Injuries. Oh, the injuries these Padres have suffered. Also the terrible, terrible offensive performances. The Padres have been a broken record of a franchise for a while now, and among the ugliest incarnations of their recent archetype was on display last summer. They scored the fewest runs in baseball and finished a strong last in TAv as well. They couldn’t get on base, they couldn’t hit for power, and they were mediocre base-stealers. On the flipside, their pitching produced the fourth-best ERA in baseball and they posted top-third strikeout and WHIP numbers to boot. They were aided by a park that, while playing less extreme than in years past, was still among the worst places in baseball to hit. The bullpen routinely churns out a couple middle relievers every year who produce strong ratio support, and last year was no exception.
The team has been quiet thus far in the off-season* but has been linked to enough players to suggest an aggressive pursuit of offensive upgrades. Whether they succeed in obtaining any remains to be seen. True to form, the bulk of the fantasy value to be had on this squad right now resides on the pitching side. Still, given the wholesale reputation discount Padre hitters are likely to get on draft day there are a handful of interesting value plays worth considering on the offensive end.
*Winter Meetings deadline for this review means that some of this may be obsolete quickly. I’ll address any moves if they happen in the comments below, and then we’ll be updating this series in late January.
A further note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
Tyson Ross, SP
Ross is the clear fantasy standout in San Diego and should easily be the top Padre picked on draft day. He posted one of the better returns on investment among top-100 starters last year, checking in 23rd in mixed-league value according to Mike Gianella’s valuations after an ADP in the low-60s. The power sinker-slider combination is dynamic and the ballpark excellent. He’ll walk a few more than ideal over the course of the season, his home-away splits are certainly worth remembering for difficult road matchups, and the Padre offense doesn’t provide a ton of support. Still, he does enough as a solid three-category contributor (W, ERA, K) that he makes for a decent SP2 option in deeper leagues and a strong no. 3 in shallower ones.
Joaquin Benoit, RP
Since this is a relative team-by-team assignment of value, I don’t think I can honestly justify slotting Benoit anywhere but here. He’s been dominant in four of the past five seasons, solid-average in the fifth. Over that span he’s compiled a 2.35 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 10.3 K/9 over an average of about 62 2/3 a season. Given the inherent inconsistency of relief pitchers that’s a really big deal. The Padres are still maintaining they aren’t going to trade him heading into his walk year, so he should be a relatively safe mid-tier option among closers again in 2015 if he does indeed stay in San Diego.
Quentin’s power is legit when he’s on the field, and there’s something to be said for investing in a buy-low veteran guy with pop as his carrying tool. But he’s now played in just 218 games over the past three seasons, and while his production has been decent when he has managed to stagger into a lineup (.250, 22 HR, 137 R+RBI at a per-550-plate-appearance rate) the injury risk here is extreme. He won’t make for the worst end-game dollar flyer, but unless that’s the price there’s little reason to invest a roster spot on draft day unless you play in a league with a generous allotment of DL spots and you’ve got an excess of depth in your outfield.
Cameron Maybin, OF
I was very close to sticking Maybin in the “is what he is” section, because it feels like he always is what he is: injured. I genuinely struggled with where to put both he and Quentin in this exercise. As with his ostensible outfield-mate there’s room for argument that his draft price should drop so low by next spring that he’ll represent a nice low-cost flyer with room for a bunch of surplus value. Maybe next year will be the year it all comes together, but even that probably represents a .250 average, below-average homers, and above-average of steals at this point. He should be valued as a reserve outfielder, and outside of deep leagues there’s probably a better upside play to be made for his would-be roster slot.
Will Venable, OF
Sense a theme here? Venable is yet another outfielder with a borderline case for placement in this category. He helped torpedo some seasons last year with a dreadful follow-up to his first and only 20-20 season, ultimately getting demoted to a part-time role in July and August after mustering just a .201/.258/.277 line in the first half. The power outburst in 2013 looks like a probable career outlier, and perhaps just as troublingly his speed scores and stolen base efficiency plummeted last year after trending downward marginally over the previous couple seasons. At 32, it’s fair to question if his legs might not be starting to go, and that’s significant given his fantasy profile and park. His price is likely to end up residually inflated enough from his strong 2013 to make a recoup of surplus value more trouble than it’s worth.
