The Padres completed a trifecta of offseason trades to completely remake their outfield, acquiring Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves for a package of prospects including pitcher Max Fried, centerfielder Mallex Smith, left fielder Dustin Peterson and infielder Jace Peterson. This trade comes on the heels of a three-way trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals to acquire outfielder Wil Myers and the deal with the Dodgers that netted them veteran outfielder Matt Kemp. The Padres have been very active during this offseason, essentially tearing down their roster and remaking the team into a potential contender in 2015 under newly minted GM A.J. Preller. Of course, as Fantasy owners all we really care about is what the future Fantasy value of the new Padres outfield might look like, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
There were some very encouraging signs from Kemp during 2014, as we saw the return of at least some of the power we came to love during his early career. It was also good to finally see a mostly healthy season from Kemp, who played 150 games this past season, the most he’s played in a season since 2011. The first half of the year initially looked like a continuation of the past few seasons, as Kemp only managed a .269/.330/.430 triple slash with eight home runs in 336 plate appearances. However, as summer heated up so did Kemp, and over the second half he bashed 17 round trippers and bolstered his numbers to .309/.365/.606 to finish the season at .287/.346/.507, which very closely mirrors his career averages.
Of course, Petco Park carries the reputation of being a terrible park for hitters, but Kemp has hit fairly well as a visitor in San Diego over the course of his career with a .322/.372./.495 line and seven home runs in 234 PA. However, it is notable that he has zero home runs there over the last two seasons. Still, using the Home Run Tracker tool and overlaying all 25 of Kemp’s True HR landing spots within the dimensions of Petco Park, he would still have ended up with at least 23 dingers last season. So Kemp’s power should continue to play well in San Diego. Now that his once ailing shoulders have healed completely, it appears we can be confident in his power going forward. Unfortunately, his days as a prolific base stealer are over, which shouldn’t be a surprise given his age (30) and the many injuries he’s had to his hamstrings and ankles. He did manage to steal eight bases in 2014, though, so we might see 10-12 from him in 2015 if his good health continues and his ankles are strengthened further during this offseason. Overall, his value probably remains about the same next season, especially if the Padres’ makeover successfully builds the lineup around Kemp.
Depending on how Wil Myers continues to develop as a power hitter, he could end up being the real gem among this new trio of Padres outfielders. All through his minor league career, it was Myers’ raw power that made him the top prospect he once was. However, it’s now been a couple of years since we’ve seen him truly display elite level power. His rookie season was quite good. He put up a .293/.354/.478 triple slash and hit 13 HRs in just 373 PA in 2013. Injuries galore completely derailed his development in 2014, and his six HRs in 361 PA along with his .222/.294/.320 line was a disappointment across the board.
The good news is that he is still just 24 years old, so there is plenty of opportunity and time for him to rebound from his lost 2014 and regain his status among the elite. Myers has been compared favorably to Matt Kemp in terms of raw power and hitting talent, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he assumes Kemp’s former mantle as a premier power hitter despite the move to Petco. As we saw with the above Home Run Tracker tool, right-handed power plays pretty well in Petco Park. It’s too soon to say whether Myers will be a 30 HR hitter and he doesn’t have Kemp’s speed, but there is no reason to think he won’t be among the top outfielders in the not too distant future. The only question is whether it will happen in 2015. I really liked Myers as a breakout candidate in 2014 and he disappointed me. However, if he hits the road running and hits well in spring training, I won’t hesitate to project that breakout season again. Myers is already a Top 30 outfielder but the potential is there to be an overall Top 30 player.
As recently as 2012, Justin Upton was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now he returns to the NL West division as a member of the San Diego Padres. The knock on Upton when he was with Arizona was that he underachieved and easily should have batted .300 with more than 30 HRs every season. Yet, he batted .300 just once (2009) and exceeded 30 HRs just once (31 in 2011) during his five seasons there. The Braves traded for Upton in 2013, hoping that a change of scenery and being united with his brother B.J would motivate him to realize his vast potential. While he put together two very solid productive seasons in Atlanta, he still fell well short of expectations. Over those two seasons he amassed a .267/.348/.478 triple slash with 56 HRs, 172 RBI and 171 runs scored in 1284 PA. However, he is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2015 season and the Braves decided that he wasn’t going to be in their long term plans, so they traded him to the Padres for a haul of four prospects.
It’s apparent that the Padres did a solid job of targeting players whose bats will play well at Petco because Upton has enjoyed a career line of .291/.359/.541 there with 10 HRs in 172 PA. Once again, using the Home Run Tracker tool and overlaying Upton’s 56 HRs over the last two seasons on the dimensions of Petco Park, we find that at least 54 of those dingers would have cleared the fences there. So again, there is no reason to think that Upton will see a drop off in production with the move to San Diego. When you consider that he is in the midst of his prime hitting years as a 27-year-old, it’s apparent that we can expect another very productive season from Upton, who is already among the Top 30 hitters in Fantasy Baseball. Upton’s Fantasy value remains solid with this move.
The bottom line here is that the Padres have acquired two hitters with a solid resume of being among the better hitters in the game and a third with the potential to join them as soon as this coming season. Fantasy players have typically shunned Padres’ outfielders due to Petco Park’s reputation for suppressing power. Yet the data clearly shows that the right-handed power that all three of these outfielders possess will be well supported in San Diego, making them all players to be targeted in drafts in the spring. Fantasy owners should try to perpetrate the Petco power suppression myth, though, in an effort to convince their opponents otherwise. That will set them up to reap the benefits that the Padres clearly expect to realize.