What the past says about the futures of three once-bright stars.
About 13 months ago, I wrote a piece for Banished to the Pen examining the brutal 2014 seasons of three previously promising young hitters (Arismendy Alcantara, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Wil Myers) and the implications of those campaigns on those players’ futures. The concept was a rough, statistical sketch of the players’ likely career arcs, without relying either on scouting information or the general narrative.
The piece seems to have mostly pegged Alcantara and Myers correctly. You can read the piece itself to see exactly what I found, but the gist for Alcantara was that the odds were stacked against long-term success for him because of his excessive strikeout rate, and indeed, that shortcoming crippled him in 2015, even after his demotion to Triple-A Iowa. Myers, meanwhile, managed a .288 TAv and 114 OPS+ when he was healthy—numbers that hew eerily closely to those of the people I found who compared closely to him through 2014.
The plan of lost season has given way to something San Diego fans are used to: Mixed messages and a lack of direction.
As fans and analysts, we like it when a team has an easily identifiable plan we can follow along with, whether it's rebuilding for a better future or pressing the proverbial all-in button. There's a certain level of solidarity between team and fan (or team and analyst) when both sides are on the same page, allowing us to scroll through the transaction log and nod our collective heads—even if we disagree with a specific move or, in more extreme cases, the entire plan, we at least give the team a certain benefit of the doubt for formulating a course of action and sticking with it.
The Padres and Ian Desmond fit nicely together, while Bronson Arroyo has unfinished business in Cincinnati.
Padres at least keeping tabs on Ian Desmond
Ian Desmond played shortstop last year. The Padres’ projected starting shortstop is Alexi Amarista, producer of a .205 TAv in 357 plate appearances last season. Ian Desmond is available. Which also means that, despite the obviousness of the match, he’s not yet donning San Diego’s new (old) colors.
After pushing the proverbial all-in last winter, what do the Padres actually have now?
Rarely has a new GM treated his roster so much like a blank canvas as A.J. Preller did last winter. He traded liberally from his own farm system, committed to uncharacteristically large payrolls well into the future, and signed or traded for every famous name he could—acquiring the first five names on his Opening Day lineup card, along with his Opening Day starter and the back of his Opening Day bullpen. He covered the middle of that canvas but, in the absence of more time or resources, left the corners unfinished. The masterpiece was a counterfeit, and the Padres lost 88 games and their long-time manager. No rebuild in the 21st century looks more like a fantasy-baseball roster flurry than this one did.
What went wrong? It's not so simple as to say Preller's acquisitions disappointed. It's also not so simple as to say that the few holdovers that remained weren't good enough to support a playoff push. It's simple enough to say it was both.
Planes are amazing things. Modern technology has enabled human beings to move at speeds faster than our ancestors ever thought possible. The jet engine has given rise to today’s sophisticated global economy, expedited world travel, and modernized military technology. But yesterday morning on our flight from Baltimore to San Diego, it allowed for something even more important: it allowed our seat neighbor Cindy to get absolutely hammered at 500 mph.
The Padres call up a .257/.317/.392 career hitter, and it's must-see TV.
The situation: The second-place Padres have gotten big offensive numbers from Derek Norris (.880 OPS, 11 doubles going into Sunday) but have called up Hedges to replace the struggling Wil Nieves as the backup.
Background: Hedges was a highly-touted backstop coming out of JSerra High School in Orange County, CA, but a strong commitment to UCLA saw him slip into the second round, where many viewed him unsignable. San Diego convinced him with a $3 million dollar signing bonus and he quickly established himself as one of the best catching prospects in baseball. He was the no. 1 prospect on the BP Prospect Team’s Padres rankings this winter, and was the second-highest ranked catcher on the BP 101, trailing only recent Boston call-up Blake Swihart.
Rethinking one man's assessment of the Padres' offseason brilliance.
In the offseason, I wrote an article titled How the Padres Won the Offseason. That article was written shortly after the James Shields signing and, therefore, less shortly after the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and others. I praised the Padres because they seemed to be acquiring discounted talent wherever they could, regardless of fit, and were thus doing so relatively cheaply. The end product of these moves was the construction of a team that seemed potentially competitive, and at the very least improved, for a price below what anyone would have guessed it would cost to do so. As to what the Padres would do going forward, I wrote the following:
Reexamining the loss of offense, through the lens of one DFA.
Carlos Quentin is the victim of the modern MLB roster, and he helps explain the offensive famine that has so starved us all for runs over the past five years. The Padres and Braves traded some bad contracts in order to balance out the Craig Kimbrel-for-prospects deal they struck on Sunday night, and Quentin was one of the spare parts rather casually tossed into the bed of the truck heading from San Diego to Atlanta. On Monday, Atlanta designated Quentin for assignment, an expected move that amounts to an admission: Quentin has negative value to both of the teams involved in this deal. His contract is simply a sunk cost, and the Padres got the Braves to pay what’s left of it. Quentin will, in all likelihood, hit the waiver wire during the next few days, and someone might claim him—though truthfully, I see only one promising fit, in Toronto, where Quentin could take Justin Smoak’s place as a bench bat, occasional first baseman and DH.
That’s actually a really good fit, though, and you know what? Five or 10 years ago, there would have been five other teams in a similarly good position to snatch up Quentin. He might even have had some asset value for Atlanta, instead of being waiver-wire fodder. That’s because, back then, teams were teetering between 11 and 12 pitchers on their rosters, instead of between 12 and 13. Go back 15 or 20 years, to the dimmest of my firsthand baseball memories, and you could find teams carrying as few as 10 pitchers on more days than not. In that era, Quentin—whose injury problems have derailed his career, but who remains a very good hitter, and whom PECOTA projects to post a .296 True Average this season—would have fit gorgeously onto any team’s bench. Every team could find room for a hitter of his abilities, even if he couldn’t be counted on to start.