It is clear that the San Diego Padres are going through an organizational change. A replacement in philosophies was needed to rejuvenate this dormant franchise and turn around the fan base. It is happening currently, and most fans are aware of the new regime and their goals.
When you speak to certain personnel within the Padres organization you get a sense of comfort, a sense of relief about this ball club. A.J. Preller exudes passion when he speaks about the future of this team. Manager Andy Green also exemplifies this feeling of joy when talking about the game of baseball. Recently I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the Padres’ International Scouting Director, Chris Kemp, and he too has this look in his eyes when speaking about the San Diego Padres and their future.
The coaching staff as well shares in this passion for the game and the team’s direction. You do not have to go much further than bullpen coach Doug Bochtler to witness this feeling of excitement. There is a feeling in Padreland that this franchise is moving in the right direction and they are doing it with a long-term goal in plan. Thinking about the future is something that this franchise has sadly not done in the past.
There is a plan in place and we just have to remain patient to see it unfold.
This past week I sat down with Doug Bochtler, to catch up on the 2016 season and see what he has in mind for the team and the 2017 season. He just finished up some organizational meetings and is ready and focused to help lead this team into the future. We first spoke about the direction the team is headed. He is very passionate about the team and is always willing to discuss the Padres.
“We have a path and its very clear. It’s a well thought out path to bring championship baseball to San Diego for an extended period of time. Its going to be something that is sustainable. It takes discipline and it takes patience and it also takes a clear defined path”, he told me. It is very clear that for the first time ever this franchise is really contemplating the future and trying to maintain a sense of balance for a long period of time. That is how successful franchises are formed.
I asked Doug about the meetings and what was discussed. “In our organizational meetings we all went over our processes to make sure we are all consistent. So once the personnel gets placed, we are able to improve on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis, and so on. Much of the meetings revolved around our processes and the structure behind them”, he said. Being on the same page is very important to the team. Each level of the minor league system must maintain the same level of teaching. They must all be consistent with their philosophies and must play the game in the same manner. It cannot be said enough how great it is that this team is embracing this type of thinking.
The unique ability of Christian Bethancourt was discussed. The catcher successfully made the transition to the outfield late in the 2016 season. He also saw two separate outings on the mound in which he didn’t allow a single run to score. The franchise has decided to give him a shot in the Spring at potentially earning a spot on the team as a hybrid player next season, in which he may pitch occasionally out of the pen. It would be the first time in major league history that a position player is utilized in this manner. “The staff at the instructional league in Arizona and I were able to see Christian Bethancourt throw a couple of bullpen sessions after the season ended. We made some adjustments with his mechanics and saw some video of him during our board meetings. He’s athletic and looks the part. He has the ability to hit one off the back of the scoreboard and then pitch in the back-end of the bullpen”, he said. With no pitching experience prior to this past season, it is amazing to see his progression.
Say what you want about the Padres 2017 season, but the team will be exciting to watch and will also be very entertaining on a nightly basis.
We next discussed the progression of Luis Perdomo during the 2016 season. The young Dominican pitcher turned the corner after being selected by the team in the Rule-5 Draft. He really does look to be a major factor in the Padres’ future.
“This kid has aptitude off the charts. He is able to take a pitch. Figure it out and it becomes one of the best sinkers in all of baseball. We saw that from a kid who should have been in Double-A. When you see that kind of growth that quickly, you know he has the ability to take information and apply it. That type of player is who we want to surround our organization with. His growth was a culmination of a few things. Not enough can be said about Carlos Villanueva teaching him how to be a pro. He constantly talked situations during the game and pitch usage with Luis. He completely took him under his wing. The cool thing is seeing that passed down. Trevor Hoffman did that for Carlos when they were in Milwaukee together and now he (Villanueva) is doing that for Perdomo. Its one of those things that, when you see it, gives you goosebumps to think that people care about other people that much…. His growth was just off the charts.”
For Luis Perdomo the year was great, but what kind of future does he have in the league? We talked about his development and what he needs to do to take his game to the next level. ” With where he is at with his delivery and the fact he knows he can go out there and get major league hitters out, he has cleared that hurdle. Now it comes down to maintaining his command and making him take that next step. Which is not just being a major leaguer, but being a dominant pitcher. He has to take those steps”, he explained. Fascinating that he was left unprotected by the Cardinals and the Padres were able to steal him away from them.
