By Nick Piecoro
As the San Diego Padres enter Year 2 of their rebuild, there is little in the way of realistic expectations that they can snap what’s now a six-year skid of sub-.500 finishes. In fact, many believe this could be their worst season yet.
After a year in which they traded nearly all of their big-league assets in exchange for prospects and spent more than $30 million in the international market, most of the Padres’ most important long-term developments are likely to occur in the minor leagues.
But they should have at least a few interesting prospects getting extended big-league opportunities, players looking to cement their status as building blocks in what is otherwise expected to be another dismal season.
There really aren’t many other candidates in this category besides Wil Myers, the young first baseman whom the Padres locked up to a six-year, $83 million deal in January.
Last year, Myers managed to stay healthy and acclimate himself to his new position, and he finally put together the sort of offensive season many had expected from him for years.
Myers hit .259 with 28 homers and a .797 OPS, numbers he’ll look to build on by trying to avoid the second-half slump that dogged him last year.
Here’s where things should get interesting for the Padres this year. Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot got brief tastes of the big leagues last season, and both rookie outfielders are expected to get everyday opportunities this year.
Renfroe has monster power – he hit a combined 34 homers between the majors and minors last season – while Margot is a well-rounded player, with speed, defense in center field and gap power.
Catcher Austin Hedges, who has a reputation for being a good defender but broke out at the plate in the minors last year, is also expected to get a chance to play regularly.
The most optimistic way of framing the Padres rotation is that it is rife with opportunity. Sinkerballer Luis Perdomo and lefty Clayton Richards return from last year, with right-handers Jhoulys Chacin and Trevor Cahill signing as free agents. Lefty Christian Friedrich and right-handers Jarred Cosart and Paul Clemens are also in the mix.
Manager: Andy Green.
Last season’s record: 68-94.
Big changes: Added: RHP Jhoulys Chacin, RHP Trevor Cahill, C Luis Torrens (Rule 5), RHP Miguel Diaz (Rule 5), SS Allen Cordoba (Rule 5). Subtracted: RHP Tyson Ross, OF Jon Jay, C Derek Norris, IF Adam Rosales, IF Alexi Amarista.