Padres hoping Tommy Pham can get back on track this year

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

When the San Diego Padres traded Hunter Renfroe, Xavier Edwards and a player to be named later that wound up being Esteban Quiroz to Tampa Bay in late 2019, Tommy Pham was the main piece coming back in the deal.

But last season, he didn’t perform like the center piece of that trade. Rather, the spotlight wound up being on the other guy the Padres acquired in the deal, Jake Cronenworth. Although he turned in a season that’s best described as a tale of two halves, the former University of Michigan standout still finished as the runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

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Meanwhile, Pham struggled to the tune of a .211/.312/.312 line – marking the first time in his career he’s been a below-average player based on OPS+. He failed to elevate the ball, hitting it on the ground a career-high 62.2 percent of the time. Whether pitches were in the zone or out, he made less contact – and the numbers bore that out.

Now, he’s looking to get back to being the player he’d been his entire career up until last summer. From 2017 to 2019, Pham slashed .284/.381/.475 with St. Louis and Tampa Bay, quickly rising the ranks as one of the best outfielders in the game.

He took his failure – and make no mistake, that’s what he considers his performance last season – very personally.

"“I know analytics with the best of ’em,” he said. “My wRC+ was down. That’s something I look at. I was negative in defensive runs saved last year. … I feel like I have the most to prove, because I know I’m not a 78 wRC+ hitter, and I know I’m not a negative defensive player.”"

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Pham is out to prove that last season was a fluke. Like countless other players who didn’t play up to the standards they, their teams or their fans had for them, we’re talking about a guy who we have every reason in the world to believe will bounce back in 2021.

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In Monday’s Cactus League opener, Pham went 0-for-2 against the Cubs in a 1-0 loss. But the spring is just getting underway and San Diego expects a bounceback showing in what is a pivotal contract year for the former 16th-round pick.