The San Diego Padres are in the middle of a rebuild. In 2015, they went all out and acquired older, veteran talent they believed could win the division. That plan did not work very well, as they finished seven games below .500 and fourth in the NL West. A.J. Preller, the general manager, then decided to start a rebuilding effort and traded away many of their older players such as Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and James Shields. 2017 will be a key year for the Padres in determining how bright the future will be.
San Diego Padres 2017 Season Preview
For 2017, the Padres collected many players under the age of 27 who are expected to contribute. The best is Wil Myers, who is just 26. A power hitting first baseman they acquired in a trade from the Tampa Bay Rays, Myers is a building block for many years to come. Other key players are Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges, and Travis Jankowski.
Renfroe, 25, was drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft. In only 11 games for the Padres last year, he hit .371 and smashed four home runs. In addition, he is the 42nd prospect in baseball per MLB.com. San Diego believes he is now ready to compete at the highest level.
Hedges, 24, expects to be the everyday catcher for 2017. He has seen major league action before, although he did not do so well. After another season in the minors, 2017 is the make or break year.
Jankowski is another former first round pick and only 25 years old. After a full season in the majors last year, he is expected to play center field. While only hitting two home runs, Jankowski stole 30 bases. Speed is a valuable asset to have is baseball, and Jankowski has plenty of it.
Another key player to keep an eye on is Manuel Margot. Only 22 years old, but has the chance to start the year at the majors. He is the No. 23 ranked prospect, per MLB.com. Whether at center field, left field, or on the bench, Margot has all the tools to be very successful for years to come. Many of these players control their own destiny as well as the destiny of the Padres.
Starting pitching is not an area of strength for San Diego. Tyson Ross, who was their best pitcher the past few years, is now with the Texas Rangers. Therefore, the starting rotation consists of many veterans and a few young players to get some experience. The likes of Jered Weaver, Trevor Cahill and Jhoulys Chacin are all past their primes and should be on a team to provide leadership more than anything else. But because the young pitching is not ready for the major leagues, these players must try and hold down the fort until younger pitchers are ready. The starting pitching is going to be a huge area of concern in 2017. It will likely determine how effective the season will be.
When hired in 2014 as the new general manager, Preller wanted to build up the farm system, at least that is what he told the Padres. During the offseason, however, he made move after move collecting pieces he though would make San Diego contenders then. He traded away many of the prospects he already had in the organization, doing exactly the opposite he said he would do once hired. After that failed, he began to trade those players away for new prospects. Now San Diego has many young players, but not very many standout players aside from Margot, Myers and Renfroe.
In addition, Preller received a suspension last year for 30 days as he failed to mention injury history of players he traded away. Many people around baseball believe that Preller should get fired. In just the short two-and-a-half-year span of Preller being the GM, he has shown he will do anything he believes betters the club. Because of this, no one truly knows what he is thinking or what he wants to do. Whether he rides out 2017 and evaluate the young player’s performance at year end or to trade his best players to get even younger will have a significant impact on how the Padres play.
There are many factors to consider when assessing the Padres. They have a lot of young talent and a GM who has shown willingness to change his mind any given day. 2017 will be a huge indicator of how successful the Padres will be years later.