Alexi Amarista/Clint Barmes, SS
Amarista offers moderate stolen base upside, but he’s also never hit higher than .240, and as the potential “strong” side of a platoon he has a .636 career OPS against right-handed pitching. Barmes has had a respectable career against lefties, but he’s also going to be 36 and offers no real power or speed to speak of. Odds are probably better than even money that this gnarly arrangement is irrelevant by the start of spring training, as the Padres are said to be actively involved in the SS market. But if this is what the team goes with it’s likely to be a fairly straight platoon arrangement and neither player figures to offer much draft day value even in the deepest of NL-only leagues.
Yonder Alonso, 1B
Alonso will turn 28 a couple of days after Opening Day, he’s yet to hit double-digit homers in a big-league season, and he’ll be coming off two consecutive seasons of significant hand/wrist/forearm injuries. The lack of raw power just doesn’t cut it for a first base-only player, and given the litany of power-sapping arm injuries on his resume to boot he’s a bottom tier option in NL-only leagues at this point.
Abraham Almonte, OF
As of right now Almonte is still in the picture as a probable fifth outfielder on Opening Day, but with Rymer Liriano right behind him and Hunter Renfroe not too much farther down the ladder the back half of the outfield depth chart is getting crowded quickly. Almonte wasn’t able to build off a breakout 2013 campaign at Double-A and Triple-A, and even allowing for the fragility of the Padres’ starting outfield it’s unlikely he’ll have the opportunity to generate much fantasy value for a sustained stretch next season.
What You See Is What You Get
Ian Kennedy, SP
Every now and again I get blown away that a particular player somehow hasn’t reached free agency, and Ian Kennedy is one of those guys. He’ll play out his final year of club control in San Diego next summer, which couldn’t be a better place to help him earn a whole bunch of money. He was a top-40 starter in mixed leagues last year on the strength of his Ks and his wins, while his ERA and WHIP were both liabilities. He continued to ramp up usage of his curveball, to the point where it became his primary compliment to the fastball for the first time at the expense of his change-up. The change’s deterioration had been a primary driver of the spike in Kennedy’s homerun rate of late, and situationally swapping it out for the deuce helped him take a big bite out of that rate. The volatility of Wins being what it is makes Kennedy’s liabilities more threatening, but he should still be valued as a decent SP4 in medium-depth mixed leagues.
Seth Smith, OF
After 300 monster plate appearances in the first half last season (.283/.387/.508), Smith came crashing back down to Earth in the second half. He is what he is: a veteran corner outfielder who crushes righties pretty well. As an everyday player on a fantasy roster the 32-year-old is best left for NL-only and deeper mixed leagues where he’s a platoon option for an OF4 or OF5. He’s demonstrated a consistent ability to get hot enough for mixed-league streaming at least once or twice a year, though, hence his placement here.
All of the Middle Relievers, RP
As noted in my intro, Petco is still an extremely difficult place to produce offense. And to their credit the Padres seemingly always have a deep assortment of arms who step in and take full advantage of their surroundings. San Diego’s bullpen ERA was second-best in baseball last year, their WHIP third. Guys like Dale Thayer and Nick Vincent offer dirt cheap ratio support, and I’m sure four or five more guys will emerge at various points next summer to do the same. They always do.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B
Gyorko had a lost year in his sophomore season, with plantar fasciitis playing a primary role in driving down his offensive production. Unable to plant his front foot and create proper torque through his hip rotation, Gyorko both became more conservative at the plate and stopped crushing fastballs. His overall swing rate dipped by over four points, and he slugged 115 points lower against two- and four-seamers. Lost under the weight of his ugly topline numbers, he did take some positive steps in cutting down his whiffs while boosting his walk rate. He’ll be an interesting player to watch in the spring, and if the heel injury appears to have been properly addressed and put behind him he’ll be an intriguing rebound play for power at the keystone.
