Top Notes From the San Diego Padres ZiPS Projections for 2024

Last year, the San Diego Padres fell short of expectations. Let's see what ZiPS has to say about their chances for the upcoming season.

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 06: Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres stands in at-bat during a Spring Training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 6, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

The downfall of the San Diego Padres has been so difficult to watch over the past year or so.

A team filled with so much promise and so many superstar-caliber names limped to the finish line in last year’s standings with an 82-80 record; that’s not exactly how you want to follow up a 2022 campaign in which you made it all the way to the NLCS.

This offseason has been a tough one for the Friars. Chairman Peter Seidler passed away and financial issues began to creep up and loom over the organization like a shadow. Diamond Sports Group’s declaration of bankruptcy in March 2023 has had some long-lasting effects on the Padres’ payroll, which has led to some tough discussions for the direction of the organization.

Trading away Juan Soto, who will earn $31 million in his final year of arbitration, was the first major step in a slashing of payroll. It’s going to be interesting to see how the upcoming season shakes out now that he’s been traded away and the financial uncertainty isn’t going away.

Ad – content continues below

ZiPS is a player projection system created by stat guru and FanGraphs writer Dan Szymborski. It has been around for 20 years now and remains one of the best and most accurate prediction tools.

ZiPS is a system of player projections developed by FanGraph’s Dan Szymborski… ZiPS uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. On FanGraphs, the projections are updated daily and predict each player’s numbers over the course of the remainder of the season… Obviously, no one is claiming that every ZiPS prediction will come true, but it is widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry.” on sZymborski Projection System (ZiPS)

Szymborski has now released his annual projections for all 30 clubs, and here at Just Baseball, we’ve begun to cover what the 2024 season could look like for each team, according to ZiPS. Let’s dive in and see what the system has to say about the San Diego Padres.

Padres ZiPS: Position Players

Behind franchise cornerstones like Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado, things are not looking good for the Padres.

  • Fernando Tatis Jr. will reach a whole new level – ZiPS has Tatis looking more like his 2021 self than he did in 2023. While his 25 home runs, 78 RBI and 113 OPS+ last year were nothing to scoff at, ZiPS sees a bright future for him. The 32 doubles, 36 home runs, 101 RBI and 26 stolen bases he’s projected to put up should put him squarely in the MVP conversation once more.
  • The Jake Cronenworth comeback is upon us – Yes, you read that right. Cronenworth is projected to once again be an above-average hitter. Last year, he hit just .229 with a 92 OPS+ across 127 games. ZiPS has him pegged for 64 RBI, a major improvement from the 48 he had in 2023. He’s also predicted to post an OPS+ of 106, putting him 6% above league average, which is closer to what he’s used to.
  • The bench could really, really use some work – As of right now, Roster Resource thinks the Padres’ bench will consist of Kyle Higashioka, Eguy Rosario, Bryce Johnson and Ă“scar Mercado. Not one of them is projected to be even league average at the plate. Johnson and Mercado are non-roster invitees, so they’re not locks to make the Opening Day roster. It’s clear that a change is necessary.

Padres ZiPS: Pitching Staff

Generally speaking, the Padres are viewed as a club that has more offensive prowess than any pitchers of note. ZiPS is understandably unsure of what to expect from Joe Musgrove after his late-season shoulder surgery.

Starting Pitchers

  • The bottom half of the rotation will be as unreliable as it looks on paper – This is primarily about Pedro Avila, who is currently projected to be the Padres’ fourth starter (per Roster Resource). Avila has looked promising in brief spurts over the past four years, but ZiPS has him taking a step back in 2024. According to the projections, he’s good for a 4.53 ERA with around half of his appearances coming out of the bullpen.
  • Yu Darvish is going to look more like his old self – Over the past few seasons, Darvish has shown some telltale signs of aging. He’s already 37 years old and has had an ERA+ under 100 in two of the past three years. ZiPS predicts his ERA will come down from 4.56 to a much more respectable 3.96. It’s still not quite the “ace” stuff that he’s shown in the past, but beggars can’t be choosers.
  • There’s a new King on the throne – The inevitable loss of Blake Snell is going to be hard to swallow for the Padres. However, Michael King, one of the pieces acquired in exchange for Soto, is going to fill that spot in the rotation nicely. ZiPS has the right-hander as more of a swingman, making 45 appearances with just 7 of them being starts, but he’s projected to have a 3.49 ERA with close to 12 strikeouts per nine innings.

Relief Pitchers

While King is erroneously labeled as a reliever by ZiPS, the rest of the true relief corps isn’t looking great for the 2024 Padres.

  • No established closer in the mix – As of right now, Robert Suarez is penciled in as the Padres’ closer. Last year he had an ERA in the low-to-mid-4.00s in 26 outings, and ZiPS has him tabbed to do essentially the same in the upcoming season. Thankfully, his strikeout rate is projected to increase, and he’s in line for 22 saves in 40 outings.
  • ZiPS isn’t sold on new acquisition Wandy Peralta The Padres gave the lefty reliever a four-year, $16.5 million guarantee, but ZiPS has him putting up a 4.41 ERA in the first year of that deal. That’s a big step back from his 2.96 ERA over the past three seasons.
  • Some of the newcomers are going to be key contributors – Jeremiah Estrada, claimed from the Cubs earlier this winter, is projected to punch out nearly 11 batters per nine innings and post a 4.29 ERA in 36 outings. His projected K/9 ranks second on the club, trailing only King. Enyel De Los Santos, a trade acquisition, looks to be the team’s most leaned-on reliever, projected for a sub-4.00 ERA in 61 outings.

Padres ZiPS: Final Thoughts

The Padres seem destined for another third place – or worse – finish in the NL West. With the Dodgers improving and the Diamondbacks fresh off of a World Series appearance, the other clubs are in danger.

Ad – content continues below

Tatis, Machado and Bogaerts will be the best of the bunch, but there is little to be excited about beyond those three. With payroll concerns hanging over the team, it’s not like there are going to be any major additions between now and Opening Day.

Ditto for the pitching staff. The club has added two starters and five relievers to their projected 2024 roster, but almost none of them will provide the value needed to replace what’s been lost.

It just feels like the Padres and their fans are going to be in for a long, long season. All we can do now is hope that the ZiPS projections don’t come true for most of the team.