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Setting The 2019 Batting Order

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With the addition of Manny Machado, just how will the Padres line ‘em up this season?

San Diego Padres Photo Day Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Manny Machado is a Padre. I know, it’s still tons of fun to say...like a reoccurring dream that’s finally come true. All-world third baseman Manny Machado is a San Diego Padre. With the addition of one Manny Machado to the Padres comes the question: where do you plug his immensely talented bat in the order?

San Diego Padres Introduce Manny Machado
Plenty of smiles to go around now that Manny is wearing that hat.
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

I ran across this conundrum when dusting off my copy of MLB The Show (17) and excitedly adding Manny to the Padres roster. When it came time to adding him to the starting nine I ran into a problem...a very good problem, by most accounts. Not being the greatest baseball strategist I dove into some references and backtracked into history to find out where Manny would fit best amongst other Padres deserving of top of the order consideration.

Beyond the Box Score lays out a good primer on setting a batting order with both “old book” (to some, read: Andy Green) and “new book” interpretations on how to place your players for greatest at-bat success. According to the “new book” method OBP is an absolute must at the top 2 spots of the order with less emphasis placed on the #3 slot and more importance on #4, though this 4 spot is not the typical “guy who hits dingers” role touted by the “old book”. I’m not sure I agree with #3 being less important than #5 but I digress; I’m still learning here.

With that in mind we should also look at the history of where Manny Machado has traditionally been placed in the lineup on his previous teams: last year that was the Orioles and the Dodgers. When diving into Baseball References’ batting order pages we see with the Orioles last year that Machado started off in the #2 spot but then shifted to #3 and stayed there for the rest of his Oriole tenure. Generally slotted in front of Machado were Trey Mancini (not much OBP but hit 24 HRs) and Adam Jones (.313 OBP, .281 BA). With the Dodgers in the back half of the season Manny slowly shifted from #2 to #3 and eventually hit cleanup behind the amalgamation of Chris Taylor (.331 OBP)/Joc Pederson (.321 OBP), #2 stalwart Justin Turner (.406 OBP) and eventually either Max Muncy (.391 OBP) or David Freese (.359 OBP). Clearly the more talented Dodgers lineup favored getting on-base oriented hitters at the top of their lineup and had Machado positioned to drive those runs in.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres
Steamer likes the Franimal.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

If you’d rather not hinge on the past but rather look to the future, then I suggest a peek at Fangraph’s Steamer projections for the Padres. It should go without saying that our new third baseman comes up tops in almost every stat the projection lays out for 2019: a triple slash of .279/.349/.513 while putting up a WAR of 5.4 is something the Padres have not had in their lineup in a very long time. Digging into the projections a bit more show upticks in production from most of the lineup (Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Manuel Margot) and some conservative looks for rookie players (Luis Urias, FT2). Somewhat surprisingly Hunter Renfroe takes a backseat to Franmil as far as WAR and plate appearances.

With these things in mind let’s take a swing (pun intended) at some Padres lineups. We’ll start with a beginning of the season lineup and then get to what the Padres could look like towards the All-Star break. Here’s the Opening Day lineup that AJ Casanova Casablanca Cassavell rolled with in his article projecting the Padres as starting to look suddenly scary:

  1. Manuel Margot - CF
  2. Manny Machado - 3B
  3. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  4. Wil Myers - LF
  5. Hunter Renfroe - RF
  6. Ian Kinsler - 2B
  7. Luis Urias - SS
  8. Austin Hedges - C
  9. Pitcher

While I’m inclined to agree with AJ that this is probably the first look the Padres will roll out come March 28th, I think there’s improvement to be had. Here’s another take on what the batting order could look like going from March into April:

  1. Luis Urias - SS
  2. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  3. Manny Machado - 3B
  4. Wil Myers - LF
  5. Hunter Renfroe - RF
  6. Manuel Margot - CF
  7. Ian Kinsler - 2B
  8. Austin Hedges - C
  9. Pitcher

Though Andy Green subscribes to the more “old book” thinking that speed belongs at the top of the order (ergo, Manny Margot) Luis Urias probably deserves the shot to get as many at-bats as he can to see if that 2018 .398 OBP in AAA will find itself in the Majors. Both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs are somewhat bearish on Urias (projected .317-.335ish OBP), making 2019 feel more like a developmental year for the 21-year-old...which is probably why he’s been slotted 7th in Cassavell’s lineup. Travis Jankowski was ok at leadoff (read: speeeeed) though will be pushed down the OF depth chart. Margot also wasn’t much of an asset on the basepaths despite his speed.

