The San Diego Padres have a lot of expectations for this coming year.
A high payroll and a roster full of stars, anything besides a playoff berth would be extremely disappointing. Padres fans have been miserable watching mediocre and underwhelming baseball for the past decade. But they show up. San Diegans love their baseball team. When the Chargers moved, some felt it’s all they have left.
The Padres have so much to prove, not only to themselves and the fans but also the entire MLB.
The knuckleheads at Chavez Ravine will always be a thorn in their side, and the Giants always have the potential to win like they did in 2021. The expanded playoffs give the Padres the perfect opportunity to make the postseason, as the Friars seek an appearance in the Fall Classic once again.
1. Bob Melvin, Michael Brdar and Ruben Niebla
Damn. What a trio. These guys are integral to the Padres upcoming successes. Bob Melvin is everything you would want in a major league skipper. Smart, experienced, and honest. Still speechless they nabbed him from a deflating Oakland franchise, the Padres were also able to get Melvin’s ace Sean Manaea. Melvin has shown so far that he likes to play around with lineups. It can’t be understated the importance of his current lineup and bullpen decisions, as these are vital to success, and it ill be interesting to see the differences in managerial style compared to a rookie manager like Jayce Tingler.
Expect Michael Brdar to improve hitting for the Pads, as it is hoped he will use analytics and sabermetrics to better the contact of some of the struggling veterans and young rookies alike. The absence of Tommy Pham leaves a big hole in terms of walks and plate discipline, and so look for Luke Voit to become a poor man’s Yasmani Grandal, as it is hoped he will both mash dingers off the Western Metal Supply Co. building as well as having smart at-bats and not swinging for power on balls out of the zone.
As shown by 2021, you can never have enough starting pitching. The key for this starting pitching, however, is development. The Padres went and got one of the better pitching coaches in the league in ex-Cleveland Guardian Ruben Niebla. Pitching prospects for the Padres have seen their fair struggles recently, including fan-favorite Dinelson Lamet. Niebla was well known throughout the league in being somewhat of a magician, and so there was no one better to bring onto the staff to mentor the young arms of the Padres, specifically Mackenzie Gore. It will be interesting to see if Niebla can unlock Gore’s humungous potential and bring him into the starting rotation somewhat soon.
2. Eric Hosmer and Jurickson Profar
Ok, there are a lot of expectations for these two players. To start with Profar, he needs to fight to prove himself this year. Some see him as just a bench bat, and so he will need to produce in order to keep the starting LF job. It could be predicted that the Padres front office might look for outfield reinforcements and improvements at the trade deadline, but until then a platoon of Profar and Beaty will have to do in the meantime. Jurickson Profar needs to work on his contact, as his batted ball statistics are far from desirable. Good defense, good contact, and positional versatility are the keys to success for the smiling utility man.
In the case of San Diego’s resident ‘Royals legend’, the relationship between ownership and Hoz is volatile. He had his name thrown around in trade rumors. Oh no! He should ask Wil Myers how it feels. What irks Padres fans about Hosmer is his inability to connect with the fanbase. In interviews, he always has high praise for KC but it feels like he hasn’t done anything for America’s Finest City. Hell, even Mike Clevinger, who has barely even seen the mound as a Friar, contributes in local food drives and has made a home with the hippies in OB. Hosmer has also shown no previous willingness to improve his on-field production. While he might be a clubhouse leader, he needs to pull his weight. Getting a compliment from Fernando Tatis Jr. or Blake Snell is nice, but improving his launch angle would be even nicer. Voit, Cronenworth, and Profar can all play first base, so if Hosmer was to be traded, potentially along with top-catching prospect Luis Campusano to the Chicago Cubs, the Padres would be able to survive without him.
Hosmer needs to work it out with Brdar, among others in order to get his mojo back. Hopefully, he finally takes the next step and listens to the Padres, who are only trying to help him improve, so he stops grounding out to second base with runners in scoring position. It is expected that both players mentioned will improve upon their previous efforts with the Padres, as they have both been labeled as crucial players who need to consistently improve their on-field production, especially if San Diego expects to make the postseason. Both players have had a hot start to the new season, but only time will tell us if they have put in the work this offseason to consistently improve.
3. Develop the youngsters
CJ Abrams made the opening day roster! Shades of Tatis, Abrams is more than ready to make an impact. He skipped Triple-A, and Bebo’s injury opens the door for Melvin to platoon SS with Abrams and Ha-Seong Kim. Kim has shown flashes this year of catching up to higher velocity, something he struggled with last year. The only thing that will make Kim better is first-team reps starting in the infield. It would be nice to see both Abrams and Kim in the infield at once, but the only thing that will make these talents more valuable is an increase in playing time. The question is if Abrams will see any time in left field, as that is a positional weakness for the Pads. Kevin Kopps and Ray Kerr are two bullpen prospects fans love.
A. J. Preller has gotten some backlash for his trades in the past, and whilst there are definitely some he’ll regret, if Kopps and Kerr can produce late in the year and solidify the bullpen, they have the potential to be secret weapons come playoff time. Finally, the missing piece of the Padres starting pitching staff is MacKenzie Gore. If Niebla can use his wizardry to unlock Gore and fix his prior control issues, the ceiling there is enormous. Limit the walks, and everything else will fall into place. San Diegans have been dreaming ever since 2017 of a rotation headlined by Gore and Luis Patino, and while the latter is off in Tampa Bay, the hope and excitement for Gore is ever-present in Petco, and so it’s up to him to exceed said expectations.
To summarize, the Padres need to make the playoffs. It isn’t optional this year. Players need to improve, including Hosmer and Profar. An experienced coaching staff needs to take risks, manage potential injuries, and trust the Padres ‘hot talent lava’. Niebla is responsible for Gore, who needs to show improvement in his control if he is to emerge as dominant. Kim needs playing time, as well as Abrams, wherever that may be. Voit is a perfect foil for Hosmer, and his presence in the locker room will hopefully be enough to show Hosmer that he is replaceable, even if it will cost Campusano. It cannot be understated: no matter what, the Padres must make the postseason. It is non-negotiable.