Archive for Padres

Pondering Another Big August Red Sox Trade

Three years ago, a struggling Red Sox team dumped a big part of their roster — and their payroll — on the Los Angeles Dodgers, shipping Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles in exchange for a few prospects and a lot of financial relief. The deal freed up the team to reallocate a bunch of that money to free agents a few months later, and after hitting on signings like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, and Koji Uehara, the team celebrated a World Series title in 2013.

Things have fallen apart again since, however, and last winter’s free agent spending spree looks like a total disaster at this point. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval have combined for -1.8 WAR while pulling in $40 million between them, and there’s no way the team can go into 2016 with this same defensive alignment. Ramirez is clearly not an outfielder, and Sandoval has been a bit of disaster at third base this year as well, leading to speculation that one of the two may move to first base next year. And that probably is the path of least resistance, but as rumors percolated of Red Sox-Padres trade discussion before last week’s deadline, I started wondering if there wasn’t an August deal to be made that might actually make sense for both sides.

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Grading the 58 Prospects Dealt at the Trade Deadline

This breakdown starts with the Scott Kazmir deal on July 23, but there weren’t any trades from the 16th to the 23rd, so this covers the whole second half of the month, trade-wise, up until now. I count 25 total trades with prospects involved in that span that add together to have 58 prospects on the move. Check out the preseason Top 200 List for more details, but I’ve added the range that each Future Value (FV) group fell in last year’s Top 200 to give you an idea of where they will fall in this winter’s list. Also see the preseason team-specific lists to see where the lower-rated prospects may fall within their new organization.

40 FV is the lowest grade that shows up on these numbered team lists, with 35+ and 35 FV prospects mentioned in the “Others of Note” section, so I’ll give blurbs for the 40 FV or better prospects here. I’ve also linked to the post-trade prospect breakdown for the trades I was able to analyze individually, so click there for more information. Alternately, click on the player’s name to see his player page with all his prior articles listed if I didn’t write up his trade.

I opted to not numerically rank these players now, but I will once I’ve made the dozens and dozens of calls necessary this fall and winter to have that level of precision with this many players. Look for the individual team lists to start rolling out in the next month, with the 2016 Top 200 list coming in early 2016. Lastly, the players are not ranked within their tiers, so these aren’t clues for where they will fall on the Top 200.

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Padres Negotiate With All, Strike Deal With None

Every season, teams play roughly 100 games before the trade deadline. During that time, there are two kinds of teams: buyers and sellers. As sellers, it is their job to give buyers a hard time to trade worthwhile players to the buyers in exchange for players to be used in the future or moving financial obligations that selling teams no longer wish to possess. By all accounts, the San Diego Padres were clearly in the sellers’ camp, yet they held on to all of their players, both potential short-term rentals like Justin Upton, Joaquin Benoit, and Ian Kennedy and longer-term players like Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel. The Padres have desirable players on their team, and the decision to hold onto all of their players is curious, although they did make a small move, acquiring lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

After the trade deadline passed, Padres general manager A.J. Preller was said to believe the Padres had a chance to make the playoffs this season:

The Padres, as presently constituted, do not look like a playoff team. They are 49-53 with a -53 run differential, and BaseRuns, which strips out sequencing, indicates the Padres have actually been pretty lucky, as their BaseRuns record is actually five games worse than their present one. Our projections do not seem to hint at any great improvement moving forward either, as the team is projected to finish with an 80-82 record. They are currently eight games out in their division and 7.5 games out of the wild-card spot. More troubling than the deficit in the standings, they would have to pass four teams that all appear to be as good or better than the Padres to make the postseason. Their current playoff odds are under 4% for this season. Preller is either delusional or he simply could not get the type of return on his players that he expected. Given the huge amount of rumors associated with the Padres over the last few days, it is fair to assume the latter.

