Posted on March 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The San Diego Padres are in the midst of a long rebuilding process. However, the Padres made some moves over the winter aimed at competing sooner rather than later. Can they surprise people in a competitive NL West or will 2018 be another long year for the rebuilding Padres?
San Diego’s rotation is very much a work in progress heading into the 2018 season. The Padres are hoping that youngsters Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo can take a step forward and become rotation stalwarts after both made over 20 starts for them last year. The team is also excited about the addition of Bryan Mitchell, who joins the San Diego rotation after four years of bouncing between starter and reliever with the Yankees. The Padres also have a veteran presence in Clayton Richard, although he was 8-15 with a 4.79 ERA last year, so he’s more of an innings eater than an ace.
At the back end of San Diego’s rotation will be a few pitchers who are working their way back from injury. Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea both missed 2017 because of Tommy John surgery, but both also showed potential before the injury. Matt Strahm, who the Padres acquired from the Royals last summer, is also in the mix for a rotation job after missing the second half of 2017 with a knee injury. Unfortunately, most of San Diego’s top pitching prospects are still a year or two away from making an impact in the majors.
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Despite a lot of trade speculation, the Padres still have Brad Hand in place as their closer, giving them a chance to build a decent bullpen in 2018. Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen were both solid in setup roles last season, and along with Hand, should give the Padres a reliable and experienced trio at the back end of the bullpen.
The San Diego bullpen also has a couple intriguing wildcards in Carter Capps and Kazuhisa Makita. Capps has struggled to get on the mound because of injuries the past couple of years, but he had a breakout year with the Marlins in 2015 and offers good upside if he’s healthy. Makita, meanwhile, comes to the big leagues from Japan and could give the Padres a boost as a submarine righty.
The Padres also have no shortage of young arms looking to prove themselves and carve out a role in the bullpen. Phil Raton and Buddy Baumann both showed positive glimpses last season. Pitchers like Erlin and Straham could also find themselves in the bullpen if they’re not needed in the rotation. If nothing else, the San Diego bullpen should have plenty of options, even if there are few guarantees outside the trio of Hand, Yates, and Stammen.
After scoring the fewest runs in baseball last year, the Padres have made some upgrades to their lineup. The biggest addition was the signing of Eric Hosmer. He gives the Padres a proven middle-of-the-order hitter and a great leader for their young roster. With both Hosmer and Wil Myers signed to long-term deals, the future is starting to take shape for the Padres.
Of course, signing Hosmer will push Myers to the outfield, which could hurt the Padres defensively. However, it also helps give the Padres a deep and talented outfield, as Myers joins Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Jose Pirela. Margot has five-tool potential and already has over 500 big league at-bats under his belt at age 23. Renfroe has impressive power, hitting 30 home runs between triple-A and the majors last season. Pirela posted a .837 OPS in a part-time role last year, and the Padres are hoping he can build off that in 2018.
San Diego also traded for veterans Chase Headley and Freddy Galvis to handle the left side of the infield. While they only have one year left on their contract, both Headley and Galvis should be upgrades over the contingent of infielders the Padres used at shortstop and third base last season. If nothing else, they’ll be productive fill-ins while the Padres wait for their better infield prospects to develop in the minors.
It’d be foolish to think the Padres can make any noise in 2018, especially in a tough NL West. But the Padres should be better than the team that finished 71-91 last year. The rotation is still a work in progress, but the San Diego bullpen should be solid and the Padres have enough proven hitters to avoid scoring the fewest runs in the league. Look for the Padres to finish 78-84, which is a good amount of progress for a rebuilding team.