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Elegy for ’18 – San Diego Padres

The first year of Eric Hosmer’s contract has not been encouraging, but the club’s future is bright.
(Photo: Ian D’Andrea)

Up until now, this has been a very American League-centric series, with the Marlins — a team I’m not 100% positive hasn’t actually been relegated to the Pacific Coast League — representing the only NL club. While the AL is now a bifurcated league, one that features a smaller middle class than most 11th-century societies, the NL is now relatively competitive, the better league for Team Entropy. Clubs like the Padres stayed mathematically competitive much longer than comparable AL teams, but the eventual requiem mass was inevitable.

The Setup

Among the clubs who could use a real, consistent run of success, the Padres are fairly high on my list. It’s an organization that, despite reaching its 50th year of Major League Baseball this season, has only won 95 games on one occasion and only produced consecutive 85-win seasons at one point in their history (2006-07), so if anyone’s due for a truly sunny period, it’s San Diego. Conversely, the Padres are rarely even all that bad and haven’t had a 100-loss season since 1993 (though they have come close). If, for Bill James, the late-80s Houston Astros were like bad jazz, I’d submit that the Padres are like .38 Special (the band, not the gun): their most popular songs are instantly recognizable, and you won’t turn off the radio in the middle of “Hold On Loosely”, but you’re never going to make a giant .38 Special playlist for your road trip. The team just exists, harmless and middling.

That’s the long-term trajectory of the Padres, and you get the sense that they really want to put together a winner, almost desperately. We saw this inclination after the 2014 season, shortly after general manager A.J. Preller’s joined the organization from Texas. His desire to compete immediately remains laudable, but the foundation of the team wasn’t strong enough to allow it, and there were some really troubling errors in judgment exhibited en route to hastily assembling a contender, such as the acquisition of Matt Kemp. (I won’t fault them for James Shields, whom they signed to a reasonable deal at the time and was ultimately exchanged for the system’s top prospect.) Manager Bud Black took the fall in 2015 — I’m not a fan, but he was definitely a scapegoat in that particular instance — and the team quite quickly went back into rebuilding mode.

The rebuilding had gone quite well heading into the 2017-18 offseason, but a little more organizational impatience was displayed, though not as damaging as that from three years earlier. While I’d prefer not to dwell on Eric Hosmer, you can’t talk about the preseason without mentioning him. There’s a very good argument to be made that a club shouldn’t refuse to sign a star player simply because they haven’t entered a window of contention yet. The problem, however, is that Hosmer isn’t so much a star as an extremely up-and-down player who has never recorded two consecutive league-average seasons in the majors. You don’t give someone $500 to lock in your Olive Garden reservations for next year’s wedding anniversary.

Trading Enyel De Los Santos for Freddy Galvis displayed similar failings of patience, even if that deal is hardly the sort to destroy an organization. You can’t say De Los Santos was anywhere near elite prospect status then or now, but a year of a slightly below-average shortstop production just didn’t do anything for the club. People yelled at me that the Padres had “enough” pitching prospects, but having too many pitching prospects isn’t an actual problem, and trades ought to bring in assets a club needs. It’s a small unforced error, but those unforced errors pile up.

The Projection

The ZiPS projection system was completely unimpressed with San Diego’s starting pitching and, overall, saw the team as rather lackluster entering the 2018 season, projecting a 73-89 record and a 1.5% shot at the playoffs. ZiPS saw little divisional upside for the Padres, with many of the organization’s most interesting players absent from the 25-man roster for part or all of the season.

The Results

At 61-92, the Padres are already guaranteed to fall short of the projections for the 2018 season, though they again won’t lose 100 games. Hosmer struggled after a hot start, spending the summer struggling to keep his OPS above .700 and is either below-average or sub-replacement depending on how you feel about Baseball Info Solutions’s DRS vs. Ultimate Zone Rating. Wil Myers was similarly blazing on his return from an oblique injury, his OPS peaking at an impressive .976 the week before the All-Star break, but he has hit .213/.275/.329 since then. Dinelson Lamet didn’t even make it into the 2018 season, a torn UCL ending his campaign prematurely, making him one of the year’s biggest disappointments for me. The starting pitching was generally lousy, with the rotation’s 131 ERA- ranking last in MLB.