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Yasmani Grandal and Padres Pitchers

Not to beat a dead horse, or any kind of horse, but the Matt Kemp trade has been lopsided. There’s still an awful long way to go, but for now the Matt Kemp trade is more like the Yasmani Grandal trade, and Grandal and the Dodgers couldn’t be happier. The other day on Twitter I was tipped off to an article about Grandal written by Matt Calkins. The headline: “Padres blew it with Yasmani Grandal.” It talks about Grandal’s limited playing time, and the lack of trust some Padres pitchers had in him. One paragraph stood out to me as particularly interesting:

Despite the general San Diego approach being to throw down and away, Grandal thought the power pitchers should be throwing inside in the early part of the count before using the outer half of the plate to record the out. But the veteran hurlers weren’t catching his drift, and as a result, he wasn’t catching their pitches.

Pitchers identified were Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy. Last season, Grandal didn’t catch Cashner. Ross eventually stopped throwing to him, and Kennedy did too. They preferred working with Rene Rivera. This year, the Padres pitching staff has struggled. From the bottom of the same article:

San Diego’s pitching, however, has disappointed, and Grandal can’t help but wonder if that would be the case had his advice been heeded.

On the one hand, this doesn’t really matter. Grandal isn’t in San Diego anymore, so everyone just ought to move on. But on the other hand, this can be an interesting thing to investigate. So let’s talk about what Grandal talked about.

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Tyson Ross on His Walk Rate

Tyson Ross was always supposed to have bad command. Just look at his mechanics! He’s huge! Look at his minor-league walk rates! Then, Ross came up and — for his first 300+ innings in the big leagues at least — proved the doubters wrong. An better-than-average walk rate happened, at least.

Now, though, Ross has regressed in that category. But figuring out why a walk rate has grown is not the simplest affair. Swings and misses can turn balls into strikes, and changes in pitching mix can bring on command problems. Tentative approaches can turn aggressive stuff into long plate appearances that end with a free pass. More runners on base can beget more runners on base. Ross himself shakes his head at it, but we did our best to try and figure it out together.

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San Francisco’s Secret Home-Field Advantage

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ATT Park, from behind home plate, at game time for a night game.

Justin Upton has hit the ground running in San Diego. His power stats have not suffered as much as you might expect, at least, as his isolated slugging (.194) and home runs per fly ball (16.7%) are right in line with career norms (.201 and 15.1%, respectively). When I asked him about hitting in San Diego, he shrugged it off. He also said something interesting about San Francisco’s park.

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The Most Unlikely Home Run

It seems like a simple question to ask. Which recent home run was the least likely?

You could flippantly answer — the one Erick Aybar hit this year, or the one Melky Cabrera hit this year — and because they’ve got the lowest isolated slugging percentages with at least one homer hit, you would be right. But that doesn’t control for the quality of the pitcher. Aybar hit his off of Rick Porcello, who is having some issues with the home run right now.

A slightly more sophisticated approach might have you scan down the list of the worst isolated powers in the game right now, and then cross-reference those names with the pitchers that allowed those home runs. If you do that, you’ll eventually settle on Alexei Ramirez, who hit his first homer of the year off of Johnny Cueto earlier this year.

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Players’ View: Is Baseball Ready for an Openly Gay Player?

PrideNight
O.co Coliseum prepares for the Athletics’ LGBT Pride Night.

The Athletics had an LGBT Pride event Wednesday night, and the night was peppered with love for many people that haven’t always felt comfortable at the ballpark.

Opera Singer Breanna Sinclaire, the first trans singer accepted into the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s master’s program according to the San Francisco Chronicle, sang the anthem. According to Major League Baseball, she was also the first trans singer to perform the anthem.

MLB ambassador of inclusion Billy Bean was in the building, and was part of the impetus for the event, as the news of this event came out after he addressed the Athletics in Spring Training.

Sean Doolittle‘s partner Eireann Dolan helped improve the event, as she not only offered to buy back tickets from disgruntled ticketholders with a heartfelt and funny letter, but also started a GoFundMe to help pay for even more donated tickets to members of Our Space, AIDS Project East Bay and Frameline, a nonprofit LGBTQ cinema foundation.

