After falling all the way to last place in the NL west with a sixth-consecutive losing season a house cleaning was in order for the San Diego Padres. The 2016 Padres, 68-94 record represented a six-game drop-off from the previous season and tied the Cincinnati Reds for the worst mark in the National League. The Padres are entering the 2017 season in a full rebuilding mode fielding one of the major league’s youngest and most inexperienced teams.
The Padres’ rebuilding process actually began last year with the ouster of high-paid veteran outfielders Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton who were both dealt at the trading deadline in salary dumping deals for unproven minor leaguers. The departure of Kemp and Upton created opportunities for top prospects like Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, (ranked No.’s 2 and 3 respectively in the Padres system by Baseball America) both made their big league debuts in 2016 and are on track to crack the starting lineup this year.
Margot, 21, was named the starting center fielder for the World team in the 2016 All-Star futures game before being called up by the Padres in September. Renfroe, 24, bashed 30 home runs with 105 RBI and a .306 batting average is 133 games at AAA El Paso and sparkled in his big league debut knocking four home runs with 14 RBI at a .371 clip in 35 at-bats spanning 11 games flashing a rifle-armed gun in right field. Margot and Renfro will compete and share time in the outfield with Travis Jankowski, 25, and Alex Dickerson, 26, both of whom finished the season as regular starters last year.
In his first full season without injury, first baseman Wil Meyers played up to the potential of his 2013 AL Rookie of the Year campaign, reaching career highs with 28 home runs and 84 RBI. Fast becoming the face of the franchise Myers signed a six-year, $83 million extension with the team through the 2023 season. Rookie right-hander Luis Pedrome led a lackluster Padres’ pitching staff with nine wins. James Shields, Drew Pomeranz, Andrew Cashner and reliever Fernando Rodney were all dealt before season’s end in return for a batch of prospect-laden talent including; shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., first baseman Josh Naylor, right-handed pitcher Chris Paddack and the team’s No. 1 pitching prospect teenager Anderson Espinosa. The acquisition of eight-year veteran righty Jhoulys Chacin and the return of lefty Clayton Richard will shore up a young rotation.
While the youthful infusion will not necessarily lead to immediate contention in a top heavy NL West division the team’s commitment to the rebuilding process does provide some hope on the horizon.
San Diego Padres Prospects to Watch
Manuel Margot, hit .304 with 21 doubles, 12 triples and 30 stolen bases in 124 games at AAA El Paso.