Fantasy Breakdown: San Diego Padres for 2021

A preview of San Diego Padres' lineup, rotation, and bullpen for 2021.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

 

At A Glance

 

After a 2020 season that gave the team relevance for the first time in years, the San Diego Padres have put together a roster that is capable of winning a World Series in 2021.

With arguably the best left side of the infield in the MLB in Fernando Tatís Jr. and Manny Machado, the team is also returning players like Wil Myers who had a bounce-back season in 2020 and Jake Cronenworth who first came onto the scene in 2020. There isn’t a single weak spot in their lineup, and if anything, the high level of competition might take away swings from certain players this upcoming season.

They’ve also bolstered the starting rotation by adding Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to pair with the young Dinelson Lamet. All three have shown the ability to be strong aces at different points in their careers, and with Mackenzie Gore on the come-up, the rotation looks as good as ever.

The one big question mark though, will be the bullpen. Yes, Drew Pomeranz returns after his elite 2020 season, but the rest of the bullpen had a shaky 2020 season, leaving a hole for some young arms to perhaps fill.

 

Hitters

 

Projected Lineup

 

Infielders

 

Fernando Tatís Jr. (Shortstop)

2020: 50 R, 17 HR, 45 RBI, 11 SB, .277/.366/.571 | SS #2

2021 ADP: 2.84 (SS #1)

 

Up until September, Tatís Jr. was arguably the best hitter in the MLB. He had a slash line of .313/.395/.660 and hit for 23 XBH’s and 13 HR’s, putting him solidly in the MVP race. But, then came September: a month in which he hit for a line of .208/.311/.403 with only seven XBH’s and four HR’s in 22 games. Yet despite possibly the worst slump of his career, Tatís Jr. still finished with the most HR’s, R’s and RBI’s among shortstops, en route to picking up a Silver Slugger in only his second year in the MLB.

He was also elite in almost every underlying hitting statistic. His EV, hard hit percentage, xwOBA and barrel percentage were in the 100th, 100th, 98th and 100th percentile among MLB hitters, respectively. So, despite the slump, Tatís Jr. was still an elite shortstop in 2020. One thing to keep an eye on though, is his strikeout rate. He strikes out a decent amount, with a K rate in the bottom 43% of MLB hitters, but he also saw his K rate improve by 5.9 percentage points in his sophomore season.

Honestly, no matter what I say here, he’s going to be one of the first picks off the board and one of the safest picks this season.

 

Manny Machado (Third Base)

2020: 44 R, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 6 SB, .304/.370/.580 | 3B #2

2021 ADP: 21.44 (3B #2)

 

Machado saw a comeback season in 2020 after one of the worst seasons of his career the year prior. He saw his OPS jump 154 points to .950, the highest of his 9-year career, and like Tatís Jr., won a Silver Slugger. However, unlike his partner on the left side of the infield, Machado got off to a horrid start (you can find me trying to figure out why here). Through his first 24 games, he had a line of .200/.308/.411 and only five HR’s. But in the next 36 games, he sustained a line of .373/.413/.694 and tallied 11 more HR’s en route to hitting the most HR’s among NL third basemen.

One of the major differences in 2020 was the drop in his strikeout rate. His strikeout rate dropped from a career-worst 19.4% in 2019 to a career-best 14.6% in 2020. He was able to hit the offspeed pitches better, seeing his xBA rise from .208 to .271 and his whiff rate drop from 33.6% to 26.3% on such pitches, and he also saw the ball better, having his chase rate drop 4.4 percentage points to 24.1%.

Machado may have benefited from having the resurgent bats of Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer protecting him in the lineup, but that alone isn’t enough to account for the absolute tear he had in the second half. Machado seems to have found his way at the plate again. Should you be concerned with his early slump in 2020 and his down year in 2019? Possibly, but that should also make it that much more impressive what Machado did at the end of last season.