The potential for the veterans to prevent the Padres from sorting through their lesser prospects and interesting Triple-A talent was mitigated significantly due to injuries. The team, for example, never had Myers, Franchy Cordero, Hunter Renfroe, and Christian Villanueva all healthy at the same time. Still, they had trouble occasionally finding at-bats for Franmil Reyes. It would have been nice to give a look at fringier minor-league depth, too — like Brett Nicholas or Ty France — but that’s unlikely to seriously come back and bite the franchise later.

Despite this collection of missteps, the team did have quite a bit go right. Renfroe, Reyes, and Villanueva all showed progress as power hitters, even if none of them are likely to be build-around types. Getting a look at Myers at third base with Villanueva gone with a broken finger was an extremely clever way to fit both Renfroe and Reyes in the lineup without benching the veteran. Myers may even be a plausible third baseman, which makes him more valuable; it was a smart thing for a rebuilding organization to try. The rotation was a hot mess, but Joey Lucchesi adjusted to the majors very quickly. Austin Hedges took a significant step forward at the plate, enough that it makes the team’s catcher battle — in this case, with recently acquired Francisco Mejia — a fascinating thing to watch over the next year. One of my favorites, Manuel Margot, bounced back nicely from a nightmare-esque first two months of the season (.189/.234/.288 through May 21st).

I can’t leave without talking a bit about the bullpen. The group has combined for 7.8 WAR, behind only the Yankees, with a 3.53 ERA/3.33 FIP in 2018. And they assembled that top bullpen essentially from scratch, with no splashy free-agent acquisitions.

2018 Padres Bullpen
Pitcher FIP ERA WAR Original Acquisition
Craig Stammen 2.05 2.70 2.2 Minor league contract
Adam Cimber 2.32 3.17 1.1 9th-round draft pick
Jose Castillo 2.46 3.12 0.9 Wil Myers trade
Kirby Yates 2.60 2.01 1.5 Waiver claim from Angels
Robert Stock 2.63 2.21 0.6 Minor league contract
Robbie Erlin 2.69 2.05 0.8 Mike Adams trade
Brad Hand 3.17 3.05 0.7 Waiver claim from Marlins
Phil Maton 3.24 4.26 0.6 20th-round draft pick
Matt Strahm 3.71 2.23 0.3 Big ol’ relief trade with Royals
Kazuhisa Makita 5.31 6.10 -0.2 Two-year, $3.8 million + $0.5 million posting fee
Min 30 innings.

Contrast San Diego with the experience of the Colorado Rockies, who spent nearly all their free-agent dough on brand-name relievers and still endured bullpen struggles throughout most of the season. While contracts like Hosmer’s seem to reflect problematic decision-making, it is a good sign if the organization sees that they can build a solid relief corps without spending money like your irresponsible cousin. The 2000s Angels and A’s made this kind of bullpen assembly an art form.

What Comes Next

Hopefully for the Padres, the future involves staying the course. If there’s a positive to Hosmer’s poor season and Galvis’s irrelevant one, it’s that they could have a moderating effect on any kind of over-exuberant transactions this winter. While you may think from my tone in certain places that I’m down on the Padres, I’m actually wildly optimistic about the team’s future. A middle infield of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias could be the best combo of the next generation, and we’ve only seen the very edge of the team’s overwhelming stable of pitching prospects, with Lucchesi and Jacob Nix representing merely a dip of the toe in the talent reservoir. Combine those two and MacKenzie Gore and Chris Paddack and Logan Allen and Adrian Morejon and Cal Quantrill and Michel Baez and Anderson Espinoza and Luis Patino and Ryan Weathers and so on and so on and you have a list of young pitching prospects that’s so long that I think I forgot the point I was trying to make.


Oh yeah, future awesome or something like that. The team cashed in two of their cheaply acquired bullpen pieces to bring in Mejia, the best catching prospect in baseball. Josh Naylor, who may present an interesting problem for the team in a few years as it would be shocking to see him anywhere but first base, showed great improvements in plate discipline and power in 2018, and I think there’s a good chance he’ll hit in the majors.

San Diego’s future is as promising as any other team’s in the majors, especially if the team’s willing, when they are finally a force, to give out more Hosmer-type contracts to players who are better than Hosmer. If someone came back from the past and excitedly proclaimed to me “Dan, the Padres have four All-Stars in 2021!” I’d actually be slightly disappointed that the team only had four and very disappointed at such a mundane use of a time machine.

