The Padres Plan to Voit Early, Voit Often

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

After a relatively tame offseason, the Padres finally were able to close the deal on a transaction, picking up 1B/DH Luke Voit from the Yankees for minor league pitcher Justin Lange. The 31-year-old Voit, a Cinderella story just a few years ago after heading to New York for Giovanny Gallegos, had his worst season in pinstripes in 2021, hitting .239/.328/.437 and limited to 68 games due to a partial meniscus tear in his left knee. A fifth-round pick in 2020, Lange made his professional debut in the Florida Complex League in 2021, striking out a healthy 12 batters per nine over 22 innings but also walking a less-than-healthy six batters per game.

San Diego’s front office has been aware of the team’s significant weaknesses at the offense-first positions, expressing interest in Michael Conforto and Kris Bryant and said to be thick in the hunt for Seiya Suzuki and Freddie Freeman. The only problem is that, similar to their experience at the trade deadline, the Padres have come up short for their efforts. This winter’s only significant outfield pickup, Nomar Mazara, is not exactly who you want to see start a season high on the depth chart if you’re a would-be contender. And with first base and the outfield corners already not strengths, it’s hard to imagine the Padres being happy about the designated hitter becoming universal in 2022, leaving them scrambling to fill another offensive position. There’s no realistic contender, at least according to our projections, that had a less enviable 1B/LF/RF/DH situation.

Team 1B/LF/RF/DH, Depth Chart Projections
Team 1B LF RF DH Total WAR
Pirates 0.7 1.2 0.6 0.6 3.1
Reds 1.9 0.6 0.9 -0.1 3.3
Rockies 1.9 1.0 0.8 0.4 4.1
Padres 1.1 0.4 1.2 1.6 4.3
Athletics 0.8 1.1 2.3 0.2 4.4
Diamondbacks 1.1 1.7 1.2 0.6 4.6
Royals 1.3 2.2 1.6 1.2 6.3
Tigers 2.6 2.0 1.8 0.0 6.4
Rangers 2.4 1.1 1.6 1.4 6.5
Twins 1.5 1.1 3.0 1.0 6.6
Red Sox 1.5 1.8 1.5 2.0 6.8
Orioles 1.9 1.7 1.7 1.5 6.8
Guardians 0.9 1.9 1.6 2.5 6.9
Marlins 1.7 2.1 2.0 1.1 6.9
Brewers 1.2 3.0 1.8 1.0 7.0
Giants 2.5 1.8 1.9 1.1 7.3
Cubs 1.3 2.3 3.6 1.0 8.2
White Sox 2.4 2.6 1.8 1.8 8.6
Rays 1.9 2.8 2.3 2.2 9.2
Braves 4.4 1.8 2.2 1.7 10.1
Mets 3.6 2.3 3.4 0.9 10.2
Cardinals 3.5 3.9 2.5 0.7 10.6
Mariners 2.6 3.4 3.4 1.4 10.8
Phillies 2.8 1.4 4.8 1.8 10.8
Blue Jays 6.0 1.8 1.5 1.8 11.1
Nationals 2.2 0.7 7.0 1.8 11.7
Angels 2.8 3.9 1.8 3.9 12.4
Astros 2.0 2.7 4.9 4.4 14.0
Dodgers 4.7 2.3 5.5 3.1 15.6
Yankees 3.3 4.3 5.9 3.1 16.6

Relative to the Dodgers at these positions, the Friars start off 11 wins in the red. With the team reportedly not feeling all tingly about the possibility of Nick Castellanos and the league’s top trade target here, Matt Olson, already off the board, the Padres were quickly running out of options to chip away at some of this deficit. But the Anthony Rizzo signing provided a new opportunity, as it had the effect of removing any real path for Voit to get playing time in New York.

