Now that the 2018 MLB season has already gotten underway, it’s as good a time as ever to finish off the Padres 40-man roster rankings.
These rankings are already outdated, given the signing of Eric Hosmer (who will not be included on this list) as well as several 40-man roster moves at the end of spring training, but this exercise is still worth seeing to its end. For the previous 35 players (36 if you count the addition of Rowan Wick, whose 40-man roster stay was short-lived), each guy had a whole piece covering his background, his 2017 season, and his 2018 projections plus long term outlook.
For the final five on this list, I will take a look at all those factors for all five guys in this singular article. Let’s get started.
2018 Projections (Steamer): 109 innings pitched, 25.9% strikeout rate, 11% walk rate, 4.09 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 1.4 fWAR
This probably would have been better if I had written this article prior to Dinelson Lamet being placed on the disabled list with an ominous elbow injury, but here we are. At this point the Padres are saying there is no structural damage in Lamet’s elbow, but the possibility of Tommy John surgery will loom for as long as he is sidelined. Since there isn’t much else to add on the injury front, let’s discuss Lamet’s background and where he fits in on the Padres in 2018 and beyond.
Signed internationally by the San Diego Padres in 2014, Lamet kind of flew under the radar in San Diego before really put his name on the map with a big start to his 2017 season in El Paso. After 39 solid innings in Triple-A, with a big strikeout rate and similarly elevated walk rate, Lamet made his big league debut in late June. There were certainly lots of bumps in the road for Lamet over his first 100 plus big league innings, but his near 30 percent strikeout rate and .207 batting average against were both positive signs in his first taste of big league action. Lamet still has the possibility of being a bullpen arm in his future given his lack of a viable third pitch, but there is still enough to dream on and time for him to work out the kinks.
If Lamet can come back healthy next month, which seems to be the current plan, 2018 will be a big season for his development. Lamet hopes to continue his growth and solidify himself as a rotation piece for the long term. However, that is all going to depend upon whether or not Lamet can effectively harness a third pitch, whether that is a changeup or something else entirely. At worst, he has the possibility of being an electric late inning reliever with an upper 90s fastball and deadly slider combination. With several other young pitchers on the cusp of big league relevance, Lamet might not have a long time to figure out the kinks. Either way, it’s hard to see Lamet not playing some sort of role on the Padres when they attempt to return to relevance in the next few seasons.
2018 Projections (Steamer): 105 games, 415 plate appearances, 5.5% walk rate, 24.6% strikeout rate, .231/.278/.406, 79 wRC+, -0.2 BsR, 12.4 DEF, 1.4 fWAR
Next up on the list is catcher Austin Hedges, who is looking to build off of his first full season in the big leagues last season. Drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Austin Hedges has always kind of been the same player: a glove first catcher wit ha bat that was struggling to catch up. After struggling offensively for the first chunk of his minor league career, and in his first taste of professional baseball in 2015, it looked like Hedges finally made a breakthrough with a monster half season in Triple-A in 2016. In 334 plate appearances over 82 games, Hedges mashed 21 home runs and slashed .326/.353/.597 with a 146 wRC+. It seemed like Hedges was finally going to be a capable offensive player.
However, that optimism was short-lived, as Hedges was unable to match that offensive upside in a full year in the bigs in 2017. Over 417 big league plate appearances, Hedges slashed just .214/.262/.398 with a 71 wRC+. Sure, he hit 18 home runs and provided elite defense behind the plate, but his season left a lot to be desired given his weak offensive performance. Despite the big offensive surge in 2016, Hedges took a bit of a step back offensively in 2017.
Going into 2018, the hope is once again that Hedges can figure it out on offense and become at least a somewhat productive big league hitter. Given his defensive upside and strong game calling, Hedges will be the starting catcher for the foreseeable future regardless, but with added offense Hedges can become one of the most valuable players in all of baseball. As it stands, he has probably solidified himself as a top ten catcher in baseball on his defense alone. Long term the Padres will be betting on his offensive upside in the hopes of him becoming something truly special.
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