20. Nick Vincent
19. Michael Gettys
18. Taylor Lindsey
17. Joe Ross
16. Joaquin Benoit
15. Jace Peterson
14. Kevin Quackenbush
13. Everth Cabrera
12. Austin Hedges
11. Yasmani Grandal
And now, Padres 6 through 10.
10. Seth Smith
I think Smith signed for a minor bargain, giving him surplus value compared to what a comparable player would earn on the open market.
He’s best used in a platoon where he doesn’t have to face left-handed pitching, meaning his optimal value requires an additional roster spot for his platoon mate. That’s not a major issue for the Padres, but it is a small limiting factor on his value externally.
With all the hype surrounding Smith’s 2014 season, you might wonder why he isn’t higher on this list. The reason is that although he still finished 2014 with impressive OBP and other offensive numbers, he really did come down to earth late in the season. I imagine he’ll regress further in 2015, back to his career norms. He’s still a decent player when that happens, but he’s not a top ten player like some statistically mal-inclined bloggers said early in the season.
9. Matt Wisler
I don’t know what to make of Matt Wisler since I have literally never seen him throw a single pitch and he’s already on the cusp of breaking into the Padres rotation.
I do know this, though: he’s young, he has solid statistics in the minor leagues, and he’s reasonably touted as a potential number three starter in the near future by reputable prospect outlets.
A few people will look at his ERA at AAA El Paso this season and conclude that he won’t be that valuable for the Padres. To that I yell PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE and point at his strikeout and walk rates: 7.79 K/9, 2.78 BB/9. Simply put, Wisler was a victim of the homer happy PCL. After allowing just one homerun in 114 innings in Fort Wayne and just 8 homeruns in over 130 innings in 2013, he gave up 19 in 2014. I don’t have the batted ball data to back it up, but I suspect that many of those were in fact PCL homeruns and that the combination of leaving the PCL plus pitching in Petco will bring that back down to at least league average in that department.
The Padres have a “lot” of pitching – volume, not necessarily quality at the top of the rotation – so Wisler feels expendable. He might be, if the return was equitable. However, he’s still a really valuable player seeing as he’s under control for the next six years, through his age 28 season.
8. Trea Turner
I wasn’t a tremendous fan of this selection when the Padres made it – so difficult not to flinch when you hear the phrase ‘hitting is a question mark’ for an offensive player – but a strong surge late in the season has him back in the discussion for most valuable Padres asset.
Principally, high draft picks (in particular first round picks) are extremely valuable commodities, regardless of team payroll. Once you factor in the Padres’ self-imposed payroll restriction and you reach the conclusion that the Padres (self-imposed) best way to add premier talent is through these assets.
Turner hasn’t done enough to make himself a bonafide, can’t miss prospect, but he also hasn’t done anything to indicate he’s going to bust.
Again, even if the odds are low he’ll turn into a star, six bargain seasons of a star at a premium position is such a significant amount of value that Turner had to rate high on this list.
7. Ian Kennedy
Unless Stites makes major strides in the immediate future, the Ian Kennedy acquisition by Josh Byrnes will likely go down as his best trade as Padres general manager.
I actually think that Kennedy might be a better bet to produce in 2015 than either Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Cashner has obvious injury concerns, while Ross simply hasn’t pitched well long enough for me to believe that his distribution of likely outcomes is as narrow as Kennedy’s.
What keeps Kennedy below Ross and Cashner on this list is that he’s under control for only one more season. On the other hand, the reason Kennedy ranks above Wisler is due to the non-linear nature of Wins Above Replacement. In more colloquial terminology, contending teams should have significantly more interest in Kennedy than longer term players like Wisler, and may be willing to “overpay”.
6. Jesse Hahn
The only thing keeping the Hahn acquisition below the Kennedy deal mentioned above is the emergence of Brad Boxberger in Tampa.
He’s got one of the best looking curveballs that a Padres starter has had in some time, and it isn’t his only useful pitch. He throws hard, but that’s not all he does. Those are both statements that I love hearing about a Padres pitcher.
More importantly, he actually produces. After starting the year in AA, Hahn made a few stops at the Major League level before getting shut down at the end of the season. In his 73 innings with the Padres, Hahn struck out 70 batters and allowed only four homeruns. His walk total wasn’t spectacular – just a shade under 4 BB/9 – but it wasn’t a huge problem, either. And Hahn also induced groundballs on just a hair more than 50% of batters…unspectacular, but still a useful figure.
Though I don’t think he has the ability to be a staff ace, I think he can be reliably good for the next half-decade, cheap. That’s incredibly valuable.