The 2019 San Diego Padres season is a promising one. Here are five bold predictions for the team this coming season.
After what seems like forever, the MLB season has returned, as has the sense of meaning in our lives that’s been missing in every baseball fan’s heart since October.
With those two things come optimism like no other, so it only seems appropriate to get that sense of optimism out in the world in the form of some bold predictions. I’ve got five of them for you right here because- what’s that saying? “If people aren’t calling you crazy, you aren’t thinking big enough”? Something like that.
For the first time since 1987, a Padre will win NL Rookie of the Year
In the most A.J. Preller move of all A.J. Preller moves, it was announced that Chris Paddack and Fernando Tatis, Jr. would both skip the service time shenanigans and be with the big club on Opening Day. Barring injury, that gives full seasons to two of the most anticipated rookies to come through the Padres organization in a long, long time.
Throw in rookie-eligible guys with Major League experience in Francisco Mejía and Luis Urías, and you’ve got four players with a legitimate chance to win 2019 NL Rookie of the Year. My pick: Chris Paddack beats out Victor Robles (Nationals), Pete Alonso (Mets) and Tatis to win it.
Chris Paddack finishes top five in the NL Cy Young voting
Speaking of Paddack, his Rookie of the Year season will transcend his experience in 2019 – he’ll establish himself as the Padres’ ace and become one of the league’s best pitchers in year one. He’s dominated every level he’s faced in the past calendar year, MLB Spring Training included, and should continue to do just that at the highest level.
I fully expect 150 innings of low-3.00-ERA nastiness, complete with his signature, otherworldly K:BB ratio. The innings limit problem will still be there, but Blake Snell won the AL version of the award last year in 180 innings. Chris Sale finished fourth with just 158. It’s possible, and it’s going to happen.
Franmil Reyes smashes 40 homers, produces four-WAR season
Reyes was the Padres’ best hitter for most of the second half in 2018, and while the arrival of Manny Machado makes that unlikely to be the case in 2019, he could easily take the number two spot. His sheer size has garnered him somewhat of a reputation as a pure slugger in the mold of, say, Hunter Renfroe, but he is a much better all-around hitter than people give him credit for. He hit .280 last year in a decent sample size and has shown signs of improving both his strikeout and walk rates.
There’s an outside chance that playing time is an issue, but assuming he is granted the opportunity to play every day, expect Reyes to make a full-fledged breakout this year to the tune of a .270+ average, 40+ homers and an OPS pushing .900. As a little bonus prediction, I’ll throw this out there, too: Reyes wins the 2019 Home Run Derby in Cleveland.
Padres send four players to the 2019 All-Star Game
In six of the last eight years, the Padres have sent just one player to the All-Star Game. If it weren’t for the (ridiculous) rule that requires every team to be represented, it’s possible, if not probable, that the Padres would’ve had none in a couple of those years. Those days are over, though, as the Padres will send four players to the Midsummer Classic for the first time since 1998. Machado seems like a near-lock. He started the game last year and should have much more lineup protection this time around than he did in Baltimore. The return to third base should help, too, where he is universally recognized as one of the best defenders in the game.
Chris Paddack is my second pick because if you’re going to finish top five in the NL Cy Young voting, you’re probably going to be an All-Star as well. Continuing the Padres tradition of being disproportionately represented by relief pitchers in the All-Star game, I’ll go with Kirby Yates for my third pick. He had a real case last year in a setup role, so a full-time closer role should do wonders for his All-Star candidacy.
The last spot could’ve gone to a couple of different guys. I wouldn’t be mad if Fernando Tatis, Jr. or Eric Hosmer were the pick here, but to be consistent with my previous prediction, I’m taking Franmil Reyes. Still relatively anonymous on the national stage, his impressive numbers coupled with the exposure that comes with the inevitable moonshots he sends into orbit should pick him up enough fan votes to get in as a reserve.
Padres win 90 games, sneak into the postseason as the second wild card
I saved the boldest for last. This a best-case scenario and not many people see the Padres as a postseason team in 2019, but it could happen under two conditions – a trade for a top-tier starting pitcher needs to happen, and they have to be unusually healthy for the entire season. If Preller can strike a deal with the Indians for someone like Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer in exchange for outfield and/or prospect goodies, the Padres could be in business. A rotation of *insert top-tier trade target here*, Lauer, Lucchesi, Paddack, and Strahm is more than passable. If everything goes well, that could be a top-15 rotation in the Majors.
Injuries, on the other hand, are just a tad less projectable. They come out of nowhere, without warning, to the best players at the worst times. There isn’t a team on the planet that can survive lousy luck with the injury bug. What that means, though, is that a good draw in the injury department puts you way ahead if you have the players to supplement that good luck. And for the first time in a long time, the Padres have just that. A combination of starting pitching improvements, a clean bill of health and expected production from what should be an electric offense could yield a 90-win output for the first time since 2010.
One last thought: BASEBALL IS BACK!!! That is all.