Padres hit crossroads after Quantrill, bats falter

Three potential solutions to enhance offense, starting staff

May 20th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres capped a disappointing week with a disheartening realization: Despite their hot start -- and the excitement that came along with it -- they’ve now dropped below .500 for the first time in 2019.

Cal Quantrill was roughed up for four runs in the first inning of Sunday’s series finale against the Pirates. Hunter Renfroe did his best to bring San Diego back, swatting a three-run homer to straightaway center in the seventh. But with a 6-4 loss, the Friars fell to 23-24, having dropped three straight and six of seven.

“It’s everybody’s belief we’ve got to get it going, we’ve got to find a way,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer. “It’s simply not happening right now. … We’ve got to find a way to do it.”

The Padres, of course, have spent most of the past decade below .500. And while their future seems bright, they're desperately trying to buck that trend this year.

In that sense, the 2019 Padres might be at a crossroads. The division-rival D-backs come to town this week before San Diego heads out on a six-game trip to Toronto and New York. To get things back on track, the Friars will need to come up with solutions to two integral questions:

Where does the rest of the offense come from?
The Padres are getting offensive production from Hosmer, Manny Machado and Franmil Reyes. The rest of their offense has been dismal. Take a look at the May splits:

Machado, Hosmer and Reyes: .311/.358/.546
Everyone else (pitchers not included): .215/.275/.369

Clearly, there are some foundational pieces in place. But the Padres need a lot more production from outside the middle of their lineup.

Three potential solutions

1. Call up Luis Urias: The Padres haven't gotten nearly enough offense at second base this season. That includes Urias' brief big league stint from earlier this year. San Diego second basemen have combined for a 68 wRC+, with Ian Kinsler's struggles taking center stage. Meanwhile, Urias is hitting .333/.422/.748 at Triple-A El Paso, and he appears to be the team's future at second base. The Padres want to make certain Urias has worked out the kinks in his swing from earlier this season. But his numbers indicate that he might have already done so.

2. Change strategies at catcher: It's possible to win with a light-hitting, defense-first catcher. But the Padres' lineup has so many holes elsewhere, maybe it would get a boost from shaking things up behind the plate. Austin Hedges owns a .163/.241/.296 slash line this season. He's been better offensively in the past, but never above average. In prospects Francisco Mejia and Austin Allen, San Diego has bat-first options who might benefit from an extended run of big league playing time.

3. Get healthy: Ok, duh. The Padres -- like every other team in baseball -- would be better off if they had a roster of healthy players available. But they desperately need Fernando Tatis Jr. back atop their lineup. And they could also use the lefty-hitting Franchy Cordero and Travis Jankowski to help their platoon options in the outfield.

How can the Padres' rotation possibly hold up?
San Diego's rotation surprised everybody with its quick start. But it might be coming back down to earth. Nick Margevicius was hit hard Saturday before he was optioned to Double-A Amarillo. Quantrill allowed five runs in five innings Sunday.

Both Chris Paddack and Matt Strahm will have their workloads monitored as the year progresses, and there are serious questions about the back end of the starting five.

“Guys are going to rise up and win those jobs,” Green said. “That’s ultimately what we want to see guys do -- pitch really well, so we can go and win Major League Baseball games. Who it is that earns that, we’ll find out in time.”

Three potential solutions

1. Trade/sign a free agent: The Padres didn’t make a meaningful addition to their rotation during the offseason because they wanted a look at some of their young starting pitchers. They’ve gotten their look. In some cases -- like with Paddack and Strahm -- they’ve been excellent. In others, not so much. By now it’s clear -- if it wasn’t already -- that the Friars need more starting pitching depth. Dallas Keuchel remains available in free agency, though he doesn’t appear to be on San Diego's radar right now. More likely is a midseason deal for a starting pitcher, preferably one with multiple years of control.

2. Keep the competition open: It’s late March all over again in the Padres’ rotation. At the end of Spring Training, Quantrill, Margevicius and Logan Allen fought for the No. 5 spot. Margevicius won it, and after a strong April, he was optioned Sunday with a May ERA of 8.59. Quantrill had a chance to claim his long-term place in the rotation, and he scuffled, too. After Sunday’s game, Green wouldn’t firmly commit to another start for Quantrill. That might leave the door open for Allen, who worked five innings of one-run ball at Triple-A El Paso on Sunday. The team’s No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Allen owns a 1.00 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings this month.

3. Get healthy: This applies to San Diego's rotation, too. Dinelson Lamet is in line for a lengthy rehab stint as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in April 2018. But he’s facing hitters in extended spring camp, and his presence would give the rotation a serious boost. For all the concern over how the Padres’ rotation might hold up later this season, it’s worth acknowledging that Lamet -- a breakout rookie in 2017, with 10.9 K/9 -- might be there to pick up the slack.