what's brewing on the padres farm system

It’s Prospect Week here at Padres Public, so I’ve decided to pop my head out of my apocalypse bunker, at great risk to my own personal safety, to discuss a matter of great import: whether or not Hunter Renfroe is actually going to be good. This message may self-destruct at any moment, so please read quickly but carefully.

Last week, ESPN Baseball Senior Writer, prospect analyst, and Top Chef enthusiast Keith Law released his top 100 prospects for 2017 ($). There was a bit of controversy surrounding Law’s list, as he ranked newly acquired White Sox uber-prospect Yoan Moncada, seen by many/most as a top 5 prospect, #17 on his list, noting Moncada’s ridiculous upside but worrying about his low contact rate. Responding to a reader question about Moncada’s strikeout rate, Law noted that “it’s not just the number, but how a player ends up there,” a suggestion that Moncada’s strikeouts are rooted in a deeper, more troubling problem, such as pitch recognition and/or plate discipline, or problems with his swing mechanics.

Over the weekend, MLB.com released their own top 100 prospect ranking for 2017, and on that list Moncada was 2nd only to his former organization’s top prospect, Andrew Benintendi, with no mention of any problems with his contact rate, and actually noting his increased patience in the 2nd half of the season as one of his many positives.

What makes this relevant to you, Padres fans, is that a very similar difference of opinion seems to have been a major reason in the range of rankings in Padres OF prospect Hunter Renfroe this off-season. Renfroe ranked 42nd on MLB.com’s list while, for the 2nd year in a row, he did not rank on Law’s top 100 list.

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Listen to A.J. Preller talk enough, and you start to realize that he’s not necessarily all there in the moment. I don’t mean that negatively—I just mean that he’s probably thinking about something baseball-related as he finishes each sentence. His mouth is saying one thing, but deep inside his baseball-obsessed mind, synapses are firing at will about Dominican prospects and such.

The Padres had a press conference for Wil Myers earlier this week. Here, I’ve tried to figure out what Preller might have actually been thinking when he said various things.

What he said: Obviously, uh, here today to announce the—you know—to announce the signing of Wil Myers to a six-year contract extension.
What he was thinking: I wonder if there are any flights to Venezuela available tonight.

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The Padres released their 2017 promotional schedule on Tuesday. You may have missed it at first, as they did it via press release and posted it on social media around 4:15pm.

Padres Jagoff posted a piece about it on Gwynntelligence Wednesday morning, in which he compared the Padres 2017 giveaways and promotions with the ones from the Dodgers, Cubs, Indians, Red Sox, and Giants. To say he was underwhelmed would be an understatement.

Promotions and giveaways are supposed to be an incentive to get you out to the ballpark when you wouldn’t necessarily have gone. If you get something of perceived value – on top of the basic product – the product becomes more valuable. It’s not even Economics 101, it’s high school Intro to Economics, that one class that they only made me take for a single semester in my senior year.

The Padres are not good. The expectation is that they’re going to lose a lot of games this year. Now, they won’t necessarily tell us that straight up, but it doesn’t take an astrophysicist to do the math. So, why would their promotional schedule be so underwhelming? I would think they would like to get people in the ballpark on Saturdays, however these promotions probably wouldn’t inspire anyone on the fence to get to Petco Park this season.

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It’s old news now, but both Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte were signed to contract extensions recently. By Section 2, Clause 4b of the internet’s manual on baseball writing, we’re still allowed to write about it.

Myers inked the bigger deal: six years and $83 million with an option for a seventh year, a contract which buys out three—and potentially four—of his would-be free agent years.

It’s a good deal in a basic, big picture sense. Myers is fun and young and the Padres have money to spend. The payroll over the next couple of years is going to sink to near-embarrassing levels, and even though this deal won’t technically do much to raise it (for now), it’s still a good way for Padres brass to show that they’ll continue to shell out money when necessary.

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Tom Verducci, respected baseball writer and talking head, wrote an article earlier this week about why he won’t vote for any known steroid users for the Hall of Fame. That’s a fine premise, really, and even though I clearly disagree, I can’t rail against the mind-set too vigorously. It’s fair, I guess.

What I can rail against are the specifics of Verducci’s article because, you know, I have both the time and awareness for nuance. Without going full FJM-style, here are a few things to chew on:

At one point, Verducci compares Fred McGriff to Barry Bonds, wondering what would have happened if McGriff went to BALCO and Bonds did not, going so far as to jerry-rig a virtual final stat line for each player. Okay, fine. The kicker is that Bonds would have still out-homered the Crime Dog, 599 to 564, and that’s without mentioning the obvious: that Bonds was a world-class outfielder and base runner and that McGriff, despite his full endorsement of Tom Emanski’s fielding videos, was a sub-par defensive first baseman with 72 career stolen bases.

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The Padres don’t need to sign any more free agents. The goal, clearly, isn’t to win in 2017, and the team, as currently constructed, will probably be lucky to sniff 70 wins. Still, undervalued free agents can come in handy for a couple of reasons: 1) the Padres have to finish a 162-game season, and they may need more cavalry just to get there (especially on the pitching side), and 2) free agent rehabilitation projects can turn into valuable trade chips by late July.