It seemed like a good time to ask the ballplayers willing to comment about the issue at hand: is baseball ready for an openly gay player, and what obstacles might they face when it happens? Even with a few “no comments,” the opinions given all had their own unique angle, and showed that even a ready country and sport will not make the first openly gay player’s professional life easy.

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Padres Take First Step Toward Selling, Fire Bud Black

The Padres fired their manager Monday, saying goodbye to Bud Black, who’d been around since 2007. It’s not that the Padres blamed Black for what they’ve considered to be a disappointing start. That’s always the idea whenever any coach gets the axe, but that’s a gross oversimplification. It’s not that Black was the whole problem. It’s that the Padres thought Black was *a* problem, the kind of problem they might be able to fix midseason. Easier to do that than to find a whole new front office, or a whole new group of players.

As we all observed, the Padres put together a roster they thought could win in 2015. It hasn’t happened yet, not consistently, and with the trade deadline a month and a half away, A.J. Preller might be thinking about the pieces he has to sell off. There’s still plenty of time for the group to turn it around and mount a charge toward the playoffs, but if the Padres do end up a midseason seller, this would be the first step toward admitting the plan didn’t work out. The first step, that is, if you don’t count losing as often as you win.

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The Padres’ Biggest Problem

Even after a win Tuesday, the Padres stand at a flat 20-20, and there’s talk that manager Bud Black might be on the hot seat given ownership expectations. Curiously, the Padres aren’t letting minor-league coach Pat Murphy talk to the Brewers, and while there’s any number of potential explanations, one could be that the team sees Murphy as a Black replacement. Managers get fired by disappointing baseball teams. The Padres haven’t quite lived up to their preseason hype.

When you get to thinking about why, it’s only natural to consider the team defense. It always looked like it was going to be a potential issue, and the numbers indicate the defense has indeed been a weakness, mostly in the outfield. By Defensive Runs Saved, the Padres have been the fourth-worst defensive team in the league. By UZR, they’re second-worst. Right there, it seems like you can explain the team’s bottom-six ERA. But as it turns out, there’s something else going on. Something that’s hurt the Padres even more than their defense.

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Mat Latos Throws a Pitch That Nobody Else Has Thrown

Mat Latos throws a pitch that nobody in the big leagues throws. For good reason, too. He has no idea where it’s going.

“I was told in high school that it would never be a realistic pitch in the big leagues,” Latos said when I asked him about the pitch that he gripped like a knuckle curve but released like a changeup and was neither his breaking ball nor his changeup. Yeah, I said, sure, but what is this pitch?

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An Inning With Craig Kimbrel’s Command

The other day, Craig Kimbrel blew a save for the first time in — I don’t know — awhile. He was given a two-run lead and he retired the first two batters he faced, but then he unraveled. In a pinch, the game was off to extras. Kimbrel is one of those relievers for whom any hiccup is notable. And when you notice Kimbrel’s blown save, you notice something else. Kimbrel, in a tiny sample, is sitting on a 5.68 ERA. If you add up the ERAs from his first five seasons in the majors, you get a sum of 6.37. Something’s a little wonky. Or nothing’s wonky at all, and this is just early-season randomness. Regardless, Kimbrel catches your eye with a 5-something ERA. He’d catch your eye with a 3-something ERA.

Is there anything going on we should know about? Kimbrel’s pitch velocities are fine. Kimbrel’s pitch mix is normal. His arm slot hasn’t changed. So there’s no easy conclusion, but Ken Rosenthal spoke to somebody with something to say:

The report from one uniformed observer: “His command was terrible. He threw three pitches that almost hit guys in the head. He even threw a pickoff to first with no first baseman there. And on the pitch that was hit for a double to tie the game, he missed by three feet.”

Is it that simple? Is Kimbrel just missing his command? Is that why his strikeout rate is down? The source was talking about Kimbrel’s blown save in Arizona. So I decided to investigate Kimbrel’s blown save in Arizona.

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Wil Myers is Finally Healthy

“The biggest thing is that I’m finally healthy,” said Wil Myers before a game with the Giants. After breaking his wrist in the fourth game of the year in 2014, and then following that up with another broken wrist (the other one) about six weeks later, Myers is happy to have his health. Those broken wrists did a number on his game.