The boys from Gwynntelligence posited in their last podcast that they’d prefer Manny to hit behind Hosmer and I’d like to agree in theory; if Eric swings back from last year’s s’alright .322 OBP to his .385 OBP in 2017 then he’d make a great candidate for #2 though that OBP is part and parcel of Hosmer’s odd/even year swings. A more “normalized” OBP around .350 would be just fine. Machado lurking in the #3 spot would increase the quality of pitches Hosmer could see. A caveat to Hosmer hitting 2nd is his penchant for grounders possibly turning into 2 outs and no one on by the time Manny gets to the plate. Perhaps you could consider making Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer interchangeable in the #2 based on whoever is hot-hitting and handedness of opposing pitcher. We’ll dig into that a bit more later.

Hunter Renfroe slots 5th here though I wouldn’t be upset to see him hit cleanup if last year’s performance leads to more development this season. Franmil Reyes could also spell Hunter at right field though is honestly reason #1 why the Padres need the DH. You could also displace Myers and run a Froe/Fran LF/RF if you’re so inclined though by all appearances the team wants to play Wil consistently. A rest day here and there to prevent injury would make for a good excuse. There’s another defensive alignment not mentioned here that would shake up a potential batting order, but we’ll talk about that further down.

Manuel Margot was in need of adjustment last year batting 7th and his placement as 6th on this lineup should allow him more time to rebuild the bat without the pressure. Ian Kinsler is a good veteran defensive backup and not much else. Austin Hedges will have to show that his second half of 2018 (especially that July) is sustainable throughout a whole campaign before budging out of the 8 spot though he was as high as 5th in some orders last year. Francisco Mejia could probably slot as high as 6th depending on his bat and cachet of being a switch hitter.

While it’s easy to see, it’s worth iterating that this lineup is very right-handed hitter slanted. Most of the lefties/switch hitters on the roster save for Francisco Mejia are generally defensive subs (Jankowski, Garcia) or will be in El Paso (Cordero) unless the team carries 6 outfielders. A glut of outfield help isn’t out of the question though for some reason or another three catchers always end up on the roster, so get ready for Chris Stewart at-bats.

What could the Padres look like by the time the All-Star Game approaches? Well...

  1. Luis Urias - 2B
  2. Fernando Tatis, Jr. - SS
  3. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  4. Manny Machado - 3B
  5. Wil Myers - LF
  6. Hunter Renfroe - RF
  7. Manuel Margot - CF
  8. Austin Hedges - C
  9. Pitcher

Now that’s a looker of a lineup. The injection of Fernando Tatis Jr. in the 2 spot is a hopeful inclusion based on a couple things: 1) the hope that FT2 carries a hot bat through a AAA stint into the bigs and 2) that hitting in front of a 2017-esque Eric Hosmer gives El Bebo lots of fastballs to look at. Most troublesome for Fernando is his high K-rate (close to 30%) probably keeping him from the top of the order for a season or two until he develops into the star we hope for him to be. We can be hopeful, right?

You can utilize Machado interchangeably between the 3 and 4 spots with Hosmer depending on who you have at #2. Should our young shortstop need more adjustment time Machado could also be pushed aggressively to a #2 spot like so:

  1. Luis Urias - 2B
  2. Manny Machado - 3B
  3. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  4. Wil Myers - LF
  5. Hunter Renfroe - RF
  6. Fernando Tatis, Jr. - SS
  7. Manuel Margot - CF
  8. Austin Hedges - C
  9. Pitcher

Giving Tatis an easier spot in the order could allow the youngster time to develop into that impact bat that could slot higher as in the previous lineup. If Hunter continues to develop as a serious power threat with 30+ homer range, a cleanup spot wouldn’t be out of the question though that would also hinge on what Wil is doing offensively. This lineup is exactly what I came up with while playing The Show.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v San Diego Padres
Manny can play defense...but how will he fare at the plate?
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

So what if Manuel Margot really starts to turn it around with the bat and becomes the all-around player we expected of him? The very epitome of a good problem: I wouldn’t be opposed to placing him higher in the order if not for the logjam at the top. Should Luis Urias look like he needs more time to get to MLB speed, a swap would be a prudent move though Margot really needs to work on the baserunning (10th overall in being caught last year).

