San Diego Padres
2019 Record: 70-92
5th Place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.60 (18th in MLB)
Team OPS: .718 (26th in MLB)
What Went Right
Injuries limited him to just 84 games, but Fernando Tatis Jr. was absolutely brilliant when on the field, sporting a .317/.379/.590 batting line with 22 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He was nearly a top-12 fantasy option at a loaded shortstop position even while playing essentially just half of a season. The Padres carefully managed Chris Paddack’s workload, never pitching him on regular rest and shutting him down before the end of the season in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. He was fantastic over 140 2/3 innings, posting a 3.33 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 153/31 K/BB ratio. Only Josh Hader was a more valuable fantasy closer than Kirby Yates, who held a microscopic 1.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 101/13 K/BB ratio over 60 2/3 frames while notching a league-leading 41 saves. Franmil Reyes put up a .849 OPS with 27 home runs over 99 games before being traded at the deadline to Cleveland, where he clubbed 10 more long balls. Dinelson Lamet returned from Tommy John surgery just before midseason and flashed his immense upside with 105 strikeouts over 73 innings. He had four double-digit strikeout games in the final two months, including his last two outings of the season.
What Went Wrong
Manager Andy Green was fired with a little more than a week left in the season after another disappointing year. The Padres didn’t finish higher than fourth in the NL West in any of the four seasons with Green at the helm. Manny Machado popped 30 home runs for the fifth consecutive season, but a sub-.800 OPS in his first year after signing a $300 million contract is not what the Padres signed up for, especially in this heightened offensive environment. Eric Hosmer was an adequate fantasy option thanks in large part due to 99 RBI, but his .265/.310/.425 batting line was again lackluster and his OPS+ of 93 was the second-lowest mark of his career. Wil Myers posted just a .735 OPS and was benched for large chunks at a time. Francisco Mejia was a buzzed-about fantasy catcher, but a lack of playing time and injuries conspired to make his season a disappointing one. Luis Urias continued to struggle with his big-league opportunities with a lowly .655 OPS across 71 games.
** What is Chris Paddack’s upside with a full workload? Paddack closed with arguably his best month of the season in September (0.55 ERA, 24/4 K/BB ratio over 16 1/3 innings covering three starts) and should be ready to handle 180+ frames in 2020. Tallying 200+ strikeouts should be easily attainable for the talented young right-hander, and his elite control should allow him to maintain a superb WHIP along with a low ERA. In other words, the upside is immense.
** Will Francisco Mejia be the Padres’ primary catcher in 2020? Mejia’s first full season in San Diego didn’t go as hoped. However, there are still reasons to be optimistic that the offense-first catcher can be a different-maker in fantasy leagues. After returning from injury and the minors in mid-June, Mejia batted .297/.349/.494 with eight home runs over his final 60 contests. He was also starting to play about two-thirds of the games at catcher before straining his oblique in late August. Austin Hedges won’t be totally phased out since he’s such a gifted defender, but he’s among the worst hitters in baseball. Here’s hoping that whoever the Padres’ new manager is gives Mejia the starting catcher job and a long leash.
** How will San Diego handle their outfielders? The Padres unclogged their outfield situation some at the trade deadline when they shipped Franmil Reyes to the Indians. However, it still looks fairly crowded with Hunter Renfroe, Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Josh Naylor, Franchy Cordero, Nick Martini and Travis Jankowski, among others, vying for playing time. There’s some fantasy potential in most of that group, but unless we get a clear indication of how the team plans to deploy them, the waters are going to be muddied.
** Garrett Richards struggled both in his rehab starts (10.61 ERA in five starts) and his outings with the Padres (8.31 ERA in three starts) after completing his comeback from Tommy John surgery. However, he did miss bats (24 strikeouts over a combined 18 innings) and his velocity was pretty much all the way back. The right-hander isn’t going to be ready for a full workload in 2020, but that combined with his 2019 struggles should make his price very affordable in fantasy drafts next spring. Richards could wind up being a bargain.
** Speaking of recovering from Tommy John surgery, Dinelson Lamet was throwing even harder down the stretch this past season than he did back in 2017 and piled up 105 strikeouts over 73 innings across 14 starts for the Padres. Lamet has always had control issues, but his walk rate was improved last year (9.6 percent) compared to 2017 (11.1 percent). At the very least, the 27-year-old is a good bet for a boatload of strikeouts next season, and there’s potential for more than that.
** When will the MacKenzie Gore era begin? Arguably the top pitching prospect in the game, Gore posted a dominant 2019 campaign that included a microscopic 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 135/28 K/BB ratio over 101 innings covering 20 starts between High- and Double-A. The left-hander will turn just 21 in February and probably won’t throw more than 140 innings or so in 2020, but he could still potentially be ready to debut relatively early on next season and figures to be a difference-maker from the jump.
Key Free Agents: Craig Stammen
Team Needs: They need major help for their underperforming offense. The problem is the Padres already have a few overpaid guys like Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers and also Manny Machado’s $300 million contract, so it will take some creativity. San Diego’s rotation has numerous interesting options but could be lacking innings, so a veteran stabilizer might make sense. The club could also use some middle relief help that can bridge the gap to closer Kirby Yates.