After the first wrist broke, Myers played through it. “I still have a bone that sticks out,” Myers said as he points to a protrusion. “And any time I turned this wrist over, this tendon right here was very painful.” Even that first half of last year, before the second injury, Myers had below-average power (.126 Isolated Slugging, .145 is average).

It was worse when he came back from the second broken wrist after 81 days away. “I just didn’t have it,” Myers said as he shook his head. “This forearm looked like a baby’s forearm, I had no muscle.” That’s when his performance really tanked, as his .055 ISO and overall offense that was 50% worse than league average can attest.

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Austin Hedges is Here to Help the Padres

Over the weekend, the Red Sox promoted Blake Swihart, who was our highest-rated catching prospect heading into the year. The Padres followed suit two days later by promoting another highly-touted minor league catcher in Austin Hedges, who ranked 130th overall on Kiley McDaniel’s pre-season list, but was rated much higher by most other outlets. All indications are that Hedges serve as the Padres backup catcher behind Derek Norris, who seems unlikely to be benched after his excellent .323/.343/.500 start to the year. Hedges made his big league debut on Monday by striking out as a pinch hitter in the 9th.

Although they’re both well-regarded catching prospects, Hedges is a much different player than Swihart. Swihart is a plus defender with an interesting, but still-developing bat. Hedges, on the other hand, is widely considered to be one of the best defensive catchers on the planet, who offers very little in terms of offense. Through the end of the 2014 season, Hedges owned a .251/.311/.378 batting line in the minors, which earned him a 91 wRC+. This was bookended by a wimpy .225/.268/.321 (67 wRC+) showing in Double-A last year.

Despite these struggles, the Padres opted to challenge Hedges by having him open the 2015 season in Triple-A. He adapted surprisingly well. In 21 games in the PCL, he hit a loud .324/.392/.521. Obviously, this a tiny sample, but the signals emerging from this tiny sample were good. Hedges walked exactly as often as he struck out, and also hit for power in his month against Triple-A pitching. He came nowhere close to doing either of those things in Double-A last year. Read the rest of this entry »


Checking In On the Padres’ Defense

You shouldn’t need very much of an introduction. Beginning a few months ago, the Padres became one of the most interesting teams in baseball, totally out of the blue. The new front office completely overhauled a bad roster, and as a part of their maneuvering, they pretty clearly prioritized offensive punch over defensive capability. For a few weeks, now, the Padres have been playing games. It’s easy to see how they’ve done as a team. It’s easy to see how well they’ve been able to hit. Defensive performance is a little more hidden. So, let’s quickly check in on the Padres’ team defense.

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Lucius Fox Throws A Wrench Into July 2nd Signings

As I tweeted yesterday, Bahamas-born and recently but shortly American-educated shortstop Lucius Fox was declared an international free agent by Major League Baseball. He won’t be eligible to sign until July 2nd when the 2015-16 signing period opens and the team bonus pools reset, but he would’ve waited until then to sign anyway, since most of the 2014-15 signing pool money had been spent.

Fox was always seen as likely to land as an international prospect since he was born in the Bahamas and moved back home, but it wasn’t a slam dunk because MLB is very aware of player moving out of the U.S. to potentially get more money by ducking the draft. Many elite domestic prospects have investigated this process and found the red tape to make it nearly impossible to work through.

As I wrote last week, the 2015 international signing markets, which opens on July 2nd, is already mostly shaken out at this point. I currently project 25 players to get $1.2 million or more and it appears that 22 of them have deals already. Of those three, the highest bonus should be about $1.5 to $1.7 million while the five top bonuses in the class range from $3.0 million to $4.4 million.

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Finding the Padres a Shortstop

Over the winter, the Padres changed over almost their entire roster, turning an also-ran into a contender with a flurry of moves that borrowed heavily from the team’s future. The current roster is good enough to be a legitimate Wild Card threat, but despite some big name pieces at the top of the roster, San Diego is still rolling with a tandem of Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes at shortstop. Unsurprisingly, A.J. Preller is looking to change that.

