Major League Baseball’s opening day March 28 commences the start of the baseball season. At the dawn of a new baseball season, every team is filled with the hope of capturing a World Series trophy. Thus, it is an appropriate time to shine a light on a surprise contender in 2019. Look no further than the San Diego Padres.
Third baseman Manny Machado was the key acquisition of the Padres’ off-season after signing a 10-year, $300 million contract. Machado is a star slugger who will fill a gaping hole at the hot corner for the Padres. Last season, San Diego tried to play Wil Myers at third without much success. Now, they add a fielder of Gold Glove caliber while enabling Myers to transition back to his more natural position in left field.
However, the Machado signing was viewed skeptically by analysts because the Padres historically run a low payroll and the enormous signing seemed too early for a club that was still in its rebuilding stages. While the Padres may be an incredibly young team this season, they still possess the potential to play meaningful baseball in September.
After all, 2019 is an odd year, so Eric Hosmer should bounce back after a lackluster inaugural campaign for the Padres. By some strange coincidence, since Hosmer began his career in 2011, he has performed superbly in odd years while failing to replicate the production in even years. In the odd years 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, Hosmer averaged a robust .303 batting average, 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. Meanwhile, in the even years 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018, Hosmer batted an uninspiring .255 average, 17 home runs and 73 RBIs.
Yet the Padres’ success in 2019 will be determined by the performance of rookies and second-year players, who possess tremendous talent despite their youth. The Padres’ rotation is led by the triumvirate of Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi and Chris Paddack. Lauer and Lucchesi pitched in the Padres’ rotation for the majority of the 2018 season and notched ERAs of 4.34 and 4.08. These pitchers need to improve in their sophomore campaigns by reducing both walks and home runs.
Paddack is a hard-throwing right-hander who is touted as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Paddack’s strong spring training enabled him to claim a spot in San Diego’s rotation, thus capping off a monumental comeback following two Tommy John surgeries. Yet the Padres are likely to be vigilant in monitoring Paddack’s innings during his rookie campaign.
In an era when there are delays to the promotion of prospects, Paddack’s early call up to the majors bodes well for fellow top prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias. Tatis is a rare five-tool player at shortstop with possible MVP potential. Meanwhile, Urias is a tremendous contact hitter, who profiles well at second base. Given the combination of youth and talent, the duo will likely form San Diego’s middle infield for the next decade.
Finally, last year’s trade of closer Brad Hand to the Cleveland Indians has positioned the Padres for success. The team netted Francisco Mejia, who provides the valuable ability of hitting for average at catcher. Furthermore, the Padres also experienced minimal drop-off in the bullpen as Kirby Yates capably fulfilled the closer’s role.
For the Padres to make the playoffs in 2019, a lot will need to break in their favor. It is unlikely that San Diego will unseat the reigning Los Angeles Dodgers as National League West champions, but it is quite possible that the Padres will still compete strongly for a playoff spot.
Jeff Swanson is a senior in the McDonough School of Business. Under Review appears online every other Friday.