Predicting stats for the 2021 San Diego Padres: Hitters
Baseball is a game of numbers. It’s also wildly unpredictable. So naturally, trying to predict statistics for a 162-game season is a fool’s errand, one I chose to embark on with the 2021 San Diego Padres.
The San Diego Padres enter their most anticipated season in franchise history.
Most have the Friars in the playoffs, and a few pundits even have them going as far as winning the World Series. In order to get there, San Diego’s lineup is going to have to put up some serious numbers. I attempted to predict the stat line of each starter in the Padres lineup for 2021. It was a heavy dose of realism sprinkled with some optimism on top.
Using FanGraphs’ ZiPS and STEAMER projection tools as my guide, along with the 162-game pace of their 2020 numbers, here are the predictions for Padres’ hitters this upcoming season. I covered the assumed starting lineup along with the top two projected bench options.
Austin Nola, C
ZiPS: 115 g, .246 avg, 10 HR, 54 RBI, .713 OPS, 89 wRC+, 1.4 WAR
STEAMER: 81 g, .253 avg, 9 HR, 39 RBI, .727 OPS, 93 wRC+, 1.6 WAR
2020 pace: 130 g, .273 avg, 19 HR, 76 RBI, .825 OPS, 126 wRC+, 4.6 WAR
For parts of the shortened 2020 season, Nola was hitting another stratosphere. He hit .318 with a .934 OPS in August, though that only included one game as a member of the Padres. After coming to San Diego from the Seattle Mariners, Nola mostly struggled at the plate, hitting .222 with a 97 OPS+ in 19 games for the Friars. His 126 wRC+ in 2020 was right up there with JT Realmuto among catchers. That seems like a lofty, perhaps even unfair, standard to which to hold Nola. STEAMER is pessimistic about Nola even playing much of a full season. His ZiPS prediction seems to be right around what to expect for a versatile yet average hitter. However, that is still a big upgrade from what the Padres have been getting from their catchers in recent years at the plate.
My prediction: 120 g, .242 average, 10 HR, 49 RBI, .714 OPS, 1.7 WAR
Eric Hosmer, 1B
ZiPS: 139 g, .261 avg, 20 HR, 98 RBI, .739, 93 wRC+, 0.3 WAR
STEAMER: 147 g, .257, 24 HR, 85 RBI, .757, 98, 0.5
2020 pace: 81 g, .287 avg, 24 HR, 97 RBI, .851, 127, 2.4 WAR
It’s safe to say that gone are the days of Hosmer hitting above .300 with 25-homer power. Frankly, with other pieces around him in San Diego’s lineup, he doesn’t need to be. Whatever he found during his brief 2020 run needs to stick this season. He was on pace to actually be the guy the Padres paid for in 2018. Realistically, he will likely be something in between what he was in 2020 and what he was in his first two years in San Diego when he owned a below-average .728 OPS. Neither ZiPS nor STEAMER are high on Hosmer being of much value. However, if there is even a small dose of his 2020 success injected into his 2021, he will exceed those projections.
My prediction: 145 g, .260 avg, 22 HR, 89 RBI, .749 OPS, 100 wRC+, 1.7 WAR
Jake Cronenworth, 2B
ZiPS: 119 g, .263 avg, 8 HR, 48 RBI, .724 OPS, 93 wRC+, 1.9 WAR
STEAMER: 103 g, .271 avg, 8 HR, 47 RBI, .748 OPS, 100 wRC+, 1.3 WAR
2020 pace: 146 g, .285 avg, 11 HR, 54 RBI, .831 OPS, 125 wRC+, 3.8 WAR
After a red-hot start to the season, Cronenworth tapered off in the final few weeks of the regular season. He ended up in a tie for second place in the voting for N.L. Rookie of the Year. In the playoffs, the August version of Cronenworth returned with a .389 average and 1.208 OPS in six playoff games. The 27-year-old doesn’t hit for much power, but he uses all fields and knows how to get on base. Beware of expecting him to repeat his nearly all-star level hitting over the course of 162 games. However, he is a valuable commodity that can play multiple spots with .350+ OBP production. He may end up splitting time with newcomer Ha-Seong Kim at second base, which will drive down the volume of his overall stats.
