San Diego Padres 40-man roster profile: Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham had a rough 2020 for the San Diego Padres. Can he turn it around?

In a previous post, we discussed how the San Diego Padres made a great trade with the Tampa Bay Rays a year ago when they acquired Jake Cronenworth and Tommy Pham. Cronenworth was a great pickup in 2020, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, but Pham struggled in his first season in San Diego. Can he turn it around in 2021?

Pham had come to the Padres prior to the 2020 season with a strong track record over the previous three seasons. With the St. Louis Cardinals and the Rays from 2017 to 2019, Pham had an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .284/.381/.475, which included drawing a tremendous 219 walks and stealing 65 bases while hitting 65 home runs.

The Rays dumped Pham largely due to his rising cost, and it looked like it would be San Diego’s gain after the trade. However, he was injured for about a month and finished with a -0.1 WAR and a slash line of .211/.312/.312. He came back to have a great NL Wild Card round against the Cardinals, going 6-for-13 (while he was 3-for-11 in the Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers).

Shortly after the Padres were knocked out of the playoffs, however, Pham was stabbed in a parking lot, and though he only suffered minor injuries, it capped what was a trying season that many thought would lead to Pham being non-tendered. However, the Padres have kept him on board, though he’s projected to make about $8 million in arbitration this offseason.

Did Pham hit into some bad luck this past season? The numbers indicate that he very well may have. Though his average exit velocity actually went up from 2019, his BABIP plummeted from .316 in 2019 – it had been as high as .368 in his stellar 2017 campaign – all the way down to .253 in 2020.

Another potential problem: His pull rate went way up, from 38.7% in 2019 to a whopping 48.8% in 2020. The ground ball rate was way up, while the line drive rate was way down. Perhaps a return of trying to go to center and right field would help the right-handed hitting outfielder in 2021.

As for defense, with the league telling NL teams to plan on not having a designated hitter in 2021, it looks like Pham will be going back to primarily left field after splitting time between left field and DH in 2020.

As far as position players go, with the possible exception of catcher, left field is the biggest question mark for the Padres as we head into 2021. Can Pham turn it around? He’s got the track record to suggest that he can. Hopefully, he can build on his solid postseason performance and get back on track this coming season.