Padres Editorial: Looking Forward to 2016

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Travis Jankowski- Mandatory Credit: Milb
Travis Jankowski- Mandatory Credit: Milb

With this in mind, let’s look at the Padres current farm system, the projected makeup of their roster following the trade deadline, and what minor leaguers the Padres will need to contribute at the big league level starting in 2016 and beyond. Based on who the Padres should and could be trading, they seem to have needs in the outfield (mainly center field), definitely shortstop, perhaps second base/third base, as well as a need for at least one, possibly two starting pitchers and a few relievers.

The Padres are not necessarily in need of a full rebuild, although they do have a bit of a depleted system following the offseason flurry of December. Despite this, they still have a few important pieces, and seem likely to get a few more prospects at the deadline, that can help contribute as soon as 2016.

Let’s start with the outfield given the likely trades of both Justin Upton and Will Venable. Obviously Matt Kemp will most likely be entrenched in right field for years to come (whether for good or bad), and Melvin Upton will still be under contract to play center/left, but both left field and center field will be major question marks regardless.

Most likely Wil Myers will slot back to a more playable position in left field, if he doesn’t take over for Yonder Alonso at first base should Alonso be traded or moved back to third base full time. The Padres likely won’t want to start Melvin Upton in center field in 2016 despite him being under contract and making 14 million next year. If Myers does move to 1st base on a full time basis, it seems the most likely fits for the two outfield spots could be Hunter Renfroe, or even Rymer Liriano in left field, with youngster Travis Janikowski playing center field. Liriano had some significant playing time for a terrible Padres team in 2014 and has only further advanced his game to the point where he should be ready to play a bigger role in 2016.

Following the trade of Matt Wisler, and the promotion of Austin Hedges, Hunter Renfroe is he consensus top prospect for the Padres and should be ready for the big leagues sometime in the middle of next year if not from opening day. Janikowski on the other hand was just moved to Triple A, and may not be ready for a full time starting job in center field in 2016. Despite these concerns, Janikowski has hit over .300 this season in Double A with a near .400 OBP before his promotion to Triple A. If he continues his improvement the rest of this year he could find himself ready for the big time in 2016.

In terms of infield help, the Padres may need to go outside of the organization, via trades or free agency following the season, for more immediate needs in 2016. Their top shortstop prospect, Jose Rondon, is out for the rest of the year following an injury and had only just reached Double A ball this year anyway. Beyond him, Ruddy Giron is having a huge year but he is still only in Single A and is only 18 years old.

Taylor Lindsey could even be an option at second base should the Padres not be comfortable with Gyorko/Spangenberg or cannot find a suitable second base in a trade or via free agency.  It seems likely that the Padres will either acquire prospects or big league talent via a trade for shortstop, and either make a trade or stick with some combination of Will Middlebrooks, Yangervis Solarte, Cory Spangenberg, and Jedd Gyorko for 2016.

Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

Another small note for 2016 is on what the Padres will do for their long-term catching needs. It seems Norris has found a place on the team due to his offensive prowess but it seems clear that, contingent on his performance at the plate, Austin Hedges can be a more valuable catcher for the Padres based on his defensive dominance alone. One thing that I haven’t heard discussed much, and seems to be a decent possibility, is moving Derek Norris to first base long-term instead of Wil Myers. Not only does this open up a slot on the field for Austin Hedges, a position that he will excel at, but it also preserves the health of Derek Norris long-term and could allow him to focus more on his offensive game which clearly provides more value to the team than his defense at catcher.

The Padres most interesting need for 2016 might be in both their starting pitching staff as well as their bullpen. If they do end up trading away Ian Kennedy, which is likely to happen, that will leave at least one opening in the rotation. It’s not certain the Padres trade away any of their top three pitchers in James Shields, Tyson Ross, and Andrew Cashner but if we say they could trade at least one pitcher that would leave two open spots in the rotation. Let’s speculate and say the Padres trade both Kennedy and Cashner and are left with Tyson Ross and James Shields at the top of the rotation.

