Rebuilding season or not, falling short of the playoffs and finishing with a losing record probably means that more things went wrong than went right for a team. This series, however, will focus on those silver linings that each team can take away from an otherwise disappointing season.
[Related: “Top Bright Spots” archive]
Here are the biggest bright spots for the San Diego Padres.
1. Ryan Schimpf, 2B
In seven years with the Blue Jays, Schimpf was never even added to the team’s 40-man roster. It’s safe to assume that they didn’t think he was capable of having anywhere near the success he’s had with the Padres (.890 OPS, 19 homers, 15 doubles, five triples in 79 games). To be fair, neither did the 29 teams who passed on Schimpf whenever he was available in the Rule 5 draft. His unimpressive stints in Triple-A (.648 OPS in 2014; .607 OPS in 2015), despite success at every other level, probably helped to keep him off the radar.
For the 28-year-old, who signed a Minor League deal with the Padres this past offseason, it took a 1.160 OPS with 15 homers in 51 games for Triple-A El Paso to finally earn a big league call-up in mid-June. Schimpf got off to 3-for-29 start, but he’s been one of the most productive hitters in baseball since July 1, posting a .946 OPS and 37 extra-base hits in that time.
Schimp’s arrival has seemingly created a logjam at second base with Cory Spangenberg coming back from injury and Carlos Asuaje coming off of a terrific Triple-A season. In reality, though, there’s no way that a guy who just hit 19 homers in a two-and-a-half month span while playing solid defense won’t be penciled into the projected lineup for 2017.
2. Luis Perdomo, SP
Rule 5 picks are typically stashed in the bullpen, eating up innings in low leverage situations. On occasion, a Rule 5 draftee might perform well enough to take on a more vital role (see Joe Biagini of the Blue Jays). But spending more than half of the season in a big league starting rotation is unimaginable for a guy who had spent most of the previous season in Low-A and finished off the year by giving up seven runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings for Palm Beach, the Cardinals’ High-A affiliate. It was Perdomo’s fifth start at the level. If he had not been chosen in the Rule 5 draft, a return to the Florida State League would have been expected in 2016.
Instead, the 23-year-old finds himself in the midst of an eye-opening rookie season with the Padres. While he was being hidden in the bullpen early in the season, mostly pitching when the game was well out of reach and looking very much like he should still be in the minors, Perdomo was forced into starting duty in mid-June. As a starting pitcher, the right-hander has looked like a poised veteran who has the utmost confidence in a sinker that opposing hitters have a difficult time squaring up on.
In 16 starts since entering the rotation for good on June 15, Perdomo has a 4.29 ERA with 26 walks and 70 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings. He’s completed at least six innings 11 times and has nine quality starts. He’ll enter the offseason as arguably the team’s second-best starting option behind injured staff ace Tyson Ross.
3. Ryan Buchter, RP
Seven-plus years in the minors for Schimpf is nothing compared to Buchter, who was drafted in 2005 and spent most of the next 11 seasons in the Minor Leagues. He logged exactly one big league appearance through the 2015 season before finally breaking through with the Padres in 2016.
The 29-year-old Buchter, who signed a Minor League contract with the Padres this past offseason, made the team out of Spring Training and has been their best reliever with a 2.86 ERA, 4.4 BB/9, 11.1 K/9 and 20 holds in 67 appearances. Opposing hitters have not come close to figuring out the left-hander, mustering only 34 hits in 63 innings. For the first time in his 12-year professional career, he’ll head into Spring Training with a big league roster spot all but locked up.
Trading away a veteran player for something of value is not an easy task if that player isn’t performing well. But thanks to Pomeranz’s breakout season, strong bounce-back seasons from Rodney and Upton, and a perfectly-timed Kemp hot streak, the Padres were able to get three very good pitching prospects—Anderson Espinoza, Chris Paddack and Hansel Rodriguez—and/or salary relief for four veterans who didn’t figure into the team’s future plans.
- Fernando Rodney: 0.31 ERA, 4.1 H/9, 3.8 BB/9, 10.4 K/9, 17 saves in 28 appearances; traded to Marlins on June 30th.
- Drew Pomeranz: 2.47 ERA, 5.9 H/9, 3.6 BB/9, 10.1 K/9 in 17 starts; traded to Red Sox on July 14th.
- Melvin Upton Jr.: .743 OPS, 16 HR, 20 SB in 92 games; traded to Blue Jays on July 26th.
- Matt Kemp: .891 OPS, 9 HR, 12 2B from June 11-July 29; traded to Braves on July 30th.
Thanks for the memories and for maximizing your value prior to the trade deadline!
My “Knocking Down The Door: All-Snub Team” was headlined by four Padres, who are finally getting called up to the Major Leagues on September 21—they were part of the Triple-A El Paso team that won the Pacific Coast League Championship—despite each doing more than enough to warrant a much-earlier promotion.
While Asuaje, Margot and Renfroe had their big league arrival time affected somewhat by the performances of Schimpf, Alex Dickerson and Travis Jankowski—we’ll call the latter two “Bright Spot Honorable Mentions”—this talented quartet isn’t likely to spend much more time in the minors, if any at all.
Here’s a look at how they fared for Triple-A El Paso during the 2016 regular season.
- Austin Hedges, C: .951 OPS, 21 HR, 20 2B in 82 games; considered one of, if not the best defensive catchers in the minors.
- Carlos Asuaje, 2B: .851 OPS, 9 HR, 32 2B, 11 3B, 10 SB in 134 games.
- Manuel Margot, CF: .777 OPS, 6 HR, 21 2B, 12 3B, 30 SB in 124 games.
- Hunter Renfroe: RF: .893 OPS, 30 HR, 34 2B in 133 games.
For an organization that relies heavily on producing young talent down on the farm and has had very little success in doing so, there is finally a reason to be optimistic.