ZiPS Projection – Luke Voit (DH)
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SB OPS+ DR WAR
2022 .243 .334 .445 346 50 84 14 1 18 57 41 0 113 0 1.4
2023 .242 .333 .439 326 46 79 14 1 16 51 38 0 111 0 1.3
2024 .238 .324 .421 311 41 74 13 1 14 46 34 0 104 0 0.9

I’m projecting Voit as a designated hitter in San Diego, as that’s the role in which he’s the most useful. His best position is sitting on a bench, though he’ll likely see some time at first, especially midseason when the Padres have to decide the precise way they ease Fernando Tatis Jr. into the lineup after his wrist heals up.

Given Voit’s injury history in 2021 and ‘19 (sports hernia), ZiPS is being conservative about playing time. If healthy, these projections suggest a league-average DH if he manages 500 plate appearances. There’s a reasonable case that this lineup was below-average at every big offensive position, so the offensive boost will be welcome. And with three seasons to go until he hits free agency, Voit also gives the Padres some breathing room to find longer-term solutions at these positions.

Unless the Padres find a taker for Eric Hosmer who doesn’t insist on plundering the farm system to pick up the contract, I fully expect their incumbent first baseman to remain the starter for the time being. Jake Cronenworth was a candidate to take over more of Hosmer’s playing time, but losing Tatis for months has had a domino effect on the depth chart. With Ha-Seong Kim needed at shortstop — I doubt that CJ Abrams would be pushed to take the position this quickly — Cronenworth stays mostly at second, and Hosmer gets his temporary reprieve. The latter could at least theoretically remember that his sole decent stretch with the Padres, the shortened 2020 season, coincided with him actually getting loft on the ball like a 21st-century slugger does.

In Lange, the Padres give up a live arm who would have had no chance to help them in 2022 (or 2023 or 2024). My colleague Eric Longenhagen shared this scouting info:

When Lange’s velocity exploded during his senior year of high school, his draft stock did, too. He was 89–93 mph at Area Code Games the summer after his junior year, then up to 95 in the fall, then came out throwing even harder during his draft spring. He had added considerable muscle and had some spring 2020 starts where he was sitting in the upper 90s, but at least one other where he was only 91–96. Which teams liked him depended on which start they saw and how data-driven their pitch evaluations are.

As some teams pivot toward drafting pitchers with good command of good secondaries and try to develop velocity, Lange is a bit of the opposite. The Padres gave him $2 million in the comp round. He presented the dev team with an elite frame, arm strength, and athleticism, but they didn’t have much opportunity to shape his stuff as he dealt with a shoulder and knee issue that limited him to 22 walk-riddled pro innings. Lange’s secondaries are relatively raw. His fastball tilt isn’t ideal but the velo and angle created by his drop-and-drive delivery will mitigate that; it’s breaking ball depth that might be an issue from this arm slot.

Regardless, Lange is a high-variance, high-upside talent who is now with an org that has shown an ability to develop dominant fastballs out of big-framed athletes like him.

ZiPS doesn’t have a lot to add on Lange at this point and sees him peaking at a little above replacement level — not surprising for a hurler who really needs to trim some walks off his profile. His top comp, Darren Holmes, at least provides some hope. Drafted as a fairly hard-throwing starter, Holmes had severe command issues and a slew of injuries as a prospect, was converted to relief, and lasted more than a decade in the majors as a soft-tosser on the strength of a good slider and a slow, effective, 12–6 curve. ZiPS may have a better answer on Lange this time next year.

This is a small trade, but both the Yankees and Padres get what they want. The former get a lottery ticket for a player they were going to have a hard time using, and the latter get a decent bat who can help the team try to wipe out the embarrassment of the final six weeks of 2021.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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Francoeursteinmember
1 year ago

Their lineup is uninspiring without Tatis and their pitching staff is full of ticking time bombs. I can’t see the Friars making the postseason, although I want them too. I really admire what the FO has done the past few years but it’s gone about a poorly as it could.

sadtrombonemember
1 year ago
Reply to  Francoeurstein

A lot of variance in this roster. Lots of guys who have been hurt, lots of guys who are streaky. With the exception of Cronenworth, who is predictable (in a good way), and Machado (who ranges from good to great) I think knowing what you’re going to get out of the rest of the lineup and pitching staff is pretty tough. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them race out to first or fall all the way to the bottom of that division.