The organization’s challenge is piloting these transition years, not with short-term thinking or a desire to hot-shot an 80-win season through shortcuts, but with a laser-like focus on enhancing that future core as much as possible.

And when this team succeeds, they better do it in some variation of mustard and brown. The franchise deserves better than to have what could possibly be the sunniest epoch in the team’s history be played out in Generic Team 1 uniforms from the create-a-team mode in a baseball video game.

Way-Too-Early 2018 Projection: Fernando Tatis Jr.

Sure, it might be interesting to see Margot’s development, or project Hosmer’s chances at a bounceback, or see what a Myers season at third looks like. But I’m sure what people really want here is some glorious fan service in the form of Fernando Tatis Jr. Let the dreaming commence…

ZiPS Projections – Fernando Tatis Jr.
2019 .224 .288 .398 518 71 116 20 5 20 78 42 197 19 95 -2 1.5
2020 .238 .311 .442 504 75 120 22 6 23 85 49 187 16 110 -1 2.8
2021 .247 .323 .498 506 80 125 22 6 31 94 52 181 16 121 -1 4.1
2022 .245 .325 .496 506 80 124 22 6 31 93 55 187 15 122 -1 4.1
2023 .244 .325 .501 505 81 123 22 6 32 94 56 187 15 123 -1 4.2
2024 .240 .324 .493 499 80 120 21 6 31 92 57 187 15 121 -1 4.0
2025 .237 .323 .486 490 78 116 20 6 30 89 58 184 13 119 -2 3.7

I thought the process of turning grass into steak was the world’s best magic trick, but turning James Shields into this, well that’s impressive. ZiPS doesn’t think that Tatis will spike high averages in the majors, but it does see a significant power upside, and really, if you’re complaining about this projection for a prospect in Double-A, well, you’re the greediest person that ever existed and you should be thrown in jail or something and have to wear one of those old-timey cannonball things chained to your ankle.

Michael Schwimer on Francisco Mejia and the Future for Big League Advance

Back in April, I wrote about the lawsuit former Indians uberprospect and current Padres backstop Francisco Mejia had filed against Big League Advance. As I wrote earlier this week, that case is now over. Michael Schwimer, the CEO of Big League Advance, who was good enough to talk to me after my initial post on the case, spent some time this week answering my questions about how the case ended. Once again, Schwimer was forthcoming about his company, the Mejia suit, and the future for himself and his business.

I first asked Schwimer what happened at the end of the case. Schwimer told me that Mejia dismissed his case voluntarily, without providing a specific reason. That said, Schwimer suspects “peer pressure [on Mejia] from players” might have had something to do with it. “[We got] overwhelming support from minor-league players,” Schwimer said regarding the suit, adding that BLA clients were largely supportive of the company through the litigation. Schwimer also corrected one assumption I’d made in my previous article — that no discovery had been performed. BLA, at least, had responded to document requests propounded by Mejia’s attorneys. Schwimer thought that response had something to do with Mejia’s decision to dismiss his case, as well. “We had proof to back up literally everything,” Schwimer told me.

Among Mejia’s allegations was that BLA purportedly hired a lawyer for him — and paid that attorney to advise him — solely with a view to including language in the contract that he’d had the benefit of counsel. But Schwimer told me that BLA had correspondence with Mejia’s private attorneys refuting the claim. “We had the emails with Francisco’s lawyer, where [the lawyer] redlined the contract for Francisco’s benefit,” Schwimer said. “He reduced the endorsement from 6% to 2.5%, and made other changes that helped Mejia.”

As I noted in my postmortem on the case following its dismissal, apologies in lawsuits are incredibly rare, and I was curious to know how this one came about. “We did ask him to apologize, no doubt,” Schwimer said. In this case, the apology was part of a settlement, but not of Mejia’s claim. Instead, Schwimer explained that Mejia voluntarily dismissed his claim and settled BLA’s counterclaim. The apology was part of that settlement.

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Francisco Mejia, Big League Advance, and “Perry Mason Moments”

For every trial lawyer, the Holy Grail is that “Perry Mason moment.” That’s the dramatic point in the episode where the real killer, under skillful cross-examination by Mason, reveals everything to the shocked judge and jury, the chagrined prosecutor* agrees to drop the charges, and everyone rides happily into the sunset.

