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Answered Questions in 2018 pt. 2

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Was the Eric Hosmer signing a mistake? Can the Padres build around any of their current pitching staff? Part 2 of “Answered Questions” looks at these and more.

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals
Eric Hosmer
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Going into 2018 a reasonable Padres fan might have had some of these questions:

  1. Can Hunter Renfroe hit righties and play passable defense?
  2. Was Jose Pirela’s 2017 breakout for real?
  3. Is Freddy Galvis a long-term answer at shortstop?
  4. Who is Wil Myers?
  5. Will Austin Hedges’ bat continue to derail his elite defense?
  6. Do Cory Spangenberg, Carlos Asuaje, Travis Jankowski or Christian Villanueva have a long-term place on the team?
  7. Did the Padres make a mistake in signing Eric Hosmer?
  8. Did the Padres miss Brad Hand’s best trade window?
  9. How active will the Padres be at the trade deadline?
  10. Can the Padres build around any of the current starting pitchers?
  11. Which prospects will debut in 2018?
  12. How will the Padres’ top-ranked farm system fair in terms of development, performance and injury?

Here’s #7-12. Check part 1 for the answers to #1-6.

Did the Padres make a mistake in signing Eric Hosmer?

San Diego Padres v Miami Marlins
Eric Hosmer
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Yes. For a variety of reasons, the eight year, $144 million contract was a mistake.

Free Agents are “Terrible”

Jeff Passan, of Yahoo Sports! quoted one GM this offseason as saying “Teams are smarter. They know how terrible free agency is.” Fangraphs’ Travis Sawchik quoted a front-office executive: “It’s not whether you will lose on a free-agent deal, it’s ‘how much’ a club will lose on a free-agent deal.” Why the pessimism? The authors offer two particularly poignant thoughts:

First, clubs use very similar evaluating tools, advanced metrics and algorithms, so the likelihood of striking a “bargain” has decreased (Passan). If $10 million per Win Above Replacement is the average rate in the free agent market, then that is what a team is likely to spend on any specific player. Second, the average age of positional players has dropped steadily since the end of the PED era, making a lengthy contract less desirable or necessary, and showing the preference towards young, arguably “underpaid,” players (Sawchik).

So why “overpay?” A few reasons. First, an established free agent, though more costly in terms of price per WAR, might be more consistent in his production than a younger player. When a team has the salary flexibility, and needs a certain level of production from a specific position in order to reach its playoff/world series goal, then an “overpaid” free agent could make sense. Second, a team might consider previous “bargain” seasons when re-signing a star player as an expensive free agent.

Consider Eric Hosmer specifically:

Hosmer made approximately $31 million from 2011-2017, while producing 10.3 WAR (Fangraphs). On average that was 1.7 WAR per season, at $3 million per WAR. Should Hosmer produce similar numbers as a Padre, then from 2018-2022, he would make $100 million in exchange for 8.5 WAR, or around $12 million per WAR. But, consider the aggregate cost and value had Hosmer signed an identical contract with the Royals. From 2011-2022, Hosmer would have made $131 million, while producing 18.8 WAR. In total, the Royals would have paid $7 million per WAR, potentially explaining why it was the only other club seriously considering signing Hosmer.

The contract itself is problematic

Hosmer is guaranteed $100 million over the first five years, 2018-2022. Going into his age 33 season, 2023, Hosmer can elect free agency, or choose a three year, $39 million extension. So, if Hosmer plays well, he will leave the club, if not, then he will stay and the Padres will be on the hook for his age 33-35 seasons.

Wil Myers

The team already had $77.5 million committed to Wil Myers from 2018-2022, with a $20 million team option in 2023. As shown in part 1, Myers has only stayed healthy as a first baseman.

Low-Value Position

First base is a position of minimal defensive value. It can be a position of flux where a team plays its best hitter with no other obvious defensive home. Eric Hosmer prevents this Padres from attempting this sort of experimentation until at least 2023. This means Josh Naylor is trying to play left field. It means that catcher Austin Allen and outfielders Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero, who have had their share of defensive struggles, will not get a shot at the least demanding position.