Andrew Cashner, SP
Oh, the power of a sexy fastball. Between significant shoulder injuries in three of the past four years (plus a strained elbow last summer for good measure) and a pedestrian whiff rate under seven-per-nine in his career as a starter, Cashner hasn’t taken the kind of step forward yet that many thought possible. He barely cracked the top-30 of NL starters in between injuries last year after slipping into the top 25 in a fuller season the year before. Good, but certainly not the breakout effort(s) investors have hoped and paid for. He’s consistently been a tough guy to square up and get hits against, and that’s despite modest contact rates. The result has been a solid ERA and WHIP option when he hasn’t been in the trainer’s room. But the contact rate rose last year while the grounders fell, and combined with even less whiffs there are some ominous whispers around the edges of his profile. Especially with the arm injuries thrown in Cashner represents a high-risk, not-quite-as-high-as-you’d-like-reward option.
Jesse Hahn, SP
Hahn had himself a pretty interesting and unforeseen breakout last summer. Across 12 starts and a couple relief outing he put up a solid ERA and nigh on a whiff an inning. With two plus variations on his heater and a knockout curve Hahn showed an intriguing ability to miss bats and generate grounders. He’s still just a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery and after throwing around 115 innings last year isn’t likely to be allowed more than 160 in a best-case scenario next year. Still, there’s some upside here for a solid pick if the hype doesn’t get too extreme this winter and he succeeds in locking down a rotation spot in the spring.
Kevin Quackenbush, RP
Quackenbush’s placement here is certainly a speculative one, but he has the potential to be one of the more alluring draft options as a handcuff. He acquitted himself well in racking up six late-season saves while Benoit sat on the shelf, and a Benoit trade or injury recurrence would immediately boost him into a decent second-tier ranking among closers.
Yasmani Grandal, C
Grandal has been one of the better pitch-framers in baseball over the past few seasons, and going back to his minor league days his bat has long been viewed with at least moderately piqued interest by scouts. He has decent pop and an excellent eye, and after a lost year in 2013 (PED suspension, torn ACL) his bat looks like it just might have started to turn a corner in the second half last season. He posted a .242/.356/.440 line with eight homers down the stretch, and his .175 ISO checked in sixth-best among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances on the year. Catcher offense can be later in developing at the major-league level, and at 26 Grandal might be starting to find his Major League sea legs. He should be an especially coveted upside play in OBP leagues. Incidentally, there’s been talk the Padres, flush with catching depth, are shopping him. If he does get dealt out of Petco his value obviously has some additional ceiling, though the added attention would likely inflate his draft price accordingly.
Odrisamer Despaigne, SP
He’s a Cuban junkballer who throws pitches like this and he’ll be more fun to watch than anyone else who you’re considering for the back of your rotation. Draft him in every league you can.
Yangervis Solarte, 2B/3B
Solarte was a nice surprise for the Yankees out of the gate last season, and his combination of solid discipline, excellent contact ability, and a little bit of pop is a combination that steady players possess. Add in MI and CI eligibility, and he’s got the makings of one of the better utility options for NL-only leagues.
Robbie Erlin, SP
After losing a large chunk of the season to an elbow injury for the second time in three years Erlin came back and pitched decently down the stretch, albeit with some poor luck. His 4.99 ERA on a 3.69 FIP belies terrible BABIP and strand rates, while he posted strong K:BB numbers that should have points leaguers making a mental note. The health concerns and unlikely role in the rotation out of Spring Training leave him a draft day flier for the deepest of leagues, but if and when he does crack the rotation you can squint and see an intriguing FAAB target.
Tommy Medica, 1B/OF
Medica saw a couple of spikes in ownership last summer when he worked his way into regular playing time, and his right-handed pop and dual first base-outfield eligibility should keep him on all NL-only radars again next year.
Rene Rivera, C
Rivera’s a veteran with an excellent defensive reputation who’d kicked around the majors and high minors off and on since 2005 without securing regular playing time at the highest level. That finally changed last year in his age-30 season, as he logged over 300 plate appearances and returned a very solid .751 OPS with 11 homers. A lot will depend on how San Diego utilizes its surplus of catching depth in trade talks this winter, but Rivera showed a nice offensive baseline for owners in two-catcher leagues if the playing time looks like it’ll be there.
