2021 San Diego Padres
The Padres ended their 13-year playoff drought in 2020 with a second-place finish behind the Dodgers. They ended the season with their highest winning percentage (.617) in franchise history. San Diego has six postseason appearances and two losses in the World Series in its 52-year history.
They moved to eighth in ERA (3.86) while pushing to third in runs (325) and fourth in home runs (96).
San Diego traded SP Joey Lucchesi to the Mets in a three-way with Pittsburgh for SP Joe Musgrove. The Padres sent SP Luis Patino, C Francisco Mejia, C Blake Hunt, and SP Cole Wilcox to the Rays for SP Blake Snell. The last deal to improve their pitching staff came with the Cubs for SP Yu Darvish and C Victor Caratini. San Diego sent SP Zach Davies and four minor league players to Chicago.
They signed RP Mark Melancon and RP Keone Kela to compete for the closing job. San Diego re-signed 2B Jurickson Profar. San Diego also added 2B Ha-Seong Kim after playing well in Korea.
The Padres lost 1B Mitch Moreland, RP Trevor Rosenthal, SP Garrett Richards, C Jason Castro, and RP Kirby Yates to free agency.
San Diego improved their starting rotation, but they still don’t have the depth or upside to match the Dodgers. The Padres look well-positioned to have success compared to many other teams in pitching in the National League.
Their bullpen has some competitive arms, but closing out games over the last three innings will have some bumps during the season unless they hit on another elite reliever.
Their offense has one elite player (Fernando Tatis) and a top-tier option (Manny Machado). The rest of the starting lineup combined doesn’t project to match the other top teams in baseball.
The Padres will be in the playoff hunt, but they can’t win a World Series without having a dominating ninth inning, a clutch batter who comes up with big hits in the most critical moments of games, plus two aces that shine in the postseason.
1. OF Trent Grisham
Grisham underperformed his first-round pedigree from 2016 to 2018 in the minors, when he hit .228 with 140 runs, 17 home runs, 100 RBI, and 54 stolen bases over 1,013 at-bats.
His bat came alive in 2019 between AA and AAA (.300 with 71 runs, 26 HRs, 71 RBI, and 12 steals over 370 at-bats), earning him a chance to start in the majors after Christian Yelich went down with an injury.
He flashed over his first 13 games with the Brewers (.279 with three home runs and 10 RBI over 43 at-bats), but Grisham looked overmatched over the next three weeks (.170 with one home run and one RBI over 47 at-bats) while striking out 15 times. His season ended with a .242 batting average over 66 at-bats with two home runs, 13 RBI, and 19 strikeouts.
In his first season with the Padres, Grisham hit first or second in the batting order for 83.3 percent of his at-bats. He didn’t dominate in any month despite grading well in runs (42), home runs (10), and steals (10). Grisham was the 24th most valuable hitter by SIscore (1.77).
Grisham has a top-of-the-order walk rate (12.3), but he still strikes out too much (25.4) while owning a better approach in the minors (strikeout rate – 21.4 and walk rate – 15.8).
His average hit rate (1.815) supported 30 home runs over the last two seasons while flashing a higher contact batting average in 2019 in the minors (.392) and last season (.358).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I don’t trust his batting average, but his power, speed, and walk rate give him a chance to have strength in four-categories. Grisham has an ADP of 68 in the early 12-team draft season. He hits one-off from one of the best hitters in baseball, which shined brightly in his runs scored last year. Possible trap despite having the potential to offer a 25/25 floor with over 100 runs.
2. SS Fernando Tatis Jr.
In his second season in the majors, Tatis was the second-most valuable player by SIscore (4.71). He was on pace for 135 runs, 46 home runs, 122 RBI, and 30 stolen bases over 605 at-bats.
His approach (strikeout rate – 23.7 and walk rate – 10.5) had improvement in both areas. Tatis pushed his average hit rate (2.065) to a career-high, setting a floor of 35 home runs each year. He did have a downtick in his contact batting average (.380 – .473 in 2019) while remaining a plus asset.
Tatis failed to make an impact against left-handed pitching (.242 with three home runs and eight RBI over 62 at-bats). He left some stats on the table after a poor September (.208 with four home runs, 12 RBI, and four steals over 77 at-bats).
His hard-hit rate (62.2) was the best in bases, along with his hits over 95 MPH (102). Tatis had an excellent HR/FB rate in 2018 (31.9) and 2019 (29.3). Last year had a regression in his line drive rate (16.5) while still hitting too many ground balls (48.2).