My prediction: 125 g, .267 avg, 10 HR, 46 RBI, .755 OPS, 105 wRC+, 2.0 WAR
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
Here he is, the current face of Major League Baseball himself. Padres fans got a shot of reality earlier this week when Tatis left Tuesday’s game early after tweaking his non-throwing shoulder. It’s a somber reminder that baseball is a fickle game, and given its length of a season, anything can happen, including injuries. Tatis has a brief history of injuries, mostly because the man plays with his hair ablaze and a reckless abandon not seen in this generation. Either way, the numbers clearly favor El Niño drumming up a borderline MVP season for the Friars.
ZiPS: 119 g, .284 avg, 28 HR, 94 RBI, .905 OPS, 134 wRC+, 4.4 fWAR
STEAMER: 150 g, .284, 39 HR, 97 RBI, .908 OPS, 135 wRC+, 5.9 fWAR
2020 pace: 159 g, .277 avg, 46 HR, 122 RBI, .937 OPS, 149 wRC+, 7.8 WAR
STEAMER is usually the more optimistic, while ZiPS tends to be on the other end. I like to work somewhere in between. ZiPS has Tatis missing 43 games. Given what happened Tuesday, it’s hard to envision Tatis going all-out day-in and day-out and not having to miss a game here and there. I gave him 140 games, with a brief stint on the IL for some soreness after a hard slide. 5.8 fWAR would have been right in between Trevor Story in Francisco Lindor in 2019, arguably the two best shortstops in the game not named Tatis. Certainly, these are all-star numbers, even “best shortstop in baseball” numbers. The one question mark remains- health. That’s the only thing standing in the way between Tatis and multiple MVP awards.
My prediction: 150 games, .279 avg, 33 HR, 95 RBI, .907 OPS, 133 wRC+, 5.8 WAR
Manny Machado, 3B
ZiPS: 151 g, .271, 33 HR, 116 RBI, .837 OPS, 113 wRC+, 3.8 WAR
STEAMER: 150 g, .274, 36 HR, 104 RBI, .869, 124 wRC+, 4.6 WAR
2020 pace: 162 g, .304 avg, 43 HR, 127 RBI, .950, 149, 7.0 WAR
Last season saw Machado nearly win the National League MVP. Ultimately, he finished third in the voting, but his numbers spelled out that of a Most Valuable Player. As long as he and his partner-in-crime Tatis remain healthy, those two will play tag-team atop the leaderboards of many offensive statistics. After an adjustment period to life in a new league on a new coast in 2019, Machado settled in for 2020 and looked every bit the part of the man making $30 million a year. Expect nothing less in 2021 as this team’s high expectations are tethered to the star third baseman’s steady and powerful presence in the everyday lineup. 6.0 fWAR in 2019 would have been fourth in the league with Nolan Arenado. There will be plenty of opportunities to drive in runs with a combination of Tatis, Trent Grisham, and Tommy Pham ahead of him in the lineup. Plus, he has missed just six games in two seasons thus far in San Diego.
My predictions: 155 g, .283 avg, 35 HR, 109 RBI, .850 OPS, 127 wRC+, 6.0 WAR
Wil Myers, RF
ZiPS: 135 g, .249, 25 HR, 84 RBI, .803, 109, 1.6
STEAMER: 141 g, .237, 25 HR, 78 RBI, .760, 99, 1.0
2020 pace: 149 g, .288, 41 HR, 108 RBI, .959, 154, 5.1
Myers quietly put up numbers worthy of MVP consideration in 2020. He had a better OPS+ than Bryce Harper, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Mookie Betts. To think this torrid pace from 55 games can continue through a 162-game marathon in 2021 might be wishful thinking. However, he seems to be more comfortable with this new coaching staff and is just being himself. Long gone is the pressure to be the face of the franchise or the best hitter. Now he can sit lower in the lineup and enjoy hitting behind two other MVP candidates. When Myers is playing loose, he is at his best. I expect him to be closer to his 2020 self than the dreadful 2019 campaign (.239 average, 96 OPS+). A .324 BABIP in 2020 suggests a slight regression is coming, but this could also be the new-and-improved Wil Myers.
