Padres continue to suffer in regards to major league player development

Padres MacKenzie Gore

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Getty Images

If the San Diego Padres plan on hoisting a World Series trophy, player development at the major league level needs to improve. 

The San Diego Padres display no positive history in regards to developing players.

At the major league level, there are very few success stories for the Padres throughout the years. Tony Gwynn is a rare exception, but his kind of talent and work ethic would rise to the top in any situation. It isn’t easy to give much credit to the Padres franchise for Gwynn’s Hall-of-Fame career.

Look at the current roster, and the only major league-type homegrown Padres player is Dinelson Lamet. Not that you need to draft and cultivate a player yourself to reap the benefits of his career. A.J. Preller and his staff do well in evaluating and obtaining young players who are blossoming (I.E., Fernando Tatis Jr.). The Padres continue to find players of value via trade, but can they get the most out of their own drafted players?

To be relevant in the majors, you need to add the correct mix of veteran players. Look at what the Braves did this year by overhauling their outfield at or around the trade deadline. However, Atlanta had several homegrown players on the roster as well. A winning recipe is very precise, and it only takes one bad ingredient to sour the whole concoction. The Padres need to be wary of who they add in the coming months as they stock the roster for the 2021 season. Clubhouse chemistry is a real thing.

Some prefer to keep as many homegrown players as possible when constructing a major league roster. Preller and his staff do not necessarily subscribe to that philosophy, which is one reason why the Padres are finding trouble with consistency. There is no “Padres way,” and sadly, there never was a mantra like that for young players to emulate.

Here are four examples of the Padres’ issues with player development.

The constant change in coaching and philosophy

The Minnesota Twins hired Jayce Tingler to serve as bench coach. Skip Schumaker went back home to the St. Louis Cardinals a few weeks ago, and Bobby Dickerson left the coaching group in San Diego for the Philadelphia Phillies. So the Padres once again have a practically new coaching staff and new philosophies that come with it. Bob Melvin should bring some stability to the coaching staff, but it will take time for that to take place. The failures of the past teams have a lot to do with the constant change in philosophies. There is no question.

It is very difficult to develop at the major league level without consistency. The game of baseball is based on the principle of consistency. With different philosophies in a player’s head, it can be maddening to know the true value of yourself. It is impossible to enjoy success, and the more failure that happens- the worse it gets for a player or team. It is a vicious cycle that can be difficult to get out of. This type of tailspin is what ofter dooms a major league player or franchise. The Padres need semblance. The players crave it.

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Cal Quantrill, Ty France breaking out in 2021

Yes, both men were part of a package for major league relevant players. However, the fact that both of these homegrown players were never given an opportunity to fail with the Padres is slightly concerning. During a stretch in his rookie campaign, Quantrill looked as though he was capable of being a top of the rotation starter. In a span of 10 games in 2019 from June to August, Quantrill allowed seven earned runs in 38 innings pitched. He made six starts during that time, including seven shutout innings on August 9 against the Rockies. His next seven starts to end the season were not as pleasant as Quantrill’s ERA rose from 3.21, after the seven shutout innings against Colorado, to 5.16, which he ended the 2019 campaign with.

Credit: AP Photo

As for France, the man hit .399 at the Triple-A level in 2019 for the Chihuahuas in 296 at-bats. The hot start in El Paso earned France a promotion, and he put up a .234/.294/.402  with the Padres in 69 games and 184 at-bats. France showed decent promise despite the sporadic playing time with the Padres. He often changed positions and batted all over the lineup for the Padres. The SDSU product was dealt to Seattle and responded with constant playing time. France hit .291 with a .813 OPS for the Mariners in 152 games. The infielder recorded a 4.3 WAR in 2021, which is 1.1 more than the Padres have received from Eric Hosmer is four years with the team. France is versatile with the glove, as he played all over the infield for Seattle in 2021. The Padres surely regret allowing France to depart the team. At the time, there was supposedly no place for him to play the field. Supposedly.

Phil Maton showing worth with increased analytical development. 

In the 2021 playoffs, Phil Maton showed great value for the Astros, throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings for Houston in the World Series. Manager Dusty Baker showed confidence in the right-handed pitcher from Kentucky. In 12.1 total innings in the 2021 postseason, Maton allowed one earned run. He struck out 14 and only walked three in the postseason, featuring his four-seam fastball. The Padres dealt Maton to Cleveland in July of 2019 for international bonus slot money after he went 3-4 with a 5.02 ERA in three years and 114 innings pitched in San Diego. His numbers in Cleveland and in Houston during the regular season were nothing special, but the 28-year-old unlocked something in the postseason and could be a high-leverage reliever in the coming years. Maton is showing value as he embraced analytics and attacked hitters with his best statistical chance of success.

Credit: Dennis Poroy/ Getty Images

In speaking to Maton in the spring of 2019, we spoke about analytics and the new concept around baseball. More specifically, Maton spoke about Rapsodo Machines and Edgertronic Cameras. Maton’s family owns a baseball facility in Kentucky, and he was very conscious of the concept. Candidly, Maton spoke about the need for the Padres to hire people in the locker room to translate the information. To this day, the team arguably still suffers in this area. Dave Cameron announced last month that he will not return to the Padres, which is a huge red flag. The former Fangraphs guru is highly-regarded in the area of analytics, and he left the team. Replacing him will not be easy. “I would rather have everything (statistics) and not need it than to not have it and need it. I enjoy all the numbers,” Maton said as he summed it up in the spring of 2019. The Padres need to improve in relaying this new crucial information to their players.

MacKenzie Gore developmental issues 

Most believed the Padres would have debuted MacKenzie Gore by now. Especially when you factor in the starting pitching issues, the Padres dealt with over the last two seasons. Over the past two seasons, there were times when the Padres really needed starting pitching down the stretch. Gore was never called up and instead spent most of the past two years going between the minors and the Arizona Complex League as he worked on mechanics. The Padres’ number one pitching prospect is still very young, and the Padres have wisely taken time developing him. There are some concerns about his development, but you really cannot complain until he actually does debut with the Padres.

The 22-year-old will likely big his major league career next season at the age of 23. Not a huge concern as most high school drafted pitchers require a little bit of time to develop. The expectation is that once Gore toes the rubber in San Diego, he will not go back down to the minor leagues. There has always been a sense that Gore will begin his career in the majors and only pitch there until he is done with his career. He comes with high expectations and naturally so, as the stuff and demeanor is that of an ace-like pitcher. For now, Padres fans need to be patient. New pitching coach Ruben Niebla is already working his magic with Gore. This example could be a turning point for the San Diego Padres. They must develop Gore and get the most out of his potential. Only time will tell.

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