*On a completely irrelevant aside, the prosecutor in Perry Mason is just really awful. He doesn’t seem to know how to check his own cases, or interview witnesses, or use the Rules of Evidence, or object properly. I could never watch this show without wondering how he keeps his job.

It also almost never happens this way. Shocking, I know. (In my career, I’ve had three instances of what could be termed “Perry Mason moments.” Cultivating one requires a combination of preparation for the witness and a lot of luck.)

Earlier this year, I wrote about a lawsuit that Francisco Mejia had filed against Big League Advance, a company founded by former MLB pitcher Michael Schwimer which gives minor-league players capital advances against anticipated future major-league earnings. As I wrote then, Mejia made some pretty serious accusations against Schwimer’s company.

According to Mejia, BLA approached him when his mother was very ill and struggling with medical bills. The contracts were signed, says Mejia, without a translator, and BLA even paid for Mejia’s lawyer just so the contract could state Mejia had the advice of counsel. Mejia says that BLA employees showed up at his house unannounced to collect a payment of about $10,000 after Mejia made the big leagues and threatened to bar him from playing if he didn’t pay. And, according to the Complaint, given Mejia is projected to earn over $100 million in the major leagues, BLA stands to recover over $10,000,000 against a $360,000 investment, which Mejia says is unconscionable.

Then, last week, Mejia suddenly dropped his lawsuit.

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Daily Prospect Notes Finale: Arizona Fall League Roster Edition

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Note from Eric: Hey you, this is the last one of these for the year, as the minor-league regular season comes to a close. Thanks for reading. I’ll be taking some time off next week, charging the batteries for the offseason duties that lie ahead for Kiley and me.

D.J. Peters, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 4-for-7, 2 HR, 2B (double header)

A comparison of DJ Peters’ 2017 season in the Cal League and his 2018 season at Double-A gives us a good idea of what happens to on-paper production when a hitter is facing better pitching and defenses in a more stable offensive environment.

D.J. Peters’ Production
2017 .276 .372 .514 32.2% 10.9% .385 137
2018 .228 .314 .451 34.0% 8.1% .305 107

Reports of Peters’ physical abilities haven’t changed, nor is his batted-ball profile different in such a way that one would expect a downtick in production. The 2018 line is, I think, a more accurate distillation of Peters’ abilities. He belongs in a talent bucket with swing-and-miss outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Bradley Zimmer, etc. These are slugging center fielders whose contact skills aren’t particularly great. Players like this are historically volatile from one season to the next but dominant if/when things click. They’re often ~1.5 WAR players who have some years in the three-win range. Sometimes they also turn into George Springer.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/28/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Performances from 8/26

Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners
Level: High-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 2   FV: 45
Line: 3-for-4, 2B, 3Bho

We now have a full season of data to help us figure out whether Evan White’s weird profile is going to play. A plus-running backwards guy (bats right, throws left, a generally unfavorable combination due to the defensive limitations and platoon issues caused by both) who plays plus defense at first base, White was slugging .391 at the start of August, which is rather uninspiring for a college hitter in the Cal League. In August, however, White has 30 hits in 90 plate appearances and is slugging .763. He has made subtle changes to his lower half, drawing his front knee back toward his rear hip more than he did at Kentucky, and taking a longer stride back toward the pitcher. White is more often finishing with a flexed front leg, which has helped him go down and lift balls in the bottom part of the strike zone by adjusting his lower half instead of his hands. It’s a more athletic swing that was implemented before White’s explosive August, though he may just be getting comfortable with it now. Read the rest of this entry »

The Basepath Misadventures of Jose Pirela

As baseball analysis has grown, the advanced metrics have begun to find their way into television broadcasts more regularly. Announcers will occasionally mention win probability in terms of game context. Pitcher FIP will be brought up alongside ERA. The slew of batter statistics — wOBA, wRC+, ISO, et al — will be used to shed further light on hitters. Even fielding metrics like UZR and DRS have slowly started creeping their way into viewers’ homes, at least from national television broadcasts.

The one quantifiable area of the game that seems to get a little less sabermetric coverage from broadcasters is baserunning. Stolen bases are of course referenced, and Statcast sprint speeds are a relatable number that does occasionally get mentioned. However, the concept of baserunning runs (BsR) has not made its way to television in the way that its fielding counterparts have.

