You may have heard, but the San Diego Padres have not gotten off to a good start this season. After getting shut out at home by the Dodgers for the entirety of their three-game series, San Diego is now in possession of the longest scoreless streak to start a season in MLB history. It started off with a 15-0 drubbing in Game 1 and ended with a game in which Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda homered in his MLB debut and now has one more RBI than the entire Padres team. So, yeah, “not off to a good start” might be putting it mildly.
The shutout nature of their losses aside, starting the season 0-3 in and of itself doesn’t really mean anything. After all, the Giants won the World Series in 2012 after doing the same. Heck, the team that held the record before the Padres, the 1943 Cardinals, went to the World Series that year. While the Padres are probably not going to win the World Series this year, they are also definitely not going to go 0-162, despite currently being on pace to score exactly zero runs. They are going to score runs, just likely not very many compared to their peers, and that’s what we’re here to talk about.
Fangraphs is projecting Padres position players to put up 12.1 WAR this season, good for third worst in baseball, ahead of only the clearly rebuilding/tanking Braves and Phillies. The Padres pitchers are projecting for 15.3 WAR, which lands them squarely in the middle of the pack. A rotation headed by James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner may not be the sexiest in the league, but put that rotation in front of, say, the Cubs’ offense? They’re probably playing October baseball. Bad news, Padres fans, the Padres’ offense is not the Cubs’ offense.
Catcher Derek Norris is projected to be the team’s biggest contributor, with a not particularly robust 2.0 WAR. The Padres bought high on Norris when they traded for him after his 119 OPS+ 2014 season with the A’s and his 99 OPS+ in 2015 didn’t deliver on that investment. Wil Myers at first is definitely going to be better than Wil Myers in centerfield, but Myers has yet to put up a full season befitting his prospect pedigree. Despite winning 2013 Rookie of the Year, Myers has been battling wrist injuries throughout his time in the majors and hasn’t topped 88 starts yet. Homegrown second baseman Cory Spangenberg hit .271/.333/.399 in his first full season last year, good for 2.1 WAR. While Spangenberg is one of the brighter spots in a seemingly anemic lineup, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was troubling in the minors and in his first taste of the majors in 2014, so while he could continue to produce for San Diego, there’s also some risk.
While Alexei Ramirez was certainly an upgrade over the other Alexi (Amarista) at short, both offensively and defensively, that may speak more to the player being replaced than to the 34-year old shortstop coming off his worst season to date by pretty much every statistical measure. While Ramirez may have a little more left in the tank, there’s also a reason that the White Sox declined his $10 million option. At third, Yangervis Solarte didn’t crack the majors until he broke in with the Yankees in 2014 at age 26. After putting up 1.0, 0.4 and 2.2 WAR seasons, it looks like he’s more of a potentially useful piece than a game changer.
The trade that brought Jon Jay to the Padres may have given them another outfielder and ended the Myers-in-the-outfield experiment, but it’s not clear what to expect offensively there. Jay (like Myers) had some wrist issues last year, which sapped his power and limited him to just 79 games. Melvin Upton Jr. had a better 2015 than his prior two awful seasons in Atlanta and got back into positive WAR territory (+1.6). Even if you ignore that he’s owed almost $32 million through 2017, Upton has been wildly inconsistent over his career and has delivered just as more OK-to-awful seasons than he has good ones.
Lastly, there’s Matt Kemp, who is owed $87 million over the next four seasons but has only put up 2 WAR combined over the last three seasons. The deal that brought him over from the Dodgers looked pretty iffy for the Padres at the time they did it. A year later and it doesn’t look any better, as Kemp’s offensive prowess has continued to decline even as his defense bottoms out.
All in all, there are certainly some bounceback candidates in here and it would be totally unreasonable not to expect some players to do just that. The Padres need more than just a couple of players to exceed expectations, however, and there’s a pretty low floor on the offense for the 2016 Padres. If it’s just a couple of players that are having great seasons come the All Star Break, expect to be hearing a lot about those players being traded. While it’s obviously ridiculous to come out and say “blow the whole thing up” after a measly three games, the Padres’ record-breaking really put a magnifying glass over just how feckless their offense looks to be in 2016. Also, sorry again Padres fans, but the James Loney signing probably isn’t going to change anything (unless and until they trade Myers, that is).