Over his four seasons in the minors, he hit .280 with 202 runs, 42 home runs, 143 RBI, and 64 steals over 1,059 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Tatis is a beast with a five-tool skill set, and he plays shortstop. His ADP (2) places him behind Ronald Acuna, which is a mistake due to his position in the field. On the verge of a 40/40 season with a significant edge in runs and RBI. If he gets his strikeout rate under 20.0, Tatis looks poised to hit well over .300.
3. 3B Manny Machado
After a disappointing first season with the Padres, Machado looked the stud part batting behind Fernando Tatis. He finished as the seventh most valuable hitter by SIscore (3.87), making him a great value based on his 2020 ADP (61).
His contact batting average (.364) fell in line with 2016 (.362) and 2018 (.356), but Machado had more weakness in his last two odd years (2017 – .317 and 2019 – .327). He pushed his average hit rate (1.912) to a career-high level.
Machado hit over 30 home runs in each year from 2015 to 2019. He was on pace for 119 runs, 43 home runs, 127 RBI, and 16 stolen bases over 605 at-bats in last season. His best play came at home (.353 with 13 home runs, 30 RBI, and six steals over 119 at-bats). A good portion of his success was helped by playing against the American League (.378 with 20 runs, nine home runs, 25 RBI, and two stolen bases over 82 at-bats).
His approach (strikeout rate – 14.6 and walk rate – 10.2) came in as the best combination in his time in the majors.
He had the ninth most balls hit over 95 MPH (83), but Machado ranked 103rd in hard-hit rate. His swing path tends to be balanced despite his fly-ball rate (40.8) fading off his peak in 2016 (42.7). His HR/FB rate (20.5) was the best of his career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Machado is a top power hitter at third base who tends to be an asset in batting average. His value in stolen bases has a chip in feel with upside due to the Padres being the top running team in baseball in 2020 (55 steals in 68 tries). This draft season Machado has a second-round ADP (22). Pretty much a floor of .270 with 90/30/90/10 with a chance to set career highs across the board.
4. 1B Eric Hosmer
With the improvement of the players hitting in front of him in 2019 and 2020, Hosmer posted an elite RBI rate (21 and 24) while playing well in this area in his career (17).
Last year he landed on the injured list twice (illness and a broken finger). When on the field, Hosmer had a jump in his average hit rate (1.805). His stats projected over a full season came to 98 runs, 38 home runs, 153 RBI, and 17 stolen bases over 609 at-bats.
His short-term power growth was due to a much higher fly-ball rate (34.2 – 23.1 in 2010 and 25.7 in his career). Hosmer had a high-volume ground ball swing path (54.3) in his 10 seasons in the majors, but he hit the lowest percentage of balls (46.2) on the ground last year.
Hosmer has been less selective at the plate in 2019 and 2020, leading to regression in his walk rate (6.0 – 8.0 in his career). He did correct his outlier season in his strikeout rate (18.0 – 24.4 in 2019 and 17.8 in his career).
His hard-hit rate (47.0) was slightly higher than in 2019 (46.0).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With a full season of games, Hosmer should have the most RBI chance of his career. His power looks ready to spike while even adding some speed back into his equation. Hosmer has an ADP of 148 as the 16th first baseman drafted. At age 31, he is almost halfway to 3,000 hits (1,492). Hosmer looks poised to set career highs in home runs and RBI. Don’t dismiss him hitting over .300 with over 30 home runs with 110 RBI and double-digit stolen bases. Repeating his fly-ball rate is a must.
5. OF Wil Myers
Myers stopped the bleeding his strikeout rate (25.7 – 34.3 in 2019 and 29.8 from 2017 to 2019), leading to a rebound in his batting average (.288). His contact batting average (.401) was the best of his career while only slightly higher than 2019 (.390).
He was a much better player with runners on base (.300 BA and 23 percent RBI rate). Myers was impressive with runners in scoring position (.357 with six home runs and 29 RBI over 42 at-bats).
His average hit rate (2.105) made a push to an elite power level, leading to a jump in his HR/FB rate (27.8 – 17.1 in his career). Myers also regained some of his lost loft in his swing path (38.3 percent RBI rate – 35.9 in his career).
Myers was on pace for 92 runs, 41 home runs, 108 RBI, and five steals over 535 at-bats. The regression in stolen bases was disappointing when considering his previous resume and the Padres' willingness to run in 2020.