Platoons

First base requires little in the way of speed and has no preference for right vs. left-handed throwers, making it easy to fill with a platoon. The Padres already have the obvious right handed bat in Christian Villanueva, but Hosmer’s presence (and contract) prevents the team from seeking a low-cost left-handed partner. Before the season, then Frangraphs writer Dave Cameron tweeted a comparison of Matt Adams and Eric Hosmer. Adams went to the Nationals on a one year, $4 million deal to be the left-handed bat in a first base platoon with righty Ryan Zimmerman. Injuries have forced Mark Reynolds to assume Zimmerman’s place for much of the season. So how does Hosmer compare to the platoon this season? Villanueva and Myers, as a first baseman 2016-2017, are included as well.

Platoon Potential at First Base

Player Starts at 1B Overall Performance vs. RHP vs. LHP
Player Starts at 1B Overall Performance vs. RHP vs. LHP
Eric Hosmer 114 497 PA, 10 HR, 91 wRC+ 338 PA, 8 HR, 105 wRC+ 159 PA, 2 HR, 63 wRC+
Matt Adams 42 266 PA, 18 HR, 133 wRC+ 228 PA, 17 HR, 144 wRC+ 38 PA, 1 HR, 66 wRC+
Ryan Zimmerman 39 178 PA, 9 HR, 120 wRC+ 122 PA, 4 HR, 62 wRC+ 56 PA, 5 HR, 248 wRC+
Mark Reynolds 26 163 PA, 11 HR, 133 wRC+ 102 PA, 9 HR, 138 wRC+ 61 PA, 2 HR, 124 wRC+
Christian Villanueva 0 361 PA, 20 HR, 104 wRC+ 246 PA, 6 HR, 56 wRC+ 115 PA, 14 HR, 207 wRC+
Wil Myers (2016-2017) 300 1325 PA, 58 HR, 112 wRC+ 990 PA, 43 HR, 111 wRC+ 335 PA, 15 HR, 116 wRC+

Low Expectations

There was never a reason to expect greatness. Hosmer has a career 109 wRC+, a large platoon split: 85 wRC+ vs LHP, 121 wRC+ vs RHP, and has only averaged 17 HR per 600 PA. His groundball rate—54.2% career, 61.4% in 2018—is extremely high. With those offensive numbers one might expect terrific defensive value. But, throw in a career -3.6 UZR/150 at first base—his only position—and it is no wonder that the bidding was between two clubs (Padres, Royals) with no immediate signs of contention.

Opportunity Cost

The money is not available to fill a position of greater need. The Padres likely will not contend until 2020, and that is only if both Luis Urias and Fernando Tatis debut as immediately above-average-to-great major leaguers; some pair of Manuel Margot, Franchy Cordero, Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes prove to be true major league regulars; the Padres find at least a few real starting pitchers; and a couple of current assets turn into 4-5 WAR players. If all those things go correctly, who’s to say what the Padres’ largest position(s) of need will be. Will the $20 million per year to a middle-of-the-pack first baseman seem like a good move?

Did the Padres miss Brad Hand’s best trade window?

No. After much conjecture, AJ Preller finally pulled the trigger and cashed in on his scrap-heap-find-turned-All-Star Closer. Packaged with 2018 surprise Adam Cimber, the two-time All Star netted the Cleveland Indians top prospect, Francisco Mejia.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox
Francisco Mejia
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Rated as MLB.com’s number one catching prospect, Mejia sits somewhere around the top-20 overall prospects, depending on the list. He brings an elite arm, and plus hit tool that could make him a switch-hitting star behind the dish for years to come. Mejia slides into the third spot in the Padres top-30 prospects list and joins SS Fernando Tatis (#1), 2B Luis Urias (#4), CF Buddy Reed (#13), 1B/LF Josh Naylor (#15 ), 3B Hudson Potts (#23) and C/1B Austin Allen (#25) as ranked position players at Double-A or higher.

