Posted on March 17, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
Few teams have been more active or spent more money the last few seasons than the San Diego Padres. However, it’s not led to wins with San Diego going just 70-92 last year. But hope is not lost yet. With more moves over the winter and another year of development for the team’s young talent, could this be the year the Padres make their move up the NL West hierarchy and push for a postseason spot?
The Padres appear to have their ace in Chris Paddock, who was 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA over 26 starts last year. Obviously, the 24-year-old will need to replicate a fantastic rookie season, but the club should feel good about him leading the rotation. Meanwhile, the Padres need to find quality depth in their rotation in support of their young ace. San Diego has brought in Garrett Richards and Zach Davies during the offseason to do just that. Davies looks like a safe bet but Richards has been an injury waiting to happen the last four seasons despite pitching like a frontline starter when healthy.
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Assuming Paddock and the two veterans can lead the rotation, the likes of Dinelson Lamet and Joey Lucchesi should round out San Diego’s rotation. Lamet was solid in 14 starts last year after returning from Tommy John surgery while Lucchesi has been a trustworthy mid-rotation starter over the last two seasons. If that group of five can stay healthy, the Padres should be in good shape. However, the depth in San Diego’s rotation beyond that is questionable, as the Padres don’t have much margin for error if Richards gets hurt or their youngsters take a step back.
San Diego’s bullpen could end up being the biggest difference-maker for the Padres this season. They already have one of the best closers in baseball in Kirby Yates, who had an incredible 1.19 ERA in 2019. Over the offseason, the Padres added Emilio Pagan, one of the top setup men in the game, and Drew Pomeranz, who seemed to find his calling in Boston’s bullpen last year. Trustworthy veteran Craig Stammen and flame-throwing youngster Andres Munoz add to the late-game options in the San Diego bullpen.
Somehow, San Diego’s depth doesn’t end there. Swingman Matt Strahm has been more effective as a reliever than as a starter with the Padres. Luis Perdomo and Jose Castillo have also been effective pitchers in the past. Kyle Barraclough is also an interesting wild card, showcasing late-game stuff earlier in his career. If everything comes together for the Padres, they could end up having one of the best bullpens in the National League this season.
Despite their recent spending, the Padres scored the third-fewest runs in the National League last season. However, the pieces are surely in place to see significant improvement. The key is Manny Machado, who posted a disappointing .796 OPS in his first season in San Diego last year. Eric Hosmer, another big-money signing, has also been a disappointment, although he’s still a decent middle-of-the-order option. The same is true of Wil Myers despite his name being thrown around in the rumor mill this winter. Adding Tommy Pham as a table-setter at the top of the lineup should help the trio of Machado, Hosmer, and Myers. Getting a full season out of Fernando Tatis Jr. should also help immensely after his brilliant rookie campaign was cut short.
Of course, questions still remain aside from veterans like Hosmer and Myers. Center field is a quandary with Trent Grisham and Franchy Cordero getting a chance despite being largely unproven in the majors. Josh Naylor is another name to watch, as he has big-time power and could push Myers to center field if he emerges as a regular contributor in right field. Another potential X-factor is Jurickson Profar, who is set to be the team’s everyday second baseman. He was once a can’t-miss prospect and will get another chance to prove himself. In fairness, Profar has hit 20 home runs in back-to-back seasons, but he also hit just .218 in Oakland last year.
With a win projection of 83.5 games for 2020, the Padres are a trendy pick to make a huge leap from their 70 wins a season ago. Of course, that will be adjusted if the season is shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic. With the Padres, it’s fair to be a little concerned with the way their highly-paid veterans have performed. But the bullpen looks great, the rotation has great potential if healthy, and there is no doubting the amount of high-end talent in the lineup. Bet on the Padres to finally get over the hump in 2020, surpass their win projection, and make a serious playoff push.