Light mailbag today, so a few thoughts on the news of the week first.

The Padres signed Clayton Richard to a two-year, $6 million contract extension on Wednesday. Richard’s an odd breed of pitcher; he’s essentially a replacement level innings eater, at least if you use Baseball Prospectus’ pitching metrics. By BP, Richard’s at -1.1 WARP for his career, and -0.5 this season. While he isn’t good, he’s adequate enough to chew up innings and not embarrass anyone, and he’s got an outside chance of reaching 200 innings this season for the third time in his career.

My guess is he starts 2018 in the starting rotation, but shifts to the bullpen (or pasture) whenever the young arms are ready to take over. At just $3 million a year, there’s really not a whole lot that could go wrong here. The only downside could arise if the Padres are committed to keeping Richard in the rotation, thereby stealing opportunities from younger and more exciting arms. They’ve already indicated they won’t do that, however, so ultimately this is just a mild overpay for a little continuity.

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In the spirit of not picking anything in the “B” range, I’m going with an A-.

I know, I know, maybe that’s aggressive, but I’ve been inching closer and closer to the front of the A.J. Preller bandwagon since the pains of 2015 have worn away. There are dings, of course—Yasmani Grandal-for-Matt Kemp was always terrible, the Wil MyersTrea Turner trade didn’t look good then or now, and last year’s medical records snafu wasn’t a good look.

The positive marks are overflowing, however, and you can spot most of them somewhere at a Padres minor-league affiliate. MacKenzie Gore, for instance, looks like a steal, even though he was the third pick in this year’s draft. Fernando Tatis Jr. looks like a legit candidate for baseball’s best prospect come next season, perhaps flanked by the aforementioned Gore. And there are intriguing players littered throughout the system, many of whom were acquired to little or no fanfare, like Michel Baez, Hansel Rodriguez, Pedro Avila, and on and on.

Sometimes it seems really easy to build a good farm system—after all, a team like the Chicago White Sox built a super system in the blink of an eye. But the Padres haven’t had many Chris Sales or Jose Quintanas sitting around to deal, so it’s something of an accomplishment that they went from a middling system to a top one in a year or two. Players like Tatis and Esteury Ruiz were plucked in lopsided trades; Gore was a savvy (if obvious) draft pick; Baez, a 6-foot-8 flamethrower, was somehow snagged for a cool $3 million last winter.

In short, Preller & Co. have been great at finding good young talent. That alone is an exciting development, and we haven’t even touched on the solid work they’ve done scraping the bargain bin for big-league contributors (Drew Pomeranz, Trevor Cahill, Brad Hand, Jose Pirela, etc). They still have to prove they can put a winner together, but we’ll find out about that soon enough. I’m a big fan.

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The typical Luis Perdomo outing tends to start off a bit shaky, flatten out and get good in the middle innings, and then nosedive into a free fall collapse before the right hander gets the hook. The numbers generally follow this observation, although there’s always the risk of getting caught up in small sample randomness when you break any pitcher down inning by inning.

If you do look at Perdomo’s splits this season, the fifth inning, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, has actually been his best all-around inning. In 22 innings, he’s got 1.64 ERA with 17 strikeouts, five walks, and no homers allowed. The wheels come off any time Andy Green tries to push him into the sixth, however, as Perdomo has been tattooed for 17 earned runs (on five homers) in just 18 2/3 innings in the frame. The seventh gets even worse, with seven more runs tacked on in just 2 1/3 frames.

That’s the typical Perdomo start. He’ll be rolling through five innings with just a run allowed on a few hits and decent peripherals. The sixth will rear its ugly head and five batters later two runs will be in and Perdomo will be heading for the showers with runners on the corners and one out. If Perdomo had been removed from every start this season after the fifth inning, his ERA would drop a full run, from 4.62 to 3.62.

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This is the seventh Friday mailbag in a row; thanks for all the great questions.

Manuel Margot‘s had a really solid rookie campaign, although certain aspects of his game have left something to be desired. On offense, the one thing that’s surprised me is his strikeout rate. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I figured he’d jump into the majors and make a lot of contact right away. So far he’s whiffing 19.2 percent of the time, which is a tick or two better than league average but maybe a bit higher than anticipated for someone who only struck out 11.5 percent of the time in his minor-league career and earned top prospect status largely for his hit tool.

