Which 2019 Cellar Dweller Has the Best Shot at Relevancy?
Last year’s cellar dwellers didn’t do a whole lot to improve their fortunes during this past offseason. Of the six teams that finished last in their division in 2019, five are still listed as longshots for their respective divisions:
- Orioles: 1000/1 to win AL East
- Tigers: 500/1 to win AL Central
- Mariners: 300/1 to win AL West
- Marlins: 500/1 to win NL East
- Pirates: 100/1 to win NL Central
You’ll notice that one last-place team is omitted from that list: the San Diego Padres. While it’s going to be tough to emerge in a division that includes the National League-favorite Dodgers and the fearsome Diamondbacks, the Padres are certainly building towards a playoff appearance in 2020.
It’s pretty easy to pinpoint the reason for why the money-spending Padres didn’t exceed (or even match) expectations in 2019. The team’s high-priced All-Stars (Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer) both finished with a sub-.800 OPS, and the squad actually didn’t get a plus-.800 OPS from any of their top-five hitters (in terms of at bats).
Further, the starting pitching was inconsistent all season long, and you couldn’t rely on any bullpen arms outside of closer Kirby Yates.It’s hard to win games when literally nothing is clicking.
So what’s with the optimism for 2020? For starters, the team is bubbling with young talent, and we already saw some of that last season. Infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. had a .969 OPS in only 84 games, while the team’s top-five pitchers (in terms of innings pitched) are all 27 or younger. Further, the organization has a whopping five prospects in MLB.com’s top-100 rankings, led by future ace MacKenzie Gore.
Plus, the front office found ways to improve the roster this offseason, acquiring former fringe MVP candidate Tommy Pham and former top prospect Jurickson Profar. They also revamped their bullpen by adding Emilio Pagan and (*gulp*) Drew Pomeranz.
Plus, considering the minor-league depth, the Padres are primed for a blockbuster trade. We heard similar sentiments from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, who suggested the team is looking to clear payroll (mainly outfielder Wil Myers) before they pursue a big name like Nick Senzel of the Reds and Francisco Lindor of the Indians.
As we mentioned, the Padres will still have their work cut out for them in a competitive National League West. However, when compared to the other 2019 bottom-feeders, there’s at least reason for optimism in San Diego.