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Sept. 19, 2017 - Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

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Salutations from San Diego: The Next Great Power

The future was bright in San Diego. Then they signed Eric Hosmer. Now the future is even brighter.

When the thought of traditional National League powers comes to mind, the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants jump off the page. Some could even make an argument for the Chicago Cubs or Cincinnati Reds given those clubs history of success. A franchise who will never come up though is the San Diego Padres.

Sure, the Padres are a relatively newer team; having only been in existence since 1969 compared to the Reds who have been in operation, in one form or another, since the Civil War. The Padres are on such a deserted island in baseball that they are the only organization in the sport that does not share its city with another professional team since the NFL’s Chargers moved to Los Angeles in 2017. It can be easy to forget about San Diego in the baseball lexicon, but they are a power laying in the weeds and waiting to strike.

It is fairly evident that the American League is much more wide open than the National League is. The junior circuit with its loaded between the Yankees, World Champion Astros, perennially contending Indians along with the Red Sox, Angels, and Twins who are vying for the pennant with varying odds.

In the senior circuit, it seems pretty clear cut who the big contenders are. The Dodgers and the Cubs should be heavily favored to hook up in the 2018 Championship Series and possibly the 2019 LCS as well. The Washington Nationals have never won a playoff series and until they do so they cannot be taken seriously. The Giants are becoming a sexy pick, but they lack depth on the bench as well as in the bullpen and farm system, not to mention their “stars” are aging and most, besides Buster Posey, are not as good as the team would like us to think. They will win 78 games or so. The Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals are two interesting teams as are the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. These teams along with a few upstarts will make the National League ultra competitive after 2019 for about a five-year window.

Some of the NL clubs on the rise include the Atlanta Braves with their treasure trove of prospects, the Philadelphia Phillies and more importantly to us the San Diego Padres. The Rockies, Cardinals, Brewers, Braves, Phillies, Padres and Diamondbacks will most certainly join the fray and fill voids left by the rebuilding Pirates, soon to be rebuilding Nationals and the Giants who will be spinning their tires with bad contracts by the time the next decade rolls around. The Padres though with their tremendous young core headlined by Fernando Tatis Jr. along with Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfro and Austin Hedges with veteran talent like Wil Myers could potentially run the senior circuit in the 2020-2025 window.

The city of San Diego is yearning for a winner. It is not the juggernaut-like its older brother in Los Angeles. San Diego is better known for its glorious weather, stunning locations, beautiful people and suburbs like Ranco Penasquitos, Poway, El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and Del Mar made popular by local legend Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton and made world famous by Jim Rome. The city is not known for winning world titles which makes the coming storm of prospects and the promise of finally winning it all that more special for the Padres and San Diego as it rebounds after the departure of the Chargers to Los Angeles.

Some of those prospects made their mark on baseball already in 2017. In his first full season in the majors at age 22, Manuel Margot solidified center field at Petco Park with 128 hits, 18 doubles, 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases. Margot also finished 6th in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Manning right field for the future Padres is Hunter Renfro. Renfro in his first full season at age 25 in 2017 hit 26 home runs with 25 doubles but at the moment lacks plate discipline with 140 strikeouts in 479 plate appearances. He does though have a good throwing arm according to manager Andy Green, accumulating 9 assists last season. Alex Dickerson had a back injury cut short his age 26 season in 2017 but did have 10 homers and 16 doubles in 285 plate appearances. Dickerson’s absence in left field presented an opportunity for27-year-old Jose Pirela who hit .288 with a .347 on-base percentage while adding 10 homers and 25 doubles of his own in 344 plate appearances.

The club also found their catcher of the future in Austin Hedges in 2017. In his age 24 campaign, the backstop collected 18 homers, 17 doubles, and 83 hits. In his age 26 season, utility player Cory Spangenberg added 117 hits with 18 doubles and a .322 OBP. Spangenberg could turn into a nice trade chip as the super prospects enter the majors in 2018 and 2019. At age 25 this past season Padres second baseman Carlos Asuaje smacked 83 hits of his own with a .334 OBP as he also could be a trade piece if not merely a stop gap.

San Diego has some magnificent arms coming up the pipeline. Luis Perdomo made strides in 2017, making 29 starts in his age 24 season while accumulating an 8-11 record with a 4.67 ERA in 163.2 innings pitched. Perdomo had a 1.509 WHIP so there is room for improvement as he walked 65 batters while striking out 118. Dinelson Lamet also improved his stock, starting 21 games in his rookie season. He went 7-8 with a 4.57 ERA in 114.1 innings pitched. Andy Green believes that Lamet has top of the rotation potential and his 1.242 WHIP with 139 strikeouts and only 54 walks back the Padres skipper in that assumption. Pitchers Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi and Jacob Nix are firing up the system and should all see big league time in 2018 if not certainly in 2019.

The Padres have a jewel of a prospect in second baseman Luis Urias who led the Texas League in on-base percentage. With Spangenberg and Asuaje capable of being stopgaps until Urias is completely ready to play every day in the majors, the big league club can afford to let Urias simmer on the farm. It is believed though that Urias will be ready at some point this season though.

If Urias is a jewel, Fernando Tatis Jr is the Hope Diamond of the Padres. At the age of 18, the shortstop had 135 hits with 22 home runs and 27 doubles in 575 plate appearances across Single-A and Double-A. The budding superstar also nabbed 32 stolen bases and 77 walks good for a .379 OBP. Tatis is the #8 prospect according to MLB.com. With the addition of Freddy Galvis at shortstop with the big club who is entering his prime and is a Gold Glove contender, it would appear that San Diego will not rush their young star. It is possible Tatis could move to third base but he has only played a handful of games at the position. The middle of the San Diego defense appears in great hands with Hedges at catcher, Margot in center field and with Urias and Tatis coming shortly.

An up and coming title contender cannot rely on their young studs solely though. The 90’s Yankees had Wade Boggs and Tim Raines among others; the Giants of this decade had Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell. The Padres need that. Some may say that it is Wil Myers, their lone All-Star from the 2016 game at Petco Park, but they need to go bigger than Myers. It has been long rumored that they are interested in a particular first baseman with a World Series ring. On February 19th, the Padres went out and signed that first baseman. Eric Hosmer fits perfectly with this young, talented group as they move into the future. He and Myers serve as the club’s established stars.

With Hosmer joining the fold, San Diego is in a better position than ever to ditch their status as a second class club. With so many talented prospects waiting in the wings, it is only a matter of time until we see a strong group suiting up for the Padres. Who knows what the future will hold? The sky is the limit for the young Padres.

Main Photo: Sept. 19, 2017 – Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

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