Here’s the encouraging news on that front:

Month Strikeout %
April 27.6
May 19.0
June 27.8 (18 PAs)
July 23.1
August 14.6

Margot’s strikeout rate has been trending down this season, with August by far being his best month. Even more encouragingly, he’s been able to show both power and contact ability at the same time, swatting five homers and 10 extra-base hits this month. That’s a small sample, of course, but he’s hitting .281/.318/.494 in the second-half. He’s a rookie, so there’s not much to go on; steady improvement is all we can ask.

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Little light on twitter questions this week, so we grabbed an email sent in from my alter ego.

Was the Darren Smith interview with Angels GM Billy Eppler from a couple of weeks back the most overrated GM interview of all time?
Safety Squeeze Dustin, San Diego, California

Yes. There are at least two or three glowing reviews of this interview out there, but I just don’t see it. I’ve listened to it three times, searching for whatever it is that everyone else is fawning over. I got nothin’. Here are the points against it.

  • I’m not/wasn’t a Chargers fan, really, but Eppler’s comments on that football team were annoying at best, and probably much closer to fingernails on a chalkboard if you’re from San Diego.
  • Half the interview was about football.
  • Eppler hardly said a meaningful thing about evaluating baseball players or running a big-league team outside of your typical cliches.
  • He said “procurement” three or four times.

Eppler is a fine talker, but this is an average interview. More so, there’s nothing in it to indicate that Eppler was the right choice over A.J. Preller for the Padres GM jobthat is, unless you rate radio interview skills high on the list of what you want in a general manager. The Angels are having a nice little season, but they’re two games over .500 with the best baseball player of all time, Mike Trout, having his best season yet (yes, I know he missed time with an injury). They’re still just a one-in-five shot to make the playoffs, their farm system stinks, and most of their key players, save for Andrelton Simmons (nice move, Billy), were already on the team when Eppler was hired.

I’m not critiquing the job he’s done in Los Angeles or even his interviewing chops, but c’mon, let’s chill out a little bit about Billy Eppler, the one that got away. This interview gets a four on the 1-to-10 scale of baseball executive radio interviews, and I’ll take Preller over Eppler as a general manager.

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If you don’t follow me on the twitter, I’m cutting back on writing for now. The mailbag has survived, however, and the mailbag is here.

Put me in the “sure, why not?” bucket here. When the Braves moved Freddie Freeman from first to third earlier this season, I thought it was an interesting experiment. Maybe the process behind it wasn’t great—the Braves moved their franchise cornerstone to clear room for a then scorching-hot Matt Adams—but I like the general idea of challenging guys to swim upstream on the defensive spectrum, particularly if there’s some athleticism/defensive skills present.

When Wil Myers moved from the outfield to first base initially, back toward the end of 2015, it looked like it might work out okay. The numbers said he played really good defense there last year, and he also added a bunch of runs on the bases. This season, however, he’s backpedaled in both of those areas, especially defensively, where the numbers and the eye test agree on the regression. Maybe his defensive skill-set just doesn’t work that well at first in the end, and he’ll be better off returning to an outfield corner, or even to third. He’d have more overall appeal if he could make things work defensively elsewhere on the diamond, though you could say that about any first sacker. Thing is, Myers hasn’t yet shown enough bat to cut it at first, at least not when other facets of his game aren’t firing.

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Another Friday, another twitter mailbag.

Here’s how I’d rank the priorities of Andy Green this season, particularly for the last couple of months.

  1. Develop young players
  2. Develop older players/maximize their future trade value
  3. Keep good clubhouse moral and all that jazz
  4. Read at least one good book a week
  5. Go all-out to win games

On a contending team, those five things might be reversed (toss the books), but the Padres are 50-64, and they’re in no position to make any kind of run toward even the periphery of the playoff race. They’re not a winning team, and we essentially knew they weren’t going to be a winning team all season. They shouldn’t treat games the same way a winning team treats games.

Yesterday, in the seventh inning of a one-run game in Cincinnati, Green violated the hierarchy of priorities, putting no. 5 over no. 2 while brushing up against the warm fuzzies of no. 3 in the process, likely ticking off Kirby Yates. With runners on first and second, one out, and Joey Votto at the plate (in a 2-2 count!), Green yanked Yates for All-Star Brad Hand.

So, just to be clear here, Green brought Hand, an important future trade candidate, into a game in the middle of an at-bat against one of the best hitters in baseball to try to protect a one-run lead against direct tank competition.

What’s wrong with that move?

