The 2021 San Diego Padres had one of the best off-seasons in MLB history. First, they bolstered their starting rotation to become one of the best in the league. Then they strengthened their depth at nearly every position on the field. To top it all off, they signed their franchise star to a 14-year contract extension.
And yet, the regular season is expected to be even crazier. A few storylines have emerged this spring that could make or break San Diego’s 2021 campaign. Let’s take a closer look at what the team will look like when Opening Day arrives on Thursday, April 1st.
San Diego’s infield defense for 2021 is likely its best ever. Of course, the all-time greats come to mind: Ozzie Smith, Ken Caminiti, Khalil Greene, Adrian Gonzalez. Even so, those legendary Padres are no match for this year’s infield defenders.
With Manny Machado at third base and Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, the left side of the field is particularly sturdy. They can each take away hits with their ability to play deep in the hole and dive across the diamond in style. After finishing third and fourth in last year’s NL MVP race, this tandem is a force to be reckoned with.
Jake Cronenworth cemented his spot at second base after his impressive spring camp. His support on the right side will come from Eric Hosmer. Despite his various illnesses throughout Cactus League, Hosmer’s status as the everyday first baseman is locked in.
The catcher and outfield positions remain more precarious. Padres’ starting catcher Austin Nola and Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grisham are both on the IL until at least April 8. This means Victor Caratini will serve as the primary backstop to start the season, with rookie Luis Campusano as his backup.
Until Grisham returns, the outfielders will be Wil Myers, Tommy Pham, and Jurickson Profar. Myers and Pham had phenomenal springs at the plate, while Profar struggled to find his swing. If these three can maintain a strong offensive production this season, they will be serviceable options for San Diego’s outfield.
The battle for the Padres bench was at an all-time high this spring. Only a few utility men made the final cut: Jorge Mateo, Tucupita Marcano, and Ha-Seong Kim.
Mateo and Marcano both turned heads throughout camp with stellar offense. Mateo’s slash line of 316/.414/.456––combined with his 80-grade speed––makes him a valuable pinch-running asset. Marcano led the team’s offensive leaderboards, finishing the spring with a .405/.479/.619 slash line. These young stars can also play anywhere on the diamond, but they’ll be battling for roster spots once Grisham and Nola return.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 15, 2021
Although Kim did not make a strong enough case for a starting position, he is still adjusting to the big league style of play. He’ll have a lot to prove when his chances to do so arise this year.
The starting rotation is not officially set, but we will likely see Yu Darvish at the helm all season long. Up until his last start of Cactus League play last Thursday, he had only allowed one hit in five innings with seven strikeouts. He’ll take the mound on Opening Day, followed by Blake Snell.
Snell pitched in five games this spring without allowing a single run. He recorded 17 strikeouts and allowed just five hits across 14 and one-third innings. The question surrounding Snell is how long he can stay on the bump, but his outings as of late show potential for lengthy starts. He’ll serve as the Padres’ second ace in 2021.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 27, 2021
Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack, and Adrian Morejón will round out the rest of the rotation. This ace pitching staff is one of the best in the sport, especially with a healthy Dinelson Lamet.
San Diego will start the year with a 9-man bullpen that looks something like this: Emilio Pagán, Drew Pomeranz, Mark Melancon, Keone Kela, Tim Hill, Craig Stammen, Ryan Weathers, Taylor Williams, and Nabil Crismatt.
Pagán, Melancon, Pomeranz, and Kela appear to be solid options for the closer. The group combines for more than 250 saves, but Pagán is the favorite for the role. He saved 19 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019, and despite a bicep injury last year pitched well for the Padres in the NL Wild Card Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Among the most notable in this ‘pen group is Ryan Weathers. The young southpaw improved his command in the off-season, and it showed this spring. Even though he’s traditionally a starter, San Diego might use him more as a long reliever while he gains more big-league experience.
The 2021 San Diego Padres will embark on one of the most anticipated campaigns in franchise history. They established themselves as legitimate World Series contenders in 2020 and set themselves up for utmost success in the off-season. Watch it all unfold starting Opening Day against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Embed from Getty Images
Ozzie Smith, Ken Caminiti, Khalil Greene, Adrian Gonzalez, Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jake Cronenworth, Eric Hosmer, Austin Nola, Trent Grisham, Victor Caratini, Luis Campusano, Wil Myers, Tommy Pham, Jurickson Profar, Jorge Mateo, Tucupita Marcano, Ha-Seong Kim, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack, Adrian Morejón, Dinelson Lamet, Emilio Pagan, Drew Pomeranz, Mark Melancon, Keone Kela, Tim Hill, Craig Stammen, Ryan Weathers, Taylor Williams, Nabil Crismatt