 

Eric Hosmer (First Base)

2020: 23 R, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 4 SB, .287/.333/.517 | 1B #10

2021 ADP: 136.51 (1B #15)

 

Like Machado, Hosmer saw a resurgence in 2020, despite only playing in 38 games. His entire slash line was the best line he’s put up since he joined the Padres in 2018. He saw a huge increase in power, averaging a HR every 15.9 ABs compared to his career average of a HR every 30.5 ABs. He started hitting the ball in the air more, seeing his GB% drop from 56.8% in 2019 to 47.0% in 2020 and also increasing his LD% from 23.2% to 30.8%, and he began to hit the ball with authority, finishing the season with an average exit velocity and hard hit percentage both in the top 20% of MLB hitters.

Something’s definitely changed with Hosmer as 2020 was the first season he didn’t have more than 50% of his balls hit in play be ground balls. This is an interesting sign because Hosmer is a contact hitter that likes to put the ball into play. He doesn’t strike out much, with a strikeout rate in the 76th percentile, but he also doesn’t walk much, having a walk rate in the 18th percentile. That being said, this new-look Hosmer might surprise you with more XBHs and HRs in 2021 if he can keep hitting the ball in the air with power.

 

Ha-Seong Kim (Second Base)

2020 (KBO): 111 R, 30 HR, 109 RBI, 23 SB, .306/.397/.523 | 2B #21

2021 ADP: 192.69 (SS #19)

 

First things first, if I were to tell you I know exactly how Kim’s play is going to transfer over to the MLB, I’d be a liar and so would anyone else who claimed that. His stats in the KBO are elite. He hits bombs, steals bases and gets on base. He does everything you could want statistically. If you look at his swing, he has a long leg kick he uses to time up pitches and my only question is whether or now he will be able to do the same against an MLB fastball. If he can, great, he’ll be a great player.

However, I think the most concerning issue with Kim this season isn’t even how he’ll play on the diamond, but if he’ll even get a legit chance at all. The Padres are stacked in the infield with two reigning Silver Sluggers on the left side of the diamond so Kim won’t be able to play at his normal shortstop and third base positions. As of now, the right-handed hitting Kim and the left-handed hitting Cronenworth could platoon at second base or one could learn to play the outfield. Either way, there isn’t a clear every day role for Kim in the Padres current lineup.

 

Jake Cronenworth (Second Base)

2020: 26 R, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 3 SB, .285/.354/.477 | 2B #21

2021 ADP: 150.84 (2B #15)

 

Like Kim, it’s unsure exactly where Cronenworth fits into the Padres lineup. This is kind of crazy considering Cronenworth was the NL Rookie of the Year runner up. If you look at his Baseball Savant page, there’s not much to dislike about him. His xBA, xSLG and xwOBA are in the 98th, 91st and 95th percentile, respectively. He also doesn’t strikeout much with a whiff percentage in the 91st percentile and a strikeout rate in the 84th percentile. If there’s one knock on him, I’d say it’s his lack of longballs. He racked up 15 doubles and three triples, but only compiled four HR’s.

But again, if he won’t be an everyday player, his draft stock goes way down. Considering that he only hit for a line of .218/.295/.255 against lefties in 2020, my best guess is that he won’t be in the lineup against LHPs. The one thing that Cronenworth has going for him is that he is incredibly flexible. He played every infield position other than catcher last season (and also was a bullpen arm in college!), and, if in 2021 he continues the tear he was on in 2020, there’s no way manager Jayce Tingler will be able to keep him out of the lineup. All this considered, I think having him be the 15th second baseman off the board is pretty reasonable. Questions with Cronenworth’s playing time speaks more to the depth of the Padres roster than to any weakness in Cronenworth’s game.

 

Luis Campusano (Catcher)

2020: 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, .333/.500/1.333 | C #66

2021 ADP: Undrafted (N/A)

 

I’m making a bold prediction here and saying that by midseason, Campusano will be the starting catcher for the Padres. Campusano played in all of one game before getting injured and not getting another at bat the rest of the season until he pinch hit in the NLDS. But in that one game, Campusano showed his potential. He struck out twice and showed an inability to hit anything other than a fastball, but when he got his fastball, he took it deep to right field, hitting a 101.1 mph line drive over the fence for his first MLB hit.

