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Projections and Predictions for the Second Half

Photo: © Keeton10 | Dreamstime.com

With the Padres getting back into action tonight, we’re closer to the end of the season than we are to the start.  Instead of looking forward to the uncertainty of the trade deadline, let’s take a look at the uncertainty of October.  The Padres play their last game on October 1st, an away game against the same San Francisco Giants they’ll face tonight.

When the final out is recorded, it’s pretty certain that neither team will be making the playoffs.  This wasn’t the plan (at least for the Padres), so the big question is how will the pieces that will make up the next good Padres team have progressed?

There are lots of ways to measure progress, but let’s take a look at a few key stats for a few key players, and project them out for the rest of the year.  Then, we’ll take a look at the team as a whole and make a few more predictions.

 

Austin Hedges Current Home Run Count: 13

Austin Hedges Projected Home Run Count: 24

Austin Hedges has been a joy to watch behind the plate this year.  Baseball Prospectus has him as the fourth best framer in the league (8.2 Framing Runs) and the sixth best defensive catcher in the league (9.5 Fielding Runs Above Average).  A patchwork pitching staff has managed to not be as bad as previously thought, and Hedges is likely a big factor.

The big surprise this year has been the power he’s flashed at the plate.  While he’s hitting just .218 with a 29.3% strikeout rate, his .418 slugging percentage with 13 home runs has been a pleasant surprise.  So, will he keep up his homer pace and end with a career-high 24?

I’ll take the under.  He’ll still finish with more than 20, which, combined with his elite defense, should be considered a good season for the young catcher.  He is very streaky, though, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get on a hot streak and reach 24 the last week of September.

 

Wil Myers Current Strikeout Count: 109

Wil Myers Projected Strikeout Count: 200

With a decent but not great .255/.331/.466 hitting line, Wil Myers has put together a paltry 0.5 WAR and a slightly above average 110 wRC+.  His walk rate (9.9%) is right on track with his career average, but his strikeout rate has skyrocketed.  In his first (abbreviated) year with San Diego, it was 21.7%, and then climbed to 23.7% in 2016.  This year, it is resting at an even 30%.

While his BABIP isn’t terrible by any stretch (.330), cutting back on the strikeouts and putting more balls into play would be a great step for him.  Only two hitters struck out more than 200 times last year – Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Milwaukee’s Chris Carter.  Both provide more power than Myers does, and unless he can cut back on the K’s, he won’t be the player the Padres were hoping he’d be when they extended him back in January.

I don’t think Myers will get to 200.  His strikeout rate was 38.1% his last ten games, and if he is still in the funk he’s in, he could get a few more breathers here and there.  It will probably take a miracle for that strikeout rate to get below 24.9% (his previous career high).

 

Hunter Renfroe Current Walk Count: 22

Hunter Renfroe Projected Walk Count: 41

Hunter Renfroe has 16 homers so far, and it’s possible that he reaches 30 homers on the season.  If he does, he’d be the first Padre to do so since Chase Headley (31) in 2012.  That’s good.

The rest of Renfroe’s season hasn’t been great.  His defense has been called Matt Kemp-esque, and the cannon for an arm that he possesses occasionally misfires.  And even though we knew his walks would be few and far between, it was hoped that his OBP would be more than .287. Surprisingly, he has a higher walk rate (6.5%) than Hedges (5.1%) and Manuel Margot (6.3%), but both make up for it in ways that Renfroe has not been able to yet.

I just deleted a paragraph saying that I thought he’d get more than 41 walks, because, man, I just don’t see it.  While it did take 17 games for him to get his first free pass, his walk rate is buoyed by a solid May, in which he slashed .255/.358/.511 – including a 13.8 walk rate.  Since the beginning of June, however, it’s a depressingly low 3.9% (31 games).  Please prove me wrong, Hunter.

 

How Many Padres Will Finish With A .750+ OPS?

As it stands at the moment, there are just two qualified hitters who have above a .750 OPS mark.  Myers’ struggles at the plate this year have been well documented, and he still has a .796 mark, so we’ll count him.  Yangervis Solarte has a .775 OPS, though being on the disabled list and a possible trade chip may dim his chances to finish at .750+ with the Padres.  Waiving the “qualified”, uh, qualifier, Jose Pírela owns an impressive .821 mark, though he’s played in just 29 games on the season.

Other potential suitors include Renfroe, who has a .737 OPS, though we just spoke of his low OBP and difficulty walking, so it’s hard to choose him here (unless I’m just trying to hedge my bets).  Manuel Margot is being hurt by his .392 slugging percentage, though chances are that it goes up a little as the year wears on.  If Ryan Schimpf is able to fix what’s ailing him in Triple-A, his .703 OPS could get the boost that it needs.

In the end, I’ll go with three: Myers, Solarte, and one of Pírela or Renfroe.  Maybe Schimpf surprises us again.  Or maybe I’ll have to count some pitcher stats (Craig Stammen’s .900 OPS or Trevor Cahill’s .764 OPS) to be able to “get it right”.

 

How Many Padres Will Finish With More Than 1.5 WAR?

Last year, the third worst team in the league had eight players finish with more than 1.5 WAR.

2016 WAR Leaders courtesy of FanGraphs.

As of today, nobody has reached the 1.5 WAR mark yet, but many are close.  Solarte is joined by a handful of pitchers (Jhoulys Chacín, Brad Hand, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill, and Luis Perdomo) who have already reached or exceeded the 1.0 mark.

Myers, Margot, and Hedges are all tied for 10th on the team with 0.5 WAR.  Other newcomers like Pírela (0.7 WAR) and Dinelson Lamet (0.2 WAR) have shown promise.

I’m going to go with seven.  Chacín, Solarte, Richard, and Perdomo are already close, and I don’t believe they’ll be traded.  That leaves me three of a group of Myers, Hedges, Margot, Maurer, Lamet, and whatever dark horse might arise as we hit the home stretch.  At this point, it seems like a long shot that they’d be able to exceed the number of players that hit 1.5 WAR last year, but I don’t think that there will be six that are above 2.0 like last year.

Any predictions you want to challenge, agree with, or add?  Please do so in the comments or on Twitter at @PadsProspectus.