It’s hard to oversell just how important the Drew Pomeranz acquisition was. Though not actually a free agent pick-up, Pomeranz was nabbed for close to nothing (Yonder Alonso) and, just a few months later, exchanged for one of the Padres most intriguing prospects, right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Fernando Rodney, an actual free agent signing, was turned into Chris Paddack last June, another interesting (if now injured) pitcher. Are there any free agents left who could be Pomeranz-ed or Rodney-ed into something useful by mid-summer?

First, let’s run down MLB Trade Rumors top remaining FAs, published on Christmas day:

Mark Trumbo—Pass.

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Believe it or not, I don’t have an actual Hall of Fame vote. But if I did, here’s what mine would look like.

On the Ballot

Barry Bonds—In 2004, Bonds’ worst month was May, where he hit .250/.532/.542. He had 29 walks and four strikeouts in 77 plate appearances . . . in his worst month of the season. At one point in 2002, Bonds—the game’s preeminent power hitter—went 20 straight games without striking out, racking up nine home runs, 24 walks, and a 1.622 OPS over the stretch. Warts and all, you can’t have a respectable Hall of Fame without Bonds.

Bonus points for:

  • Posting a .480 on-base percentage in his final season, at age 42.
  • Going 30-for-33 on steal attempts over the last six years of his career.

Roger Clemens—Clemens won at least one Cy Young award on four different teams (he won seven total), spanning three decades. And he should have won more. In 1990, he lost out to Bob Welch, despite racking up over seven bWAR more than Welch (Welch went 27-6 vs. Clemens’ 21-6); that’s like a full Max Scherzer of separation. He also could have/should have won in 1988 (finished 6th), 1992 (3rd), 1996 (no votes), and 2005 (3rd). Sure, there’s a big ol’ elephant in the room here, but like with Bonds, Clemens was too good to keep out.

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Padres sign LHP Clayton Richard to a one-year, $1.75 million deal (plus incentives).

Richard was on the last good Padres team, way back in 2010, three or four regime changes ago. He was in that year—and in his other “good” seasons—very much a not-quite-league-average innings-eater. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, really. Throw together enough Richards and Jon Garlands and Wade LeBlancs and, somehow, you end up with 90 wins.

Richard left San Diego in 2013, spent 2014 in the minors and/or hurt, and resurfaced in 2015 with the Cubs, this time as a (league-averageish) reliever. After a disastrous start to 2016, the Cubs cut ties with the lefty, and the Padres brought him back. In 13 games in San Diego, primarily as a starter, the 32-year-old defied the odds. He posted a 2.52 ERA while balancing on a tight rope and juggling three mint condition Chris Denorfia bobbleheads. In other words, he struck out 34 and walked 24 in 53 2/3s innings, which isn’t supposed to work out to anything close to a sub-3 ERA.

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Padres sign Jhoulys Chacin to a one-year, $1.75 million deal.

Chacin, once upon a time, pitched to a 120 ERA+ for six years in Colorado, which qualifies as the third-greatest human feat of the decade. That stretch ended in 2014, though, and it ended poorly—Chacin’s final year with the Rockies saw him post a 5.40 ERA in 63 1/3 innings before succumbing to season-ending shoulder rehab. Since then he’s bounced around, to Cleveland, then to Arizona, then to Atlanta, then to Los Angeles. Last year, split between the Braves and Angels, he threw 144 innings with a 4.81 ERA, mostly as a starter. The surface-level numbers don’t look great, but Chacin’s 2.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second-best of his career, and his 3.94 DRA ranked right between Sonny Gray and Vincent Velasquez (and ahead of Jake Arrieta).

Dig deeper, and there’s more good news. Chacin’s fastball averaged 92.95 mph last September, its highest mark since April 2010. In 2014 and 2015, when Chacin was battling the shoulder issues, his fastball velo dropped to 89 and change. So the improved heater works as a positive sign for two reasons: 1) that he’s healthier and 2) that he’s more effective at getting batters out.

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It’s doesn’t make much sense to talk about the 2018-2019 free agent class for a lot of reasons, perhaps most obviously because it’s a long time away. But we’ll do it anyway.

When the Padres went for it a few years back, it was exciting. Even though there were some questionable deals, it was still exciting. Looking back, though, with the knowledge we have now, it was maybe a little less exciting. Matt Kemp was getting older and, in many ways, in severe decline. Justin Upton was only brought on for one year. Wil Myers didn’t have a clear position to play. Derek Norris was just, kind of, a guy. Will Middlebrooks. Never did understand why Will Middlebrooks was always mentioned as one of the big acquisitions of that offseason, but it feels right to mention him here. James Shields was surprisingly available for relatively cheap, and for good reasons. Craig Kimbrel was still good—great, even—but he wasn’t Craig Kimbrel

The Padres were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, essentially, and instead . . . well, maybe they did catch lighting in a bottle. That doesn’t sound too pleasant, really. Either way, things didn’t work out. Just looking back at that offseason retrospectively—and we kind of knew this in real-time, too—we can say that the Padres tried to half-ass their way into a contending team. Sure, they bumped the payroll up over $100 million and added some legitimate talent, but they also moved prematurely, without a winning cast of players surrounding the high-priced newcomers.

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