Even in the minors, Campusano showed great strides from season to season, going from hitting three HRs in 70 games in 2018 to hitting 15 in 110 games in 2019. I expect him to make another leap this season, but considering he has a total of five AB’s in the MLB and has never played above A+ ball, maybe I’m a year too early on this prediction. Campusano won’t go drafted in leagues and I don’t think he should be drafted, but if you see Austin Nola struggling early on, I think he’d be a solid pickup.

 

Austin Nola (Catcher)

2020: 24 R, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB, .273/.353/.472 | C #7

2021 ADP: 168.14 (C #8)

 

I don’t have Nola in my projected lineup not because I don’t think he’ll start to begin the season, but again because I think Campusano will win the job at some point in the season. Nola was having a career season in 2020 before the Seattle Mariners traded him to the Padres. His slash numbers of .306/.373/.531 were all career highs before he arrived in San Diego and hit for a line of .222/.324/.381. Despite his struggles with his new team, he still managed to have a solid season with a hard hit percentage in the 73rd percentile and an xBA in the 80th percentile. He also doesn’t strikeout much with a whiff rate in the 81st percentile and a strikeout rate in the 72nd percentile. One reason for this is that he manages to hit breaking balls especially well. His xBA on breaking balls in 2020 was .289, five points higher than his xBA on fastballs.

For all my faith in Campusano, Nola still finished with the seventh-most HRs and fourth-most RBI and Rs among catchers, so he’s no scrub by any means. He will almost surely be the opening day starter and if he can return to his Seattle form, he’ll be an elite catcher. But, if he continues to struggle in San Diego, look for Campusano’s name in lineups.

 

Outfielders

 

Wil Myers (OF)

2020: 34 R, 15 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB, .288/.353/.606 | OF #9

2021 ADP: 126.95 (OF #34)

 

Like Machado, Myers had a huge comeback in 2020 and arguably had the best season of his career. Myers finished with the eighth-most HR’s and RBI’s among outfielders and his .606 SLG was good enough to be seventh among outfielders (in fact, he destroyed his career SLG of .447!). He hit the ball with power in 2020 with an xSLG in the 95th percentile, a barrel percentage in the 93rd percentile and an xwOBA in the 93rd percentile.

There were clear changes in Myers’ swing in 2020 which leads me to believe that this new Myers isn’t just a fluke. One thing to note though is that though Myers managed to find more consistent power in 2020, he still managed to strike out a ton. His 25.7% strikeout rate was significantly below his 34.2% strikeout rate in 2019, but he still managed to finish in the bottom 34% of MLB hitters in strikeout rate. Myers will swing and miss a lot, but if he can continue to find the barrel of his bat when he does make contact, he’ll be a good hitter in 2021.

 

Tommy Pham (OF)

2020: 13 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 6 SB, .211/.312/.312 | OF #106

2021 ADP: 119.05 (OF #32)

 

In a year where he was plagued with injury, Pham had a tough season in 2020. Pham broke a bone in his hand on August 16 and underwent a surgery that caused him to miss more than a month of play. Even after he came back from surgery, anyone who watched him swing could see he was clearly still affected by the injury. All this led Pham to putting up the worst numbers of his career and playing in only 31 games in 2020. Not only was his .266 xBA and .348 xwOBA significantly below his career averages of .281 and .348, respectively, he saw changes to his approach at the plate. His 12.1% walk rate still hovered around his career average of 12.2%, but his chase rate increased from his career average of 18.1% to 20.3% and his zone swing percentage was a career-low 57.8%, a drop from his career average of 60.1%. This is an important regression in Pham, a hitter often known for his keen eye. To put things in perspective, he finished seventh among OFs and 17th overall in 2019 with 81 walks.

