The San Diego Padres have been piling moves together to compete in the NL West. Can they finally make the leap this season?
The Padres made a major splash last offseason by signing third baseman Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract. It left many stunned as the Padres were not considered a contender prior to the offseason and they walked away with baseball‘s second-most prized free agent of the year. However, their record didn’t improve much and has fans wondering if they will ever make the leap.
After going 70-92, the Padres showed a sign that their additions of Machado in the offseason and first baseman Eric Hosmer the offseason before was not enough for the team to make a serious improvement. The Padres made more moves this offseason that many would agree formed their roster in weak positions, giving them a great chance to possibly contend for the Wild Card this year.
The Padres lineup will be their strong point heading into the season. Machado may be seen as the big name of the lineup, but Fernando Tatis Jr. has shown that he is the franchise cornerstone moving forward. Before Tatis Jr. suffered a season-ending injury, he competed in 84 games, delivering a .317 batting average and a .969 OPS. These two fantastic numbers go along with his surprising 22 home runs, 53 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. Tatis Jr. and Machado in the middle of the lineup can power the Padres to plenty of success.
During the offseason, the Padres traded away the powerful Hunter Renfroe in a package that brought them back Tommy Pham to be their everyday left fielder. Pham has been one of the better outfielders in the last three seasons, averaging a .284 batting average, 22 home runs, and just more than 20 stolen bases. Adding a contact bat to the lineup should be a move that leads to the Padres getting more out of their offense than before.
Further offseason acquisitions include second basemen Brian Dozier and Jurickson Profar. Profar can serve as their utility guy while Dozier brings in a solid fielder and hitter to the lineup.
The position that could be of most interest to the Padres and their fan is the center field spot. Trent Grisham is expected to fill in at center after being acquired in a package deal with the Brewers that also brought in starting pitcher Zach Davies.
Grisham was off to an excellent spring training as he anticipated an everyday spot with the Padres. As a young prospect, there is a good chance they give him a shot before considering other options through trade.
The lineup for the Padres will be what they lean on moving forward, with their pitching being the worry like previous years. The hope is they have made the moves to solidify that.
Their de facto ace will be Chris Paddack, who stormed onto the scene for them last season as a rookie. Despite only going 9-7 in the win/loss column, Paddack delivered a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts. His filthy changeup mixed with the exploding four-seamer makes him the perfect ace for years to come with improvement expected every year.
And for the second straight season, the Padres are expected to welcome a top prospect to their rotation in left-hander MacKenzie Gore. MLB.com currently ranks Gore as the No. 5 prospect in baseball thanks to his incredible size and dominance that he has displayed to this point. With a combination of hard fastball ranging from 92 to 96 and a mix of dominating slider and hulking curveball can make him the perfect duo with Paddack as one of the best combinations in all of baseball.
The rest of the rotation includes the likes of Davies, Garrett Richards, and Dinelson Lamet. On paper it’s shaping up to be one of the best Padres rotations in years.
San Diego has also managed to put together a bullpen that could be incredible. On the back of closer Kirby Yates, the seventh through ninth inning could be locked up. Yates was pound for pound the best closer in the league last year, with a 1.19 ERA and 41 saves.
Two offseason additions in Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan sure-up the backend and give the Padres one of the best combos leading into the ninth.
The Padres still have some work to do, but there is no reason that they cannot compete and contend for an NL Wild Card spot. It’s just a matter of everything coming together, meaning they should be one of the most exciting teams to watch when the season gets underway.