Patrick Brewer also had a great suggestion I think is worth exploring as far as lineups go:

I ran into a similar situation while playing the vidya: what if I really want to include Franmil Reyes in the lineup against lefties in the NL? Well...

  1. Luis Urias - 2B
  2. Manny Machado - 3B
  3. Wil Myers - 1B
  4. Franmil Reyes - RF
  5. Hunter Renfroe - LF
  6. Fernando Tatis Jr. - SS
  7. Francisco Mejia - C
  8. Manny Margot - CF
  9. Pitcher

That should really get the job done. I hope Wil still has his first baseman glove laying around since he’ll spell Hosmer at 1B for this venture (unless you really want to see Franmil there...) and will hit in the 3 spot. Since Franimal is indeed a beast against lefties he’ll get cleanup duty. I bumped Francisco Mejia up to 7th; while his major league stats don’t show much accumulation he hit against lefties better than righties in the minors (.389 AVG, .421 OBP against LHP with El Paso). Manny Margot doesn’t have much of a platoon split between RHP or LHP and neither Travis nor Franchy do well against lefties, so he’ll still get to hit here.

But what if you need to do the inverse and stack lefties into the lineup against a tough RHP? I think you’d end up close to something like so:

  1. Travis Jankowski - CF
  2. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  3. Manny Machado - 3B
  4. Franchy Cordero - RF
  5. Fernando Tatis Jr. - SS
  6. Hunter Renfroe/Franmil Reyes/Wil Myers - LF
  7. Francisco Mejia - C
  8. Greg Garcia - 2B
  9. Pitcher

Such a lineup is packed with lefty or switch-hitting players with the exclusion of Manny Machado (equal opportunity hitter), Fernando Tatis Jr. (does fine against righties) and whoever you want to play in left field. My placement of LF depends wholly on how FT2 is doing though I don’t think I could place Froe/Fran/Myers & Associates lower than 6th, even in favor of Greg Garcia and Francisco Mejia. Neither Renfroe, Reyes, or even Myers are terrible against righties by any means (wRC+ 100 or better).

MLB: Houston Astros at San Diego Padres
Are you prepared for the return of Wil Myers: Center Field?
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

AJ Cassavell did address a lot of the above in an excellent article which details Wil Myers going back to center field on occasion. While this is indeed a creative way to get three lefty killers into a lineup without displacing Eric Hosmer, it also sets up an outfield which would be the exact inverse of the infield: a defensive sieve. I highly recommend diving into the options Cassavell presents in the article if you’re wanting to know more on just how many outfield variations we could see this season.

The inclusion of the DH really spices things up as it mainly serves as a spot to get Franmil Reyes and Francisco Mejia into the lineup. Here’s what I came up with though you’re welcome to have your own feelings on who to hit where:

  1. Luis Urias - 2B
  2. Manny Machado - 3B
  3. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  4. Franmil Reyes - DH
  5. Wil Myers - LF
  6. Hunter Renfroe - RF
  7. Fernando Tatis Jr. - SS
  8. Manny Margot - CF
  9. Austin Hedges - C

The designated hitter spot really opens up possibilities on the roster: the above is one such example though you’d be welcome to plug and play whoever you wanted depending on situation and pitcher. Need lefties? Drop Franchy and Francisco in. Want Myers to hit but would prefer to give him a break on the field? Let him DH and bust out the Froe/Franch/Franmil train. There’s so much room for activities with the DH.


Given all the opportunities available, what is your preferred lineup for this year’s Padres? Are you expecting an uptick in offense given the inclusion of Manny Machado or do you suspect he may pull all the weight come midseason? In any case, there’s promise abound coming in 2019 and the spark in the lineup should come guaranteed from the new franchise player at the hot corner.