Ever the optimist, San Diego Padres manager Andy Green fully supports general manager A.J. Preller’s deep rebuild and suggests that fans “embrace the process.”
To put it another way, no one’s expecting to plan a championship parade anytime soon.
Spring training marks the start of the first full season of another of Preller’s massive remodeling projects. After his win-now approach with veterans failed in 2015, he spent most of last year dealing away older players for prospects and younger talent. All-Star first baseman Wil Myers is the only player left from Preller’s wild shopping spree two offseasons ago.
The Padres are coming off their sixth straight losing season and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. Executive chairman Ron Fowler has said he doesn’t expect them to be .500 for two years.
Fans in Peoria definitely will need to buy a program to find out who all these new, younger players are.
Late last season, the Padres called up right fielder Hunter Renfroe, center fielder Manuel Margot and second baseman Carlos Asuaje, along with catcher Austin Hedges, who made his big league debut with the Padres in 2015. Those four helped Triple-A El Paso win the Pacific Coast League title. Renfroe will be the starting right fielder and Hedges the starting catcher. Margot will be in the mix in the outfield and Asuaje at second base.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Renfroe immediately excited the fans with his power by hitting four home runs in 11 games. His first was off Madison Bumgarner, and he also hit the first-ever home run onto the top of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner of Petco Park.
Looking for an identity during their rebuilding project, the Padres gave first baseman Wil Myers an $83 million, six-year contract. The 26-year-old Myers was a first-time All-Star in 2016, when he hit 28 homers and drove in 94 runs while stealing 28 bases. Myers was the AL Rookie of the Year with Tampa Bay in 2013. After injuries kept him from playing more than 100 games in either of the following two seasons, he played 157 games last year as he successfully converted from the outfield to first base.
A glaring example of the rebuild is the starting rotation, where all five starters on the 2016 opening day roster are gone. The most experienced guys in the rotation are free agent acquisition Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard, who at 33 is the oldest player on the team. The most promising returning pitcher is Luis Perdomo, who made the jump from Single-A to the majors as a Rule 5 draftee and led the team’s starters in victories with nine. Perdomo began the season in the bullpen before being moved into the rotation, finishing 9-10 with a 5.71 ERA. Others expected to be in the mix for rotation spots are Jarred Cosart, left-hander Christian Friedrich and Paul Clemens.
The Padres will continue their experiment of using Christian Bethancourt as a catcher, pitcher and outfielder. Bethancourt, primarily a catcher, made two appearances as a reliever last year.