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This is a good question, but it feels like a trap. There are like a million potential answers, but none of them jump right out. It feels like one of the countless recently signed/acquired international players is going to be the answer, but I’ll take a stab with Luis Campusano. Although he’s by no means a good defensive catcher yet, he at least has a shot to stick at the position, being just 18 and with enough tools to learn the trade. So far he’s already cracked three homers with nine walks in 12 games in the AZL, which doesn’t mean much, of course, but doesn’t hurt either. The power is the carrying tool here, and he might have enough of it to make him interesting even if he doesn’t turn into a good defensive backstop (or stick at the position altogether).

Yikes, that’s really close. It’s close enough where I’ll lean Luis Urias, just because he’s a position player. The concern there is probably just the ceiling, with the size and lack of punch potentially limiting the upside. But the dude makes enough good contact to hit .300-plus every year, he’s always young for his leagues, and he’s working on his fourth straight season of more walks than strikeouts. I’m interested to see what it looks like at the big-league level.

I know Quantrill got roughed up in the Futures Game, but I thought he looked pretty good. Those are good hitters he was facing, for one, but he was also hitting like 95 and I thought the change looked solid. Overall, his performance has been kind of uneven, but shoot, he’s averaging nearly a strikeout an inning with solid peripherals across the board, and he’s already reached Double-A. Not sure there’s obvious ace potential here, but there usually isn’t. Everyone needs solid mid-rotation guys.

But, yeah, gimme Urias by a nose.

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Hey, another twitter mailbag. Thank you twitter.

In this type of scenario, I’m inclined to just say, hey, Wil Myers is what the overall numbers say he is. So far, in his career, Myers has a 110 wRC+. This year it’s 108. In 2015 and 2016 it was 115. So, he’s like a 110-115 wRC+ guy going forward, which is fine but not great for a first baseman.

However, with Myers, I still hold out some hope for more. And let’s be honest, we all want to be optimists at heart, drinking our water from glasses that are always half full.

Optimist point No. 1: Myers is just 26 years old. A solid player suddenly reaching new heights in his late 20s is far from unheard of; just of the top of my head, there are guys like Jose Bautista and Eric Thames that jump off the page. Bautista, for example, went from a below average hitter to one of the best hitters in the America League for a few years, right at age 29. It’d be silly to count on that from Myers, or anybody, but there’s always a chance things just suddenly click.

Optimist point No. 2: I still think it’d be worth looking into revamping his swing in the offseason. If it was working, fine, go with it. But there’s no good reason his swing has to look like that, especially when he’s hitting at a level below what both he and the Padres probably expect. It might be somewhat risky, but it’s possible that even just a swing tweak could set Myers on the right path.

Short answer: He’s probably something like what we’ve seen, but breakout potential exists. I’ll say he’s able to jump his wRC+ into the 120s or 130s, at least, for a few years here.

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I used to do this Twitter Q&A thing a few years back, so with nothing to write about last night, I decided to reboot the series. Twitter came through.

With Yangervis Solarte currently out with a strained oblique, this question gets a little more complicated. Still, I have a feeling the Padres will end up sticking with Solarte even if he comes back before the deadline (the guys at Gwynntelligence felt the same way on their podcast yesterday). There are some soft factors that make a lot sense there, plus the Tigers didn’t get back a whole bunch for J.D. Martinez in a recent trade. It seems like most teams just aren’t looking to add position players at the deadline, as everyone scrambles for more arms. The Red Sox could make sense for a fit if they want to be patient with their top prospect, third baseman Rafael Devers.

If Solarte stays in San Diego, that means he’ll be getting regular reps at second. That leaves Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje to duke it out over at third, with both of them likely getting time at second and in the outfield. Ryan Schimpf lurks in El Paso as an obvious candidate for a late-season recall, but it’s not clear that the Padres are too high on him.

I’m not sure if any team would actually trade for Erick Aybar, and I write that with all due respect to the lad. He works as a fine placeholder with the Padres, but I wouldn’t mind them getting “crazy” and putting either Spangenberg or Asuaje there (they could try both, although that’d leave nobody manning third). Sometimes a guy ends up playing better there than you’d think, plus it give you an extra opportunity to get another interesting position player on the field every day. Jose Rondon could also get a look at some point, although he’s currently on the DL at Triple-A El Paso. Aybar’s 33 years old and a replacement level player; I’d like to see the Padres use the second half to audition a few other players at short.

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