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Are the Padres Contenders or Pretenders?

As the All-Star Game approaches and the true playoff contenders begin to emerge from the pack of pretenders, where do the San Diego Padres stand? Well, it’s still a tough call at this point. The Padres currently sit at 49-45 and are trying to ride a recent hot streak to stay above .500. The team has battled through many different injuries, fighting to stay towards the top of the National League Wild Card standings. Despite this up-and-down season, the Friars are only seven and a half games back of the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Can they keep this pace, or will the rest of the competitive NL catch up?

Are the Padres Contenders or Pretenders?

The National League is incredibly tight this year, which makes this even harder to predict. Of the nine teams who would currently miss the playoffs, seven are within five and a half games of the Padres, who are third in the Wild Card. Typically, there’d be more teams further out of the playoff picture than just two, and the streaky nature of baseball puts any of these teams in reach of a playoff spot. Some of these teams, like the Washington Nationals, have fallen further behind on a cold stretch and will need to decide if they make the playoff push. These are teams that are missing pieces for a true World Series run and could move some players at the deadline. So, the Padres being consistently in a Wild Card position or within a game of one throughout the season bodes well. But what separates them from the rest?

Battling Through Injuries

For one, this team has talent throughout the roster. A trio of All-Star outfielders leads the pack, along with two-time batting champion Luis Arráez, Manny Machado, and others. There’s not much of a glaring hole to fill to try to make a deep playoff run, and the team is awaiting more talent to get healthy again. A Joe Musgrove return could be coming, and Xander Bogaerts is beginning to make rehab starts in Triple-A El Paso. There’s still no set timetable for Fernando Tatis Jr., who went down with a stress reaction on June 25. Yu Darvish landing on the restricted list hurts the Padres pitching staff, but the potential imminent return of Musgrove softens that blow. Considering these injury troubles to impact players, the Padres remarkably, to this point, remain contenders in the National League.

More Fight

In 2023, the Padres were 2-12 in extra innings. They took an MLB-record 159 games to win their first. But in 2024, that’s all turned around. The Padres are 3-1 in extra innings so far, their first loss coming on July 6 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Friars are 10-12 in one-run games, already eclipsing 2023’s mark of 9-23. An MLB-best six walk-0ffs and four via the home run tells you that this team is making sure a game isn’t over until it’s over. You could attribute a good bit of that to Jurickson Profar, who has been playing with a chip on his shoulder en route to his first career All-Star selection. Manny Machado surging over the last month helps out as well. Others like Jackson Merrill and Jake Cronenworth have been delivering in big moments, separating this team from the pack.

The Bad

Pitching remains the biggest weakness for the Padres. The bench, which continues to boast depth with Donovan Solano‘s impressive performances, will only get deeper as the stars come back. However, the back end of the bullpen needs work. Picking up slack from the starting rotation has taxed an overall solid staff. Enyel De Los Santos and Wandy Peralta haven’t been as effective in those spots as manager Mike Shildt would like, but improvements can be made via the trade. The rotation is currently filled out by top prospect Adam Mazur, who is struggling. Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech coming over in a package deal from the Chicago White Sox has been rumored. This is a move that would patch up both the bullpen and starting rotation, lessening the chances of a collapse.

Are the Padres a Contender or Not?

Regardless of what is done at the deadline, the Padres certainly are contenders in the National League. Their ability to stick close in games and get the win, especially over last year’s performances, is remarkable. The team also remains in a Wild Card position, despite missing so many stars across different positions. If the team can continue to be this scrappy while lacking elite pitching, the Padres appear to be a lock for the playoffs.  The trade deadline will still be important, as GM AJ Preller needs to take the stress off the bullpen and add another starter. Another high-leverage reliever will make some of those one-run games tilt more in favor of the Friars. Putting these pieces together could poise the Padres to contend for a deeper playoff run.


Photo Credit: © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports


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