A look at a potential 2020 San Diego Padres lineup with Mookie Betts included.
For the past two weeks, the baseball world has revolved around Mookie Betts trade rumors with the San Diego Padres in the mix.
It’s not every day a club can add one of the best players in the league. If a trade goes through, the Padres lineup will assuredly be much better on paper. Just how good can it be?
Let’s take a look at the projected lineup should the Padres acquire Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox.
SS- Fernando Tatis Jr.
Leading off for the Padres should be a healthy Fernando Tatis Jr. The human highlight reel will look to pick up where he left off last season, leading the team in most major offensive categories and playing phenomenal defense as well. He needs to clean up his throwing errors and his strikeout rate is rather high, but those are both correctable issues for the young player. Tatis is expected to have a batting average around .300, an OBP of .375 with 20-30 home runs and 20-30 stolen bases. Last season, he recorded a 4.2 WAR in his half-season of games, so a WAR above 5 should be entirely reachable. The questions surrounding him revolve mainly around his health. Can he play 150 games this season?
LF- Tommy Pham
Batting second should be recently acquired, Tommy Pham. The right-handed hitter is one of the best left fielders in the game. He is very disciplined at the plate, something the Padres desperately need. Pham is also a leader of men, one that will not tolerate teammates having a lack of focus or lack of discipline. This is yet another trait this Padres’ team desperately needs moving forward. Fans and media surprisingly underrate this move by A.J. Preller across baseball. Pham is the exact type of player the Padres need at the precise time of need. This move may go down as Preller’s best transaction at season’s end. Pham can be expected to hit .280 with an OBP around .375, 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases are also possible. He is capable of a 5-plus WAR season. The outfielder had an elbow issue that limited him at the end of last year, and it’s the only concern with him heading into 2020.
RF- Mookie Betts
If A.J. Preller can pull off this blockbuster, it can change the entire lineup. Mookie Betts is one of the best players in baseball. A Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in right field, the former MVP and World Series Champion is a winner. Betts could end up playing centerfield, especially if the third outfielder is Franchy Cordero, but he is in right field in this scenario. It’s where he has put up all his numbers in the past, and it’s likely where he is most comfortable. A new club, a new place to live, new teammates are tough enough to deal with but having him stay in the same position would be one less thing he has to adjust to. Betts is capable of double-digit WAR, but expecting a 7 WAR from him is more realistic. Betts can be expected to hit over .300, record an OBP over .400 and possibly hit 30 home runs and steal 20-30 bases.
3B- Manny Machado
Usually, Manny Machado bats third, his preferred spot in the lineup. However, It shouldn’t take much convincing to get him excited about hitting cleanup on this roster. The three players in front of him could all flirt with a .400 OBP, meaning more chances to drive in runners. Manny has dazzled with his glove and arm but is inconsistent at times on defense. The infielder also goes hot and cold with his bat. At times he will chase pitches away and out of the zone and can be pull happy in the batter’s box. If he can consistently drive the ball into right field without chasing bad pitches, he will have a bounce-back year. Machado should be expected to hit 30-35 home runs and drive in over 100 RBIs while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.
1B- Eric Hosmer
Batting fifth would be Eric Hosmer. Last season was one to forget defensively with the most errors of his career at first base. At times Hosmer looked lost, and perhaps a little doubt crept into his mind. One thing that Hosmer did well was hitting with runners in scoring position, a stat he led the team in, driving in 99 runs. Perhaps with much more prominent names on the team, Hosmer will find himself under less pressure and be able to perform at his career average numbers. He should be expected to raise his play to at least league-average. The first baseman should continue to get hits in the clutch as he has done most of his career. A reasonable expectation would be for Hosmer to bat .275 with a .320 OBP and 20 home runs. He should contribute a positive WAR number for the team.
CF- Trent Grisham
In the sixth spot could be newly acquired, Trent Grisham. Grisham has the ability and potential to see innings in all three outfield positions. He has limited MLB experience but is expected to get on base at a high clip while playing solid defense. This spot could also be taken by Franchy Cordero, in which case it’s more likely Mookie Betts plays center field, and Cordero plays right field. The Dominican outfielder has all the potential in the world but has not been able to stay healthy. Perhaps he is limited to a pinch-hitting role to manage his innings at the beginning of the year. The idea is to ease him into his position on the team in an attempt to keep him healthy for the end of the season. Manuel Margot and Josh Naylor are also options but have been linked in the Mookie Betts trade. Collectively the third outfielder rotation will be expected to generate around a 2-3 WAR total and hit towards the end of the lineup. A projection that could easily be exceeded.
2B- Jurickson Profar
Another position that may consist of a rotation and be a bit fluid is second base. Jurickson Profar was acquired this winter and is expected to win the starting job out of training camp. Profar was once the top-rated prospect in baseball but has struggled with errant throws and consistency at the plate. However, Profar is in a contract year, and the extra incentive could help him produce a career year. Greg Garcia will also be in the mix as a utility player, one that gets on base at a reasonable rate and is at least average in the field. Between these two players and potentially many more in a platoon, expectations should be tempered. Gaining 1-2 WAR from this group is possible. The best-case scenario would be one of the players earning an everyday spot with an OBP around .350 while not being a liability on defense.
The final position in the lineup would be the catcher’s position. When Francisco Mejia is catching, he should be higher in the order, as high as sixth. Mejia has the potential to hit as well or better than any catcher in the league. He struggles defensively but is making significant strides in the area. Mejia also has struggled to stay healthy in the past. If he can play league-average defense behind the dish, he should be near elite talent. His platoon partner Austin Hedges is widely regarded as the best defensive catcher in the league but has a career batting average of just over .200. He excels at getting the most out of the pitching staff and preventing the other team from scoring. His leadership in that regard is a massive addition to this team. The question is, who will receive a majority of the starts? Is the lineup potent enough to absorb Hedges’ lack of production? Or will a league-average starting rotation benefit more from Mejia’s offensive production? Only time will tell what new manager Jayce Tingler and his staff decide. Either way, the position should be adding a positive WAR number to the team and not taking away from it. Austin Hedges earned 1.4 WAR according to Fangraphs last season, and Mejia earned 0.5 WAR. Expecting another 2.0 WAR combined should be well within reason for 2020.
If all goes well, Padres fans should be expecting around 90 wins from this squad. That would be quite the turnaround from last season’s 72 win performance. Of course, the season is not going to go exactly as expected, nothing ever does. But at least on paper, the 2020 lineup looks to be a definite playoff contender. The top four players would strike fear into even the best pitchers in the league. When you add a projected top 5 bullpen and a projected league average starting rotation, the team should be in a great position to add around the All-Star break.
If A.J. Preller can pull off a Mookie Betts trade, it could undoubtedly transform the expectations of the entire team. Fans haven’t seen a lineup this explosive in over ten years. Can Preller get the Padres in a position to finally bring a World Series banner home to San Diego? There is all the motivation in the world to acquire one of the league’s best players. We’ll just have to wait and see if it will happen.