Padres need a franchise-wide shift in philosophy

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Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres have already begun reloading their farm system after gutting it the last two seasons. It’s time for a change in philosophy.

Over the last three seasons, the Padres have built, boasted, stripped, and gutted their farm system perhaps more than any other franchise in baseball.

No general manager in baseball has wheeled-and-dealed like A.J. Preller since his first offseason in 2014-2015.

Frankly, it is embarrassing how few players on the Padres’ current 26-man roster are “homegrown,” meaning the Padres either drafted them out of high school or college or signed them as an international amateur free agent.

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the closest thing they have to a homegrown star. He never played a single minor league game before being traded from the White Sox organization to the Padres at 17 years old.

Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts were signed as big-buck free agents. Juan Soto, Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Trent Grisham, and Jake Cronenworth were all part of complex trades by Preller.

Ha-Seong Kim gets a pass for being an international, professional, free agent. Even still, he was a polished 25-year-old with seven seasons in the KBO under his belt when he arrived.

The Padres are currently one of the worst franchises in the sport at nurturing homegrown talent to make an impact on the big league roster.

Ryan Weathers is a former seventh-overall pick for the Padres in 2018. He currently owns a career 5.73 ERA in 143 big league innings.

Of the seven first-round picks from 2016 to 2022, the Padres have traded away four of them.

Only Weathers remains from any first-rounders before 2021.

Since 2016, the club leaders in position player WAR are littered with non-homegrown players. The current leaders of batter and pitcher WAR as a Padre for players drafted in San Diego since 2015 are Ty France and Joey Lucchesi.

The Padres need to enter a new way of thinking. While they don’t need to “tank,” like those lean years of 2016 through 2019, they need to be smarter. There is a delicate balance between being aggressive in upgrading the big league roster and being patient and developing cheap talent you already have.

It’s time to nurture and develop these top prospects and high draft picks.

The top five round picks for the Padres from the 2016 and 2017 draft classes have provided a combined 5.0 for the Padres.

For context, the Dodgers’ top five rounders in that same timeframe have earned 23.4 WAR.

Keith Law just released his midseason Top 60 prospects list via The Athletic. The Padres have two, not only on his list but in the top 10. Yes, according to Keith Law, the Padres once again have two top-10-level prospects in all of baseball.

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Shortstop Jackson Merrill checks in at No. 9 while teenage phenom catcher Ethan Salas, not yet of legal adult age, skyrockets to fourth overall.

Merrill just recently got the call up to Double-A San Antonio, where he is hitting .317 with a .862 OPS.

Salas currently owns a 125 wRC+ in Single-A as a 17-year-old while playing the most demanding defensive position in the sport.

FanGraphs already has their farm system ranked 17th after being 26th to end the 2022 season.

MLB Pipeline ranks four Padres prospects in the Top 100. Dylan Lesko and Robby Snelling are talented pitchers working their way up as well.

This is not strange territory to the Padres under president of baseball operations and general manager A.J. Preller.

What needs to be strange territory is how they approach the present and future with these budding stars.

The Padres have another chance to see blue-chip prospects make their impact on the Padres, and not for another organization.

That doesn’t mean the Padres can’t upgrade via trade when it is prudent. It’s possible to swing trades without gutting the farm once again.

This is where the Padres need to improve. They appear almost as if they are too lazy or not competent enough to take on the task of developing young talent and would rather just deal it away for proven commodities.

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The truly top-notch franchises in baseball (Astros, Dodgers, Rays, Braves) have a bevy of homegrown, developed players at their disposal.

The Padres have lacked the infrastructure to fully develop their young players to the big league level and do not prioritize it enough.

As a result, they have let players like Trea Turner (30.9 career WAR), Emmanuel Clase (94 career saves), Jack Suwinski (21 HR in 2023), Andres Munoz (2.51 ERA in 86 games for Mariners), Josh Naylor (110 career OPS+), Hunter Renfroe (172 career HR), Ty France (2022 All-Star), Max Fried (2022 NL Cy Young runner-up), and David Bednar (two-time All-Star) all slip through the cracks via trade.

Not to mention James Wood, who was part of the Juan Soto trade. He is now the No. 4-ranked prospect in all of baseball per MLB Pipeline (Law has him 20th).

It’s time for the Padres to turn the corner on player development and roster construction.

Players like Ethan Salas, Jackson Merrill, Dylan Lesko, and Robby Snelling need to be part of the Padres’ future plans in San Diego, not as trade bait.

A.J. Preller is yet to prove he can build a major league roster without making an inordinate amount of trades.

With Tatis, Machado, Bogaerts, and Cronenworth all under contract for the next seven-plus years, they don’t need a full-scale rebuild. They need more young, controllable talent around them to bear the weight of those contracts while still producing on the field.

It’s time for more homegrown talent to stay home.

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1 thought on “Padres need a franchise-wide shift in philosophy

  1. Yes, but, far more importantly they NEED A NEW GM!!!

    But this will not happen, and all the other GM’s will be lining up to swindle AJ, knowing how horrible he is in negotiating and making trades.

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