The 2016 MLB season is winding down and thus gives fans of non-competing teams a chance to look towards the future. The San Diego Padres are on pace to finish dead last in the N.L. West and it does not appear that their fortunes will turn around for a few more years.
The large group of prospects that General Manager A.J. Preller signed during the international signing period do not figure to be part of the big league picture until 2019 at the earliest. At this moment, it would appear that there is very little for Padre fans to get attached to in the years to come. However, one thing that Padre fans could possibly hold on to, is the current coaching staff.
Andy Green and company have ushered in a new era to San Diego. With the announcement of his hiring in late October of 2015, Green brought a sense of urgency, intensity, and intelligence that hadn’t been seen while previous manager Bud Black was at the helm. The days of reporters walking into the clubhouse to find dogs or children running around were over. A clubhouse that was solely focused on winning would be the expectation.
Never before have the Padres had such an emphasis on defensive game planning than what they are currently doing this year. The constant shifting is a new look to most fans and it appears as though Green is doing his best to put his team in the best possible position on the field. Even if it’s something as simple as moving center fielder Travis Jankowski to the left a few yards, there does always seems to be a plan for each and every hitter.
Though, despite all that preparation, the Padres still rank towards the bottom of the barrel when is comes to DRS. Some of that, however, could be blamed on such defensive liabilities that saw the majority of playing time towards the beginning of the year such as Matt Kemp and Alexei Ramirez. Both are no longer a fixture on the defense and the numbers should improve.
Game-planning and managing aside, Green does indeed appear to be a leader. His calm, collected nature makes him approachable and easy to work with, while still showing the ability to let loose on an umpire when needed. By 2019, Green will already have had a few years of Major League experience under his belt which will certainly be enough time for the culture that he envisions to be firmly in place.
Pitching coach Darren Balsley has been giving very little to work with this year. With Luis Perdomo being the only current starter that could figure into their future plans, Balsley can only do so much with so many constantly moving pieces. The improvement from Perdomo, though, has possibly been the brightest spot from 2016. It’s apparent that Perdomo’s potential has not yet been reached and Balsley could undoubtedly bring it out of him if given the time.
Doug Bochtler the bullpen coach, has also contributed to the success of the staff. He is Balsley’s right hand man and does a ton of work keeping both the bullpen and the starting staff prepared for the job. He has tons of pitching experience and has done really well in his first season in San Diego as a coach. Bochtler and Balsley help calm the staff and they will have their work cut out for them soon as the Padres young minor league pitchers begin to arrive at the major league level.
Along with Darren Balsley, hitting coach Alan Zinter has also had to deal with constantly moving pieces. Though, even with these moving parts, he’ still found a way to get the best out of some of his hitters. Wil Myers enjoyed a very stellar first half of the season and saw his first All-Star appearance. It finally looked like Wil was poised for the season everyone knew he was capable of, but unfortunately, he’s cooled off considerably in the recent weeks. He should heat up and regardless of how he finishes the year, he has improved dramatically.
One player that Zinter has had no luck with this year is catcher Derek Norris. While Norris’ hard-contact rate is respectable, his average is now below .190 and has looked awful for the vast majority of the season. Norris was a big name headed into the trade-deadline and has now diminished almost all trade value. The Padres will have issues dealing him in the offseason and there is no clear answer on his future with the team.
One member of the coaching staff is not likely to be a part of the future and that member is Mark McGwire. McGwire could possibly see himself in a managerial role after this or next season. He appears to be very well-respected throughout the league and the likelihood of a team taking a chance on him to help lead their club is high. Some speculated that one reason McGwire was brought in was to keep Matt Kemp in line, especially with a rookie manager around. Now with Kemp gone, McGwire would be free to pursue other options if he wishes.
It’s exciting to think of the chemistry these coaches could bring to the future of San Diego. While it may take a couple of years for the right pieces to get here, building a culture that players can identify with is crucial to the success of the team moving forward.