The San Diego Padres have almost completed spring training, inching closer to the most anticipated season in franchise history.
The payroll is higher than ever, and the talent on the roster is overflowing.
The competition for roster spots is going to be fierce the next week, and with that being said, there will be players that won’t make the Opening Day roster that would feature prominently on other teams.
Let’s take a look at the roster and those final position battles.
Padres Pitching Staff
One of the priorities for general manager A.J. Preller this offseason was to improve the starting pitching depth. The Padres 2020 season was shortened not only by the Covid-19 pandemic but untimely injuries to starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet. Losing those two players took the Padres from legitimate World Series contenders to being swept out of the playoffs by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
Determined not to let that happen again, the Padres brought in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove in a fantastic offseason haul. Darvish and Snell are two of the top pitchers in the league, and Musgrove is a breakout candidate with the metrics of a high ceiling pitcher. Those three arms alone provide a major improvement to the starting rotation. Also, Chris Paddack is looking to bounce back from a sophomore slump and has looked good in his Spring Training starts so far as he rounds out one of the top starting rotations in all of baseball.
Yu Darvish was filth today. The Padres are gonna be even more fun to watch this year than they were last year. pic.twitter.com/xAjuVacoQu
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) March 7, 2021
The first roster spot that is up for competition is at the back end of the starting rotation. Lamet looks more and more likely to start the season on the IL in an effort to effectively shorten his season and workload.
On the other hand, Adrian Morejon has looked the part in his spring training starts. Over 10.2 innings, he’s only given up four runs, eight walks, and 11 strikeouts. More importantly, he’s shown the ability to stay calm and collected with runners on base, something he has struggled with in his Padres career. His performance this spring has solidified his spot on the roster, likely as the 5th starter until Lamet is healthy.
While Morejon will have competition for his spot, the Padres may elect to have six starters, especially considering the fact that they have 24 games in the first 25 days.
MacKenzie Gore has had up and down performances this spring, showing both his inexperience and his frontline starter potential. Having only pitched in three games and never more than two innings, the Padres appear to be taking it slow with their top prospect. Gore has had good numbers in the spring, only giving up two runs in his second outing, a total of five hits, six walks, and eight strikeouts this preseason.
MacKenzie Gore 👀 pic.twitter.com/Ga4m216OAO
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 17, 2021
Gore is not on the 40-man roster, which is full, so he will start at either Double-A San Antonio or Triple-A El Paso, barring a bigger shift in his usage leading up to the season. On the other hand, Ryan Weathers is on the 40-man roster. He, like Gore, has shown his starting pitching potential but has also struggled a bit this spring. Over 10 innings, he has given up seven runs off 12 hits and 11 strikeouts. Even if Weathers does not make the starting rotation as the sixth starter, he could still earn a spot in the bullpen.
Before Spring Training started, the bullpen looked to be crowded, having more than eight players without minor league options. However, injuries are already starting to mount.
Jose Castillo tore the UCL in his throwing elbow, and Matt Strahm has yet to take the mound this spring. Austin Adams is being held out with elbow inflammation, and Pierce Johnson needs a few days to have a sore groin muscle evaluated.
Javy Guerra has had an issue with his throwing arm and hasn’t been featured at all this spring. Dan Altavilla and Taylor Williams are also available, but both have struggled in the preseason. Along with Javy Guerra, none of the three have minor league options, and all of them would certainly be picked up by other teams if subjected to waivers.
Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, Mark Melancon, and Keone Kela are all expected to be featured prominently in high-leverage situations. Craig Stammen and Tim Hill will also be in the mix, and both are having a strong spring. Stammen is under contract, and Hill is one of the only left-handed relievers on the roster.
— Padres de San Diego (@LosPadres) March 16, 2021
While Strahm, Adams, and Johnson are expected to contribute, if all are healthy, that makes nine relievers, and the only two that have minor league options of those nine are Hill and Pagan. Pagan is too good not to be in the mix, and without Hill, there would be only one left-handed reliever (Pomeranz).
Padres Position Players
The way the roster is currently constructed, the defensive lineup practically writes itself. All nine starters return from last season, along with Jurickson Profar, Ha-Seong Kim, and Victor Caratini. All three of these players play multiple positions and will have plenty of playing opportunities, especially with no DH in the National League.
Realistically, Jorge Mateo and Brian O’Grady could both also make the Opening Day roster. However, that depends on how many relievers Preller chooses to keep and whether or not one of the relievers has to start the season on IL. Jorge Mateo does not have minor league options, but O’Grady does. Mateo possesses incredible speed and has shown great improvement offensively. It is a weapon that would give opposing teams a lot of trouble, which could be a difference-maker in October. He has to convince Preller that he can be productive enough to stay on the roster all season.
Take a look at @Padres newest INF, Ha-Seong Kim 👀
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) December 28, 2020
On the other hand, O’Grady has the ability to play all three outfield positions as well as first base. He also is left-handed and hits for power, something the roster is in need of. The question may not be, is he more valuable than Mateo, rather, is he more valuable than a ninth reliever?
The Opening Day roster, unfortunately, may come down to injuries and whether or not a player has minor league options. The good news is that the talent is certainly overflowing on the roster, and multiple moves will be required of the Padres before the start of the season, whether it’s a trade or multiple players being released.
The roster prediction is listed below. Thanks for reading!
Lineup and Bench
10 day IL