At the beginning of last week’s winter meetings, the Padres arguably had more depth at catcher than any other major league organization with a trio composed of Rene Rivera, a former (and, apparently, still) journeyman turned defensive wizard who had a breakout year with the bat in 2014; Yasmani Grandal, a talented 26-year-old switch-hitter with a surprising knack for framing pitches; and Austin Hedges, an offensively-challenged 22-year-old in need of further seasoning, but also gifted with the best defensive catching skills in the minor leagues.
A week later and, at least tentatively, the Padres have shipped both Grandal and Rivera elsewhere. (Don’t forget, as of this writing, both trades aren’t yet official.) Grandal went to the Dodgers as the main piece in the Matt Kemp trade and Rivera is headed to Tampa Bay in a three-team whopper that will, when finalized, bring Wil Myers to San Diego. The trade:
Padres receive: OF Wil Myers ( from TB), C Ryan Hanigan (TB), RHP Gerardo Reyes (TB), and LHP Jose Castillo (TB)
Rays receive: C Rene Rivera (SD), RHP Burch Smith (SD), 1B Trevor Bauers (SD), OF Steven Souza (WAS), and LHP Travis Ott (WAS)
Nationals receive: RHP Joe Ross (SD) and SS Trea Turner (SD) as a player-to-be-named-now*
*Turner, since he was drafted by the Padres in June, can’t be traded until next summer. Apparently, he’ll be put in the awkward position of remaining with the Padres until then.
The Padres haven’t completely depleted their previously discussed catching depth, as they got both Hanigan and Tim Federowicz back in the recent deals while hanging onto Hedges. However, before we can discuss the current catching situation with a straight face, let’s talk big picture.
The 2011 MLB first year player draft was the last of it’s kind. In 2012, Major League Baseball, feeling that signing bonuses had ballooned out of control, changed the rules, instituting hard caps with stiff penalties for teams who spent over the recommended signing bonuses. Rather than issuing guidelines for what players should earn, they started issuing hard values for each pick, and a team that spent more than 5% over the total value of their picks would lose picks in the following draft. 2011 was supposedly the inmates running the asylum, while 2012 and beyond has been 24 hour lock down.
The Padres spent over $11 million on draft picks in 2011, the most in team history, going well over the slot recommendations for several of their picks. In 2012, they spent $9.8 million, only $100k less than their $9.9 million bonus pool allotment. In 2013, they went right up to the edge of their bonus pool, but that meant spending just $6.8 million. This year’s allotment is the team’s lowest yet since the rule change at just $6.1 million. While the actual draft can still be pretty fun, from a fan’s perspective this suppression of spending on the draft is really depressing.
So let’s go back to that last great draft, take a look at the notable picks the Padres made, do a little second-guessing, and decide whether some of the more prominent second-guessing is really justified.
We all know the ‘WIN’ is an archaic stat. It is a remainder of a by-gone time, when pitchers finished what they started, and bullpens consisted of 4 guys plus whoever wasn’t starting that day. In the era of LOOGYs, long men, short men, set-up men, and closers, lots and lots of starters make it through only five or maybe six innings. The WIN is more of a team effort, not so much the measure of how one man’s prowess created the result.
Still, some wins are more deserving than others. To prove that point, let’s take a look at Padres starting pitcher victories in 2013, using Bill James’ Game Score.
For the unfamiliar, here’s how you calculate Game Score:
“Dana, I’m what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man, and I’ve failed much more than I’ve succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, “Where are we going?” And it starts to get better.” – Calvin Traeger, Sports Night
Towards the end of the second and last season of the great, short-lived Aaron Sorkin dramedy Sports Night, fictional sports network CSC is bought out by a holding company named Quo Vadimus, owned by the character quoted above. Quo Vadimus is Latin for “where are we going?”, a question Padres fans should be starting to ask themselves as we wind down the 2013 season and start looking ahead. In a series of posts, I will ask that question and hope to provide some answers. I’ve already discussed the outfield and infield. This installment will focus on who should stay, go, and be added to the Padres starting rotation.
The Current State Of The Padres Rotation
You can’t really talk about the current state of the rotation without first discussing where it was to start the season. Three of the five members of the opening day rotation are gone; Clayton Richard and Jason Marquis to injury and Edinson Volquez to the Dodgers after the Padres designated him for assignment. Only one member of the rotation has stayed in it from beginning to end: the team’s most reliable starter, and at times its stopper, Eric Stults. Read More…
9 innings. 3 outs each inning. 27 outs in total.
