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Series Preview: Mariners (16-9) at Padres (12-11)

The Mariners make a brief stop in San Diego to renew their “natural” rivalry.

Cincinnati Reds v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

With their series win over the Angels last weekend, the Mariners have now compiled an 11-2 record on the road this season. They’re scoring almost eight runs a game and have a +30 run differential while away from home. The Mariners have traditionally faced the Padres in interleague play every year despite rotating through the National League divisions each year. In 2017, that tradition changed, with the Rockies taking the place of the Padres once every three years (or when the Mariners are paired with the NL East in interleague play if that’s easier to remember). That means this year’s edition of the Vedder Cup will determine the winner for the next two years since these two teams won’t face each other next year.

At a Glance

Mariners Padres
Mariners Padres
Game 1 Tuesday, April 23 | 7:10 pm
RHP Erik Swanson LHP Nick Margevicius
50% 50%
Game 2 Wednesday, April 24 | 12:40 pm
RHP Félix Hernández RHP Chris Paddack
46% 54%
Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Padres (2018) Mariners (2018) Edge
Overview Padres (2018) Mariners (2018) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 84 (13th in NL) 101 (7th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 48 (4th) -23 (11th) Padres
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 117 (14th) 100 (6th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 82 (1st) 94 (4th) Padres

The Padres have been one of the more fascinating teams to follow the past few years. They’ve spent almost half a billion dollars on free agent contracts over the last two offseasons, bringing in marquee names like Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado. Both were signed while they were on the right side of 30 with the hope that they’d still be in their prime when the Padres stacked farm system started graduating prospects. The Padres have done what almost every other team in baseball has refused to do: start spending money in advance of their planned contention window.

But with so much money tied up in free agent contracts, the clock has started ticking. The Padres have forced themselves into a position where they need to take advantage of the early years in these massive contracts to maximize the value returned. Maybe that’s why they’ve been extremely aggressive with some of their top prospects this year. Fernando Tatís Jr. hasn’t seen any experience above Double-A but he made the Opening Day roster and has impressed as a 20-year-old in the majors. The two pitchers the Mariners will face in this brief series didn’t pitch a single inning at Triple-A before making their major league debuts. Nick Margevicius had only reached High-A last year before making the major league starting rotation this spring. It’s a bold strategy. The Padres are ignoring service time concerns in favor of real major league experience, hoping that the talent of these prospects will carry them to success.

Padres Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Fernando Tatís Jr. SS R 394 0.370 133
Manuel Margot CF R 519 0.281 81 -1.4
Manny Machado 3B R 709 0.304 141 1.2
Wil Myers LF R 343 0.327 107 3.7
Eric Hosmer 1B L 677 0.302 95 -4.2
Franmil Reyes RF R 285 0.345 129 -0.3
Ian Kinsler 2B R 534 0.25 87 0.8
Austin Hedges C R 326 0.280 90 -1.6
All stats from 2018; Tatís’s stats from Double-A

With Manny Machado now in the fold, Wil Myers was once again displaced from a position he had settled into for the second season in a row. The Padres have moved him back to the outfield where he started his career. Of course, that means they’ve got a glut of interesting outfielders they need to juggle. Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are both former top prospects who have taken the long route towards panning out. Franmil Reyes burst onto the scene late last year with massive power and little else. The Padres are juggling these four players through the three outfield spots.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Nick Margevicius

135 26.0% 3.0% 6.5% 37.5% 3.60 2.45
Stats combined from Single-A and High-A

In some ways, Nick Margevicius reminds me of Mike Leake. As I noted above, he didn’t have a single inning of experience above High-A before making the leap into the majors. A seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft, his excellent fastball command has helped him fly through the Padres organization. Across four levels in two years, his combined minor league walk rate was just 3.3% helping him post an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8.3. The funny thing is his raw stuff just isn’t all that impressive. His fastball averages 88 and tops out at 91 but he’s able to get whiffs with it because it has an above average amount of rise. He also throws two different breaking balls, a slow slider and a slower curveball, and both generate excellent whiff rates and ground ball rates. Despite the underwhelming stuff on the surface, his command of his entire repertoire has helped him post an impressive 3.75 FIP in 20 major league innings this year.

RHP Chris Paddack

90 35.3% 2.4% 6.2% 45.3% 2.10 1.54
Stats combined from High-A and Double-A

Chris Paddack is another quick mover, though his timeline was delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2017. Like Margevicius, Paddack has elite command of his three-pitch repertoire. His combined minor league walk rate was even lower than Margevicius’s at just 3.0% and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was an otherworldly 11.5. His fastball is a bit better too, averaging 94 mph with even more rise. But his best pitch is a changeup that comes in 10 mph slower than his fastball. His changeup is so good that he doesn’t really need to use his third pitch, a curveball, all that often. With two plus pitches and elite command, his ceiling is much higher than Margevicius’s. He’s posted a 3.35 FIP in 20 innings this year.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 16-9 0.640 -- L-W-W-W-L
Astros 13-9 0.591 1.5 L-W-L-L-L
Rangers 12-9 0.571 2.0 W-L-W-W-L
Athletics 12-13 0.480 4.0 W-L-L-L-W
Angels 9-14 0.391 6.0 L-L-L-W-L

Houston lost their weekend series in Arlington and started off their series against the Twins with a loss yesterday. That three game losing streak helped the Mariners retake the division lead. After their strong weekend, the Rangers lost the first game of their series in Oakland. The Angels also lost yesterday in an extra-inning affair against the Yankees. They’ve now lost eight of their last ten games.