Padres Contending in 2018?

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Following last year’s flurry of trades and a record investment in amateur talent, the team’s owners shared their belief that the Padres would be making noise by 2019 and threatening for a division title by 2020. However, I think 2018 could be te start of something very promising in San Deigo…a competitive team.

As the Padres wait for their young players and prospects to bloom, a few obvious needs will exist this winter. The rotation and bullpen truly need some shoring up, as well as some positional needs such as shortstop, which has been an area of concern for awhile now in San Diego. As a smaller market club, the franchise is unlikely to make a splash in free agency. However, the last big signing, James Shields in 2015, left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth in San Diego.

The Padres don’t have the money to do anything flashy with the Free Agent class, however they could make an International splash. Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, assuming he is posted, could be the bargain of a lifetime, but 29 other teams also have interest in the 23-year-old. That is where we start with this team. The Padres are capped at $300,000 for Ohtani, but as are quite a few teams, and Ohtani has reiterated that money is not his driving force to come over to the States; he wants to play against the best. The Padres are a young team with tons of promise, and they could very well fit the International Market that comes along with Ohtani to make him more comfortable with settling down with a team.

Along with Ohtani there are pieces such as Jason Vargas who could cost the Padres not very much at all to eat innings for the 2018 season, if not also the 2019 season. That will be the second thing I would do this off-season is signing Jason Vargas to a one year deal at $11 million with a mutual option for a second year, also at $11 million, making the contract 2 years at $22 million. The starting rotation now consists of Shohei Ohtani – Jason Vargas – Dinelson Lamet – and we have a battle for the 4 and 5 spots with Luis Perdomo, Colin Rea, Matt Straham, and Robbie Erlin with the “losers” shoring up the bullpen that has Brad Hand and Carter Capps closing the door. That is not the best rotation, but is definitely a serviceable one in the NL West for 2018.

The pitching staff overall is also looking very promising in San Diego, which is something that has been a concern for years now. Dinelson Lamet was essentially a two-pitch pitcher while fanning 10.9 batters per nine innings in a promising rookie season (7-8, 4.57). He can take steps toward the front of a rotation with continued work on a change-up to slow left-handed hitters (.867 OPS). The farm system is poised to turn starting pitching into a strength. The sooner the better, and Joey Lucchesi could be sniffing a big league spot after a strong finish at Double-A San Antonio (5-3, 1.79). Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer and Jacob Nix could all push for 2018 debuts, forcing Luis Perdomo to either finally take a step forward or move into a bullpen role. Clayton Richard will provide value either way, either as the No. 5 starter or as a swing man as a team weakness (starting pitching) morphs into a strength in one short season.

The Padres have some real key pieces for the 2018 season, and beyond. In center field they have one of the most promising young men in the game in Manuel Margot, who they received in the Craig Kimbrel deal with Boston. The Padres’ 23-year-old center fielder doesn’t have nearly as far to come after wowing in a rookie season in which he hit 13 homers and swiped 17 bases while playing a Gold Glove-caliber center field. He hit nine of those home runs after returning from injury in late June and swiped a season-high five bases in September, suggesting that Margot, provided he avoids a sophomore slump, is primed to take another step forward in 2018.

Heading to the infield we have Yangervis Solarte and his affordable contract this offseason to see if a full, healthy season from the switch-hitter can’t produce a .280-25-90 season. He rotates around the infield until Fernando Tatis Jr.’s bat forces his way to the majors at just 19 years old. His arrival could very well energize the entire clubhouse the way Carlos Correa’s pushed the Astros over the top in their push for a 2015 wild-card spot. The final name to truly take a peak at is one that is also very obvious, but hasn’t been talked about at all, and that is Wil Myers. Myers is entering his prime on the heels of a 30-homer season, with just 0.9 WAR, according to Fangraphs.com. In 2018, if Myers puts it all together in his fourth year in the organization, parlaying a final impressive month of the 2017 season (.953 OPS), and with his natural talent he could slide into an MVP-worthy season that puts the Padres right in the middle of a playoff race.

This San Diego Padre team could make some noise in 2018, and force themselves in winning a Wild Card. It would not shock me especially with the two starting pitching moves I discussed above happen as well. The San Diego Padres are my darkhorse to make it into the playoffs for 2018, thank you for reading!

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