Expert MLB Handicapping: San Diego Padres Making Slow Ascent
The San Diego Padres made a big splash this offseason, spending more than the GDP of some countries to land Manny Machado as the centerpiece of the team for the next decade. Combine him with top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., and a wave of other talent from the top-ranked farm system in baseball entering the season, and there is plenty of reason for optimism. But we knew coming into this season that it was going to take some time yet. Hope was high, but only the most hardcore fans expected this team to compete this year. So, now that they are a quarter of the way through the first season of the new age of the Padres, it makes sense for us to check in on them - where are they at, and where can we expect them to go this year?
Manny Machado: If you look at Machado's numbers for the season, they are fine, but nothing close to what you expect for the money. But there is only one thing that matters to me at this point. In the brief time in March he hit .200. In April he hit .242. And in May he has hit .327, with his OPS jumping from an underwhelming .738 last month to a world-class 1.061 through the first half of this month. He showed last year when he went to the Dodgers that he takes some time to settle down. And he's settling in. He's going to be just fine.
Tatis and the young guns: Tatis and Machado are going to, if everything goes right, man the left side of the infield for the next decade. In style. The youngster is hurt right now, but he'll be fine soon enough. And in 27 games so far, he has certainly looked the part - he's hitting .300 with a .910 OPS. He is everything that has been advertised so far. A couple of the other youngsters have had a tougher time adjusting, though. Catcher Francisco Mejia has really struggled at the plate, and he's hurt now. And infielder Luis Urias has found his way back to the PCL after hitting just .083 in 11 games in the bigs. He's hitting .350 in the minors, so it is just going to take time. More of that patience thing.
Chris Paddack: No guy exemplifies what this team is about right now than Paddack. The starting pitcher was drafted in 2015 and has dominated at every level the team has had him at. That has continued right into the majors this year. In eight starts, he has a 1.99 ERA and a microscopic 0.75 WHIP. Welcome to the majors, young man. He's another jewel of this farm system, and he is paying immediate dividends. His career is only eight games old, but he already looks like an ace. But he is working with an innings limit this year. And even if he keeps up anything close to this torrid pace, they will have to start managing him. And if they thought they had a chance of making the postseason, they would need to decide if they want him around. So, Paddack is a guy full of potential, but it will be a year or two yet until he can reach full strength. There will be luck involved along the way, of course, but with some luck this team is going to be deadly in 2021 or so.
Schedule and outlook: It's hopefully just a coincidence that the success of this team has been almost exactly opposite of what Machado has done. They won five in a row to move to 16-11 on April 27, the highpoint for the year so far. But just as Machado was really finding his stride, the fortunes turned around. They have gone 6-10 since to fall to 22-21 and have lost three in a row. With the struggles, they have fallen out of the wild card position they had held, but they are within striking distance. And four of their next five series are against pretty underwhelming teams in Pittsburgh, Arizona, Toronto and Miami, so the opportunity to get things rolling again is real. The bigger concern in the short term is that they are just 10-11 at home. That's not going to fly.
Betting performance and odds: Oddsmakers and the betting public are definitely showing the patience needed for this team right now -- more so than before the season. They are at +2000 to win the National League, which has them tied with Colorado and Arizona, and behind nine other teams. They are not viewed as a contender right now, and they shouldn't be. But if you could buy futures for three years from now, it would be a different story. And bettors have had their finger on this team reasonably well - they are just above .500 on the season, and just slightly better than break-even on the moneyline for the year. No real surprises - of the good kind or the bad. And they are balanced on the total, too, going "under" 22 times and "over" 19.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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