Before the Padres took the field in a three-game series in Colorado against the Rockies, the news broke that Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wil Myers tested positive for COVID-19 and been placed on the injured list. Eric Hosmer, Jurickson Profar, and Jorge Mateo joined them due to contact tracing.
The loss of the three regular starters, Tatis Jr., Myers, and Hosmer, will especially test the depth of the Padres’ roster. The Padres have the dubious honor of leading all of baseball in the number of players on the injured list.
Manager Jayce Tingler bemoaned the loss of Tatis Jr., telling reporters that “mentally, Fernando’s crushed.” After a slow start and error-prone defense, Tatis Jr. had been on a mini roll with seven stolen bases, nine home runs, and an OPS of .867.
Even before the loss of five players to the IL had been announced, San Diego’s erratic results had moved the team several spots down in The Athletics’ Power Rankings which placed the team in seventh place behind the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodger, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and Oakland Athletics. No doubt, the loss of half the Padres’ regular infielders and one outfielder increases the degree of difficulty.
Fortunately, two of the four regular infielders, Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth, will help fill the gap. Ha-Seong Kim had received increased playing time recently, and Tucupita Marcano will get his opportunity. In his first year in Major League Baseball, Kim has yet to catch up to the unfamiliar pitchers he’s had to face as his batting line of .191/.243/.250/.493 indicates.
However, Kim has already amassed six DRS (defensive runs saved) and has been a one-man highlight reel with his defensive prowess.
Also a rookie, Marcano has had his own issues at the plate in a limited sample size. Machado, who has experienced another slow start to a season (.237/.331/.405/.736), did help his cause with five RBIs in the first game victory over the Rockies on Tuesday.
In his second season in the big leagues, Cronenworth continues to be a pleasant surprise and has so far avoided a sophomore slump. His steady defense and ability to play multiple positions make him even more valuable right now. Although Cronenworth started the season on fire, he’s come back to earth but is still outperforming most of his teammates at the plate .286/.364/.429/.793. Cronenworth started Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Rockies on Wednesday at first as a stand-in for Hosmer, just as he had last year when Padres fans first heard his name.
Trent Grisham proved his abilities in center last season and has helped carry the team with his .290 batting average and .862 OPS. Plus, he has stolen six bases and will help keep the running game alive in Tatis’ absence.
Brian O’Grady replaced Myers in right and will obviously see more playing time than he had so far. In his third year in MLB, he’s spent time with the Cincinnati Reds and the Tampa Bay Rays but has appeared in just 32 games over his career.
In left field, the Padres can turn to Tommy Pham, who played their regularly last year. So far, his offense has been mediocre at best as it was last year. Plus, he’s had problems staying healthy during his time in San Diego. In 2021 Pham has appeared in 34 games with 90 ABs and has batted an anemic .200/.321/.211/.532
Fortunately, the viral losses to the Padres have not affected the pitching staff so far. Also, the seven-inning game length for doubleheaders will help ease the burden on the relievers, who have been one of the brightest spots this year.
A month and a half into the 2021 season, San Diego has not lived up to the off-season hype. But the loss of Tatis Jr., Myers, Hosmer, Profar, and Mateo definitely increases the degree of difficulty in the Padres’ pursuit of back-to-back trips to the playoffs.