More Off-Season Magic for San Diego
Much of the San Diego Padres’ off-season has centered around the big names that bolster their talented roster. Even more telling of their tremendous trades is the depth they’ve added along the way.
The Friars added Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove to their pitching rotation, which broke all of baseball’s headlines. They speculated ideas regarding Fernando Tatis Jr.’s extension, which filled plenty of Twitter feeds. Yet, the best news might revolve around these utility men: Ha-Seong Kim, Jurickson Profar, and Jake Cronenworth.
Here are a few reasons why these players are key elements in the Padres’ pursuit for the postseason in 2021.
Ha-Seong Kim Can Do It All
The Padres signed infielder Ha-Seong Kim to a four year, $28 million contract last month. The corners of the infield belong to Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer, and Tatis owns shortstop. We don’t yet know what position Kim will fill, but he’s a valuable asset everywhere.
Kim has seven years of experience at all four infield positions in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). However, his consistently high fielding percentages at shortstop and third base since 2014 make him an ideal candidate for second base. He could also see time in the outfield, or rotate into different infield positions as the season progresses. Depending on where Kim’s arm strength is by the time Spring Training rolls around, the Padres could potentially utilize him at every spot on the diamond.
Anything Kim’s glove can do, his bat can do better. He posted career-high batting averages the last two seasons in the KBO, and hit 30 home runs, and stole 23 bases during the 2020 campaign.
The average velocity for a fastball in the majors is roughly 4.5 mph faster than that in the KBO. This means that Kim might have to adjust to faster pitching before his impact at the plate is truly felt. His speed on the base path and golden glove should boost his use until then.
Jake Cronenworth Is as Versatile as It Gets
The NL Rookie of the Year runner-up is a vital part of the Padres’ lineup. Even though the second half of last year’s season looked grim for Cronenworth, his first half was electric. He posted a 1.194 OPS and reached the bases in nearly 50% of his at-bats. His left-handed bat could be especially useful if the league decides to keep the designated hitter this year.
Cronenworth played every position in the infield aside from pitcher and catcher last season (though he can pitch in a pinch if absolutely necessary). With the addition of Kim to the middle infield, and Victor Caratini available to support Hosmer at first base, Cronenworth will likely add depth to the outfield this season.
Jurickson Profar Is Back for More
The guy that those other guys will likely share time with is Jurickson Profar. Late last week, San Diego signed Profar to a three-year contract at $21 million. He’s one of the more beloved Padres, not only for his beaming smile but also for his small-ball style of play and speed around the bags.
Profar is another defensive player that can really do everything. He spent most of his time last season in left field while Tommy Pham was injured, but he can play right field, center field, and all four infield positions.
Fans may only remember Profar for his RBI double to beat the Colorado Rockies in the bottom of the ninth last September. But the Padres signed him to do just that–come off of the bench and produce runs. He has the ability to get on base, move runners over, and turn singles into doubles and triples. He also has a cannon from the outfield that can throw out anyone eager enough to score on him.
Right now, the Padres have stars returning in eight of their starting positions (with prospect Luis Campusano looking to fill in behind the plate). Unlike last year’s shortened 60-game sprint, the upcoming campaign will be a 162-game marathon. San Diego will need this depth if they want their players to grind all season long.
These young, fresh and talented stars could be the Padres’ ticket to the 2021 postseason.
Embed from Getty Images