TDG’S TRIPLE PLAY: SAN DIEGO PADRES!
The Triple Play is back for a third season! This regular feature is broken down by staff writers Bob Osgood and Paul Monte and a rotating panel of third writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure! Follow Bob (@BobOsgood15), Paul (@3cardmonte13) and Joe Drake (@JDrake349) on twitter and read their analysis here at the site!
Pitcher: Garrett Richards, Age: 32, Position: SP
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Pick of the litter
With one of the most exciting young pitching staffs in baseball, there was no shortage of pitching options to choose this week. Chris Paddack and his two-pitch repertoire, this season’s preseason draft darling Dinelson Lamet, and several top prospects knocking on the door. You must pay up for Paddack, Lamet’s ADP was so inflated that he would have to have a very good season in order to return value, but one guy stayed quiet in the background, Garrett Richards.
A first-round pick out of the University of Oklahoma in 2009, the 32-year-old right-hander has always been filled with promise. After two years of seasoning in the minor leagues, he made his debut in 2011 with the Angels. 2012 was split between the Triple-A team and the big leagues and he never looked back. Statistically, 2014 was the peak for Richards. A 2.61 ERA paired with a 1.038 WHIP and 164 strikeouts in 168.2 innings. A groundball pitcher, he only gave up 5 home runs the whole season. 2015 was a slight step back as he saw his home run total quadruple and his K% drop but he managed to pitch a career-high 207.1 innings and won 15 games.
These always have a scary part!
Then things took a turn. There would be 147.1 innings pitched over the next four years combined. Elbow issues popped up in 2016 and instead of having Tommy John surgery which was very common at the time, he went with a controversial treatment instead. Richards used stem cell therapy, which had been praised by other high-profile athletes like Rafael Nadal and Peyton Manning. He tried the therapy and rest route and came back ready to pitch in 2017. It was the biceps in 2017 and again he was limited and shut down after 27.2 innings. 2018 was not much better, he did manage 76.1 innings and struck out 87 batters, but the long ball continued to haunt him. The elbow did as well, he finally gave in and elected to have Tommy John surgery effectively ending his career as an Angel.
The Padres took a chance on Richards and looked to the future. They offered him a two-year contract knowing they would get very little from him in the 2019 season. They were banking on 2020 being the year that they could cash in on their investment. They did get a small gift from him in 2019, but it was the kind of gift your high school buddy picked up at the dog park, put it in a brown bag, laid it gently on your porch and lit fire to the edge before ringing your doorbell and sprinting away. 8.2 rusty innings with 8 earned runs and 6 walks. There were 11 strikeouts in those 8.2 innings though, so the hook had its bait for 2020.
I bit, at his price, which was very little or waiver wire territory, he was easily worth the gamble. 2020 has gone fine. His first start at home showcased 5 shutout innings with one hit and 6 strikeouts. The second outing was in Colorado and it was still respectable. A tough matchup with the Dodgers rounds out his 2020 where he sits with an xFIP of 3.86 and 16 strikeouts in 15.2 innings. His HR/9 is sitting at 1.1. There is a lot to like about Richards in a short season. If he can stay healthy, he can be valuable in both K’s and Wins as the Padres seem to have turned the corner. If he can be a solid SP3 or SP4 for the Padres, he could parlay that into a nice payday in 2021 as a free agent.
Hitter: Trent Grisham, Age: 23, Position: OF
Analysis by: Joe Drake
A brief preface before we dive into the writeup: For the uninitiated, Trent Clark and Trent Grisham are the same person. Grisham was previously known as Trent Clark when he was drafted by the Brewers back in 2015 and later changed his last name to Grisham following the 2017 season.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Playing For Pizza
Okay, now that everyone is on the same page, let’s talk about why I think Trent Grisham is an absolute stud. First thing’s first, he’s built like a tank. Baseball Savant lists him at 5’11” and 224lbs — for reference, Saquon Barkley, the NY Giants’ running back, is listed at 5’11”, 233lbs. My man is thick. We’re talking about a strong, athletic thickness in the lower half that allows him to roam centerfield like a puma when he’s not rocketing baseballs from the batter’s box. A beautiful blend of power and speed. If the speed sounds like an overstatement, Trent ranked in the 93rd percentile for sprint speed in 2019 and is currently in the 91st percentile in 2020. Oh, and he’s at the top of the charts for Savant’s Outs Above Average so far this year, too. The speed isn’t just for show, he’s a bona fide centerfielder.
Grisham has also been using that athleticism to impact the baseball in a big way early on in the 2020 season. Keeping with the theme of Baseball Savant percentile rankings, Grisham’s page is a sea of red. He ranks in the 83rd percentile or higher in Exit Velocity (90), xwWOBA (88), xSLG (84), and Barrel% (83). In a nutshell, he’s hitting the ball really hard. His average exit velocity in 2020 sits at a scintillating 92.5MPH and he’s averaging a very homerun-friendly 20.7-degree launch angle. Of course, anyone can peruse Savant or FanGraphs and regurgitate the stat lines, but I say all this to reassure you despite not being the most heralded prospect when he was called up, Trent Grisham is one of the most talented young players in baseball.
