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Padres series preview: Having ownership spend money on a team looks fun

Fans are flocking to Padres games.

Cincinnati Reds v San Diego Padres Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

For a long time, the Padres operated as a small market franchise. Aside from a spending spree in the late 1990s that led to a pennant, they were typically in the bottom half of MLB spending. As recently as 2019, they had a $63 million player payroll, less than the Royals.

But once the ownership group headed by Peter Seidler paid off the debt they used to buy the club, the spending commenced. The Padres landed big free agents like Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Xander Bogaerts, and Ha-Seong Kim. They made bold trades for Juan Soto, Blake Snell, and Josh Hader. They locked up young talent like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jake Cronenworth to long-term deals. Last year they finished fifth in the league in attendance with nearly 37,000 fans per game. This year they are on pace to set a franchise record with over 3 million fans.

But the spending hasn’t resulted into a championship quite yet. The club lost to the Phillies in the National League Championship Series last year, and after dropping seven of their last eight games, they are now under .500 in mid-May as they begin a six-game homestand against the Royals and Red Sox.

Kansas City Royals (12-30) at San Diego Padres (19-22)

Three game series: Monday, May 15-Wednesday, May 17 from Petco Park in San Diego, CA

Royals: 4.12 runs scored/game (24th in MLB), 5.55 runs allowed/game (28th)

Padres: 3.93 runs scored/game (25th), 4.17 runs allowed/game (12th)

The offense has struggled to score run, largely due to the second-worst batting average in baseball. But they have been snakebitten by a low BABIP of .274 which suggests some bad luck, and they have the second-worst OPS in baseball with runners in scoring position. They have the second-best walk rate in baseball, and are one of the best baserunning teams in baseball.

Fernando Tatis Jr. returned to the lineup three weeks ago after an 80-game suspension for PEDs, and he hasn’t seemed to miss a beat. But star third baseman Manny Machado has gotten off to a slow start, and the team has gotten zero offensive production from the catcher position, which is now thin after an injury to Luis Campusano. The infield has played very well defensively this year, while the outfield has been below average with the glove.

Expected Padres lineup and bench

Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
RF Fernando Tatis Jr. (R) 98 5 3 .283 .327 .500 0.9
3B Manny Machado (R) 168 5 2 .232 .280 .374 0.4
LF Juan Soto (L) 181 7 3 .255 .403 .483 1.5
SS Xander Bogaerts (R) 174 6 4 .265 .356 .430 1.8
1B Jake Cronenworth (L) 166 3 2 .216 .327 .367 0.3
DH Matt Carpenter (L) 96 3 0 .203 .316 .392 0.0
2B Ha-Seong Kim (R) 139 4 6 .221 .312 .369 0.7
CF Trent Grisham (L) 154 4 0 .206 .320 .382 0.2
C Austin Nola (R) 95 1 0 .148 .250 .210 -0.5
C Brett Sullivan (L) 31 1 0 .167 .194 .333 0.0
IF Roughned Odor (L) 48 1 0 .140 .229 .256 -0.1
OF Adam Engel (R) 0 0 0 - - - -
DH Nelson Cruz (R) 92 3 1 .258 .272 .427 0.0

Michael Wacha landed a surprising four-year $32 million deal with the Padres last winter, and while he’s been useful this year, his velocity is down significantly. He has given up just four runs over his last three starts, and despite having one of the highest flyball rates, he has not given up many home runs.

Right-hander Seth Lugo has been a swingman the last few years and attracted some interest from the Royals last winter, but he has excelled as a starter this year for the Padres. The 33-year old relies on cutters and sinkers to yield a groundball rate of 47.1 percent this year

Yu Darvish continues to pitch well at age 36 and has gone 6+ innings in five of his seven starts this year. The right-hander throws a a lot of strikes and is fourth among all starting pitchers in called strikes with a deep arsenal of pitches that includes a four-seamer, sweeper, slider, cutter, splitter, sinker, and curveball.

The Royals have not officially announced that Daniel Lynch will start on Wednesday, but after three rehab starts in the minors it would appear that he might be ready for his 2023 MLB debut. If he can’t go, expect the Royals to go with the same strategy they employed Friday with Josh Taylor used as an opener and Max Castillo getting the bulk of the innings.

Expected pitching matchups

Monday, May 15 - 8:40 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Monday, May 15 - 8:40 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Brad Keller 4.31 5.39 39.2 6.6 7.3 0.0
RHP Michael Wacha 4.82 4.13 37.1 7.2 2.9 0.6
Tuesday, May 16 - 8:40 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Brady Singer 7.71 5.01 39.2 8.4 3.2 0.2
RHP Seth Lugo 3.18 3.95 39.2 8.2 2.0 0.7
Wednesday, May 17 - 3:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
LHP Daniel Lynch - - 0 - - -
RHP Yu Darvish 3.16 3.58 42.2 9.9 3.0 1.0

Padres relievers have been middle-of-the-road as a group with 4.03 ERA and 4.55 FIP. All-Star closer Josh Hader is back to his old self with the seventh-lowest reliever ERA after a rough 2022 season. Nick Martinez was demoted to the bullpen simply because there was no room for him in the rotation - the 32-year old has given up one run in seven relief appearances. Brent Honeywell has been a nice reclamation story. He was once one of the top prospects in baseball with the Rays, but had his career derailed by injuries.

Padres bullpen

Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
LHP Josh Hader 1.06 2.59 17.0 12.2 3.7 0.7
RHP Nick Martinez 2.97 4.26 36.1 7.7 3.7 0.4
RHP Steven Wilson 3.79 4.88 19.0 11.4 5.7 0.0
LHP Tim Hill 3.50 6.30 18.0 5.5 2.0 -0.3
RHP Luis Garcia 5.74 3.04 15.2 8.0 4.0 0.3
RHP Brent Honeywell 3.97 5.15 22.2 7.9 3.6 -0.2
LHP Tom Cosgrove 0.00 3.07 4.1 4.2 2.1 0.1

Money can generate excitement in a fanbase, but it can’t buy wins. Padres fans are fired up like they haven’t been in a generation, but ultimately the team will have to live up to their price tag on the field.


How will the Royals fare this series against the Padres?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Royals sweep 3-0
    (5 votes)
  • 10%
    Royals take 2 of 3
    (18 votes)
  • 47%
    Padres take 2 of 3
    (86 votes)
  • 39%
    Padres sweep
    (71 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now