It’s tough going into a season thinking your team has zippy chance at competing and making the playoffs. But that’s where most of us are. I mean, not the owners and Mike Dee, they are busy circle jerking each other about how they’re going to “compete” this season. But us fans, deep down, have a feeling that 2016 is going to be just dreadful. You take a look at the ZIPS projections for this team, and WOOF. This is a team that could have nobody eclipse 20 HRs. It has a #1 starting pitcher who throws eleventy billion sliders with a janky motion that is just waiting for an arm to literally fall off. ZIPS is projecting JABARI BLASH to be the team leader in home runs this season, which means we can look forward to a mediocre Jon Jay trotted out there for 140 games instead of Blash. But let’s take a step back. There’s always a chance. After all, last season the Royals and Astros weren’t projected to break 80 wins, and our awful 2015 Padres were projected for 83 wins. So the projections are not infallible. So let’s take a look at the Padres and figure out a (highly unlikely) scenario that sees them making the playoffs in 2016.
Beating the projections will involve several players outperforming what is expected of them. To make up the ground that the Padres would need to make up to get to the playoffs will require some true breakout seasons that demolish those players’ projected results. Luckily, the Padres have one such candidate. Wil Myers, the former rookie of the year and holder of the most injury prone wrists on the team, is only projected for 1.6 WAR. A lot of the reason for this is he is projected to be tied with Matt Kemp for the worst fielder on the team. But he is moving to a new position at 1B and didn’t look awful there last year, and the stats backed this up. Combined with, in this scenario, Myers playing a full season, we could see him add substantially more value than what he is projected. This scenario would also require Myers to get back to the level of hitting he showed in 2013, and as long as we ignore 2014 and 2015 which arguably were hindered by injuries, it is at least possible that this could happen while neutralizing the damage Myers does in the field by putting him at 1B. Jabari Blash, projected for 21 HRs in only 440 ABs could win the starting job out of Spring Training, mash, and play good defense. It’s entirely possible because none of us have seen him play and really, hey why not? This is a fantasy right?
It’s oft cited that 2015’s downfall was due to the failures of the pitching (you know, if you ignore that the offense was in the bottom 1/3 of MLB). Tyson Ross is projected for 3.3 WAR, Cashner is projected for 1.6 and Shields is projected for 2.6. The only one of the three that this represents an increase for is Shields, who earned a paltry 1.1 WAR last year. Ross and Cashner both blew past their 2016 WAR projections in 2015, and in this rosy scenario, let’s assume they could at least match last season’s contributions, while Shields hits his target of 2.6 WAR. In Cashner’s case, we could even make the assumption that he puts it all together in a contract year, which in real life, sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t. He has shown the capability, when healthy like in 2013, to get near 3 WAR. It’s possible this could happen again in 2016. Ross, eclipsing 4 WAR last year, is in my opinion, at the top of what he can do, so let’s just hope he matches last year.
ZIPS is projecting .7 WAR from Brandon Morrow in only 52 innings. If Morrow can stay healthy (if ________ can stay healthy is a key assumption for pretty much everyone in this scenario), based on this projection, you’re looking at a 2.5ish WAR contributor at your #4 SP spot. Not bad. ZIPS sees Colin Rea, our presumed #5, as a .4 WAR player in 2016 in a bit more than 100 innings. Meanwhile, Rea was worth .5 WAR in only 30 innings last year. You extrapolate that, and add in that he’s had another Spring to work with big league coaches, and you may have a 2-2.5 WAR #5 SP.
Finally, our veteran core of Melvin Upton and Matt Kemp are not well liked by ZIPS. For Mupton, ZIPS gives him 1.1 WAR. But Upton 1.6 WAR in only 228 ABs last season. So if we ignore that he’s a year older which might affect his smooth defense, Upton, if he were to match last season’s production, could be a 2.5-3 WAR player. And Kemp. Oh, Matt Kemp. ZIPS sees his offense falling off, and his defense to be atrocious. But let’s say people can say “if only Matt Kemp could hit the whole season like he did in the second half last year” (which people have said the last two offseasons), and he actually does! And let’s say he did a lot of yoga over the offseason and can field better than an elephant with a broken leg. Then maybe he ekes out 2 WAR? Like I said, it’s a rosy scenario. It was only a few years ago that Alexei Ramirez was a 3 WAR contributor before he fell off a cliff into Mediocrityland (also known as Padresville on some maps). I don’t know why he fell off a cliff, but let’s just pretend that we hit the rewind on our Lemmings game, and he magically is back to how he was before he took that ill-fated step into the churning ocean below.
So this is on the Padres side. Making the playoffs is a two headed issue. First, the Padres need to drastically outperform what is expected of them. Second, the drastically improved NL West needs to underperform so that the Padres can surpass them in the standings. One important thing to note: for this scenario to work, pretty much EVERYONE ONE OF THESE ITEMS NEEDS TO HAPPEN. If Myers decides to be a 1.6 WAR player instead of a 4 WAR breakout player, well, I’m not seeing any other players making up the slack beyond these already ambitiously revised projections. If Ross’ arm falls off, whelp, that’s it (not to mention it torpedos AJ Preller’s wait and see trade strategy). To make the playoffs, the Padres need no injuries and for pretty much everyone to overperform. Oh yeah, and everyone else needs to AT LEAST match what they did last season, if not incrementally improve. I’m looking at you Solarte and Spangy. Impossible? No. Likely? Hell no. But this is a Mr Brightside article, so let’s pretend that everything is great and ISIS just decided to trade in their guns and explosvies for Butterfingers and bobbleheads. In Part 2 of this Mr Brightside scenario, I’ll take a look at where the NL West teams, notably Arizona, San Francisco and Los Angeles could stumble.