The ceremonial “first half” of the baseball season is now over as baseball welcomes the All-Star break.
The Padres finished the first half on perhaps the highest note of the year, taking three of four from the Dodgers in their park and now are at .500. It was a fun, wild ride, full of jubilation, and angst. Let’s look back on some of the superlatives of the first half of the 2019 season.
Best Overall Player- Fernando Tatis Jr.
This might be the easiest one on the list. Tatis has been nothing short of the most exciting player in baseball and the best player on the planet, Mike Trout, agrees. San Diego perhaps has never seen a player like Tatis don Padres’ threads. In just 55 games, he has energized and electrified the clubhouse, the fanbase, the city, and baseball in general.
Among players with at least 230 plate appearances, he is fifth in wRC+ in the entire league at 162 and sixth in OPS at 1.013, better than the likes of Charlie Blackmon, Pete Alonso, and Anthony Rendon *coughs* all of which are All-Stars except Tatis *cough*.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) June 30, 2019
He leads the Padres in batting average, triples, stolen bases, OPS and wRC+. However, he is not just a one trick pony with the bat. He produces highlights with his glove and arm at shortstop daily. He has one of the strongest arms at the position and makes some of the most athletic plays you will ever see on a baseball field. Whether it’s tagging up on a pop fly to second base, making a diving stop to save a run or blasting a home run to seal a series win for the Padres in Dodger Stadium, Tatis impacts the game in more ways than just about any other player in all of baseball. And oh yeah, he’s a 20-year-old rookie.
Best Pitcher: Kirby Yates
Going from being selected off of waivers by his fourth team in four years, what Yates has accomplished is merely miraculous, having a first half for the ages in 2019. The Padres’ lone All-Star representative goes into the break with a major league-high 30 saves and a whopping 365 ERA+. He is on pace for one of the best seasons by a closer in history. Among relievers, Yates leads all of baseball with a 1.38 FIP and 2.1 WAR, and is fourth in the majors in ERA (1.15) and 10th in strikeouts per nine innings (13.9). He had a stretch of 12 straight appearances without allowing a run. It took until June 23rd for him to give up his first run in a save situation.
This Kirby Yates splitter is just ???
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) June 7, 2019
He has been one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. His 2.2 WAR is third-best on the team overall and far and away the best among Padres pitchers, and he will get to enjoy a much-deserved All-Star tour in Cleveland this week.
Most Surprising Player- Hunter Renfroe
We all knew Renfroe had power, with his 52 total home runs over the past two seasons. What we didn’t know is how good, and how clutch, he could be with somewhat consistent at-bats and a vote of confidence. The home run totals he is putting up are unlike anything the Padres have seen this side of 1998. He is sixth in the majors with 27 home runs, already surpassing his career high. It’s not just how many home runs he has hit; it has been when. He leads the major leagues with 15 home runs after the sixth inning and ten homers when the game is tied.
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) July 6, 2019
On top of his clutch hitting, Renfroe has worked on improving his defense. Last year he posted 5 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield and this year, he has doubled that. His 10 DRS is tied for third-most in Major League Baseball among outfielders. His 2.5 WAR is second-best on the team; only Tatis has a better mark. This was after setting a career high with a 2.4 WAR all of last season. He is on pace for 4.5 WAR this year.
Most Disappointing Player- Wil Myers
When the Padres acquired Myers amidst the shopping frenzy A.J. Preller partook of in 2015, expectations were high, just one season removed from a Rookie of the Year campaign in Tampa Bay. 2016 was the best year of his career as well as a Padre, posting 3.5 WAR with 28 home runs and 28 stolen bases in his lone All-Star appearance to date. This earned Myers an extension before the 2017 season. Even as 2017 and 2018 were not stellar. His numbers were still very respectable. However, 2019 has been a flat out nightmare for the 28-year-old outfielder. He is sixth on the Padres with 12 home runs, a .715 OPS and 92 wRC+, while batting .217, only Austin Hedges’ average is worse. All these numbers would be career-lows for Myers
The elephant in the room is that his contract balloons from $5.5 million per year to $22.5 million after this season. That’s a lot of money to pay your sixth-best hitter, especially when four of them are being paid dramatically less. Myers may soon find himself out of San Diego if Preller can package him in a deal for a team to take on his salary. He is certainly still young enough to bounce back, but the trend is troubling. He has only started 65 games this season out of the 90 because the other outfielders are just flat out playing better than him.
Most Exciting Prospect- MacKenzie Gore
An argument can certainly be made for Luis Urias here, but Gore has been putting up eye-popping numbers in Lake Elsinore, and the Padres will need pitching in the worst way in the next few years. He owns a 1.02 ERA, which leads the California League and his 2.31 FIP is second. His 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings also lead the CL, and his 110 strikeouts are second overall. He is making High-A his playground, and he almost surely will be in Double-A before the end of summer.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) July 3, 2019
Gore is currently the third-best prospect in all of baseball and the number-one-rated lefty pitcher. He tossed one scoreless inning in the MLB Futures Game, part of the All-Star festivities in Cleveland this week, putting his name even more on the map. He has the attention of the national media as one of the most exciting prospects in all of baseball.
Best Defensive Play
In a year where the Padres have seen the emergence of the ultra-talented Fernando Tatis Jr., an improved Hunter Renfroe and one of the best defensive catchers in baseball in Austin Hedges, it was the signing of Manny Machado that ensured this team would be featured on “Web Gem” types of highlight reels for fantastic defensive plays. Through 90 team games, Machado has produced a full season’s worth of defensive highlights at two of the most difficult positions to play in the infield, third base and shortstop, when he filled in for the injured Tatis. He has made multiple jaw-dropping plays with his glove and arm, but none were greater than the one he made in Arizona when Padres fans were still getting used to the idea of having a superstar at third base.
Everything about this play is perfect. He effortlessly fields a ball hit down the line and throws completely across his body, tossing an absolute strike right into the glove of first baseman Eric Hosmer, who, like reliever Adam Warren, looked in disbelief. To get to that ball quickly is one thing, but then to make a nearly blind throw across the entire baseball diamond in time to get them out in a crucial part of the game is just spectacular.