While the introduction of Statcast sprint speeds to the public is a step forward in understanding how good a baserunner is, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Rather, it tells something more akin to the potential baserunning value that a player can bring. Activating that potential involves no small amount of baserunning instincts for basically anyone who lacks Billy Hamilton’s speed. Looking at one player in particular from 2018 clearly shows us why in explaining runner ability, broadcasts need to go beyond sprint speed.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/16/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Bryse Wilson, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Level: Triple-A   Age: 20   Org Rank: 12   FV: 45+
Line: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 13 K

Bryse Wilson touched 97 several times last night and sat 93-95 late in the outing. He pounded the zone with his fastball (72 of 98 pitches were for strikes) and blew it past several hitters up above the strike zone. His slider (mostly 83-85, though he lollipops some slower ones into the zone for first-pitch strikes) flashes plus but is mostly average and is only capable of missing bats when it’s out of the zone. Wilson’s changeup is fringey and firm, without much bat-missing movement, but the velocity separation off of the fastball is enough to keep hitters from squaring it up, and it’s going to be an effective pitch. The entire package (Wilson’s physicality and stuff) looks very similar to Michael Fulmer and Wilson’s delivery is much more graceful and fluid than it was when he was in high school, when scouts thought it would impact his ability to command the fastball and possibly move him to the bullpen.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/24/18

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Starling Joseph, OF, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: Short-Season   Age: 19   Org Rank: NR   FV: 35+
Line: 3-for-4, HR

Joseph is a physical 6-foot-3 outfielder with plus raw power. He’s raw from a bat-to-ball standpoint due to length and a lack of bat control, but the power/frame combination here is interesting for a 19-year-old. Joseph has a 67:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in domestic pro ball and is as high-risk of a prospect as you’ll find, but he has the power to carry the profile if he ever becomes sentient in the batter’s box.

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Good Scouting Was Behind the Hand/Mejia Trade

The Indians traded blocked top prospect Francisco Mejia to the Padres for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber today. It’s worth noting that the Dodgers, Indians, and Padres have all swung important deals within the past 24 hours and all have one thing in common: each has created depth by turning low-risk investments into real trade assets, via multiple avenues.

The Dodgers filled out the Machado deal with four prospects who weren’t touted until the last year or so. The Padres got Brad Hand on a waiver claim, while Cimber was completely off the radar until this year. The Indians, for their part, could afford to trade Mejia with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez representing superior options behind the plate. These aren’t the only instances of these clubs turning nothing into something, but a couple instances ended up driving these big deals.

The Orioles have announced they will create better infrastructure to do this sort of thing more often going forward. There’s also been buzz in scouting circles today that at least one of the clubs that attempted to land Machado believes their package ultimately fell short because of substandard scouting and/or development.

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The Indians Did What They Had to Do

On the Tuesday prior to the All-Star break, at a game which this author observed from the Progressive Field press box, Trevor Bauer left his start after eight innings with the Indians holding a 4-0 lead. Then a call to the bullpen, complete with a miscommunication error, followed. Dan Otero faced Joey Votto. The Indians lost. It was not necessarily a great surprise: so often something has gone amiss for Cleveland this year after such calls to the bullpen.

As readers of this Web site are likely aware, the Indians’ bullpen has struggled mightily this season, sitting in the bottom quartile by many notable bullpen skill metrics.

The group ranks 28th in WAR (-0.9), 23rd in WPA (-1.07), 29th in ERA (5.28), and 29th in FIP (4.85). There has not been any positive regression, either. Over the past 30 days, the Cleveland relief corps has posted a 4.87 ERA, a 5.10 FIP, and a -0.15 WPA.

Bullpens are fickle beasts. The Indians’ 27th-ranked left-on-base percentage (68.7%) suggests some poor first-half fortune was bound for second-half positive regression. Oliver Perez and Neil Ramirez have been useful finds, with Ramirez perhaps building on his physical talents by learning more how to harness his high-spin fastball and breaking ball in concert. But the Indians had a clear manpower shortage in their bullpen, particularly with Andrew Miller still sidelined and out for much of the first half.

As the All-Star break approached, it felt like the Indians had to do something. Baseball knew the Indians had to do something, so if the Indians were to do something, it was not going to be done cheaply. And on Thursday, the Indians did something.