Over the last three years, he hit .254 with 131 runs, 44 home runs, 132 RBI, and 31 stolen bases over 945 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Myers should have a great RBI opportunity this year, but his batting average growth is tough to trust based on his recent struggles with his approach. He has a 30+ home run swing with a chance to regain some of his lost speed. His ADP (135) is still favorable with a full season of at-bats. My low ball projections make him a .260 hitter with 80 runs, 30 home runs, 90 RBI, and 10 stolen bases.
6. OF Tommy Pham
Pham struggled over his first 23 games in 2020 (.207 with two home runs, nine RBI, and six steals over 82 at-bats) before landing on the injured list for a month with a left wrist injury that required surgery after the season.
Pham played the best ball of his career from 2017 to 2019 from age 29 to 31 (.284 with 274 runs, 65 home runs, 204 RBI, and 65 stolen bases over 1,505 at-bats).
In 2019, he set a career-high in at-bats (567) and hits (155) while failing to improve on any other key stat. His contact batting average (.349) was a four-year low with regression in his average hit rate (1.645). He did a great job improving his strikeout rate (18.8 – 23.4 in his career) while maintaining a high walk rate (12.4).
Pham finished 55th in hard-hit rate (44.8) in 2019 with a strong number in 2020 (50.0) despite short at-bats (109).
His power upside is limited by his ground ball swing (62.2 in 2020 – 53.4 in 2019 and 50.8 in his career). He did post a high HR/FB rate (19.1) in 2019 with strength in 2018 – 21.0 and 2017 – 26.7.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The biggest question with Pham in 2021; is where will he hit the Padres’ starting lineup? His bat may be more stable than Trent Grisham at the top of the batting order. He’s never had a great RBI rate, so batting behind Eric Hosmer doesn’t make sense. Either way, Pham has the tools to outperform his ADP (129) with a full season of at-bats. He has a 20/20 skill set with more upside in runs than RBI.
7. 2B Ha-Seong Kim
The Padres signed Kim to a four-year $28 million deal in late December.
Over seven seasons in Korea, he hit .294 with 133 home runs, 575 RBI, and 134 stolen bases over 3,195 at-bats. His best success came in 2020 (.306 with 111 runs, 30 home runs, 109 RBI, and 23 steals over 533 at-bats).
His average hit rate (1.712) was career-high last year, while his previous success from 2016 to 2019 supports closer to 20 home runs.
Kim finished with the best approach (strikeout rate – 10.9 and walk rate – 12.1) last season while grading well in this area over the past five years.
He likes to pull the ball for power. Kim didn’t have any home runs right of centerfield in 2020. His swing looked to have a massive edge over the velocity in Korea, which helped him drive low breaking pitches out of the park.
Major arms will make him prove he can handle pitches away, which will restrict his power early in his major league career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His approach is high enough to seize the leadoff job for the Padres. Kim has a well-rounded game with a five-category skill set. He has an early ADP of 195. I expect some struggles out of the gate while having a chance to be a 15/15 player with a .270 batting average. His play in spring training will give some insight into where Kim stands against major league pitching.
8. C Austin Nola
After drifting through the minors for eight seasons with empty power and a low batting average, Nola popped at AAA in 2019 (.327 with seven home runs and 37 RBI over 196 at-bats). His success led to his first shot in the majors.
He worked as a utility player with the Mariners while working through his early minor league career at second base and shortstop.
With Seattle, Nola had follow-through in power (10 home runs) with value in runs (37) and RBI (31) when considering his at-bats (238).
Last year between the Mariners and the Padres, he offered a steady C2 fantasy bat (.273 with 24 runs, seven home runs, and 28 RBI over 161 at-bats).
His walk rate (9.1) played well in his time in the majors while posting a league-average strikeout rate (21.5).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The Padres like what Nola brings to the table, which points to him seeing the majority of playing time for them at catcher. With 400+ at-bats, Nola should produce a neutral batting average with a 50/15/50 skill set. His ADP (164) is too high when considering the players drafted around him at other positions.
C Victor Caratini
Over seven seasons in the minors, he hit .290 with 30 home runs, 265 RBI, and four steals in 1,818 at-bats.
Caratini played well for the Cubs in 2019 (.266 with 31 runs, 11 home runs, and 34 RBI over 244 at-bats), but he failed to repeat in power off the bench last season (.241 with one home run and 16 RBI over 116 at-bats).
