The three-horse race many were expecting in the NL West didn’t go as planned, as one team pulled up lame. The San Diego Padres went 79-83 last season, finishing just 4.5 games better than the Rockies and a whopping 27 games behind the second-place Dodgers. Keeping up with thoroughbreds isn’t easy, but the Padres ran a bad race and it has left a lot of people questioning just how good this team can be. To make matters worse, the Padres were actually 18 games over .500 on Aug. 10 and completely collapsed, going 12-34 over the final 46 games. Pitching injuries played a huge part, but to go from 18 games over and finish with a losing record in a seven-week span is incredible. It ultimately cost some people their jobs.
Bob Melvin is now the manager, taking over for Jayce Tingler. Ruben Niebla is a phenomenal hire as pitching coach and one I will talk about further down the preview. Melvin added Matt Williams and former Reds pitching coach and manager Bryan Price to his staff. Oh, and the Giants added 27-year-old Michael Brdar, who was San Francisco’s minor league hitting coordinator. This is a strong staff and a team that has a chance to have a lot of success.
There are already concerns for the Padres offense. Fernando Tatis Jr., whose shoulder is already tied together with rubber bands and chewing gum, suffered a wrist injury while riding a motorcycle in the offseason and could miss up to three months. Players were unable to speak with team doctors and medical personnel during the lockout, so Tatis showed up to spring training with the injury.
For an offense that underwhelmed with a .312 wOBA and a 97 wRC + , the loss of Tatis could be a big deal. The Padres didn’t do a very good job of converting a low strikeout rate into offense, as their 21.6% K% was the fifth-best in the majors. Ironically, Tatis was the team’s best and most dangerous hitter while striking out 28% of the time. He hit 42 home runs and led the team in fWAR with 6.1 and wRC + at 156, meaning he was 56% better than a league-average hitter.
My VSiN colleague Jason Weingarten has a lot of Rookie of the Year shares of CJ Abrams, the Padres prospect that could take a lineup spot in Tatis’ absence. Abrams hasn’t played above Double-A, but he’s been an above-average hitter in the minors and has tons of speed. He’s definitely a player to watch for some hardware if he can make an impression and find a playing spot when Tatis returns.