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Cleveland Acquires Brad Hand, Adam Cimber for Francisco Mejia

The Manny Machado trade will not be the only big deal to go down during the All-Star break. Cleveland, in desperate need of relief pitching with Cody Allen struggling and Andrew Miller hurt, have made quite the move to shore up their bullpen in one fell swoop. Jon Heyman was the first to report that Brad Hand would be heading from San Diego to Cleveland in the deal. Ken Rosenthal added that reliever Adam Cimber would also be on the move. As for the return, The Padres are set to receive catching prospect Francisco Mejia. The deal looks like this:

Cleveland receives:

San Diego receives:

The 28-year-old Hand is in the middle of another very good season. After totaling 3.2 WAR across nearly 170 innings the last two years, the lefty has put up an ERA and FIP right around three this season. He’s struck out 35% of batters and walked just 8% as the Padres closer. Hand signed a contract extension before the season started that will pay him a bit over $1 million the rest of this season and $13.5 million over the following two years, with a team option of $10 million for 2020 that can be bought out for one million dollars.

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The First Sixteenth of the Hosmer Deal Is Complete

The 2017-2018 offseason was not one of the more exciting winters in memory, to put it mildly. A large part of that, no doubt, was the result of a relatively undistinguished free-agent class and the absence of some larger clubs from the market, teams saving their ammunition for the likely more exciting 2018-2019 period. Add into that the hard-to-gauge effects of more unanimity among front offices in how to evaluate veteran players and the whispered rumors of the collusion poltergeist, and it was a formula for not a lot happening. And not a lot happened.

For about three weeks around the holidays, the only news in town was the rumbling surrounding Eric Hosmer’s new home. Now, in most offseasons, Eric Hosmer wouldn’t be one of the marquee free agents, having been a rather up-and-down first baseman with some high points, but also some low ones, enough so that he entered the 2018 campaign having never strung together consecutive years of one or more wins. The 2017 season was one of the highlights, however, with Hosmer avoiding those half-long slumps that doomed 2014 and 2016 to sub-mediocrity. It was a legitimately excellent season, Hosmer hitting .318/.385/.498, to the tune of a 135 wRC+, and reaching that four-win mark that serves as an informal threshold for an All-Star season.

In the end, the Royals attempted to retain Hosmer, though the truth of whether he was actually offered $147 million, as the rumors went, will probably be lost in history unless Scott Boras writes a tell-all book after his retirement. San Diego, a team in the middle of their own rebuild, signed Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million contract, with an opt-out clause exercisable by Hosmer, allowing him to forgo the last three years and $39 million for free agency. To get an estimate, here are the full ZiPS projections for the Hosmer contract at the time.

Eric Hosmer, ZiPS Projections, Preseason
2018 .275 .344 .447 155 582 86 160 27 2 23 90 62 116 116 -2 2.6
2019 .277 .349 .452 148 553 83 153 27 2 22 86 62 110 118 -3 2.7
2020 .276 .347 .449 144 537 79 148 26 2 21 83 59 104 117 -3 2.4
2021 .270 .340 .439 138 519 75 140 24 2 20 78 56 99 113 -3 2.0
2022 .267 .336 .428 131 495 69 132 22 2 18 71 52 90 109 -3 1.5
2023 .265 .332 .415 120 453 61 120 19 2 15 62 46 76 104 -4 1.1
2024 .261 .326 .398 104 394 51 103 16 1 12 52 38 62 98 -4 0.5
2025 .259 .320 .386 84 324 40 84 12 1 9 41 29 46 93 -3 0.2

One thing to note is that there is a bit of a discrepancy between the zWAR (ZiPS WAR) and FanGraphs WAR figures, as we haven’t always used the exact same park and league factors for future seasons and have utilized a slightly different methodology. For next year’s ZiPS, I hope to report both zWAR and fWAR to reduce this occasional confusion. But for right now, I’m still figuring out how to not break FanGraphs.

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Matt Strahm Is Quite an Opening Act

The opener revolution originated in Tampa Bay earlier this season and has since spread to Los Angeles and San Diego.

Padres manager Andy Green, a colleague of former FanGraphs manager editor Dave Cameron, has expressed interest in continuing bullpen games. The strategy make some sense, as the Padres have one of the strongest and deepest bullpens in the game, trailing only the Yankees, Astros, and Brewers in relief WAR. The Padres have bullpenned four times in four weeks and three consecutive times through a vacant spot (Joey Lucchesi’s) in their stating rotation, most recently on Sunday at Atlanta.

Of the four bullpen games, Matt Strahm has started all of them. Strahm has taken to the role.

