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Handing Out Midseason Grades for the 2024 Padres

While it is not yet the All-Star break, the official halfway point of the MLB season has come and gone. Heading into Monday’s action, the San Diego Padres sit at 41-41, and third in the National League Wild Card standings. They are 8 1/2 games out of the National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and are outpacing the Arizona Diamondbacks by just one game. The Wild Card race is highly contested, with a whopping seven out of nine teams within three games of the final spot. This Padres season has been full of ups and downs, and at the midseason mark, let’s assign some grades.

Midseason Grades for the 2024 Padres

Outfield: A

This outfield group has been without a doubt the best part of this Padres team. In fact, it’s been so good that the top three NL outfielders by WAR are the Padres outfielders. That list is led by Fernando Tatis Jr., who after a slow start, looks to be regaining his 2021 form. In his second year in right field, his defense continues to shine as he grows more comfortable with the position. However, Tatis Jr. was placed on the 10-day IL on June 22 with a right femoral stress reaction. Bryce Johnson, who has been hitting .301 in Triple-A El Paso, takes his place on the roster.  So, when and how he returns could shape the rest of the Padres season.

Jackson Merrill has impressed as a rookie. Were it not for Paul Skenes, Merrill would likely be the frontrunner NL Rookie of the Year. He’s hitting the ball very well (.289/.346/.445) and his defense continues to develop. Merrill has become the young spark this team needed and is developing into a true five-tool player and a future star. Jurickson Profar is suddenly having the best season of his career, slashing a team-leading .319/.413/.484, and is second in RBI with 48. Profar is riding a seven-game hitting streak, his third time reaching that mark this season, and is leading all NL outfielders in voting for the All-Star Game.

In the second half, the only thing to improve upon for this outfield is, oddly enough, Fernando Tatis Jr. Profar and Merrill have undoubtedly done most of the heavy lifting, and there isn’t much room for the duo to improve. Tatis Jr. has had 14 home runs so far, well behind his pace of 28 through the first 74 games of the 2021 season in which he ended with 42. El Niño needs to find the power stroke once again to keep the Padres in the hunt to secure a playoff spot.

Infield: B-

The infield as a whole has performed fairly well this year. Luis Arráez has fit in well after joining the team in early May and has provided flexibility in the infield. This group is missing the veteran leader Xander Bogaerts, who went down with a fractured shoulder on May 20. Bogaerts is expected to return by early July and could provide a boost. However, he needs to find his swing after only hitting .219 with four homers before the injury. Jake Cronenworth has bounced back offensively, slashing .266/.328/.458. The utility man has already topped last year’s home run total with 12 and could challenge his career-high of 21. Cronenworth has been producing in key moments for the Friars, with a team-leading 49 RBI.

It’s been no secret that the left side of the infield has been struggling. Between Ha-Seong Kim and Manny Machado, this part of the roster has not been producing as expected. Machado is having his worst season in a Padres uniform and has not shown much of the power he used to make a name for himself. With only seven homers, he’s on pace to have the lowest total of his career in a full season. Kim has launched 10 homers this year but is only hitting .220/.330/.388. The 2023 Gold Glover had just seven errors last year but has eclipsed that mark with 10 miscues this season.

This team needs more offensive help, and that comes from this group. Cronenworth and Arráez have been doing their part, but the Friars need Machado and Kim to step up. The return of Bogaerts can give some days off to Machado and Kim, potentially returning Bogaerts to his original position of shortstop. However, the Padres need to be careful to not push Bogaerts too hard, and the former champ may be a DH for a stretch.

Catchers: C

The Padres had hoped for more offensive firepower out of Luis Campusano. He’s been on and off the MLB roster over the last five seasons and came into this year to stay. However, Campusano has posted a .234/.282/.371 line, below the expectations set after slashing .319/.356/.491 in 49 games last season. A left thumb contusion has landed the backstop on the 10-day IL, so the rest of his season will have to wait. Kyle Higashioka has been serviceable as a backup. He came over in the Juan Soto blockbuster trade and has given the Friars some big-time home runs this season. Overall, the catching spot hasn’t been a huge downside to the lineup offensively, given the position. They will need to improve on defense, as Campusano and Higashioka both rank as below-average fielders.

Starting Rotation: C+

This rotation is very hard to grade. Plagued by injuries to veterans like Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, the Padres have had to rely on young arms to pick up the slack. Matt Waldron has lately lit it up and solidified himself into the rotation. Michael King has been turning out consistent starts but appears to be losing steam after a five-run shelling by the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

Dylan Cease started the season hot but has cooled off over the last month and a half. Cease posted a 4.08 ERA in May and as of now has a 6.64 ERA in June. The Friars need Cease to pick it back up in the absence of Musgrove. Randy Vásquez has given the Padres 10 starts this year, most of which have been winnable games. Vásquez has provided some longevity to the rotation, which has been important in relieving a taxed bullpen.

With Darvish set to return on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals, help is on the way and the longtime veteran can help lock down the rotation, should he stay healthy. The Padres need this, with still no timetable for Musgrove’s return while he deals with a right elbow issue. Overall, when given the circumstances, this rotation has done well to keep the Padres around the .500 mark. However, the back half of the season cannot go the same way. The rotation needs to become more reliable as a whole, and have consistent deep starts.

Bullpen: B

The bullpen is also hard to grade. The group has been asked to take on extra work due to injuries to the rotation and has been holding up fairly well. However, the wheels may come off at any moment. Relying on this relatively inexperienced staff may hurt the Padres in the long run, but it’s also produced some success stories.

Jeremiah Estrada developed a new pitch which he calls the “chitter” which he used to burst onto the scene this season, setting an MLB-record 13 consecutive strikeouts. Robert Suarez has been dominant, only blowing one save in 20 opportunities and posting a 1.16 ERA.  Adrian Morejon is finally healthy and putting together a great season, with a 2.23 ERA across 24 appearances. Newcomers like Yuki Matsui and Enyel De Los Santos have had their ups and downs, but remain relatively reliable.

The Padres need more consistent higher-leverage arms in order to succeed down the stretch. With guys like Stephen Kolek and Wandy Peralta not performing quite to expectations, the recent return of Tom Cosgrove can help with this. A potential trade could also help fill this gap and relieve some of the stress on the Friars bullpen.

Padres Overall Midseason Grade: B-

At the midseason point, this Padres team leaves some room for improvement, resulting in a grade of B-. Injuries have certainly been a part of it, and it’s hard to give a grade lower than a B to a team in the heart of playoff contention. Certainly, the expectations were that this team would be further above .500, but the inconsistencies and injuries have kept the team right around that point. Bench pieces like David Peralta, Donovan Solano, and Tyler Wade have been instrumental in giving the lineup flexibility to give its ailing stars days off. The high-powered outfield has been the Padres’ saving grace, and the team needs to even out the workload to enter the second half of the season strong.


Photo Credit: © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports


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