San Diego Padres 2021 Season Previewby Carter LaCorte March 26, 2021 3 comments
The Padres are going to be so much fun. They were last year when they followed up Manny Machado‘s initial year and Fernando Tatis Jr.‘s rookie season by finishing 37-23, which was second in the National League. Of course, the rival Dodgers cleaned up pretty quickly, but now general manager AJ Preller is making sure that does not happen again.
In an eventful offseason, the Padres saw themselves trading a bundle of prospects. They dished out established starter Zach Davies for former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, and 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish to make up for Mike Clevinger‘s Tommy John surgery. Those are the two moves that people will talk about, but the team also swung a three-team deal to acquire Joe Musgrove from Pittsburgh and signed Keone Kela and Mark Melancon to bolster their bullpen after Trevor Rosenthal and Kirby Yates left in free agency. Now equipped with an elite rotation, the Padres are ready to go deep into the playoffs.
C: Austin Nola
1B: Eric Hosmer
2B: Jake Cronenworth
SS: Fernando Tatis Jr.
3B: Manny Machado
The Machado-Tatis combination will be a force on the left side of San Diego’s infield for years to come. Of the two, Tatis earned more recognition, but Machado was better. The former third overall pick hit 16 home runs with a .304 average and a .950 OPS. He finished third in National League MVP voting and won his first Silver Slugger award. It is amazing that it took nine seasons for Machado to do so.
Tatis is likely going to be the better player, as he hit 17 home runs with 11 stolen bases and a .937 OPS as a 21-year-old sophomore. He led the league with an average exit velocity of 95.9 miles per hour, and also had a hard-hit percentage of 62.2 percent. For context, a 92 mph average exit velocity and a 50 percent hard-hit percentage would both be well above league average.
Tatis was even great in the field, with nine outs above average. He was rewarded with a 14 year, $340 million extension in the offseason. One thing to look out for is his left shoulder, which he felt discomfort in earlier this week.
Acquired in a five-player deal with Tampa Bay last offseason, Cronenworth finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting to Milwaukee’s Devin Williams, and he was first among position players. Cronenworth did tail off towards the end of the season, yet still finished with an .831 OPS while playing all four infield positions, mainly second base.
Hosmer was once known for his defense in Kansas City, as he won four Gold Gloves for them. However, he had -2 outs above average in 2020. His .851 OPS was easily his highest in three seasons for San Diego, and Hosmer’s .287 xBA was his best since 2017, his last as a Royal.
One of the many acquisitions at the trade deadline, Nola (brother of Philadelphia pitcher Aaron) had a .306 average and a .903 OPS in 29 games for Seattle. In 19 games after the trade, he was worse, with a .705 OPS. It all evened out to .821. A broken finger could cost him some time.
Caratini was acquired in the Darvish trade, and he was Darvish’s personal catcher with the Cubs. He had just a .661 OPS in 2020.
Kim is a bit of a wild card, as the Padres could use him as a utility player, but he may beat out Cronenworth at second base eventually. Signed from Kiwoom of the KBO, Kim actually had a full season in 2020, unlike any of his teammates. He swiped 23 bags with 30 home runs and a .921 OPS.
Infamously baseball’s top prospect at one point, Profar is now a utilityman who could potentially see more time in the outfield than the infield. Profar re-signed for three years at $21 million ($7 million per year, roughly) in the offseason after he hit seven home runs with seven stolen bases and a .771 OPS, so…. a lot of sevens.
LF: Tommy Pham
CF: Trent Grisham
RF: Wil Myers
Bench: Jorge Mateo
Pham joined the 20/20 club with the Rays in 2019, but his first year as a Padre did not go as well. In 31 games, Pham hit three home runs with six stolen bases and a .624 OPS. His offseason was even worse, as he was stabbed in a club.
Grisham came over from Milwaukee before 2020 and asserted himself as a top-10 center fielder in baseball. Besides Mike Trout and George Springer, the list is pretty thin. He is a great defender in center and also hit 10 home runs with the same amount of stolen bases.
Myers won AL Rookie of the Year in 2013, but his career started to derail afterward. It got back on track in 2020, as Myers received an MVP vote after hitting 15 home runs with a .959 OPS. His last season with an OPS over .800 was his rookie year, so be cautiously optimistic with Myers.