That’s the sum total of a baseball game. Sometimes more are required but if you are going to win you need to get the opposing team out 27 times.
Not all outs are created equally of course. There’s your mundane 4-3 putout in the 2nd, your slick looking double plays with the bases loaded to end an inning, and this.
But the hardest 3 outs to get are the last 3. Well, maybe that’s phrased poorly. The most important 3 outs are the last 3 and recently, for the Padres, they’ve become the hardest 3 to get.
The Padres fell victim to the Los Angeles Dodgers this afternoon after Huston Street gave up back-to-back HRs in the Top of the 9th. Getting those 3 outs would not have guaranteed a Padres win. But they would have, at worst, guaranteed a 10th inning. Unfortunately, watching the Padres squander late inning leads or give up ties in the late innings is becoming an all too common experience. Twice in San Francisco this week the Padres blew late inning leads. Last week they did it in Colorado surrendering 3 runs in the Bottom of the 9th. And of course we all remember the Evan Longoria walk-off in Tampa.
The fact is that the Padres, who once dominated the late innings and have a soon-to-be Hall of Fame closer enshrined in fans memories forever suddenly are hanging on for dear life in the 9th. And too often aren’t managing to do so.
Last Saturday afternoon Padres fans geared up for the debut of Burch Smith, the 23 year old out of the University of Oklahoma. With a plus fastball and plus command, the excitement was warranted. Smith came out and retired the side in the bottom of the first, striking out the first two batters he faced, Matthew Joyce and Kelly Johnson. The reaction via social media was hyperbole in the truest sense of the word as fans fawned over the Texan like he was an abstract amalgamation of Nolan Ryan, Kerry Wood, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. And then the second inning began.
Burch Smith opened the second with a walk to Evan Longoria and then a home run to James Loney. After that, Smith allowed a succession of pure ugliness as the Rays rattled off a BB-1B-1B-1B-2B before Tyson Ross got the call for long-relief. Burch Smith threw 42 pitches and was charged with 6 ERs in 1 inning of work. The final line looked ugly but boy did he look good to the first two batters he faced. Two strikeouts!
So what now? Burch Smith is scheduled to pitch tonight against Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals.
But then what? Will all the reasons that allowed Burch Smith to ascend to The Show without stopping in AAA be null and void if he doesn’t have an outstanding start tonight?
It is my contention that Burch Smith needs to stay with the big club no matter the result tonight. The Padres are not about Jason Marquis, Eric Stults, or even Clayton Richard. These arms do not represent the future of the San Diego Padres. The Padres are about Andrew Cashner, Burch Smith, Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly, Joe Weiland, Robbie Erlin, Donn Roach, Matt Whistler, Keyvious Sampson, and what feels like an unending list of young arms at the lower levels of the minor league system. These guys are the future. And sometimes the future is now.
What is the Burch Smith Society, you ask? ‘Tis a clever play on words offered up by Nate of the Vocal Minority for the first Padres Public post on Burch Smith since his call up from Double-A San Antonio.
Here’s my effort to put a little something extra behind the name, though.
The Burch Smith Society is a collection of fans who desire to see youth served. The BSS would prefer to see talented individuals who are recognized as the future of the organization playing now rather than washed-up re-treads who require hyphens to describe their inadequacies. If the Padres are going to float along accidental-like on the wind, then let’s do it with the promise of tomorrow. Burch Smith represents tomorrow and I’m excited that he’ll be making his MLB debut on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Does that work? It is neither here nor there. Here are some encouraging words about Burch Smith . . .
It’s been a crazy few weeks since both the MLB and MiLB seasons started. Due to unforeseen circumstances that would be extremely boring to retell here, the Padres Prospects Spring Training Notebook kept getting pushed back to the point where now it seems to make more sense just to roll it into an overall spring/early season notes piece. Below are notes and observations from both in-person looks while in Arizona and conversations had since the season began. Be forewarned, the Spring Notes are extremely raw in presentation, which we’ll call a tribute to the environment they’re taken from.
Read Spring and Early Season Padres Prospects Notes: Part 1
Spring Notes: lighting quick arm, has touched 100* MPH in favorable conditions, quickly moving up internal boards as an organizational favorite; delivery shows a decent amount of deception and is capped off by low arm slot; employs a “drop and drive” style in delivery which is somewhat concerning for future control and currently causes him to pitch up in the zone; decent secondary offerings including a changeup with sink and a looping curveball. Read More…