Padres hope to build on strides made in 2016

After several veterans were dealt, young players laid foundation for future

Padres hope to build on strides made in 2016

SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres' 2016 campaign came to an end Sunday afternoon, very little about the clubhouse resembled the one from Opening Day.

Big-name veterans like Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton Jr., James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Rodney had all departed via trade. Rookies like Ryan Schimpf, Travis Jankowski and Luis Perdomo had become everyday staples. And prospects like Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Carlos Asuaje had arrived, giving the fan base a brief glimpse into the future.

"To see all the young guys coming up and seeing the Padres' plan they have in place, I think it's something really cool," said San Diego first baseman Wil Myers. "It's something for me, as kind of one of the older guys here, to help establish the culture with [manager Andy Green], I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it. The last 10 games, that's kind of a good preview of what's to come."

Padres will enter '17 with many jobs available

Myers burst onto the scene three years ago with the Rays when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, but he firmly established himself as a star in 2016. His transition to first base couldn't have gone any smoother, and he highlighted his season by representing the hometown team as a starter in the All-Star Game.

Myers connects for 10 dingers

The 2016 season also marked the arrival of Green. And while it's unfair to make any final judgements on Green based on his inaugural year, it's clear his players responded well to the juxtaposition of his even-keel clubhouse demeanor with his intensity from the top step of the dugout.

Ultimately, the Padres were outperformed by the perennial powers of the National League West in 2016. Behind Green, Myers and several of the aforementioned youngsters, San Diego hopes it has a nucleus with which to turn that talent gap around.

Record: 68-94, fifth place, NL West

Defining moment: The Padres made six major trades before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but none was as surprising as the deal that sent Kemp to Atlanta. San Diego acquired Hector Olivera, who was promptly released, but the deal freed up $32 million in salary from the remaining 3 1/2 years on Kemp's deal.

Preller, Green on Kemp trade

More importantly, the trade signified that the Padres were firmly committing to their young outfielders, specifically Renfroe, who could become the right fielder of the future. In fact, San Diego spent a large portion of the second half playing with an outfield comprised entirely of rookies.

The Kemp deal was the last of the Padres' six trades, each of which netted the club young talent. Time will tell whether that talent will play a key role in bringing the club back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

What went right: San Diego had dropped out of contention by early June. But the two months that followed may have proved pivotal for the direction of the franchise, nonetheless.

The Padres made those six major trades. They also owned an MLB-high six of the first 85 picks in the 2016 Draft, and they've already spent more than $65 million in the international market. Among San Diego's Top 30 Prospects, 19 have been acquired since the end of the 2015 season. The list includes top prospect Anderson Espinoza (Drew Pomeranz trade), No. 2 prospect Margot (Craig Kimbrel trade), No. 4 prospect Josh Naylor (Cashner trade) and No. 5 prospect Cal Quantrill (Draft).

On top of the Minor League talent, the Padres also saw a few serious Major League breakthroughs this year. Rookies Schimpf and Jankowski figure to receive NL Rookie of the Year Award votes, and they'll also play key roles on the 2017 team. Perdomo, a Rule 5 Draft pick, wildly exceeded all expectations and figures to be a rotation mainstay for years to come.

Schimpf's clutch go-ahead homer

In the bullpen, San Diego picked up lefty relievers Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter for practically nothing. Buchter was a Minor League free agent and Hand was a waiver claim. The pair combined to form one of the league's most fearsome setup combinations.

What went wrong: It didn't take long for things to head in the wrong direction for the 2016 Padres. Ace right-hander Tyson Ross started on Opening Day -- and he wouldn't pitch again for the rest of the season, because of shoulder inflammation. His repeated comeback attempts consistently hit roadblocks.

Ross' first pitch to Utley

In fact, by the Deadline, San Diego's entire Opening Day starting rotation was gone -- Ross and Colin Rea due to injuries; Shields, Pomeranz and Cashner to trades. Robbie Erlin, Cesar Vargas and Erik Johnson were also ruled out for the year before the midway point because of elbow troubles.

Simply put, the Padres' rotation couldn't handle the loss of eight starting pitchers -- who could? -- and the staff posted its worst numbers since the team moved to Petco Park in 2004.

Offensively, the Friars saw a significant improvement from their struggles of the first two months. But their on-base percentage still lingered around the bottom of the league all season, and it is an area San Diego will need to significantly improve upon going forward.

Biggest surprise: Schimpf, Buchter and Hand are all solid candidates here. But no one envisioned Perdomo developing into a bona fide big leaguer as quickly as he has. When the Padres took Perdomo in the Rule 5 Draft, their plan was to sneak him through a season before returning him to the Minors in 2017, where he'd continue to progress. Instead, Perdomo developed a filthy sinker, and he established himself as the team's best starting pitcher over the second half of the season.

Perdomo goes the distance

Hitter of the year: Myers gets the nod over Yangervis Solarte here, simply because he stayed healthy -- the first time he's done so over an entire big league campaign. Myers took home the NL Player of the Month Award in June, and he was named to his first All-Star team in July. Myers then endured an August swoon, which maybe could have been expected for a young player grinding through his first full season. But things started to turn around again in September. In short, Myers established himself as an offensive piece for San Diego to build around.

"I would love to be one of the guys that kind of started this thing from scratch," Myers said. "I would love to be that guy that really helps this team take the next step. I'm really happy with the offense we have here for the future. I realize we need pitching here. But I really like where this team's going, I like where this franchise is going, and it's going to be an exciting future."

Pitcher of the year: Perdomo was the pitcher of the second half, but Hand takes the award here because of his sustained success. A waiver claim from Miami in the season's opening week, Hand led the NL in appearances and was flat-out dominant against left-handed hitters. So dominant, in fact, he went a month and a half (July 23 to Sept. 10) without a left-handed batter hitting the ball out of the infield against him. Hand served in whatever role the Padres needed -- whether as a long man, setup man or lefty specialist -- and he was effective in all of them.

Hand earns the save

Rookie of the year: It's got to be Schimpf, who didn't hit his first homer until July 1, yet still challenged the franchise's records for home runs by a rookie and by a second baseman. Schimpf gained national notoriety for his remarkable ratio of extra-base hits. His violent-yet-compact swing allowed Schimpf, a 5-foot-9 second baseman, to showcase the type of power typically reserved for hulking first basemen and corner outfielders. With his brilliant second half, Schimpf figures to be a front-runner for a starting job -- most likely at second base -- next season.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.