It was no coincidence that Perdomo was selected, as Bochtler tells me about the analytical side of the game and how the coaching staff is really embracing it when determining value of their players. ” There are things that we look at. Things that a lot of organizations don’t look at currently that give us an upper hand. We are looking at spin rate of guys and their delivery. We look at them and try to determine if there is something we can tweak about them to make them better.”
The Padres organizational philosophy is really maturing. It is quite refreshing seeing that the current regime has embraced a long run approach to creating a great baseball program. It’s also nice to see them take the analytical side of the game and use it in their evaluations. This type of vision has never been carried out in San Diego, and I hope that they stay on the current path. The minor league system is already one of the best in the league, and with players like Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, and Austin Hedges, the fans have young players to watch now. Truly exciting times for Padres fans that have never had much to look forward to. The writing is on the wall for what they are trying to create with this Padres’ regime.
“We are creating a culture. A culture of professionalism. A winning attitude and a never-quit mindset to the San Diego Padres.”
The 2017 season will have some question marks regarding the rotation. One name in particular who could be a key addition to the team is Clayton Richard. He was acquired from the Cubs late in the season and pitched wonderfully in the rotation for the Friars in September. He hadn’t started a game before being claimed by the Padres. After a couple of relief appearances he was given a shot to start a game, and he never looked back, recording a 3-3 record with a 2.91 ERA in nine starts. The lefty is scheduled for free agency and the Padres will likely be in contact with him. I asked Doug about Clayton Richard and what he brought to the team.
“Clayton brings more to the table than just his pitching ability. With the way that he works and the type of presence that he has in the locker room, I can’t talk about his pitching before mentioning that. He is the consummate professional. He is someone who you would love to have in the rotation. He came back after surgery with a lower arm slot and that enabled him to sink the ball a little bit better. Whenever you can do that, you are going to be pitch efficient. That in itself will let you pitch more innings and be in more games.”
Brandon Maurer is a bit of an enigma at this point in his major league career. Will he start? Will he continue to close? Or is he a quality setup man? I asked Doug his thoughts about the hard throwing right-handed pitcher, and he spoke pretty candidly about him. “I think his starting days are over. That in itself will give a bit of clarity to him in his direction as a pitcher. Brandon definitely has the stuff to pitch in the late innings. He did a nice job as far as save percentage goes in 2015. Whether or not he is the closer… I don’t know. We are looking at Carter Capps as a possible option. No matter what, I would definitely look for Brandon Maurer at the back end of our bullpen.”
That answer led me into Carter Capps, and asking Doug about the right-handed pitcher with a funky motion. He is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but could be close to returning around opening day. “He is very human. He is an extremely hard worker. Carter goes about his business the right way and isn’t one to shy away from work. His body is carved out of stone. He is the real deal. I’m looking forward to having him healthy and in the back end of the bullpen. ”
Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter seemingly came out of nowhere to add value to a relatively unknown Padres bullpen. The Padres have lacked left-handed pitching for quite some time and it was nice to see each southpaw step up in 2016. We spoke about each pitcher and how both are vital to the team’s future. “Brad Hand did such a great job for us out of the bullpen this year. He took the ball in more than half of the games we played. He threw up to four innings in an appearance and is off the charts when it comes to makeup and stuff. Brad Hand, to me, was our most valuable pitcher last year. Ryan Buchter was the flash. We were like who is this kid, and where did he come from? How was he in the minor leagues? He hides the baseball well and gets in on lefties really well. His spin rate is also above the major league average. His ability to pitch to his glove hand is what really does separate him from other pitchers.” Both lefties stepped up tremendously this year and each will be key members of the 2017 bullpen.
In closing my conversation with Mr. Bochtler, I asked him about his goals personally and for the team in 2017. “My personal goals are the same as they were last year. To impact everyone that I come in contact with. From position players to pitchers. To improve the greater good of our team. To have each player get better. Those personal goals never change. My goal is to impact the players. As far as the organization goes, they are very similar to my own. To simply get the most out of every one of our guys.” With a thought process like this, the Padres will be a winning franchise in no time. If the organization surrounds themselves with players and coaches with this mentality, then the sky is truly the limit.