Continuing our short series on what it will take for the Padres to make the playoffs, I’ll take a look at how the Padres’ competitors in the NL West could falter. As I discussed previously, a lot would have to go right for the Padres to play well enough to even be considered for the playoffs. Pretty much every player would have to ignore the effects of aging, outperform projections, and the team would need to be healthy. And the team would need EVERYTHING to go right. If Wil Myers is only ho hum or gets hurt, if Andrew Cashner pitches as mediocrely as usual, if Alexei Ramirez doesn’t return to being a 3 WAR shortstop, etc., WELP, there go the playoffs. But the Padres would not only need for everything to go right within their clubhouse, they also need some of their rivals projected ahead of them to falter as well. And here’s how that can happen.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have an all world payroll, some of the brightest stars in baseball, a never ending supply of top tier young talent to call up. It’s easy to see why they are projected to win the division handily. But when you have all world superstars that you are depending on providing all world performance, you also have a potential weak link should something happen to them. Clayton Kershaw is projected for 8 WAR, by far the largest contributor on the Dodgers. It was only last season that he missed the first month of the season to injury. He has a high torque, high power delivery, and it’s feasible that he could eventually find himself injured. There is a big drop off after Kershaw, with the #2, Kenta Maeda, only being projected for 3 WAR. The Dodgers don’t have a huge amount of experienced pitching depth ready to step in to take a rotation spot. Julio Urias is untested in the Majors, as is most of the Dodgers minor league depth. An injury to Kershaw would put a huge dent in the team WAR for the Dodgers. Beyond that, the Dodgers are counting on a projected 3 WAR from Joc Pederson and 4 WAR from Corey Seager, both going into their sophomore seasons. Pederson saw his stats drop off in the second half of 2015. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to see these players see their performance drop off as the league adjusts to them. Justin Turner is projected for 3 WAR as well, but he is coming off an injury, and who knows how he’ll come back from it. Basically, the Dodgers have a lot of high WAR expectations for a relatively small handful of players. If this core underperforms, it’s possible the Dodgers as a whole find themselves struggling (you know, if they don’t just buy or trade for whomever they want using their surplus of young minor league talent).
San Francisco Giants
Show me someone that thinks the Giants even-season thing is a compelling reason to pick them to win the 2016 World Series and I’ll show you someone you should kick in nuts. The Giants are semi-similar to the Dodgers in that their ace, Madison Bumgarner, is responsible for accruing a large WAR total, 5, on his own. Another power pitcher with a high torque delivery, it’s not inconceivable that he has an unfortunate injury. Speaking of injuries, Buster Posey is projected for 6.3 WAR, 0.7 higher than what Steamer sees out of him. The Giants are a Posey broken leg away from having an Andrew Susac at catcher, which would severely hurt their 2016 prospects. Looking at the rest of their roster, Matt Duffy looks like a guy that might not repeat what he was able to do in 2015, hurting his ability to accrue his projected 4 WAR. Basically, the Giants are heavily dependent on Bumgarner and Posey to be otherworldly, and if this doesn’t happen for whatever reason, they are in trouble.
The Diamondbacks, the 2016 winners of the Ron Fowler Offseason Champions Trophy, are heavily dependent on three players: AJ Pollock, Zack Greinke, and Paul Goldschmidt. Similar to the Dodgers and Giants, if injuries or underperformances by these three occur, the Diamondbacks will have a hard time recovering. The Diamondbacks, unlike the Dodgers have much less depth to fall back on if injuries occur.
So here’s the deal. Can the Padres make the playoffs? Sure. But there is a huge list of things that would need to go right for them. Like A LOT OF THINGS. But it’s in the realm of possibility. Just on the very edge of that realm. So until the team starts taking a dump on their season in April, let’s all hold onto hope that the team can magically put literally everything together and Jabari Blash will lead us to the promised land. Go Padres!