My prediction 140 g, .256 avg, 28 HR, 79 RBI, .781 OPS, 111 wRC+, 2.7 WAR
Trent Grisham, CF
ZiPS: 144, .240 avg, 21 HR, 73, .779 OPS, 106 wRC+, 2.4 WAR
Steamer: 143, .252 avg, 24 HR, 72 RBI, .798 OPS, 111 wRC+, 3.5 WAR
2020 pace: 159 g, .251 avg, 27 HR, 70 RBI, .808 OPS, 121 wRC+, 6.2 WAR
Grisham was somewhat of a revelation for the Padres after coming over in a trade from Milwaukee. He proved to be a valuable left-handed bat in a righty-heavy lineup as well as a Gold Glove-winning center fielder. The power he displayed in the minor leagues showed up, with 10 home runs and 21 extra-base hits. Frankly, the Brewers gave up on him far too early. 2020 was his breakout, and he could be in for big things in 2021 and beyond. The Friars found a staple in the outfield in Grisham. He may not hit for average, but he gets on base enough with his hitting and patience at the plate. He led all Padres’ qualified hitters’ 12.3 percent walk rate. He will walk enough and hit for enough power to be a slightly above-average hitter.
My prediction: 142 g, .259 avg, 22 HR, 68 RBI, .788 OPS, 109 wRC+, 3.2 WAR
Tommy Pham, LF
ZiPS: 126 g, .258, 16HR, 60 RBI, .769, 105, 1.8
STEAMER: 127, .267, 20 HR, 68 RBI, .813, 116, 2.4
2020 pace: 84 g, .211, 8 HR, 33 RBI, .624, 78, -0.1
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Pham’s 2020 season was almost a complete wash. He battled multiple ailments on his way to a .211 average in 31 games. An encouraging sign is his surging spring training after his clean bill of health in camp this year. As of Friday, his spring batting average is up to .283. Another sign of a rebound in 2021 is his subpar .253 BABIP in 2020, suggesting he experienced some bad luck on top of his broken hamate bone and subsequent surgery. The cards were stacked against Pham in 2020, and this season, the normal Pham is showing signs of returning. The normal Pham has a career .369 on-base percentage with a .832 OPS, the latter being over 200 points more than his 2020 mark.
My prediction: 135 g, .261 avg, 17 HR, 59 RBI, .779 OPS, 112 wRC+, 2.4 WAR
Jurickson Profar, Bench
ZiPS: 136 g, .254 avg, 16 HR, 67 RBI, .750 OPS, 99 wRC+, 1.7 WAR
STEAMER: 94 g, .248 avg, 12 HR, 46 RBI, .750 OPS, 99 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
2020 pace: 151 g, .278 avg, 19 HR, 68 RBI, .771 OPS, 111 wRC+, 3.5 WAR
Profar is in his perfect role. He does not have the consistent bat to be an everyday player but seems to thrive in being a role player. If Profar is coming off of the bench for your team, it means you have a pretty deep lineup. He has played every defensive position except for pitcher and catcher in his career. That, along with his solid 2020 numbers, suggest he will be a valuable asset for the 2021 squad. Don’t expect him to put up eye-popping numbers. After seven seasons and over 2,000 career plate appearances, Profar is who he is.
My prediction: 115 g, .249 avg, 11 HR, 48 RBI, .712 OPS, 99 wRC+, 1.5 WAR
Ha-Seong Kim, Bench
STEAMER: 70 g, .260 avg, 9 HR, 34 RBI, .747 OPS, 97 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
There are limited projections around Kim, who is very much still an unknown commodity. There will certainly be an adjustment period for Kim at the big league level, given the level of competition he will face compared to that of the KBO. He is an athletic, versatile fielder with a quick bat, which should translate well after a feeling-out period. For now, he likely will be a bench player and be slowly introduced to the big league game. His hitting ability can’t be disputed. Since 2016, he averaged 23 home runs and .872 OPS with a lifetime .294 average in the KBO. The big question mark is how long it will take for him to get his sea legs in the big leagues.
My prediction: 90 g, .252 avg, 10 HR, 41 RBI, .740 OPS, 98 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.