A look at the San Diego Padres and the rest of Major League Baseball as the 2021 season looms.
After another offseason of contentious discussions, Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association have agreed to safety protocols as well as on-field rules that include a continuation of seven-inning doubleheaders and a runner on second in extra innings.
As it stands now, spring training will begin on February 27 in both the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues.
The prognosticators have also been at work and have revealed their early predictions for the season. Thanks to last season’s results and trip to the playoffs, the San Diego Padres occupy rarified territory after years of middling or worse projections.
According to Fangraphs, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers will tie for first place with 96-66 records, but the Padres will not be far behind at 94-68.
Here is a look at those predictions.
National League West Predictions
Anything close to 94 wins for the Padres would be a rare achievement as the franchise has won 90 or more games a measly four times (92/1984, 91/1996, 98/1998, 90/2010) since their inception in 1969. Since 2010 the team’s highest win total was 76 in 2012 and 2013.
This year mlb.com predicts that the Dodgers will win the West, with the Padres again taking the NL Wildcard.
Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox
St. Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Yankees
San Diego Padres
New York Mets
MLB.com also tabbed Padres manager Jayce Tingler as the likely NL Manager of the Year for 2021. Last year, Tingler indeed rose to the occasion, especially considering he’d never managed at the big league level. He guided the team to the playoffs during a pandemic and with a cast of changing characters.
According to PECOTA standings, the Padres win total will even surpass the 94 wins predicted by Fangraphs.com with 95.6 wins.
PECOTA Standings (BaseballProspectus)
Also of interest, Bradford Doolittle of ESPN predicted the top rotations in baseball:
1 Los Angeles Dodgers
2 New York Yankees
3 Washington Nationals
4 New York Mets
5 San Diego Padres
Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller has remade the team’s starting rotation by adding Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. Chris Paddack, last year’s opening day starter, and Dinelson Lamet will no longer be considered the “aces” of the pitching staff.
Not surprisingly, according to Dan Szymborski’ ZIPS Projections for players’ WAR, Mike Trout will be number 1 in WAR (6.8), with Fernando Tatis Jr. placing 14th with 4.4 WAR. While few will dispute the choice of the 29-year-old Trout to lead baseball in WAR, at 22, Tatis Jr. has barely begun to demonstrate his unique talents. Thanks to those talents and his personality Tatis Jr. became the youngest player ever to grace the cover of MLB cover The Show 21.
— MLB The Show (@MLBTheShow) February 1, 2021
While intriguing, these early predictions could mean next to nothing as they tend to be based on last season’s results. A 60-game season can in no way be compared to the usual 162-game grind.
However, last year the San Diego Padres performed at a high level in the midst of a pandemic with a rookie manager and major roster changes. Who knows what could have happened if Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger hadn’t sustained injuries which prevented them from pitching during the playoffs?