Projecting into 2021, it’s probably not fair to think that Pham will see a similar decline that he saw in 2020. Again, without a minor league system and a team in the middle of the playoff hunt, Pham had to play in games he probably wasn’t ready to play in. Assuming a relatively clean bill of health (other than 2020, the now 32-year-old outfielder has never played less than 128 games since 2017), Pham will play better in 2021, but one should be concerned with how his approach has changed at the plate. With Kim and/or Cronenworth possibly learning to play the outfield, Pham might be the first outfielder to sit the bench if he brings his 2020 struggles with him into 2021.

 

Trent Grisham (OF)

2020: 42 R, 10 HR, 26 RBI, 10 SB, .251/.352/.456 | OF #13

2021 ADP: 57.86 (OF #16)

 

Grisham developed nicely in his second year in the majors. His 11.1% barrel percentage was in the 74th percentile and contributed to a .355 xwOBA that finished in the 82nd percentile. He manages to walk a decent amount with a walk rate in the 78th percentile, but he also strikes out a ton with a strikeout percentage of 25.4%, placing him in the 35th percentile. The former first-round pick showed he can hit for power and run as well, hitting 10 HRs and stealing 10 bases. He also hits lefties relatively well for a left-handed hitter with a career slash line of .267/.333/.417 against lefties compared to .245/.359/.471 against righties.

The now 24-year-old is still young and still improving. In this loaded lineup, Grisham finished third among outfielders in runs scored. He’ll likely score runs at a similar pace in 2021 if he can continue to get on base. Probably won’t be an elite player, but definitely a solid pick in middle rounds.

 

 

Watch List Considerations

 

Brian O’Grady (OF) and super utility player Jorge Mateo (INF/OF) are the only other players that might get significant playing time in 2021. O’Grady has a total of 53 PA and Mateo only made it to the majors last season and was mainly used as a defensive replacement or pinch runner. The one plus with Mateo is that he played every outfield position in 2020 and has the ability to play both middle infield positions as well. His flexibility will be interesting. All in all though, the Padres starting lineup is already stacked, but if someone goes down, look for these two to fill in.

 

Starting Pitchers

 

Dinelson Lamet (Locked In Starter)

2020: 3-1, 69.0 IP, 93 K, 2.09 ERA, 0.855  WHIP | SP #9

2021 ADP: 68.05 (P #24)

Repertoire: 53.4% Slider, 37.3% Fastball, 9.3% Sinker

 

In 2020, Lamet’s slider had the lowest run value of any pitch in the MLB with a score of -19. With arguably the best pitch in the game, Lamet finished with the fourth-best FIP with 2.48, fourth-best BABIP with .234 and fifth-highest K/9 with 12.13 en route to finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Now he was by no means a scrub in 2019, but he made a huge leap in 2020 that few could’ve foreseen. So what happened?

Well, to be honest, more things were the same than were different. Lamet’s fastball had an xBA of .280 in 2019 and an xBA of .283 in 2020. But, hitters actually hit .323 against the pitch in 2019 compared to .286 in 2020. So, Lamet’s fastball seems to have just fallen prey to bad luck in 2019. His slider likewise was very effective both seasons. In 2019, hitters hit an xBA of .141 and whiffed 51.3% of the time on this pitch, while in 2020 they hit for an xBA of .097 and whiffed 47.4%. Again, similar stats, the only difference is that Lamet threw the pitch 12.2% of the time in 2019 compared to 53.4% of the time in 2020.

2020 doesn’t seem to be a fluke season for Lamet. However, and this is a big however, the biggest question is whether or not he’ll be healthy. After an elbow injury ended his season early in 2020, the latest news points to him being ready for the start of the new season. There are rumors circulating that he’ll get Tommy John like his teammate Mike Clevinger, but those might just be rumors. If he’s healthy and able to maintain his health for the entirety of the year, look for another elite performance in 2021.

