After a disappointing 2021 season, both familiar and unfamiliar faces must re-energize a potentially crucial 2022 season for the San Diego Padres.
With the 2022 Major League Baseball regular season less than a week away, the San Diego Padres are in a peculiar spot. Gone is former manager Jayce Tingler who led the team to a playoff appearance in a shortened 2020 season but followed it up with an underwhelming season surrounded by inconsistency.
In is former Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, who, on paper, is quite the opposite of Tingler. He has a long line of credentials and earned much respect around the league from players to executives after being around the game for so long. While this is not a knock on Tingler, it’s indicative of the direction the Padres wanted to go moving forward.
The Padres new skipper inherits a talented team that has the potential to be really good but has a lot of questions to answer.
The most obvious of those questions is health, something that Melvin can only have so much control over. Fernando Tatis Jr., Mike Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet, Trent Grisham, and Drew Pomeranz are just a few names that have injury questions or concerns heading into Opening Day.
Injuries aside, the Padres will start the season with an abundance of talent that can surely hold down the fort until their superstar shortstop returns in a few months from a wrist injury suffered in the offseason.
This season, the Padres will need several contributors to bounce back as a group, but they have very capable players to do the job.
Here are four players that will need to perform at a high level if the Padres are going to fulfill their potential and become a playoff team once again:
SP/RP – Dinelson Lamet
There is a lot of unknown about Lamet heading into the 2022 season. Will he be a starter? Will he come out of the bullpen? Will he be a sort of Tampa Bay Rays’ style hybrid pitcher who starts some games on a bullpen day? No one really knows at this point, whether that be Melvin, the team doctors, or Lamet himself.
Avoiding any unnecessary speculation, the fact is that Lamet is a dominant pitcher when healthy. That is why it is so crucial for Lamet to stay healthy in 2022. Though his injury-plagued 2021 limited him to 47.0 innings and inconsistent outings, a bill of clean health and some consistent mound time can be a real boost to the staff.
To his credit, Lamet has not been concerned about an established role heading into the regular season, “Whether it’s starter or bullpen, my goal is always just to get those three outs,” he said.
There will likely be times this season that injuries, schedule demands, and everything in between will require Lamet to step into a number of different situations, and if healthy, watch out.
In a small sample size this spring, the right-hander has looked sharp.
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) March 31, 2022
CF – Trent Grisham
Trent Grisham busted onto the scene for the Padres in 2020 after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers. He worked himself into the starting center fielder job and leadoff role for a team that made the playoffs. He won a Gold Glove, hit for power, got on base, and brought an infectious attitude to a team that needed just that.
Unfortunately, Grisham’s 2021 was not quite the same. He had some injuries that limited him to 132 games, yet still, Grisham put up respectable numbers. A .327 OBP and 62 RBIs, along with continued rock-solid defense, showed that he still holds the qualities that turned him into a significant force in 2020.
Whether it be playing through injuries, suffering from the inevitable inconsistencies of the game, a mix of the two, or neither, continuing his progression and finding his groove again make Grisham a major factor in whether the team reaches its goals.
SP – Blake Snell
Snell may be the easiest choice to make this list for many reasons, but he makes this list because he has the potential to be the best pitcher on a team of really good pitchers.
In his first year with the Padres, Snell’s 2021 season did not go well. I would bet that Snell would be the first to tell you that if you asked. That is part of what makes Snell tantalizing on and off the field.
Though he posted sub-par numbers in 2021, a 4.20 ERA and a 1.321 WHIP, he began to show signs of the superstar pitcher that lives inside of him as the season progressed. In August, Snell allowed only seven earned runs in 36.2 innings, striking out 54 batters and walking only 12.
If Snell can cut down on his walks overall and command the zone more, things he was refreshingly candid about when discussing his performances postgame, he could be the leader of a staff that features Yu Darvish, Mike Clevinger, Lamet, and Joe Musgrove.
3B – Manny Machado
While Snell being on the list probably didn’t come as a surprise, Manny Machado making the list might seem that way. Machado has done very little to earn a spot on a list of players that are more X-factors for the upcoming season. A sort of pleasant surprise, if you will.
Machado has essentially been exactly what the Padres were hoping for when they signed him in 2019. A leader, a spectacular hitter, and a generational third baseman.
However, I think that he, like Snell, has MVP-level talent waiting to be unlocked. A potential to make great even better. In 2021, Machado had good numbers, so it feels strange to see them and think, “What else is he capable of?”
In 153 games, Machado hit .278 and got on base at a .347 clip. He hit 28 home runs and drove in 106 runs. Combined with his majestic defense, it’s easy to say that San Diego is blessed to have the 29-year-old.
The potential for another level is the question at hand here, however. If Machado can take his offense to a new level while continuing his leadership in the clubhouse and on the field, there is no telling what the 2022 season holds for the San Diego Padres.
The Friars obviously need a lot to go right outside of just the four players listed above. Fernando Tatis Jr.‘s health is a question, the closer role is a question, and whether a new manager can continue being successful is a question.
The four players that have been identified as key factors for the season have a chance to be major factors in answering and quieting those questions.