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Some headlines are hot enough that they don’t require much in the way of a lead-in explanation—if you clicked on this article, you came for something of a referendum on the job status of Padres GM AJ Preller. And with good reason.
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As a recent column from the UT’s Nick Canepa shows, chatter around Preller’s standing with Padre ownership is beginning to ramp up in the wake of Andy Green’s dismissal from the San Diego manager’s seat.
Canepa, who shares the world-weariness common to many who have followed the team throughout its five-plus decades of futility, places a decent amount of blame at Preller’s feet for the club’s most recent struggles. Sez Canepa:
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“During his five-plus years as the baseball club’s GM, A.J. Preller, The International Sensation, has attempted a sea change in organizational thinking, canvassing the Caribbean especially to find hot, young talent.
He has found some, for sure, but the lava, the result, has been cold.
He hasn’t found someone to lead this team, manage it, and share his vision — if it’s possible. He’s trying again, and my guess is, if the skipper who replaces Andy Green can’t get it done, this will be A.J.’s final cruise.”
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Canepa’s take makes clear that he’s personally seen enough of Preller’s “hot talent lava” rebuild, although, to be fair, the columnist is probably just reading the writing recently left on the wall of chairman Ron Fowler’s executive suite.
Jacob Nix is back to making up for lost time.
Slowed by injury all year, the 23-year-old Padres right-hander threw 2 2/3 innings Friday in his Arizona Fall League debut for the Peoria Javelinas.
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Nix struck out three and allowed two runs — one earned — on five hits and a walk in the start, his first game action since allowing nine runs in 1 2/3 innings in his lone start in the Texas League Championship Series while rehabbing with Double-A Amarillo.
Nix experienced shoulder discomfort following that start but tests came back normal.
ADVERTISEMENT He’d allowed two runs in five innings in a previous playoff start for Amarillo and paired a 1.85 ERA with a 29-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six minor league rehab starts (24 1/3 IP).
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Nix was vying for a place in the rotation in spring training when a UCL tear sidelined him.
He opted for rest, a platelet-rich plasma injection and rehab over Tommy John surgery.
Nix is one of 11 Padres on the 60-day injured list who will have to be added to a full 40-man roster after the conclusion of the World Series.
A look at the rest of the Padres participating in the Arizona Fall League:
RHP Elliot Ashbeck: The 25-year-old reliever has allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings, scattering two runs, three hits, two hit batters, three walks and eight strikeouts over his first three appearances. Ashbeck spent most of 2019 at high Single-A Lake Elsinore (2.95 ERA). C Luis Campusano: The breakout prospect was 1-for-13 before a hip impingement led the Padres to shut down the former second-round pick for the rest of the season. Campusano, ranked No. 86 in MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list, was healthy enough to catch last week’s Don Welke On Deck Classic, the finale of the Padres’ fall instructional league.
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LHP Osvaldo Hernandez: Relegated to an opener’s role this year as he came back from injury, the 21-year-old Cuban has allowed 11 runs on 10 hits and six walks in 3 1/3 innings. RHP Reiss Knehr: The 22-year-old has allowed six runs in seven innings to start his stay. He had a 5.43 ERA in 66 1/3 innings this year at Lake Elsinore. INF Owen Miller: The 2018 third-rounder is 8-for-37 (.216/.205/.324) with nine strikeouts and no walks in his first nine games. Miller is ranked No. 10 in the Padres’ system by MLB.com. 3B Hudson Potts: The 20-year-old is 6-for-24 with two RBIs, no walks and six strikeouts in six games to start his second stint in the AFL. Potts is ranked No. 11 in the Padres’ farm system.
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As Fowler made clear in comments to the UT following a tirade-laden appearance at the Padres “Social Summit” event, the heads of his subordinates are expected to do a fair amount of travel in the event of another disappointing campaign in 2020. Preller’s head would, one would imagine, be the one Fowler is most readily positioning for the organizational guillotine.
But is this really a happy state of affairs? I hesitate to even ask the question, because most understand what a divisive figure Preller has been during his time in San Diego.
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With a demeanor and appearance that screamed “IVY LEAGUE ANALYTICS GUY” , Preller arrived in San Diego with a fair amount of wunderkind buzz—when he sumarilly proceeded to shake up the baseball world in the 2015 offseason, that buzz elevated into near-cacophony, as national baseball writers paid preseason creedence to the Padres for the first time in years.
Since then, Preller has continued to amass his share of devotees and detractors alike. Some point to his near-prescient ability to spot prospect talent where others see only raw tools (see: Tatis Jr., Fernando); others point to his propensity to be seduced by “prestige talent” (see: Hosmer, Eric). His choice of Andy Green as manager in 2016 turned out, from most angles, to be a poor one.
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But that brings us to an interesting aspect of this discussion—are fans, and writers alike, far too fire-happy in our touchy 2019 climate of discourse?
If fans around here have learned anything, isn’t it that change isn’t always, you know...good? We only have to look back a few years to recall a time when it was obvious that it was time for manager Bruce Bochy to move on. And a change was exactly what was needed after Bud Black manned the dugout to a middling record through the first months of 2015. Andy Green’s ouster was, as we can all agree, just what the doctor (and fans) ordered.
For those who failed to bring their sarcasm Geiger counters to class this morning, the preceding is meant to illustrate that a change in leadership is not always the panacea it is made out to be.
Of course, those were managerial decisions; the role of a general manager, in charge of player development, transactions, scouting, and operations, is much more integral to the success of a baseball team.
Which brings us to your opinion: is a change at the top what is needed for this club to move forward? Will the “Fire Andy Green” movement soon morph into the “Fire AJ Preller” movement?