 

Yu Darvish (Locked In Starter)

2020: 8-3, 76.0 IP, 93 K, 2.01 ERA, 0.961 WHIP | SP #2

2021 ADP: 18.63 (P #5)

Repertoire: 43.6% Cutter, 15.2% Slider, 14.7% 4-Seam Fastball, 12.1% Curveball, 9.5% Sinker, 4.9% Split Finger

 

The now 34-year-old Darvish is joining the Padres after being traded by the Chicago Cubs. Although he’s aging like the rest of us, the NL Cy Young runner-up is coming off the best season of his career. His ERA and WHIP were the lowest of his career and his 2.23 FIP was second in the entire MLB. One of the greatest changes in his game was a jump in his K/BB ratio from a 3.50 career average to 6.64 in 2020 (to put things in perspective, he had never had a ratio higher than 4.69 previously). This wasn’t necessarily due to him striking out more hitters as his 11.0 K/9 hovered around his career average of 11.1, but a huge decrease in his walk rate. His 4.7% walk rate was in the 92nd percentile among pitchers. He threw more strikes, seeing his career zone percentage of 51.9% jump to 55.0%. But he also generated more swings and misses seeing his career 29.4% whiff percentage jump to a career-high 32.2%. He’s throwing more strikes and also getting more swings and misses? Now that’s a combination for success.

The main questions Darvish faces are if he’ll regress with age and how his pitching translates over to Petco Park. Regarding the first, there’s never any bona fide way of predicting that, but considering his fastball set career-highs in velocity and spin rate in 2020 with 95.9 MPH and 2582 RPM and the results mentioned above, I don’t think he’s going to face steep regression in 2021. Regarding the latter, check out this cool article. Darvish will probably be very good.

 

Blake Snell (Locked In Starter)

2020: 4-2, 50.0 IP, 63 K, 3.24 ERA, 1.200 WHIP | SP #52

2021 ADP: 52.69 (P #17)

Repertoire: 50.6% 4-Seam Fastball, 19.8% Changeup, 15.0% Slider, 14.6% Curveball

 

Snell is the other big-name pitcher to join the Padres via trade this offseason (again if you want to see how his game translates over to Petco Park see this article). After winning the AL Cy Young in 2018, Snell had a down season in 2019 and a better season in 2020, albeit still not the same 2018 form. 2019 might’ve just been an unlucky year for Snell who had a 4.29 ERA despite posting a 3.03 xERA that finished in the top nine percent of pitchers. He also had an xwOBA that was in the top seven percent and a strikeout rate in the top eight percent. Last year was almost the opposite in the sense that he might’ve gotten luckier than he should have. His xERA climbed to 3.95 and his xwOBA went up to .295 from .270 the year prior. His fastball was more hittable, with its xBA rising from .220 to .320, but his offspeed stuff was downright nasty. Opponents hit a combined .033 against his slider and his curveball’s 61.8% whiff percentage was the second-highest among all eligible MLB pitchers.

Snell is kind of a wildcard for 2021. Could he be elite? Yep. Could he also have another down season? Yep. One big issue he faced in 2020 was the fact that his 12.0% career HR/FB ratio climbed all the way to 29.4% and his HR/9 also climbed from a career average of 0.97 to a career-high 1.80. Considering Petco Park was home to the eighth-most home runs out of any MLB ballpark, that doesn’t bode too well for Snell. His teammate Lamet is going later in most drafts than he is, but I think Lamet is a much better pick given that he’s healthy.

 

Joe Musgrove (Locked In Starter)

2020: 1-5, 39.2 IP, 55 K, 3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP | SP #97

2021 ADP: 143.5 (P #53)

Repertoire: 27.0% Four-Seam, 24.2% Slider, 19.9% Curveball, 10.7% Changeup, 6.2% Cutter

 

Musgrove turned the corner in 2020, upping his SwStr to 14.4% leading to an outstanding 33.1% strikeout rate. Musgrove was the beneficiary of new pitching coach Oscar Marin, as the right-hander threw his break balls more often while focusing on the top of the zone with his four-seamer — check out Cole Bailey’s piece on Pittsburgh’s ace for a more in-depth look. While his slider and curveball led to more whiffs, Musgrove also threw them in the zone at a lower rate than before — 42.1% to 38.0% Zone% for the slider and 42.8% to 40.3% for the curveball — that likely led to an elevated walk rate of 9.6%. As currently constructed, Musgrove is an enticing starter for the 2021 season. But if he can lower his walks, the upside makes him a nice target as a middle-round starter. (Blurb written by Jai Correa)