A Time for Mercy
If you’re feeling that this is just a “no-name” minor leaguer coming out of nowhere and getting hot for a couple of weeks, I have to disagree. I think there are two main factors that play into Grisham’s seeming like he came out of nowhere. First, he had a pretty unspectacular start to his pro career that included an injury-riddled 2016. Grisham posted wRC+s barely over the century mark (read: barely above average) his first four seasons and posted batting averages in the low .200s with single-digit home runs. Not a recipe for climbing prospect rankings. On top of that, as we discussed previously, he changed his name three years into his pro career. Anyone not following him closely may not have realized that Grisham is the same guy who was selected 15th overall in the 2015 draft.
The talent and the pedigree have always been there, but it wasn’t translating into results on the field. Then, he went back to his old grip (chronicled by the MLB Tonight crew here) and things started taking off for him in 2019. He posted a 150 wRC+ in AA, a 194 wRC+ in AAA, and then broke into the big leagues to close out the year.
Conclusion: The Appeal
I’m all in on rostering Trent Grisham in as many leagues as I can. Yes, I know that the surface stats aren’t the most appealing at the moment (looking at you, .222 batting average), but I LOVE what I’m seeing under the hood. Grisham has an outstanding eye at the plate and I love his approach. Go back and look at his at-bats against Dustin May and Blake Treinen on August 10th. Each pitcher rips a blazing sinking with hellish movement, but Grisham stands in confidently and takes tough pitches with ease. He attacked good pitches when he got them — he roped 2 line drives to the warning track but each was right at Joc Pederson — and worked walks when he didn’t. This is a man who knows exactly what he’s doing at the plate and has the talent and skills to be a star with a little seasoning.
(And kudos to anyone who figures out the theme of my subheadings without googling it!)
Prospect: Gabriel Arias, Age: 20, Position: SS, Level: High-A (2019)
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
The Fathers are Trending Up
As a life-long fantasy baseball player, I was first introduced to the concept of Dynasty Baseball in 2016. Needing to immerse myself in minor league systems for the first time in the year that followed, it was the San Diego Padres system that I frequently came back to. This was a result of the enormous investment they made in their 2016 J2 Class, featuring Adrian Morejon, Luis Patino, Michel Baez, Jeisson Rosario, and Tucupita Marcano, among several others (shoutout to Ralph Lifshitz for chronicling this class in incredible detail over the years). I’ve drafted, traded for, and traded away almost every prospect on that list at some point, and as we’ve entered the new decade, these players are finally entering their 20s and we’re seeing some recent debuts. Throw in the impending debuts of Mackenzie Gore, Taylor Trammell, Luis Campusano, the trade for future stud Trent Grisham (see Joe’s write up above), and, most importantly, snagging Don Orsillo out of Boston’s announcer’s booth, and I wish I could buy stock in the San Diego Padres franchise.
The player from this ’16 group who’s caught my eye over the past year has been 20-year-old shortstop Gabriel Arias. When Arias first came over from Venezuela, it was clear to most that his defensive skills were good enough to make the big leagues but would the bat follow? At 6’1″, 200 lbs, Arias flashed gap power in the early going but it remained to be seen if the home runs would come as they did for a previous slugger who went by Arias at the start of his career.
With only six home runs in his first two full seasons (2017-2018) between Rookie Ball and Low-A, combined with a K-rate hovering around 30%, those concerns were warranted for Gabriel Arias. As he moved up a level in 2019, however, the results all started to improve. Arias’s strikeouts decreased to 25.0% from a 29.6% clip the year before. A .302 / .339 / .470 slash line were easily his bests across the board, but most importantly Arias chipped in 17 home runs, 75 RBI, and even eight steals on 12 attempts, over 120 games played. Again, these strides all occurred in his first appearance at the high-A level, which is a great sign going forward. In terms of what may have changed, Lance Brozdowski had some great footage of the swing change he made entering 2019, likely contributing to his improvements in cutting down the strikeouts.
In addition, the best sign that I saw last year was Arias’s improvement as the season went on, both with OPS and with his Fly Ball Distance. Using the valuable Minor Graphs from Prospects Live, it’s clear that Arias made steady improvements as a hitter all season long, peaking in the final month of the season with his Fly Ball Distance creeping towards an impressive 310-foot average.
A Bit Crowded In Here
Arias was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training back in March and then was put on to the 60-man Player Pool in July at the end of Summer Training. It is a good sign that the Padres value him to use that spot, but even more importantly, this will not be a lost year for Arias in terms of game reps. How the shortstop position unfolds in San Diego remains to be seen. There’s a 21-year-old manning the position named Tatis in the big leagues, already a star of course. 19-year-old CJ Abrams is a top-20 prospect already and plays the same position. Arias has mixed in a handful of games at third base at each level and Abrams likely has the athleticism to move to the outfield. It is just as likely that a trade could occur, specifically with Arias. In terms of value, he shows up most frequently in the 150-250 range on prospect lists, and can likely be traded for on the cheap or as a throw-in this year. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make some offers.
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