Since Strahm became a starter — or, more precisely, “an opener” — he’s been dominant. In his last three appearances, all technically starts, Strahm has recorded 11 strikeouts and no walks against 29 batters while conceding just three hits and a single run in 8.0 innings.

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You Might Not Recognize Kirby Yates

Kirby Yates entered the 2018 season as one of the league’s most quietly interesting relievers.

He posted an elite 29.9-point K-BB% last year, ranking seventh among all pitchers who threw at least 40 innings. Only Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, and James Hoyt bettered his 17.4% swinging-strike rate last season.

Yates ranked 24th in whiff-per-swing rate on his four-seam, high-spin fastball (31.7%), according to the PITCHf/x leaderboards at Baseball Prospectus. His split-change (45.7%) and slider (44.0%) also produced above-average swing-and-miss rates per swing. Selected off waivers from the Angels last April, Yates was quite a find.

Entering the season, then, the Padres appeared to have another potential difference-making bullpen arm to complement Brad Hand. In fact, the Padres appeared to have the makings of one of the better bullpens in the game — and it has been one of the better bullpens in the game. San Diego ranks fourth in relief WAR (3.5), trailing only the Astros, Brewers, and Yankees.

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Sunday Notes: Jeimer Candelario is Palm Up, Gap-to-Gap, a Talented Tiger

Jeimer Candelario is establishing himself as one of the best young players on a young Detroit Tigers team. Playing in his first full big-league season, the 24-year-old third baseman is slashing a solid .251/.346/.476 with 10 home runs. His 2.0 WAR leads all Tigers.

Acquired along with Isaac Paredes in the deal that sent Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Cubs at last summer’s trade deadline, “Candy” is a switch-hitter with pop. His M.O. is gap-to-gap, and the orientation of his top hand is a focal point of his swing.

“I want to hit the ball with palm up,” explained Candelario. “If you’re palm up and you hit the ball, you finish up. I try to be connected. My back side, my hands, my hips, and my legs come in the same moment. That way, when I hit the ball I hit the ball with power, with palm up.”

Candelario credits Cubs assistant hitting coach Andy Haines — at the time the club’s hitting coordinator — for helping him develop his stroke. Now that he’s in Motown, he’s heeding the advice of Lloyd McClendon, who is emphasizing “How to load and then follow through, which helps me have some doubles and homers. If I just concentrate on hitting line drives, the ball will carry.”

McClendon is bullish on the young infielder’s future. Ditto his here and now. Read the rest of this entry »

Eric Lauer Has Seven Pickoffs

Leading off the bottom of the first inning on Wednesday, Harrison Bader worked a full count against Eric Lauer and hit a single up the middle. In a matchup between two promising National League rookies, Bader appeared to have the upper hand. Tommy Pham stepped in and saw a first-pitch strike, and then the Cardinals TV broadcast said the following:

One thing to keep in mind — Lauer has a tremendous pickoff move. He has picked off four in four consecutive games.
Now five.

That quickly, Bader was erased. Eric Lauer has picked off a runner five games in a row. This is just the fifth time that’s known to have happened in major-league history, and this active streak is a Padres franchise record. The major-league leader in pickoffs in 2016 had six. The major-league leader in pickoffs in 2017 had seven. Lauer already has seven in 2018. He’s two ahead of anyone else, even though he’s thrown just 45 innings. Sure, if you wanted to be critical, you could say that Lauer has given himself plenty of pickoff opportunities. But he’s been a baserunner-erasing machine. When Lauer is on the mound, every runner has to be careful.

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The Padres Paid a Bunch for a Draft Pick

This past weekend, the San Diego Padres completed a trade, sending Janigson Villalobos to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Phil Hughes.

The precise players involved aren’t of particular significance. The Padres’ prospect list contained 75 names and Villalobos was not among them. As for Hughes, he had recently been designated for assignment after pitching poorly over the last three seasons. Much of that subpar performance was due to injury and included thoracic outlet surgery. As Jay Jaffe recently chronicled, few pitchers return to prominence after TOS.

By designating Hughes for assignment, the Twins appeared willing to eat the roughly $22 million remaining on his contract through next season. The Padres are taking on some of that obligation in exchange for a competitive balance draft pick, so the functional part of the trade looks like this.

Padres get:

  • 74th pick in 2018 draft and $812,200 in bonus pool money that goes with it.