 

Chris Paddack (Likely Starter)

2020: 4-5, 59.0 IP, 58 K, 4.73 ERA, 1.220 WHIP | SP #77

2021 ADP: 110.32 (P #41)

Repertoire: 58.2% 4-Seam Fastball, 31.0% Changeup, 7.4% Curveball, 3.4% Cutter 

 

After a great rookie campaign in 2019, Paddack’s stock dropped hard after his 2020 performance. If you watch his start in the NLWC against the St. Louis Cardinals, his fastball seemed to be the most hittable pitch on the planet. Even the outs he got on it were very loud outs. To put some numbers into context, hitters hit .308, slugged for .658 and hit an average exit velocity of 92.7 mph on the pitch in 2020. If you include the rest of his repertoire, Paddack finished in the bottom fifth percentile in hard hit percentage, bottom 10th percentile in exit velocity and bottom 11th percentile in barrel percentage.

The one positive for Paddack is that the nasty changeup he became famous for in 2019 seemed to get better in 2020. Opponents went from hitting .190 to .187 and went from whiffing 29.2% to 32.7% on the pitch. This might be due to them sitting more on his fastball, but either way, the pitch was more effective. I think having Paddack be the 41st pitcher off the board is too high. With the likes of Charlie Morton being the 52nd and Dustin May being the 60th pitcher off the board, Paddack is way too big of a risk to be taken that high. As someone who is mainly a fastball-changeup pitcher, he needs to have an effective fastball and with the 2020 he had, it’s hard to have faith that he will.

 

Mackenzie Gore (Fringe Starter)

2020: 0-0, 0.0 IP, 0 K, N/A ERA, N/A WHIP | SP Rank N/A

2021 ADP: 252.76 (P #95)

Repertoire: N/A

 

We’ve finally hit the guy all of San Diego has been raving about for years. MLB Pipeline has Gore as the top prospect in the Padres organization and the #3 prospect overall. Gore played with the practice squad in 2020, but has never pitched past AA ball. In 2019, when he pitched A+ ball he put up crazy numbers with a 1.02 ERA, .706 WHIP and 12.5 K/9. However, when he pitched in AA that same year, he struggled in five starts posting a 4.15 ERA, 1.292 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. Again, this was a year ago, and Gore has probably taken great strides since, but no matter how high you think of Gore, there are definitely reasons one might worry about Gore’s future specifically in 2021. The Padres with a depleted rotation had the opportunity at many points to call up Gore last season but they didn’t. Are they just taking things slow or is he actually not ready? Either way, this might cause some reservations in drafting him in the middle rounds. I think he’s a solid wildcard pick in later rounds that could prove to be a really good investment if he turns out the way many project him to.

 

Ryan Weathers (Fringe Starter)

2020: 0-0, 0.0 IP, 0 K, N/A ERA, N/A WHIP | SP Rank N/A

2021 ADP: Undrafted (N/A)

Repertoire: N/A

 

Weathers made his MLB debut in 2020 in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1.1 innings he walked two while striking out one, giving up zero runs in the process. Similar to Gore, Weathers is still really young at 21 years old. He has never pitched above A ball, but in his most recent season in 2019, he compiled an ERA of 3.84, a WHIP of 1.240 and averaged 8.4 K/9. The former No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft doesn’t seem to garner many strikeouts, but scouts say he has good control of his pitches. It’s hard to tell how Weathers will look in 2021 or if he’ll even crack the rotation, but he should be someone to keep an eye out to pick up quickly if he starts off hot.