His strikeout rate (21.4) and walk rate (8.4) came in about the league average in his time with the Cubs.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Caratini will be the backup catcher for the Padres in 2021. He has enough power to get in the way for Austin Nola if his bat shines out of the gate.
2B Jurickson Profar
The Padres signed Profar to a three-year $21 million contract in late-January, which puts him on a similar pay scale as incoming 2B Ha-Seong Kim.
Over the last three seasons for three different franchises, Profar hit .243 with 175 runs, 47 home runs, 169 RBI, and 26 stolen bases over 1,163 at-bats.
His 2020 stats projected over 162 games came to 76 runs, 19 home runs, 68 RBI, and 19 steals over 486 at-bats. He finished as the 50th most valuable hitter in SIscore (0.51).
Profar corrected his weakness in his contact batting average (.329 – .260 in 2019). He continues to lower strikeout rate (13.9 – 16.4 in his career), but he did take fewer walks (7.4 percent).
He finished with a much lower fly-ball rate (30.5 – 37.0 in 2019) while continuing to raise his HR/FB rate (14.9).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Profar remains in the mix for at-bats at second base while working as a utility player for the infield and outfield. His ADP (262) paints him as a starter for the Padres, which seems like a stretch unless the National League adds the DH. Profar is a better player than most believe, and stolen bases are becoming a healthy piece of his value. Great bench option in deep leagues if his draft value slides. Profar has a neutral five-category feel while still having more upside home runs.
2B Jake Cronenworth
With Eric Hosmer spending time on the injured list in 2020, Cronenworth worked well as a replacement player over the last two weeks in August (22-for-56 with 13 runs, two home runs, 12 RBI, and one steal). His hot run didn’t carry over into September (.183 over 71 at-bats with no home runs and three RBI).
Over five seasons in the minors, Cronenworth hit .283 with 22 home runs, 219 RBI, and 73 stolen bases over 1,906 at-bats. He played at the highest level at AAA (.328 with 79 runs, 10 home runs, 47 RBI, and 13 steals over 369 at-bats).
He had strength in his walk rate (11.7) in the minors while minimizing the damage in strikeouts (16.6 percent). Cronenworth’s approach held form with the Padres (9.4 and 15.6).
His average hit rate (1.673) is trending upward, which points to 15 to 20 home runs if ever given 550 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Cronenworth belongs on a major league roster. He’ll offer quality at-bats off the bench with enough upside to bridge an injury over a couple of weeks. His underlying speed could play well when given at-bats.
OF Jorge Mateo
Mateo played much better in his second stint at AAA in 2019 (.289 with 19 home runs, 78 RBI, and 24 stolen bases over 532 at-bats).
Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .267 with 52 home runs, 302 RBI, and 283 steals over 2,818 at-bats. Mateo has 59 triples and 193 stolen bases over his last four years in the minors.
His success as a base stealer (78.4) needs some work, and his approach (strikeout rate – 23.0 and walk rate – 7.3) does invite some risk early in his career.
In his first year in the majors last season, the Padres only gave him 26 at-bats (four hits with two RBI and one steal). He missed most of the summer with Covid.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His opportunity to make the major league roster looks minimal in 2021. Mateo brings high upside in steals, but he can’t earn more playing time without a better approach.
1. SP Yu Darvish
Over his last 25 starts, Darvish went 12-7 with a 2.40 ERA and 211 strikeouts over 157.2 innings. His impressive growth was tied to a much lower walk rate (1.2).
Last year he led the National League in wins (8) while posting a 2.01 ERA over 76 innings with 93 strikeouts.
Darvish has a strikeout rate of over 10.0 in every season in the majors while posting his lowest walk rate (1.7) in 2020. He allowed over three runs in just one of his 12 starts.
His AFB (96.0) was the best of his career. Darvish created his edge with his slider (.205 BAA), split-finger fastball (.200 BAA), and four-seam fastball (.180 BAA).
His jump in success comes from a much higher usage of his slider (46 percent – 45 in 2019). In his 2013 and 2017, when Darvish threw a combined 396.1 innings, he threw his slider 30 and 25 percent of the time. Darvish recorded 101 of his 229 strikeouts in 2019 off his slider.
He did lose the feel of his curveball (.283 BAA) and sinker (.270 BAA).
Darvish has a 71-56 record over eight seasons in the majors with a 3.47 ERA and 1,392 strikeouts over 1,127 innings.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: There is no doubt Darvish has reached elite status as a starting pitcher. He has long had the pedigree, but injuries and command have held his back since arriving in the US in 2012. His reliance on two stressful pitches (slider and split-finger fastball) should be a concern with a higher volume of innings pitches.