Prospects for 2015
Rymer Liriano, OF
Liriano was one of the more debated prospects in our internal conversations about 2015 value, with proponents (myself included) seeing a solid option for modest pop and strong stolen base production hovering on the depth chart ever-so-enticingly behind two of the most injury-prone outfielders in baseball. It’s true Liriano was overmatched in his cup of coffee last summer, but between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors, he hit 15 homers and stole 24 bases in about 600 plate appearances. He’s probably not someone to draft and stash in mixed leagues unless your league has a ton of bench spots, though he has a non-zero chance of making significant impact if opportunity arises. For NL-only leagues the blend of talent and probable opportunity makes Liriano quite interesting as a re-draft endgame flier.
Matt Wisler, SP
After dominating his way up the minor league ladder Wisler ran into his first real resistance last summer at Triple-A while pitching in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in one of the more hitter-friendly leagues in the minors. He doesn’t profile as a front-of-the-rotation monster, but his solid-if-unspectacular arsenal should play up nicely in Petco Park. He’s all but guaranteed to make his debut this season, with a legitimate shot to seize and hold a rotation spot for the remainder of the year if he pitches well.
Burch Smith, SP
Smith got lit up in a seven-start cameo last summer, but a significant reason for the poor performance was a dramatically inflated walk rate (21 in 36 innings). He has generally shown strong control in the minor leagues, however, and he’s paired it with consistently plus whiff rates. His arsenal lacks the kind of depth at present to turn over a lineup two and three times every fifth day, so it’s quite possible he’ll ultimately find his home in the bullpen. Still, potential starters in San Diego belong on all radars.
Cory Spangenberg, 3B
A second baseman by trade, Spangenberg made his major-league debut playing mostly third base last summer and he figures to push Solarte for playing time at the hot corner if the Padres don’t wrangle another corner bat this offseason. He’s well-regarded for a solid hit tool, but for fantasy purposes the rest of the package is underwhelming. He doesn’t have much at all in the way of pop, and while he possesses plus speed his base-stealing efficiency hasn’t been particularly impressive in the high minors. With an everyday job those two tools help him work into NL-only relevance pretty quickly, but he’s unlikely to be of much use for mixed leaguers in 2015.
Austin Hedges, C
Hedges is the poster child for defense-first backstop prospects with far less fantasy than real-world value. Lauded as one of the best all-around catching gloves to work through the minors in a long time, Hedges’ fantasy value is quite limited, particularly for the first couple seasons in the Majors. If you own him in a dynasty league he should be shopped to gullible owners on name recognition, as there’s very likely a better use of that minor-league roster spot.
Taylor Lindsey, 2B
Lindsey’s not a particularly attractive fantasy prospect, and he’s buried on the Padres depth chart behind Spangenberg. He did log 500 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, though, and he’ll probably make his debut at some point next year so he’s worth mentioning. He can run into a few homers and he drastically reduced his strikeout rate last season, so NL-only players with a weakness in their middle infield will want to make note.
Joe Wieland, SP
Similar to Robbie Erlin above, Wieland underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013 and suffered a setback and additional surgery during his recovery. He finally made it back to the majors with a stretch run cup of coffee, and his velocity appeared all the way back and then some. San Diego appears more likely to work him into their bullpen at this point, and a future home in middle relief means more limited fantasy value.
Casey Kelly, SP
Kelly’s the junior version of Ian Kennedy: a guy that still, somehow, has managed to retain his prospect eligibility all these years. Kelly’s still only logged 30 big league innings after Tommy John surgery and a rehab setback robbed him of the overwhelming majority of the past two seasons. The pre-surgery version of Kelly never presented as a frontline fantasy profile, and it’s anybody’s guess what he’ll look like when he finally (presumably) gets another shot in the bigs. He’s logged almost 200 career innings in the high minors, so it’s not unreasonable to suggest that shot may come next summer, and if it does he’ll be immediately relevant as a streaming option at home.
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As for Peterson, Bud Black recently suggested the team was interested in giving him some reps in the OF, which makes a bunch of sense since he was a by-most-accounts solid DB at McNeese St. It shows a super-utility projection, given the versatility he's already flashed on the dirt. He benefited from some strong hitting environments coming up, and he's struggled with his stolen base efficiency in the high minors. But the OBP/speed combo is intriguing, especially given the vast potential positional eligibilities. He was pretty completely overmatched in his MLB debut last year, and especially if they're serious about OF reps it's highly likely he'll head to AAA to start the season. If he hits in the first half and an avenue to playing time does open up come summertime he could be an interesting guy to bid on in a whole bunch of formats.