How active will the Padres be at the trade deadline?

Not very. Only one trade. See above.

However, during waiver season, the team allowed both Jordan Lyles (Brewers) and Tyson Ross (Cardinals) to be claimed with no compensation.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs
Tyson Ross
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Ross’ contract was incentive-laden, such that he would earn $200k per start number 20 through 29. He had already made 22 starts for the Padres, so the team likely saved an additional $1.2 million on the season.

The moves immediately opened roster spots for reliever Trey Wingenter and starter Brett Kennedy. The Padres selected both righties in the 2015 draft, and the two have moved up the ladder as teammates, and roommates, for the last three years. Wingenter, along with Robert Stock, Jose Castillo, Colten Brewer and Phil Maton, could play a pivotal role in the next iteration of the Padres bullpen, with Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates likely to be traded in the next year. Kennedy, along with Walker Lockett, is a player who the Padres need to evaluate in the rest of 2018 before more highly-regarded prospects make the rotation situation even more crowded and complicated in the very near future.

Can the Padres build around any of the current starting pitchers?

No, but there are players who can contribute and round out a quality rotation.

Before the season, I wrote about fairly young, non-prospect pitchers who needed to prove themselves in 2018. I identified seven players on the 40-man roster: Robbie Erlin, Walker Lockett, Matt Strahm, Colin Rea, Dinelson Lamet, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Perdomo. Among others, I considered Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, Cal Quantril and Jake Nix as prospects “who we’re excited about.” Additionally, I ignored Tyson Ross and Clayton Richard as inning-eaters and placeholders. So, what happened:

MLB: New York Mets at San Diego Padres
Bryan Mitchell
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Mitchell (48.1 IP, 6.92 FIP) and Luis Perdomo (39.2 IP, 4.62 FIP), who were painful to watch, Colin Rea, who was never healthy, and Walker Lockett (15.0 IP, 7.02 FIP), an unheralded prospect who has struggled in limited action, could lose their 40-man roster spots this winter.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs
Matt Strahm
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Lefties Matt Strahm (43 IP, 3.65 FIP) and Robbie Erlin (69.2 IP, 3.17 FIP) have been solid in middle relief. Erlin, like Kennedy and Lockett, might get the rest of 2018 to prove himself in the rotation before the padres make difficult decisions this winter.

2017 rookie Dinelson Lamet lost the season to Tommy John. His roster spot is safe.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at San Diego Padres
Eric Lauer
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi debuted early and look like quality back-end starters. Brett Kennedy, who, as neither a 40-man roster member nor ranked prospect, did not appear in my pre-season article, and Jacob Nix, are going to get a shot down the stretch.

The Padres have used 12 starting pitchers this season, including five who have made their major league debuts. The team has made the most of injuries and futility to get answers on as many pitchers as possible in 2018 However, so far, no member of the current rotation looks like a top-of-the-rotation starter on the next playoff-bound Padres team.

Which players will debut in 2018?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Joey Lucchesi
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Colten Brewer: 4 G, 3.0 IP, 3.17 FIP, 0.0 WAR

LHP Jose Castillo: 16 G, 16.1 IP, 2.74 FIP, 0.3 WAR

*RHP Adam Cimber: 42 G, 48.1 IP, 2.34 FIP, 1.1 WAR (Traded to Indians)

SS Javy Guerra: 2 G, 2 PA, 2 K

RHP Brett Kennedy: 1 GS, 4.0 IP, 6 ER, 3 K, 0 BB, 3 HR

LHP Eric Lauer: 18 GS, 86.2 IP, 4.74 FIP, 0.4 WAR

RHP Walker Lockett: 4 G (3 GS), 15.0 IP, 16 ER, 12 K, 10 BB, 4 HR

LHP Joey Lucchesi: 17 GS, 82.2 IP, 4.41 FIP, 0.6 WAR

RHP Kazuhisa Makita: 23 G, 26.2 IP, 5.65 FIP, -0.3 WAR

RHP Jacob Nix: 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 2 BB

OF Franmil Reyes: 44 G, 134 PA, 118 wRC+, 9 HR, -16.4 UZR/150 in RF, 0.4 WAR

RHP Robert Stock: 12 G, 17.1 IP, 2.17 FIP, 0.3 WAR

RHP Trey Wingenter: 3 G, 3.0 IP, 0 R, 5 K, 1 BB

How will the Padres’ top-ranked farm system fair in terms of development, performance and injury?

