Under the radar offensive options for the 2022 Padres

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Quick Disclaimer: I will be referencing Statcast’s Baseball Savant website while evaluating players.

Some of the features used are percentile rankings of average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and sprint speed. The first three are excellent indicators of a player’s ability to hit for power, while sprint speed indicates a player’s on-field speed.

I will also be using a new feature of theirs called expected home runs by park. While this feature isn’t 100% accurate, as it doesn’t account for park factors such as wind and elevation, it can be used as a good indicator of which players may fit better in certain ballparks based on their swings.

Statistics Key:

bWAR: Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement
fWAR: Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement
DRS: Defensive Runs Saved
Avg. EV: Average Exit Velocity
Max. EV: Maximum (highest) Exit Velocity
xHRs: Expected Home Runs (by park)

Josh Bell: 1B, Washington Nationals
2021 Stats: .261/.347/.476/.822, 27 HRs, 24 2Bs, 3.1 bWAR, 1.4 fWAR,-1 DRS in 498 ABs
2021 Statcast Percentiles: 92nd% in Avg. EV, 96th% in Max. EV, 93% in Hard-Hit %, 27 xHRs in Petco Park

Josh Bell is far from the first name to come to the minds of Padres fans when talking about a potential Eric Hosmer replacement, but he may be the most cost-effective option.

Bell, who will be 29 in 2022, is a former top prospect who made waves in 2017 as a Pittsburgh Pirate, hitting .255/.334/.466/.800 with 26 home runs and finishing third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. He followed that up with a monster year in 2019, hitting .277/.367/.569/.936 with 37 home runs and earning an NL All-Star appearance.

Bell struggled in 2020, only posting a .669 OPS in the abbreviated season, but he bounced back strong in 2021 following a trade to the Nationals, hitting .261/.347/.467/.823 with 27 home runs. Statcast has consistently tracked Bell as one of the hardest hitters in baseball, which bodes well for maintaining his power.

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An intriguing aspect that makes Josh Bell such a unique fit is his ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate. Bell, a switch hitter, slugged .478 with a .815 OPS vs. right-handed pitching and slugged .470 with a .838 OPS vs. left-handed pitching in 2021. Bell can be effectively deployed in the middle of any lineup the Padres put out without any concerns of how an opposing manager might use bullpens against him. Bell clearly has no problem handling any and all pitching.

Josh Bell is projected to make approximately $9-million in his final year of arbitration in 2022.  As a rental, Bell likely won’t cost more than a mid-tier prospect or two in a trade with the Nationals.

Andrew Benintendi: OF, Kansas City Royals
2021 Stats: .276/.324/.442/.766, 17 HRs, 27 2Bs, 2.4 bWAR, 2.1 fWAR, 6 DRS in 493 ABs
2021 Statcast Percentiles: 55th% in Avg. EV, 50th% in Max. EV, 66th% in Hard-Hit %, 63rd% in Sprint Speed, 25 xHRs in Petco Park

Credit: USA Today Sports

There are plenty of similarities between Andrew Benintendi and Josh Bell.

Former top prospects that got off to strong starts in their careers had a down year in 2020 and bounced back in 2021. Following a trade to the Kansas City Royals, which involved infamous former San Diego Padre Franchy Cordero, Benintendi bounced back to form, hitting .276/.324/.442/.766 and winning an American League Gold Glove Award.

While his numbers and Statcast rankings are nothing to write home about, a deeper look into his profile brings up something really intriguing about the 27-year-old outfielder. According to Statcast, no other ballpark was worse suited for Benintendi’s swing than his own home ballpark of Kauffman Stadium. In fact, Benintendi was expected to hit close to 30 home runs had he played in Cincinnati, Houston, or Philadelphia. He was projected for 25 home runs in San Diego. A Gold Glove outfielder that can hit .270+ and upwards of 20 home runs would fit the Padres needs perfectly, and he should absolutely be on their radar.

Like Bell, Benintendi is projected to make around $9-million in his final year of arbitration in 2022. He likely won’t cost more than a mid-tier prospect or two in a trade with the Royals.