Mateo is more of an infielder, but the Padres do not have a clear-cut fourth outfielder. He has the potential to steal 30-40 bases a year if starting, but he had just one in 22 games in 2020. Mateo played second base last season, plus all three outfield positions.
Starting Rotation Projections
Extra: MacKenzie Gore
Lamet gets left out a bit after Snell, Darvish and Musgrove were acquired, but he was really good last year and was voted fourth in NL Cy Young voting. In 69 innings, Lamet struck out 93 while posting a 2.09 ERA. Lamet allowed just 39 hits, while severely lowering his walk rate from 2019. He finished with a 0.855 WHIP.
Snell’s final moment as a member of the Rays will go down in history, but his start in Game 6 against the Dodgers is exactly what the Padres are looking at. That, and his 1.89 ERA in 2018. Last season, Snell had 63 strikeouts in 50 innings with a 3.24 ERA, which was an improvement of over one run from his down season of 2019.
Darvish still has his catcher with him after he was Trevor Bauer‘s runner-up in National League Cy Young voting. For the first time since 2013, he had a sub-3.00 earned run average, finishing at a career-best 2.01. He allowed 59 hits in 76 innings striking out 93, which actually slightly lowered his career 11.1 K/9, which is the all-time MLB record.
Musgrove is being viewed by many as a potential Tyler Glasnow 2.0, just older. Now leaving Pittsburgh, Musgrove showed glimpses of potential in eight starts last year, as he struck out 55 in 39.2 innings, with an ERA of 3.86. Musgrove also had a career-best 7.5 K/9.
Paddack attracted eyes in his rookie season of 2019 before Tatis overshadowed him. He attracted eyes again in 2020, but for the wrong reasons. Paddack had a 4.73 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 59 innings. He will be the only San Diego starter who had a K/9 under 9.0 in 2020.
The consensus top pitching prospect in baseball, Gore will not make the team, but it is hard to not be impressed with him after he had a 1.69 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 101 minor league innings in 2019.
Pomeranz is the front-runner to become the new closer of the Padres after Trevor Rosenthal left in free agency. His first full year as a relief pitcher went well, as he had a 1.45 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 18.1 innings.
Melancon, Kela, and Pagan all have closing experience with other teams, although only Melancon’s experience came last year. He had a 2.78 ERA with 11 saves but only struck out 14 in 22.2 innings. Kela was injured for nearly all of 2020, but he has a 3.24 ERA with an 11.0 K/9 in his career. Pagan struck out 96 batters in 70 innings while saving 20 games for the Rays in 2019, but he had a 4.50 ERA in 22 games for San Diego last year.
A first-round pick in 2012, Pierce Johnson went to Japan, and then came back last year, striking out 27 in 20 innings. Johnson’s main pitch is a curveball, which had a whiff rate over 48 percent.
Strahm will likely be the only lefty not named Pomeranz, and he had a 2.61 ERA last year.
The veteran Stammen has had some amazing seasons with the Nationals and Padres, but 2020 was his worst since he was still a part-time starter in 2010. Still, it would be hard to imagine the Padres cutting him. Both Altavilla and Adams came from Seattle in the trade that also included Nola last trade deadline. Adams had 51 strikeouts in 31 innings for the Mariners last year.
Players to Watch For
The 22-year-old Morejon is a part of the rotation conversation, but he could also see time in the bullpen. Morejon made nine appearances including four starts last year. His 4.66 ERA was not desirable, but he did have 25 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. He allowed seven home runs, for a terrible 3.3 HR/9. He will likely start the season at the alternate training site, but the former top prospect still has potential.
The Cuban right-hander throws a hard fastball and had a 3.03 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings for the big club in 2019. He was not as good in 4.2 innings last year, allowing four runs, although he did strikeout seven batters. Baez also had a 2.00 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 27 innings at Double-A Amarillo in 2019.
The Padres are a team that everyone is excited to see this year. They look amazing after acquiring Snell, Darvish and Musgrove. They don’t have a weak spot anywhere. The only team that can set them back is the rival Dodgers, and they probably will. This is a rivalry that is ready to bloom.
Record: 102-60, 2nd place in the NL West