CATCHER: Austin Nola’s quick study and versatility and uber-prospect Luis Campusano’s total package give the Padres two guys who can take the squat and lead the team to victory. And, they cost next-to-nothing for the time being. Work now needs to be done again here after the outgoing names in the Snell acquisition. Still, the many free agents left on a depressed market can remedy that situation easily as the front office continues to reshape the 2021 team.
FIRST BASE: Eric Hosmer’s 2020 revealed growth. Not only is he the ring-leader, but he’s been clutch and shown toughness. He fought through a stomach ailment and a broken hand to make invaluable contributions. Success in small markets has been Hosmer’s pedigree, and a title in San Diego will not have come without his efforts on and off the field.
SECOND BASE: Jake Cronenworth showed two things in 2020: the front office shifted from an almost “home run or else” offensive philosophy to an OBP one, and Tampa Bay has too many prospects. Seriously, Preller’s acumen has been instrumental in the building of a title team. There have been swings-and-misses along the way, but the Padres’ front office has made many, many good calls over the past few years. This is a big one. Cronenworth, another versatile talent, showed a knack for bat-to-ball skills, unlike the past several second base candidates, and he performed at an elite level.
SHORTSTOP: San Diego is home to the guy Gatorade hired to represent its latest product. Let that, and what it means, sink in. The most exciting player in the entire industry plays shortstop at Petco, and Fernando Tatis Jr. is on record as wanting to spend his career here. I won’t make Brady comparisons here, but maybe 20 years from now, there will be some inevitable ones.
THIRD BASE: The Dodgers lost this first team All-MLB player to the San Diego Padres. He chose us over them. Let that, and what it means, sink in. Manny Machado just had the best season of his career. There are no signs of slowing down, only efforts to keep up with and best his MVP-caliber teammate.
LEFT FIELD: What didn’t Tommy Pham have to overcome in 2020? He started with Covid-19 and fell behind in the ramp-up for the season. Then, he faced, am I actually typing this? a broken hamate bone that obviously affected his ability to grip a bat. Then, he faced unfriendly fire (stabbing) in the immediate off-season. What draws us to Pham is his ability to overcome adversity. He’s likely to have a bounce-back, high-performance effort in 2021. He rubs off on players, too, like Wil Myers, who attributed his turnaround at least in part to Pham.
CENTERFIELD: Thanks to the front office, the Padres fleeced the Brewers of talent in Trent Grisham last offseason. Aside from the Gold Glove and aside from his aggressive style, Grisham has a quiet fight in him that is infectious, and for now, he costs next to nothing. As he matures, he may even be mentioned in the same breath with another young middle of the field Padres stud.
RIGHT FIELD: Many wanted the front office to trade Wil Myers last off-season, but thankfully, Wil stayed put and performed at an MVP clip in 2020 in the brown and gold. Wil has the uncanny ability to beat the other teams’ best pitchers. He’s a luxury to put in the bottom half of the lineup and know how much damage he can do to opposing teams. If he hadn’t started with such negative assessment, he’d have been in the top half of the MVP balloting as well.
STARTING PITCHING: Imagine the rotation with a healthy Mike Clevinger. The work done last year by the front office was tremendous. But, injury and an up-and-down performance from Chris Paddack makes this the biggest question mark coming into the 2021 season. But, there are options, and this organization, suddenly, has proven itself to have vision and nimbleness in dealing with needs. It’s not a matter of if, but when the Padres will retool a rotation that finished 2020 ranked third in MLB in ERA and WHIP while ranking seventh or better in walk, strikeout, hit, and home run per 9.
The preceding sentences were written about the rotation before the Snell acquisition. It truly is only a matter of time before the Padres retool this aspect of the 2021 team. Snell’s three years of control, that I advocated acquiring in this off-season plan three weeks ago, give the Padres a potentially dominant rotation in 2022 and 2023.
RELIEF PITCHING: Long a strength of the organization, the bullpen has both strengths and needs currently. Options exist, and as the market emerges, San Diego will fill out its relief roster with strong pieces. It would be difficult to believe the bullpen won’t round into form and become even more ferocious than the 2020 version that struggled out of the gate.
Maybe a 2020 Padres Vision is really about remembering the reasons to be hopeful, thankful, encouraged, and encouraging. Maybe it’s about recognizing that it only takes a few special, committed people to align with a vision of greatness for greatness to emerge. Maybe 10 or 20 years from now, this article gets republished, and Padres fans can laugh and smile in joy, remembering what it was like before the 10 or 20-year run that made San Diego’s Padres the best franchise in American professional sport according to some future ESPN article.
Maybe the moment of its inception already occurred on a series of consecutive days during a pandemic where the team hammered four grand slams, adding another two games later for good measure. Maybe the moment that Fernando Tatis Jr. hit his grand slam versus the Texas Rangers was a symbolic annihilation of the past and its ways and an ushering in of the new ways with greater results. Maybe it really won’t matter what the Dodgers could do or did, but rather what the Padres did.
As time passes, we are faced with choices in how we “see” things in life. Some are clear without aid; some need correction. Ironically, at times in decades past, we may have had to squint hard and look close to see positive signs from the organization. But, now, we can’t wait to read the next ESPN assessment as well as future ones. This craziest of years, aptly named 2020, brought about a corrected stigma-tism of the San Diego Padres. No matter what ESPN says this time, it is pleasing to be optimistic about the Padres 20/20 Vision and future, only remembering the past as a way to appreciate the present, knowing the wheels are already in motion.