With the conclusion of Sunday’s slate of games, the baseball season is officially underway. After months of waiting, today is finally the day, as the San Diego Padres host the defending National League West Champions at four o’clock today. The rosters are all set, which can be viewed here, and it is almost time for baseball.
The Padres will play three games at home against the Dodgers before traveling to Colorado for a weekend series with the Rockies. Here is a preview of the Padres-Dodgers opening series and what to watch for.
There will be no shortage of pitching in the opening tilt between the Padres and Dodgers. Both teams have relatively strong pitching staffs, and both look to improve after struggles and injuries have hampered past performance. Clearly the best match up to watch is the Opening Day match up between Ross and Kershaw. Not only is the best match up of the series, but it is arguably the best of any of the Opening Day pitching match ups this season.
Players to Watch
Wil Myers, 1B
No player will have more eyes on him on Opening Day for the Padres than Wil Myers. Now one year removed from being involved in a second blockbuster trade in his young career, Myers is looking to rebound from what was yet another lost season. Myers once again missed a vast majority of the 2015 season with injuries, and looks to finally stay healthy on the field for a majority of the season. If he can stay healthy, Myers can be a superstar. Padre fans will be anxious to see if he can live up to those expectations this season.
Joc Pederson, OF
Another player who will be at Petco Park on Monday afternoon with a lot of pressure on his shoulders is another young outfielder, Joc Pederson. After having a phenomenal first half to the 2015 season, Pederson completely fell apart in the second half. Despite his strong first half performance, there are real concerns about whether or not Pederson is more like that first half hitter or the second half hitter. At this point, there is a real fear that Pederson could just be a bust for the Dodgers. Either way, he’ll be interesting to watch come game time.
Luis Perdomo, RHP
No Padre Opening Day roster decision was more surprising than the team choosing to keep Luis Perdomo on the roster. After being selected in the Rule 5 draft last winter, Perdomo did not fair well in spring training; performing abysmally really. Despite his struggles, the Padres are taking quite a big chance in keeping him on the big league roster. Perdomo has never pitched higher than Single-A, and will now be thrust into the spotlight on a big league roster. The Padres will obviously try to protect him as much as they can, but it should be an interesting to see when he makes his first appearance for the team.
Corey Seager, IF
The nearly consensus number one prospect in all of baseball, Corey Seager doesn’t really have much to prove after his impressive second half performance last year following his call up. Despite his success, Seager has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to be the sort of franchise player the Dodgers hoped they had when he was initially drafted. The Dodgers have already faced quite a bit of adversity to this point in the early season, and Seager is the guy looked upon to ease the anxiety of Dodger fans. Seager is a phenomenal talent and should be a big part of the Dodgers season one way or another.
Match Ups to Watch
Clayton Kershaw vs. Matt Kemp
These two players know each other fairly well from their time together in Los Angeles. Kemp faced Kershaw five times last year in his first season with the Padres, collecting two hits in five at bats. If the Padres hope to score some runs on Kershaw on Opening Day, Kemp may be relied upon.
Tyson Ross vs. Carl Crawford
Tyson Ross has only pitched in the National League West for a few years, but in those years Carl Crawford has absolutely owned Ross. In 18 at bats, Crawford has 9 hits, including 4 doubles, four walks, and an on base percentage just shy of .600. With the injury to Andre Ethier, it’s very likely that Crawford could find himself in the Opening Day lineup for the Dodgers against Ross.
Storylines to Watch
Which New Manager Will Have the Better Season?
One interesting question that will start to come into clearer focus as the season gets underway is who will be the better manager between Dave Roberts and Andy Green. Both skippers are in their first years as big league managers, and both are replacing older, more experienced managers in Don Mattingly and Bud Black respectively. Beyond that, both have quite a bit of pressure on their shoulders. The Dodgers are expected to once again return to the playoffs, and perhaps even finally return to the World Series. The Padres on the other hand, are hoping to improve on a poor 2015 season and build a more cohesive team. It will be interesting to see which skipper makes a better first impression this week.
Can the Dodgers Overcome an Overwhelming Number of Injuries?
It seems like every year the Dodgers are saddled with an immense number of injuries over the course of a season. This year is no different to this point. The Dodgers are starting the season against the Padres with 10 players on the disabled list, including Andre Ethier, Brett Anderson, Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick, among many others. The Dodgers are clearly the better team on paper, but the Padres may be able to steal a few games to start the season with all these injuries the Dodgers are dealing with.
Will the Padres Perform Better than Last Season?
As Padre fans, the anticipation to start the season is at an all time high. After a disappointing season in 2015, the Padres are looking for a big rebound. There are quite a few new players with the team, including Jon Jay, Christian Bethancourt, Jabari Blash, among several others, and a new manager to lead the team in Andy Green. Obviously expectations aren’t super high going into the year, but the hope is the Padres will improve on what was a forgettable season last year. Winning a few games against the Dodgers to start the year would go a long way in setting the tone for a good season.