 

 

 

Watch List Considerations

 

Between Gore, Weathers and Paddack, the Padres have a lot of pieces to try out in the back end of their rotation. The only other possible starter I can think of is Adrian Morejon (SP/RP) who will be discussed in the next section since he came out of the bullpen for the majority of 2020. One thing to consider though is that with so much depth at starting pitcher and a relatively weaker bullpen, any of these four pitchers might move to the bullpen at any given point in the season, especially early on.

 

Relief Pitchers

 

Bullpen Roles

 

Drew Pomeranz (Closer)

2020: 4 SV, 11 HLD, 18.2 IP, 29 K, 1.45 ERA, 1.018 WHIP | RP #37

2021 ADP: 266.40 (P #102)

 

Pomeranz had another solid season in 2020 out of the bullpen. He didn’t give up a single run until his last outing of the regular season and with Trevor Rosenthal and Kirby Yates both leaving as free agents, Pomeranz looks to take over the closing role for the Padres. He has never served as a full-time closer before in his career, but was 4-4 in opportunities until his last outing of the season.

His 1.45 ERA places him 11th among relief pitchers in 2020 and his 13.98 K/9 is good enough for 10th. Pomeranz has truly extended his career by transitioning to the pen. In his 25 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, he had an ERA of 2.39 and a K/9 of 15.4, the highest of his career. To put this in perspective, Pomeranz has averaged a 3.98 ERA and 9.2 K/9 throughout his career. In his third season as a reliever, he’s a very solid option and if the Padres don’t sign a closer, he is extremely undervalued right now as the 102nd pitcher off the board. But, even if the Padres do sign a closer, the worst-case scenario for Pomeranz is he becomes an elite eighth-inning guy.

 

Emilio Pagán (Next In Line)

2020: 2 SV, 8 HLD, 22.0 IP, 23 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.045 WHIP | RP #129

2021 ADP: 467.08 (P #183)

 

After the best season of his career in Tampa Bay, Pagán took a huge step back in 2020. Coming into the season as the eighth-inning guy, he quickly lost the role after multiple bad outings. As mentioned before, Petco Park is no longer the pitcher-friendly park it once was and with Pagán being a flyball pitcher, it didn’t bode too well for him, giving up four home runs in 22.0 innings. The bigger problem is that he couldn’t find the zone. After a walk rate of 4.9% that was in the 93rd percentile in 2019, that number swelled to 10.3%, easily the worst of his career. Pagán did face inflammation in his arm throughout the season, so perhaps that had an impact on his pitching.

With so few arms in the bullpen right now, Pagán still might very well be the Padres’ eighth-inning guy. But, being in a division with the Dodgers and having to play in both Coors Field and Petco Park, a fly ball pitcher like Pagán shouldn’t be expected to put up the numbers he did for the Rays.

 

Adrian Morejon (Other Holds Option)

2020: 0 SV, 0 HLD, 19.1 IP, 25 K, 4.66 ERA, 1.241 WHIP | RP #116

2021 ADP: Undrafted (N/A)

 

Morejon is a really interesting option for deeper leagues. Tingler might keep Morejon in the pen or he might use him as a starter. He shows potential of having starter-like material, flashing a 96.6 mph fastball from the left side and a split-finger with a 57.1% whiff rate. The problem is that like his teammate Paddack, Morejon’s fastball has proven to be hittable. Batters hit .333 and slugged .806 on the pitch in 2020. If Morejon can find a way to have a more effective fastball, he could really do some damage out of the pen or the rotation. He’s not going to get drafted in most leagues, but with so much uncertainty in the Padres bullpen, he’s someone to keep an eye out for if he’s successful early on.

 

Pierce Johnson (Other Holds Option)

2020: 0 SV, 1 HLD, 20.0 IP, 27 K, 2.70 ERA, 1.200 WHIP | RP #148

2021 ADP: Undrafted (N/A)

 

After a lackluster 2018 with the San Francisco Giants in which Johnson had a 5.56 ERA, the righty finally made it back to the majors in 2020 and made huge adjustments. He began to use his curveball almost exclusively, throwing it 54.2% of the time while still managing to have a 48.2% whiff percentage on the pitch. This led him to take a jump from his career 23.8% whiff percentage to 33.8%, good enough to be in the top three percent of pitchers. All this contributed to his FIP dropping from 4.51 in 2018 to 3.14 in 2020. If Pagán struggles again in 2021, look for Johnson to sneakily accumulate a bunch of holds.