The move to San Diego is a win-win for him. He pitches in a better ballpark and for a better team. His ADP (17) screams foundation ace, but a bet on him is based on less than one excellent season. Darvish should win 15+ games with a sub 2.50 ERA and 250 strikeouts with 33 starts.
2. SP Blake Snell
Snell's ticket out of Tampa came within minutes of hooking him in a must-win against the Dodgers in the World Series’ sixth game. At the time, the Rays had a 1-0 lead with Snell pitching great (no runs, two hits, and nine strikeouts over 5.1 innings) while only throwing 73 pitches.
Nick Anderson proceeded to blow the game after allowing a double to Mookie Betts, a wild pitch, and a fielder's choice to give up the lead. The blame here isn’t on Anderson; it falls on Tampa for not trusting their best pitcher in big moments when still having a couple of innings left in his arm.
Snell came into 2020 with some concern with his left elbow after a down 2019 (4.29 ERA) and a trip on the injured list for two months with an elbow injury that required surgery.
His arm was electric and elite in 2018 thanks to his wins (21), ERA (1.89), and strikeouts (211).
Last year Tampa eased him into the season over his first three starts (46, 53, and 59 pitches). Snell had a 3.21 ERA and 49 strikeouts over his final 42 innings while also pitching at a high level in the postseason (3.03 EA and 37 strikeouts over 29.1 innings.
Over the last three seasons, his strikeout rate (11.5) ranked highly while walking 3.3 batters per nine innings.
Snell had a plus fastball (95.6). Last year, his best success came via his slider (.098 BAA) and curveball (.140 BAA). Batters did drill his four-seam fastball (.298 with 11 home runs over 121 at-bats), which needs to be corrected this year.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: In 2021, Snell has an ADP of 42 in mid-February. I do see some risk, but he moved into an excellent situation for the Padres. Snell will be trusted to pitch deeper in games, but he does have to throw more strikes. A great arm here. I fully expect a sub 2.50 ERA with 15+ wins and a run at 250 strikeouts.
3. SP Dinelson Lamet
Since having TJ surgery in 2018, Lamet has 142 innings under his belt with a 3.11 ERA and 198 strikeouts.
Last year batters only hit .161 against him while making a significant step forward in his first-pitch strike rate (66) and walk rate (2.6). Lamet averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 2019 and 2020.
Even with success, his right elbow/biceps flared up in late September. He had a platelet-rich plasma treatment in mid-October. The Padres expect him to be a full go in spring training.
Lamet allowed three runs or fewer in all three of his 12 starts, with his highlight run coming over three games (one run and 11 hits over 20.2 innings with four walks and 32 strikeouts) at home in the middle of September. He only threw over 98 pitches on one game (111 on 9/7).
Eight of his 12 starts did come at home (1.88 ERA and 68 strikeouts over 48 innings), but he did pitch well on the road (2.57 ERA over 21 innings with 25 strikeouts).
His AFB (97.3) came in well above 2017 (95.4). Lamet threw his slider 53 percent of the time. Batters only had 10 hits over his 558 pitches while recording 71 of his 93 strikeouts. Lamet doesn’t have an off-speed pitch at this point of his career. His four-seam fastball (.260 BAA) has some room for improvement.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With an ADP of 94, Lamet could be an elite cheap ace. The growth in his command, increased velocity, and electric slider scream front-end ace.
Even with TJ surgery earlier in his career, I fear that the high number of sliders will catch up with him at some point. Fantasy owners will have a wide range of opinions about him, and his value will surely rise in March if the spring reports are positive. With 32 starts, Lamet looks poised to pick up 250+ strikeouts with 15 wins and a sub 2.75 ERA. He will be undraftable with any negative injury news this March. The ideal situation would be one great season before jumping off his bus.
4. SP Chris Paddack
After struggling in his sophomore season, the ugly duckling in the Padres' starting rotation looks to be Paddack. He went 4-5 with a 4.73 ERA and 58 strikeouts over 59 innings. His failure/regression came from a losing battle with home runs allowed (14 over 59 innings). Paddack also struggled with the long ball in 2019 (1.5 per nine innings).
The stats a fantasy owner should be focusing on are his WHIP (0.981 in 2019 and 1.220 in 2020) and command (1.9 walks per nine in his career).