few hot weeks. He posted a -0.3 WAR for the season, surpassed by the likes of Nick Martini and Ty France.
Most exciting prospect: MacKenzie Gore
Yes, when Gore was drafted third overall in 2017 the hype was already there. He has done nothing to extinguish the excitement as he went right through High-A California League batters like a hot knife through butter. He posted a 1.02 ERA with 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 15 starts for Lake Elsinore before being promoted to Double-A. It took a few starts to find his sea legs at a much more competitive level, but in his last three starts of the year for Amarillo, he allowed just three runs while striking out 17.
After leading all @MiLB pitchers who threw 100+ innings in ERA (1.69) & WHIP (0.83) and striking out 135 (vs. 28 BB) in 101 innings, #Padres 2017 No. 3 overall #MLBDraft pick MacKenzie Gore is our 2019 Pitcher of the Year: https://t.co/axhcoIj2Bu pic.twitter.com/Sn92dkBO0c
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 5, 2019
Gore appeared in the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star break and built a big enough resume to win the coveted MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year award, meaning he was the best pitcher in all of Minor League Baseball. He has the stuff of an ace and excitement, and even expectations, are growing that he could appear at Petco Park in the next calendar year.
Best hit: Hunter Renfroe walk-off grand slam vs. Dodgers, May 5
The Padres were on the verge of being swept at home by the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. The Friars were above .500 at the time and were feeling good about themselves heading into that series. The Padres built a four-run lead in Sunday’s series finale only to see it melt away as L.A. took a 5-4 lead in the top of the eighth, with the Padres down to their last chance in the bottom of the ninth against All-Star closer Kenley Jansen.
Hunter Renfroe. Grand slam. Ballgame!
The Padres win 8-5 on the walk-off 💪 pic.twitter.com/7MBuBHLtwL
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 6, 2019
San Diego started the inning with three straight singles, two of them via the bunt, giving the Friars the bases loaded with no one out. However, the next two batters struck out and popped up, leaving it all up to Hunter Renfroe to not squander a big chance at the comeback win. He proceeded to send a Jansen fastball sky-high towards the sun and over the fence for a walk-off grand slam, one of the most exciting events in any sport, sending his teammates and Padres fans into a frenzy. It tasted extra sweet to do it against the Dodgers.
Best defensive play: Manny Machado’s throw from foul territory
One of the many reasons why San Diegans were ecstatic to land Manny Machado in free agency was because, at any moment, he could produce a defensive highlight that would drop anyone’s jaw. And that he did, especially on April 12th in Arizona. The Padres were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning when Carson Kelly hit a sharp grounder in the general vicinity of Machado.
Everything about this play is fantastic. It was struck so hard that the camera did not have time to switch in time to Manny scooping it up. Then, with all his momentum headed towards the Diamondbacks dugout, he fires across his body with a throw so perfect that Eric Hosmer could have been mistaken for a statue at first base as he caught it. Machado made several plays similar to this all season long and was a pleasure to watch play third base and shortstop. He finished the season at 5 Defensive Runs Saved, fifth-best in the National League.
Best win: Comeback vs. the Rockies, June 14
Everyone loves a comeback. Things can get wacky at Coors Field in Colorado, and it took a turn for the wackiest during this series. This game was a perfect summation of the entire, wild series. After the seventh inning, the Rockies had an 11-4 lead. The Padres managed to get one run back in the eighth as they entered their final at-bat in the ninth down by six runs at 11-5. Fernando Tatis Jr. led off the ninth with a single. Eric Hosmer came up a few batters later with runners on second and third and singled home both runs, cutting Colorado’s lead to 11-7.
The #Padres hardest-hill ball of the season – this 115.9 mph scorcher from Fernando Tatis Jr. – is also one of the club’s biggest knocks of the year. San Diego scores six in the ninth to tie it up in Denver. pic.twitter.com/YHJp9Mgeu3
— Today in MLB (@TodayintheMLB) June 15, 2019
The next batter was Hunter Renfroe, who hit one of his three home runs that day in the ninth inning, eating into the deficit even more now just at 11-9, Rockies. The Padres got two more runners on with two outs, still down by two. The bases eventually became loaded for Tatis, who hit his second single of the inning, this one tied the game at 11 capping the enormous, historic comeback. The Padres rode that momentum into extra innings when they scored five runs in the top of the 12th, giving San Diego a 16-12 wild, emotional win.
Best individual game (hitting): Hunter Renfroe vs. Colorado Rockies, June 14
Going back to that incredible comeback win in Denver, Renfroe had himself a significant day. His second home run of the day cut the Rockies lead to two, and his third home run of the game extended the lead in extra innings to 13-11. Renfroe finished the day with four hits, three of them home runs, with five RBI.
Best individual game (pitching): Chris Paddack vs. New York Mets, May 6
There was a lot of fanfare heading into rookie starting pitcher Chris Paddack’s matchup with the New York Mets. Before the game even started, there was some back and forth between Paddack and Mets star rookie Pete Alonso. Paddack was peeved that Alonso won April’s Rookie of the Month over himself and was going to use it as motivation to defeat Alonso and the Mets. The Mets didn’t take kindly to those comments.
Chris Paddack's 11Ks from Last Night (in under 20 seconds). 🤠 pic.twitter.com/1Kb4cZCuHn
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 7, 2019
On this night, however, it was Paddack that got the last laugh or roar. This also served as Paddack’s coming-out party of sorts with more of the nation paying attention to this Padres game than normal, given it was against a New York team and with the pregame comments. All he did was mow down the Mets hitter by hitter, including an emphatic strikeout of Alonso himself, leading Paddack to let out a primal scream. Alonso finished the day 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Paddack.
Paddack was not just dominating Alonso, but the entire Mets lineup. He ended up striking out 11 batters, which, even with 19 starts after this one, remained his season and career-high. He was virtually unhittable, walking just one with four hits allowed in 7 2/3 shutout innings. He also did all of this while facing off against the reigning Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, whom the Padres beat and got Paddack the win.
Biggest question into offseason: Will the Padres make the necessary moves to contend in 2020?
Now that the season has been over for almost a month, with the Padres finding their new manager in Jayce Tingler, lots of questions remain. This seems like a “do or die” offseason for General Manager A.J. Preller, who is going into his sixth offseason at the helm in San Diego. Padres majority owner Ron Fowler even hinted that “heads will roll” if the Friars do not contend in 2020. There is no question the Padres need to acquire more than one piece to make themselves contenders starting next spring.
The Padres need starting pitching help, no matter where it comes from. Two prominent players in the current World Series will be available in Houston’s Gerrit Cole and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, a native San Diegan. There are several other cheaper options as well. They also might look into adding a proven outfielder, especially if they move on from Myers like they will try to do. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna headline the outfielder free-agent class.
Plus, with the loaded farm system the Padres boast, they can swing just about any trade they want. The time is now for the Padres to make moves to put themselves in contention in 2020. The rebuild is over, and it’s time to play with the big boys in October. That starts with making smart moves this winter.