Significant trades are pretty rare in April, but Preller already defied the odds by getting the Braves to surrender the best closer in baseball on the eve of Opening Day, so let’s put aside the fact that most teams aren’t likely going to want to move a quality shortstop right now and see if we can find a fit for the Padres. After all, we don’t need to look for an All-Star to find someone better than what San Diego has at the moment.

The Options

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A Look at the Prospects in the Craig Kimbrel Trade

Just when you thought A.J. Preller was done making moves, he goes and swings yet another blockbuster trade. Once more, the Padres traded away minor league talent in an effort to help the Padres win in 2015. In exchange for Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton, the Padres sent big league outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin to the Braves, along with prospects Matt Wisler and Jordan Paroubeck.

Of the pieces headed to Atlanta, Wisler is easily the centerpiece. Kiley McDaniel ranked the 22-year-old righty 41st in his top 200 list last winter, and second in the Padres system, right behind Hunter Renfroe. Kiley gave Wisler a FV of 55, which equates to a #3/#4 starter or a closer.

Wisler’s been one of the game’s more intriguing pitching prospects for a couple of years now. A 7th round pick out of high school in 2011, Wisler wasted no time putting his name on the prospect map. In his first full season as a pro, he posted a 2.36 FIP as a 19-year-old in full-season ball. Wisler followed up his excellent debut with an equally strong 2013 campaign. Split between High-A and Double-A (but mostly Double-A), he struck out an impressive 24% of opposing batters, while walking just 7%.

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Padres Keep Building and Borrowing, Add Craig Kimbrel

Right at the deadline, A.J. Preller managed to squeeze in one more major transaction before the dawn of the regular season. We can say that, now, the Padres’ 2014-2015 offseason is complete; we can say that, now, the Padres’ 2014-2015 offseason also includes Craig Kimbrel. He will, presumably, be available to the team for Opening Day. It’s a little different from the usual roster additions made around this time.

The whole of the deal:

Padres get

  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Melvin Upton

Braves get

For the Braves, it’s a totally understandable and justifiable move — not only do they get to shed the rest of the Upton contract, but Kimbrel meant relatively little to them as an elite-level closer on a basement-level team. The cost savings here are significant, and they can shortly be put toward assets that might be of greater help in the window in which the Braves plan to be good again. Also, Wisler! Wisler could be of help in said window.

For the Padres, it fits with a lot of the rest of the offseason. Kimbrel isn’t exactly a one-year player, since he could be under contract through 2018, but the team’s paying a high price again, borrowing from future talent and future flexibility to make the 2015 roster stronger. That goal has been met — without question, the Padres have taken another step forward. Now we all just get to find out whether this collection of talent can come together and push for something beyond a 162nd game.

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A Preview of 2015 Team Defenses

It’s gettin’ to that time of year when folks tend to preview stuff ’round baseball. Our annual Positional Power Rankings will be coming to the site over the next couple weeks, you’ll surely see all sorts of divisional preview pieces pop up between now and Opening Day, and this right here is going to be a preview of team defenses.

We saw last year where a good defense can take a team. The Kansas City Royals were more than just a great defense, but it was evident, especially during the playoffs, how much an elite defense can mean to a ballclub. The same was true, but on the other end of the spectrum, for the Cleveland Indians. Our two advanced defensive metrics — Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating — agreed that the defense in Cleveland was worth around -70 runs last season. In Kansas City, it was something like +50. That’s a 120-run difference! That’s about 12 wins! Those teams play in the same division! Move 12 wins around and the result is an entirely different season! Defense isn’t the biggest thing, but it’s a big thing. Let’s look ahead.

All the numbers used in this piece will come from UZR and DRS. For the team projections, I simply utilized our depth charts and did a little math. We’re going to take a look at the three best, the worst, the teams that got better, the teams that got worse, and then all the rest down at the bottom. For the upgrades/downgrades, I used the difference of standard deviations above or below the mean between last year’s results and this year’s projections.
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