Very well.

Ranked Prospects

Fernando Tatis Jr, Luis Urias and MacKenzie Gore have solidified their lofty ceilings. Josh Naylor and Hudson Potts have dominated at their respective levels. Logan Allen and Chris Paddack forced their ways into MLB.com’s top-100 prospect rankings. Outfielder Buddy Reed and righty handed starter Luis Patino went from unranked, to #13 and #12 in the Padres’ top-30 prospects, respectively. Click here for an in-depth look at how the Padres’ top-30 list has changed through the season.

In terms of injury, the Padres have faired quite well:

Fernando Tatis Jr. will miss the last third of the season with a thumb injury; Adrian Morejon is on the Disabled List with triceps tightness; MacKenzie Gore had blister issues; Michel Baez (back) and Jacob Nix (groin) both had delayed starts to the season. Other than those five players, the Padres’ top prospects have been remarkably healthy.

Exciting performances:

In the Rookie Arizona League, the Padres have had a trio of standout 18-year-olds in LHP Joey Cantillo (36.1 IP, 2.76 FIP, 11.4 K/9), SS Xavier Edwards (87 PA, 169 wRC+, 11 SB) and 2B Tucupita Marcano (158 PA, 170 wRC+, 26 BB, 10 K). Both Edwards and Marcano earned recent promotions to low-A Tri-City. 19-year-old lefty Omar Cruz, who had a 2.72 FIP and 13.5 K/9 in 5 starts at rookie ball, has already made 4 starts for the aforementioned Dust Devils posting a similarly excellent 2.57 FIP with 11.4 K/9

Recent draft picks, 2B Olivier Basabe (168 PA, 135 wRC+) and SS Owen Miller (216 PA, 133 wRC+), were All-Stars for Tri-City before moving up to Fort Wayne last week. Basabe, 2017 8th round, and Miller, 2018 9th round, are both 21-years-old and could be the featured double-play duo at nearby Lake Elsinore in 2019. Another 21-year-old, Reliever Dylan Coleman was the Padres’ first 2018 selection to reach full-season baseball. He has a 2.56 FIP and 13 strikeouts in 11.2 IP with the TinCaps.

At Fort Wayne, 20-year-old LHP Osvaldo Hernandez, 19-year-old LHP MacKenzie Gore and 18-year-old RHP Luis Patino have highlighted the starting rotation. Hernandez leads the Midwest League with a 1.81 ERA, backed up by a 2.83 FIP in 104.2 IP. Gore’s 4.41 ERA leaves plenty to be desired, but his 2.89 FIP and 11.5 K/9 suggest that the results will improve as his small sample, 51.0 IP, increases. Patino has exceeded all expectations with a 2.37 FIP and 10.4 K/9 in 66.2 IP. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in 11 of his 14 starts and has an outside shot at a top-100 ranking going into next season. Fellow 18-year-olds Tirso Ornelas and Jeisson Rosario have paced the TinCaps’ offense. Ornelas, a right fielder who is expected to grow into above average power, had a 108 wRC+ and 11.3 BB% in 355 PA before a recent wrist injury. Rosario, an athletic center fielder, has used his impressive 13.2 BB% to support a solid 114 wRC+ in 437 PA.