Beyond those two starters, the Padres have a few interesting options in Odrisamer Despaigne, who has pitched significant innings in both 2014 and 2015, and the injury prone Cory Luebke, Josh Johnson, and Brandon Morrow. All three have extensive injury histories, and all three are struggling to return this year. It makes sense to bring back both Morrow and Johnson, who are currently on one year deals, to get another chance at the big league roster. These are risky options and the Padres may need to go outside of the organization for more reliable options.

Mandatory Credit: MiLB.Com
Colin Rea Mandatory Credit: MiLB.Com

The most interesting option is Colin Rea, who was just promoted to Triple A and may actually find himself on a big league roster in 2015. Beyond him the Padres farm system is barren and only Justin Hancock, or the outside chance of Casey Kelly, could be ready to pitch at the big league level in 2016. The Padres may be better off going after one of the big ticket free agent pitchers, or even a cheaper free agent option, who will all become available following the season.

The final roster question mark for the 2016 Padres is their bullpen which could find itself depleted following the trade deadline. It seems likely that both Joaquin Benoit as well as Shawn Kelley will be gone following the trade deadline, or at least following the season, with Craig Kimbrel another possible option for a trade. This leaves a void in both the 8th and 9th innings for the bullpen and likely leads to a promotion for Brandon Maurer as the new long-term closer for the Padres. Past him the Padres will still have young and cost-controlled arms such as Dale Thayer, Kevin Quackenbush, Marcus Mateo, and Nick Vincent. In terms of replacing Kelley and Benoit, the Padres could turn to a variety of guys that have seen big league playing time, from Cory Mazzoni to Chris Rearick to Robbie Erlin or they could go with new guys from the minors such as Leonel Campos, Casey Kelly, Tayron Guerrero, among some others. It would probably be more likely the Padres could make one or two small additions to the bullpen via free agency or trade to solidify the back end of the bullpen.

So based on these assumptions and predictions, the Padres roster for 2016, without any free agent additions or additions by trade, would look like this.

Catcher: Austin Hedges/Derek Norris

1st: Yonder Alonso/Wil Myers/Derek Norris

2nd: Jedd Gyorko/Cory Spangenberg/Taylor Lindsey

ShortStop: Who knows? Probably some acquisition

3rd: Yangervis Solarte/Will Middlebrooks/Yonder Alonso

Left Field: Wil Myers/Hunter Renfroe/Rymer Liriano

Center Field: Travis Janikowski/Melvin Upton

Right Field: Matt Kemp

Starting Pitchers: James Shields/Tyson Ross/Colin Rea/Brandon Morrow/Odrisamer Despaigne/Josh Johnson/Cory Luebke

Relief Pitchers: Brandon Maurer, Kevin Quackenbush, Nick Vincent, Marcus Mateo, Dale Thayer, Robbie Erlin, Cory Mazzoni, Chris Rearick, Frank Garces, Leonel Campos, Tayron Guerrero, Casey Kelly

Next year’s team doesn’t necessarily look bad but doesn’t necessarily look good either. It is clear that the Padres might need to make quite a few offseason upgrades via trade or free agency. The Padres definitely have their work cut out for them making up for all the offseason chaos and the arrested expectations for this season following the moves of last offseason.

The Padres may have a weaker farm system than they did prior to the season but could recoup some of that value in several trade deadline deals. Despite this, the Padres do still have some decent prospects that could contribute at the major league level in 2016 and beyond. Even if some of these guys do not work out, or the Padres decide they are not ready, Padres ownership and AJ Preller seem willing to spend even more and make bigger splashes in both free agency and through trades. Time will tell what the Padres will do at the trade deadline and what their 2016 roster will look like but one thing is certain, this will definitely an interesting team to watch in 2016 and for years to come.

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