Improved player development will be key to Padres success

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Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In order to achieve the goal of a World Series title, the San Diego Padres must get better results from their player development department. 

There is no doubt that this is the best time in the history of the San Diego Padres.

After years of being nothing but an afterthought in Major League Baseball, the Padres are suddenly relevant.

Peter Seidler is allowing A.J. Preller and his staff to spend money on the roster. The spending spree started with the minor leagues, as the Padres invested over 80 million dollars on the international market in 2016 to revamp the minors.

The Padres signed dozens and dozens of teenage talent and blew past any restrictions put on my MLB at the time—a calculated risk, as the Padres overpaid for several young players. The rules have changed since then, as teams are not allowed to overpay for players. There are restrictions now. Kudos to Preller for taking advantage of the situation.

Most recently, the Padres have committed over one billion dollars to several men for the next decade or so. Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove will be paid handsomely by the Padres for the next several seasons. This kind of investment has people across the nation scratching their heads.

At last year’s trade deadline, the Padres made three big deals to gather talent for a postseason run. The team acquired Josh Bell, Brandon Drury, Juan Soto, and Josh Hader. Each of the four men regressed badly with the Padres, and this is a common theme. Something that needs to be fixed.

For years and years, the Padres have traded for talent and seen their value bottom out. In the same regard, players that have left the organization are flourishing with a new franchise. This needs to end, as the Padres must gain value from unheralded players like the Dodgers have done in the past.

Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, and others have come from obscurity to become relevant players in the lineup for Los Angeles. Last year, the Dodgers lost several vital pitchers. No problem, as pitchers like Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney produced value like no other time in their careers. Both men are north of 30, and suddenly, the Dodgers turned them into viable pitchers. Meanwhile, the Padres got mixed results from Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea, who both made excellent money in 2022 and provided no value during the playoffs.

So, what gives?

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The difference between the two franchises should not be that noticeable when it comes to production from their players.

Juan Soto is a phenomenal talent. At the time of his trade to San Diego, Soto owned a .894 OPS for the Nationals. In 182 at-bats with the Padres, Soto put up a .778 OPS, which is easily his worst since he was 17 and broke into the minor leagues. That is troubling. But perhaps it was a fluke.

When the Padres traded for Josh Bell last year, he owned a .877 OPS for the Nationals and was hitting .301 on the season. What did Bell do for the Padres? The switch-hitter batted .192 on the season for the Padres and produced an abysmal .587 OPS in 177 at-bats. Ugh.

The Angels signed Brando Drury this winter as the right-handed hitter produced a .855 OPS and a .274 batting average for the Reds before the Padres got their hands on him. With San Diego, Drury hit .238 and produced a .724 OPS.

Lastly, the initial returns from the Josh Hader deal were horrendous for the Padres. He was shelled in his first handful of appearances with the Padres and was briefly removed from the closer role. Hader looked better in the playoffs, but the southpaw did put up a 7.31 ERA and a 1.625 WHIP for the Padres in 19 games.

How did these four veteran players lose traction on a seemingly productive year?

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The Padres must know this answer, and the problem must already be solved. The common occurrence of things like this with the franchise and its players dictates that this is not a coincidence. Bob Melvin has brought stability to the coaching staff, and slowly, a Padres way seems to be developing.

It goes beyond that, though.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are getting tremendous value from players that are not household names. The Padres may hold the star power currently, but they also must get a return from players on the tail end of the major league roster. Each heavily paid player must produce to their capability. Only time will tell if the Padres have improved in player development. If the Friars get more value from their full roster consistently, then the wins will keep coming for San Diego.

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