In Lake Elsinore, the story has been a pair of 19-year-olds in LHP Adrian Morejon and 3B Hudson Potts. Morejon, MLB.com’s 50th overall prospect, has produced a respectable 4.09 FIP with 10 K/9 in 62.2 IP in the hitter-friendly California League. Potts reached 20 HR for the TinCaps last season on the back of an impressive August—8HR, 1.060 OPS in 116 PA. He has continued improving in 2018 increasing his OPS every month from April to July. Overall, his 127 wRC+, 17 HR and 35 2B in 453 PA earned him an aggressive promotion to Double-A San Antonio where he is one of only a handful of teenagers.

A pair of 22-year-old right-handed starters, Chris Paddack and Michel Baez, and 23-year-old center fielder Buddy Reed, also moved from the Storm to the Missions this season. Paddack, in his first season back from 2016 Tommy John surgery, posted an insane 1.77 FIP and 14.3 K/9 in 52.1 IP in Lake Elsinore. He has been equally dominant in San Antonio with a 2.51 FIP and 0.55 WHIP in 32.2 IP. Baez struggled out of the gates but regained his 2017 form to record 65 strikeouts against 16 walks with a 2.23 ERA in his last 10 starts with the Storm. Reed produced 145 wRC+, 12 HR and 33 SB in 343 PA in Single-A, but has struggled in to a 23 wRC+ and 28.1 K% in 114 PA in Double-A.

The San Antonio offense has revolved around three players: 19-year-old SS Fernando Tatis Jr., 21-year-old 1B/LF Josh Naylor and 23-year-old C/1B Austin Allen. Tatis solidified his place as MLB.com’s #2 overall prospect with a 129 wRC+, 16 HR and 16 SB in 394 PA before his recent injury. Naylor, a former top-100 prospect, hasn’t maintained his early-season power surge—7 HR in April—but his advanced hit tool has still led to a 133 wRC+ with a career-best 15 HR and an impressive 59 walks vs. 59 strikeouts. Allen just reached 20 HR for the second straight season to go along with a soild 130 wRC+.

A trio of top-30 Padres prospects, LHP Logan Allen, RHP Cal Quantril and RHP Jacob NIx moved up from San Antonio this season. Allen, MLB.com’s 87th overall prospect, earned his first start at Triple-A El Paso on August 11th. The 21-year-old went 6 shutout innings, striking out 6 against 3 walks and 4 hits. In Double-A, the Padres’ #8 prospect was excellent with a 3.29 FIP and 125 strikeouts in 121.0 IP. Quantril, 23, the Padres’ 10th ranked prospect, had a solid debut with the Chihuahuas—6.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 K, 0 BB, 7 H—after an up-and-down performance in San Antonio—4.25 FIP, 117.0 IP. Nix, 22, has pitched at three levels this season: Double-A, 3.41 FIP, 52.2 IP; Triple-A, 2.78 FIP, 6.0 IP; MLB, 2.82 FIP, 6.0 IP. Ranked #14 in the Padres’ top-30, Nix looked cool and confident in his big-league debut against the Phillies.

21-year-old 2B Luis Urias and 23-year-old OF Franmil Reyes have been the most exciting Chihuahuas hitters this season. Urias, MLB.com’s 22nd overall prospect, has produced his usually excellent 13.2 BB% and 112 wRC+ as one of the youngest players in Triple-A. Reyes, who has never appeared in the Padres’ top-30 rankings, clobbered 16 HR with a 167 wRC+ in 250 PA for El Paso.

What’s Left for 2018?

The Padres have done a good job using 2018 to get a look at as many starting pitchers as possible, and August and September should be no different. Jacob Nix, Walker Lockett, Brett Kennedy, Bryan Mitchell and Robbie Erlin will all see work down the stretch as the team seeks to evaluate them as long-term contributors, trade candidates, or roster math casualties. Franmil Reyes has earned the opportunity to play everyday and make the outfield situation even more crowded when Franchy Cordero and Will Myers return to health.

What other questions did you have going into 2018? What new questions have been raised? How do you feel about the Padres long-term plans as 2018 winds down?