 

Matt Strahm (Other Holds Option)

2020: 0 SV, 5 HLD, 20.2 IP, 15 K, 2.61 ERA, 0.871 WHIP | RP #313

2021 ADP: Undrafted (N/A)

 

Strahm saw improvement in 2020 decreasing his ERA from 4.71 the year prior to 2.61. However, his xERA stayed relatively similar, actually going up from 4.57 to 4.71, so he might’ve gotten a little lucky in 2020. He did post a career-low WHIP, partly due to his ability to limit walks with a walk rate of 4.8%, but he also doesn’t strike out many hitters, posting an 18.1% strikeout rate in 2020. Strahm will likely mainly face lefties as lefties only put up a .116 BA against him compared to .290 put up by righties. And if some of the other relievers struggle, Strahm could look to fill their place.

 

Craig Stammen (Middle/Long Relief)

2020: 0 SV, 6 HLD, 24.0 IP, 29 K, 5.63 ERA, 1.292 WHIP | RP #98

2021 ADP: Undrafted (N/A)

 

Stammen’s ERA doesn’t quite reflect the year he had in 2020. In his last 10 outings of the regular season, he only gave up two runs and in a must-win Game 3 of the NLWC, Stammen started and went a gutsy 1.2 innings, only allowing one hit in the process. In fact, Stammen’s xERA of 3.46 was lower than his 2019 xERA of 3.49 despite his actual ERA of 3.29 in 2019. And, in a really weird twist, Stammen’s barrel percentage ranks in the top three percent of pitchers, meaning batters aren’t making the contact they’re looking for. However, it’s important to note that Stammen’s EV only ranks in the 52nd percentile, meaning batters are still hitting the ball decently hard.

All this is to say that Stammen will probably be a staple of this bullpen because he can pitch multiple innings at a time (six out of his 24 outings were for more than one inning) and fill in for starters when need be, but he won’t be anything special. Probably not worth drafting.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

With very little consistency among their relievers, the Padres have a bunch of middling guys that could have bigger roles in the bullpen should a teammate struggle. Austin Adams (RP) is an interesting piece. He had a 3.77 ERA and 2.96 FIP with the Mariners in 2019 before he tore his ACL. Dan Altavilla (RP) also had a decent 2020 after being traded to the Padres from the Mariners. He put up a 3.21 ERA and 2.61 FIP in 8.2 innings. Overall, there are a lot of moving pieces in the Padres bullpen and it’s unsure what role everyone will end up taking, but if whoever starts off hot early in the season will likely have the reigns moving forward.

 

ADP data taken from NFC ADPs. Pitcher rankings are currently combined. When SP and RP positional rankings will be updated when made available.

2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).

Photos by Andrew Dieb, Frank Jansky, and Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire) | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Samuel In

Samuel is a lifelong San Diego Padres fan with a deep appreciation for small market teams, YouTube and random conversations. You can share in all his misery on Twitter at @Samuel_Out.

  • Avatar Shawnuel says:

    As Lucchesi was mentioned in the pitcher section, this was obviously written before the re-signing of Profar. I assume Profar gets more play in the OF as Pham insurance but how do you think he will affect Kim or Cronenworth’s PT?

    • Samuel In Samuel In says:

      I think all four are risky picks. The more I think about it, I don’t think either Kim or Cronenworth will be an everyday starter, but they’ll genuinely play a platoon with Kim hitting lefties and Cronenworth hitting righties. And like I mentioned with Pham, if he can return to the form he was in before he joined the Padres he’ll be an everyday starter and Profar will likely play more of a pinch hitting role, but if Pham can’t get back to form, all four will struggle to get everyday playing time.

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