Jorge Soler: OF/DH, Free Agent
2021 Stats: .223/.316/.432/.749, 27 HRs, 27 2Bs, -0.3 bWAR, -0.2 fWAR, -11 DRS in 516 ABs
2021 Statcast Percentiles: 83rd% Avg. EV, 99th% Max EV, 79% Hard Hit%, 42 xHRs in Petco Park

Jorge Soler is a fascinating case. After a terrible start to 2021, Soler finished strong after a trade to the Atlanta Braves, posting a .882 OPS and hitting some iconic home runs to help lead Atlanta to a World Series title. Poor defense led him to a season in which both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs gave him a negative WAR.

Statcast’s xHRs by park once again played a major role in Soler’s inclusion here, as according to it, Soler would’ve hit an additional 12 home runs had he played in Petco Park in 2021 for a total of 42 home runs.

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

While most deviations with xHRs are less significant, adding 10-12 home runs would’ve made Soler significantly more valuable, so putting him in left field or at designated hitter in a ballpark that seems to heavily favor his swing could be a winning combination for Soler to have a more valuable 2022.

Soler is set to get a two to a four-year deal in free agency worth $9-12 million per year.

Brad Miller: INF/OF, Free Agent
2021 Stats:.227/.321/.453/.774, 20 HRs, 9 2Bs, 0.4 bWAR, 1.0 fWar, -5 DRS in 331 ABs
2021 Statcast Percentiles: 91st% Avg. EV, 91st% in Max. EV, 84th% in Hard Hit%, 62nd% in Sprint Speed, 25 xHRs in Petco Park.

These last two options are platoon options that would actually be fairly productive if paired together.

Platooning is when two players who excel at hitting opposite-handed pitching are paired together at the same position, with the hitter that excels vs. right-handed pitching starting against right-handed pitching and the hitter that excels vs. left-handed pitching starting against left-handed pitching. Teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the San Francisco Giants have had success using this strategy in the past season. The Giants used multiple successful platoons in the outfield this year, pairing Darin Ruf and Austin Slater, who hit left-handed pitching very well, with LaMonte Wade Jr., Mike Yastrzemski, and Steven Duggar, who hit right-handed pitching very well.

For the left-handed side of this platoon, a great option currently on the free-agent market is utilityman Brad Miller.

Miller, 32, has been quietly crushing right-handed pitching for years now, hitting .244/.354/.488/.842 with 16 home runs vs. right-handers in 2021. Miller strikes out quite a bit but makes up for it with power and a strong walk rate. While not a particularly strong defender, Miller has MLB experience at nearly every position and wouldn’t be a defensive liability in a regular role in right or left field while being able to fill in at every infield and outfield spot in a pinch.

Miller is one of the hardest hitters in the league and would’ve hit closer to 25 home runs had he played in Petco Park last season, according to Statcast.

Miller is set to receive a one or two-year deal for $3-5 million per year on the free-agent market.

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Josh Harrison: INF/OF. Free Agent
2021 Stats: .279/.341/.400/.741, 2.1 bWAR, 1.5 fWAR, 8 HRs, 33 2Bs, -2 DRS in 505 ABs
2021 Statcast Percentiles: 16th% Avg. EV, 54th% Max EV, 15th% Hart Hit%, 15 xHRs in Petco Park in 2021

As for the right side of this proposed platoon, Josh Harrison stands out as an interesting candidate to handle left-handed pitching. The former NL All-Star reemerged in 2020 with the Nationals after abysmal years in 2018 and 2019, putting up consistent offensive production while playing nearly every position.

While not as flashy vs. left-handers as Miller is vs. right-handers, Harrison hit a respectable .295/.360/.411/.771 vs. left-handers in 2021. Like Miller, Harrison would be able to fill in at nearly every infield and outfield spot, providing much better defense at these spots than Miller. Harrison ranked in the 89th percentile of Outs Above Average (OAA) according to Statcast.

Unlike the others on this list, Harrison doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard. The right-handed hitter also doesn’t have a particularly high walk rate but also doesn’t have a very high strikeout rate either. Interestingly, according to Statcast, Harrison would’ve hit closer to 15 home runs had he played in Petco Park in 2021, nearly double his 2021 total of eight.

Harrison, 34, is set to receive a one or two-year deal for $4-6 million per year on the free-agent market.

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