September 25, 2017

When you’re in the midst of a season that could set new all-time records for both home runs and strikeouts, you can forgive certain sluggers for racking up the whiffs. Aaron Judge has already cleared 200 strikeouts, and Khris Davis could soon join him—and you live with it, because both have also topped 40 homers for the year.

So here’s the problem with the Padres: They’re striking out a ton, and they’re not hitting all that many home runs. They’re whiffing in more than 25% of their at-bats, one of only three teams in the majors to make that ignominious claim. And they’re tied for 20th in MLB in long balls. Granted, Petco Park perennially plays as one of the league’s harshest environments for hitters. But at a certain point you have to hope for better than dead last in the majors in both batting average (.234) and on-base percentage (.300). 

The thing to remember here is that not every rookie splashes onto the scene the way Judge, Cody Bellinger, Matt Olson, and Rhys Hoskins have. Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot have both shown flashes of brilliance, with Renfroe second on the club to Wil Myers in homers and Margot turning into an all-around threat who leads all Padres position players in Wins Above Replacement. Those are the building blocks. Now GM A.J. Preller and company just need to figure out how to rake in more talent the way they did in the Craig Kimbrel trade, whether it’s by trading away other established assets (Brad Hand? Myers?) for more high-upside prospects, or by knocking draft picks out of the park.

The Padres have been one of the least successful franchises in baseball for most of their most of their near-half century of existence. The hope is to not only find the right blend of young talent that can fuel a contender, but hopefully a sustainable contender.

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