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Who Would the Padres Protect in an Expansion Draft?

Photo: © Keeton10 | Dreamstime.com

Just recently, the NHL completed an expansion draft to fill the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights.  Each team was allowed to protect a certain number of players and also the ability to pull back more once a player was chosen from its roster.

It got me thinking about the Padres and who they might protect were this to happen in MLB. Obviously, I’m not going to sit and come up with a list of 15 names as that might be too easy. Instead, let’s narrow it down to an apocalyptic scenario. Let’s say that the powers that be mandated that each team was only allowed to protect two players from the entire system. Rules would stipulate that this would also not include those drafted in 2017 or 2016 nor would it include those players acquired during the last two international signing periods. Still, some of the Padres’ best prospects would be exposed in addition to the entire 25 man roster.

Who would be the smartest two players to keep?

Well, let’s try and whittle this down a bit. I’m not keeping anyone in the minor leagues because due to the fickle nature of prospects, I’m not going to spend my two spots on players that have never seen a Clayton Kershaw slider, especially given our stipulations. So this leaves me at the current 25 man roster.

There are no pitchers that are worth keeping right now, as the best probably option (Brad Hand) is a reliever, so we’re likely down to the batters. Since we don’t really want to hang onto a bench player, we can look at the starting eight or at least those with the most plate appearances at the positions, and realistically, you can narrow this down even further.

We have to choose from Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot, Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe.

In order to do this, I’m going to look at the three biggest parts of player evaluation today: offense, defense and contract situation. Being people who analyze the team from the outside, we aren’t truly able to get a read on things like clubhouse presence, leadership, etc., so we’re going to bypass those intangibles for now and look at cold, hard data and eliminate players one by one, almost Survivor-style (the kids still watch that right? It’s still on, right?)

*All stats through June 30

Offense

Player AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA wRC+ BABIP BB% K%
Hedges .216/.262/.405 .282 73 .259 5.5% 29.0%
Margot .269/.317/.393 .306 89 .323 6.9% 20.2%
Myers .260/.337/.483 .347 116 .328 10.1% 29.0%
Renfroe .228/.288/.457 .314 94 .263 7.0% 26.5%

First of all, the underwhelming nature of these numbers would at first blush make a prospective franchise glance right over these choices, but we do have to factor in other numbers as well, mostly their ages. Hedges, Margot, Myers and Renfroe are 24, 22, 26 and 25 respectively.

All of them are still growing into their own offensive profile, making these slash lines an incomplete product; yet of all of them, Myers is probably the closest to a finished product, which would probably mean you are getting a power hitting first baseman with a slugging percentage close to .500 that is also capable of drawing steady stream of walks. Now, patience isn’t exactly a virtue among the other three with everyone striking out at a high clip. Based off of this, you’d think that Hedges would be the one who would be gone off of our expansion island as his numbers with the bat simply aren’t acceptable. However, that’s why we have other factors to consider, such as defense. So, no one is being left off the island just yet.

Defense

DRS UZR/150 FRAA Framing Runs Throwing Runs
Hedges 0 n/a 8.2 6.8 0.6
Margot 0 -0.9 -1.4 n/a n/a
Myers -4 -14.3 1.6 n/a n/a
Renfroe -2 -19.2 -4.0 n/a n/a

Austin Hedges is one of the best defensive catchers in the game.  He commands the pitching staff with excellence, saving a shade over 8 runs with his framing alone (good for 5th in baseball).  Additionally, he eliminates the running game (he’s thrown out 33% of would be basestealers) and rates well in most advanced catching categories.

Meanwhile, the others are pretty much a train wreck. Margot seems to be just a fraction below average in most categories but does get extra credit for playing in such a spacious center field.  Renfroe has been horrible with the glove and were it not for a cannon attached to his right arm (he’s tied with Bryce Harper for the league lead in right field assists with six), he probably wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the leather. Myers is a mixed bag. Some stats, such as UZR/150, see him a well below first baseman while BP’s Fielding Runs Above Average sees him as slightly above average. This all goes to the fickle nature of fielding stats, but judging off of this, Renfroe’s profile gets knocked down a pretty large peg while Hedges gets some credit back. From this, we’re going to eliminate Renfroe as a keeper option since he might wind up a DH in the future.

Contract

Let’s jump now to something incredibly important to a low budget team like San Diego: contract situation.

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Hedges Lg min Lg min Lg min ARB1 ARB2 ARB3 FA
Margot Lg min Lg min Lg min ARB1 ARB2 ARB3 FA
Myers $4.5M $4.5M $5.5M $22.5M $22.5M $22.5M (S20M)

Each one has six years of team control remaining;  although, Myers is the only player here with guaranteed money on his contract. While that money in 2020-2022 might seem like an exorbitant amount to a team like the Padres, relative to what the money is in the game today, it’s not an absurd amount.  Yet, the reason I wouldn’t take Myers on this kind of contract is that we pretty much know what he is and what his value to the team is.

We do not know yet what Hedges or Margot could become, but we do have an idea based on their backgrounds in the minor leagues, flashing the type of tantalizing potential that we cannot wait to see what they become. Plus, as the pattern has been in the game today, if they both begin to scratch the surface of what they are capable of doing, the team will probably lock them down to a team friendly extensions before they reach arbitration or soon thereafter. Those extensions put together might equal what Myers alone will make over the same period of time.

The Decision

You can probably see where I am heading with his. If the league were to hold an expansion draft where each team were only able to protect two players, my choices would be Austin Hedges and Manuel Margot.

Hedges may not be much with the bat right now, but he is so good defensively that any offense he does give is almost a bonus. Being able to almost single-handedly improve a pitching staff that lacks much in the way of talent is almost immeasurable – just ask Cardinals fans. Plus, as he’s shown in the minors, he is able to hit…it might just might take some time.

Margot has flashed tremendous skills in his rookie season, suggesting that the hype that has followed him all the way from Boston could be completely justified. Having a slightly below average bat at his age is perfectly acceptable, especially with the defensive capabilities he has shown as well.

Myers might be the best of the trio with the bat, but his limited defensive ability would tie down a position that the team might want to move someone to in the near future if they wanted to ensure a defensively challenged, highly productive bat that were coming up in the system had a spot in the lineup. These might not be the most popular choices, but it’s who I would choose.

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