Reflections on the Dawn of Preller
I don’t think I need to convince anyone of the upside the Padres have added this offseason.
If Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Matt Kemp produce at the same level as they did in 2014, they will be better than any Padres offensive top three since 2004, when Mark Loretta, Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin all notched a 129 wRC+ or higher.
If Will Middlebrooks can turn himself around, he could provide as much offensive value as Pablo Sandoval did in 2014 (111 wRC+), while providing adequate defense.
Wil Myers clearly has the ability to be an All Star and produced near that level in the big leagues during his rookie season. Many attribute his down sophomore campaign to nagging injuries, and even typically conservative projection systems like Steamer, which can’t truly account for injuries, think he’ll bounce back significantly.
It’s obvious that this Padres roster has the potential to go to the postseason and it’s important to acknowledge that upside. But it’s equally important to acknowledge the risk associated with this upside.
Kemp has arthritic hips and his defensive stats caved in last season, even as he got better and better at the dish as the season wore on. And we had to give up some serious upside in Yasmani Grandal in order to bring him into the fold.
Norris was bad after the All Star break. As his BABIP regressed to the mean, his BB% was cut nearly in half and his ISO dropped over 100 points.
Middlebrooks and Myers may have produced the best seasons of their careers as rookies, and may never recapture their initial success, with the league having built an effective scouting report against them.
Upton stands a good chance of being a free agent at season’s end.
AJ Preller knows there is risk, but decided to take it on, in order to put together a roster with meaningful upside. The aggressiveness of the terraforming he has undertaken with the Padres forces us to see that he is not afraid to do so. And to me, that’s the real success of the Padres offseason.
Prior to what I have dubbed the Dawn of Preller (the flurry of activity AJ unleashed on the baseball world), the Padres had been obsessed with retaining as many safe, low ceiling players as possible, on the off chance that one of them might surprise us all by producing more than expected. Players like Jace Peterson, Joe Weiland and Reymond Fuentes were sure bets to be utility players, fifth starters and fourth outfielders with a slim chance to be slightly better than that, and that used to scare the Padres away from trading them.
Even scarier to part with were the prospects that had a chance to be above average because of their natural ability, but whom had never actually produced at any level. Players like Dustin Peterson and Max Fried would never have been traded for high upside talent, because of the remote chance they would figure out how to actually succeed in the game, instead of just impressing with raw ability and good bodies.
Regardless of how the team produces on the field this year, and regardless of whether Max Fried becomes a number two starter some day, Preller has demonstrated that he is not afraid of doing what is necessary (not just what is ideal) to generate a roster of major league talent with significant potential.
The end result is that now we get to worry about whether players like Myers, Kemp, Norris, Upton and Middlebrooks will do it again, or keep doing what they are doing, instead of wondering if players like Mallex Smith and Jake Bauers will ever do it at all.
That’s a damn good trade and a sign that the Dawn of Preller is truly upon us.