Twins get:

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Adam Cimber Is an Outlier of Outliers

The following three figures correspond to measurements for which objective data exists. One of them is the height above the ground at which the average major-league pitcher releases the ball. Another is the height at which a particular mystery pitcher releases the ball. Finally, the third is the height of this author’s three-year-old son.

(a) 2.18 feet
(b) 3.25 feet
(c) 5.75 feet

Here, with a minimum of suspense, are the corresponding answers:

(a) Mystery pitcher’s release point.
(b) The height of this author’s son.
(c) The average vertical release point of major-league pitchers.

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Top 43 Prospects: San Diego Padres

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the San Diego Padres. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

All the numbered prospects here also appear on THE BOARD, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. Click here to visit THE BOARD.

Padres Top Prospects
Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV
1 Fernando Tatis Jr. 19 AA 3B 2019 65
2 Luis Urias 20 AAA 2B 2018 55
3 MacKenzie Gore 18 A LHP 2020 55
4 Michel Baez 22 A+ RHP 2020 55
5 Anderson Espinoza 19 A RHP 2019 50
6 Adrian Morejon 19 A+ LHP 2020 50
7 Joey Lucchesi 24 MLB LHP 2018 50
8 Logan Allen 20 AA LHP 2020 50
9 Cal Quantrill 23 AA RHP 2018 50
10 Gabriel Arias 18 A SS 2021 45
11 Tirso Ornelas 18 A LF 2021 45
12 Hudson Potts 19 A+ 3B 2020 45
13 Chris Paddack 20 A+ RHP 2020 45
14 Josh Naylor 20 AA 1B 2020 45
15 Pedro Avila 21 A+ RHP 2021 45
16 Jacob Nix 22 AA RHP 2019 45
17 Franchy Cordero 23 MLB CF 2018 45
18 Esteury Ruiz 19 A 2B 2022 45
19 Edward Olivares 22 A+ OF 2021 45
20 Jeisson Rosario 18 A CF 2022 40
21 Walker Lockett 23 AAA RHP 2018 40
22 Mason Thompson 18 A RHP 2022 40
23 Blake Hunt 19 R C 2022 40
24 Jordy Barley 18 R SS 2023 40
25 Luis Campusano 19 A C 2023 40
26 Eric Lauer 22 MLB LHP 2019 40
27 Franmil Reyes 22 MLB OF 2019 40
28 Brad Zunica 22 A+ 1B 2022 40
29 Robert Stock 28 AAA RHP 2018 40
30 Luis Patino 18 A RHP 2023 40
31 Ronald Bolanos 21 A+ RHP 2021 40
32 Buddy Reed 22 A+ CF 2019 40
33 Andres Munoz 19 A RHP 2020 40
34 Jorge Ona 21 A+ OF 2019 40
35 Mason House 19 R OF 2023 40
36 Luis Almanzar 18 R SS 2021 40
37 Reggie Lawson 19 A+ RHP 2021 40
38 Diomar Lopez 21 A+ RHP 2022 40
39 Trey Wingenter 24 AAA RHP 2018 40
40 David Bednar 23 A+ RHP 2019 40
41 Brad Wieck 26 AAA LHP 2018 40
42 Eguy Rosario 18 A+ 2B 2022 40
43 Michell Miliano 18 R RHP 2023 40

65 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’3 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/55 60/70 40/60 55/45 50/55 60/60

Scouts in the U.S. became enamored of Tatis during 2016 extended spring training in Arizona, and San Diego poached him from the White Sox before he had even suited up for a professional game. He was sent to full-season Fort Wayne as an 18-year-old in 2017 and hit .280/.390/.520 with 20 homers and steals and, perhaps most impressively for his age, a 14.5% walk rate. He also flashes occasional acrobatic brilliance at shortstop, though scouts are not unanimous about his long-term prospects there because of the size of Tatis’s frame. He’s five years younger than the average regular at Double-A right now.

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Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 9

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the ninth installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Brad Brach, Daniel Mengden, and Kirby Yates— on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.


Brad Brach (Orioles) on His Changeup

“”It’s weird. In college, my changeup was probably my best pitch, but when I got to pro ball [in 2008] I wasn’t able throw it. I don’t know if it was the minor-league balls or what, but I kept cutting it all the time. It was hard for me to throw strikes with it, so I pretty much got rid of it and started throwing a splitter.

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