Rundown on possible Padres’ bench options for 2021
Taking a look at bench options for the San Diego Padres in 2021.
The San Diego Padres are looking to dethrone the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers.
A major part of the Dodgers’ success on offense throughout the playoffs was their key players coming off the bench. The depth of hitters on both sides of the plate is needed, specifically late in meaningful games.
The Padres (especially after the last few weeks) have transformed themselves into World Series contenders. General manager A.J. Preller still isn’t finished putting this roster together and will continue to find key role players.
The Padres recently signed star Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year $28 million deal.
Ha-Seong Kim’s dream is becoming reality in San Diego. pic.twitter.com/w7fIivzQHh
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) January 6, 2021
The top international prospect will have plenty of time to earn a starting position at second base, first base, or in the outfield if needed. He’ll likely compete with 2020 rookie standout Jake Cronenworth at second base.
Whoever doesn’t get the starting gig between the two will look to be the first bat off the bench as sort of a “tenth man.” The designated hitter has yet to be confirmed for the 2021 season, so it is too early to declare them DH candidates.
Most Free Agent hitters are still available as many don’t sign with a new team until the new year. Preller is still looking to improve the bench, so some possible free agents may still be available before spring training.
Profar became a free agent after the 2020 season ended. He should be Preller’s number one priority.
In his only season with San Diego, Profar finished the season with a 1.4 WAR in his best season as a pro. He hit .278 with 50 hits and 25 RBI, but his flexibility on defense proved crucial.
He started Opening Day at second base but was forced to start in left field after the Tommy Pham injury. With Pham looking to be back and healthy, Profar would go back to his utility role and start games in the infield and outfield when needed.
Profar also showed signs of power on both sides of the plate. He hit seven total home runs in 2020, four coming as a lefty and three as a right-hander. The switch hitter proved to a viable hitter in last year’s breakout season.
A little revenge double
Jurickson Profar brings in 2 runs vs. his former team and the @Padres are rolling in Texas! Already up 5-0. pic.twitter.com/ORbUd47hqw
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 18, 2020
Profar is expected to have other offers and could even start for another team in 2021.
Hernandez has started at every position on the diamond except for catcher. He is another versatile player that can fill any position. Kiké’s tenure with the Dodgers ended after six years, but not after becoming a fan favorite during his time in LA.
Hernandez had two hits in this past World Series for the Dodgers. His regular season didn’t live up to expectations, but if Kiké were to find his 2018 groove (where he finished the season with a 3.2 WAR), then his flexibility could benefit the team on defense.
He would fill in at second base at times but would actually serve as Trent Grisham’s back up in centerfield.
Kiké is an exhilarating player like many on the Padres’ roster, so he would fit in with the team just fine.
Kiké Hernandez is one of the most electric players in baseball and that’s not up for discussion. pic.twitter.com/4iNfRLvQVn
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) October 13, 2020
Gonzalez is an intriguing player to consider when putting together a solid bench. At 31, he is coming off his worst statistical season as a pro. He hit a career-low .211 for the Minnesota Twins in just under 200 at-bats.
Like Hernandez, if Gonzalez were to find his previous self, his production off the bench as a utility role would help get the Padres where they want to be. Gonzalez’s WAR reached 4.0 in 2017 when he went to the World Series with the Houston Astros.
Gonzalez is known for his clutch play during that World Series run when he was an Astros member.
His switch-hitting capability will be needed on the Padres bench if they cannot re-sign Jurickson Profar.
It’s also worth mentioning he has a clutch home run off of Dodger’s closer Kenley Jansen.
Marwin Gonzalez on an 0-2 count ties it up off of Jansen! #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/d9RMvSBJ2f
— Balk City (@CityBalk) October 26, 2017
Hamilton is a far-fetched and unlikely possibility, but with the lack of centerfield depth at the major league level, the speedster makes sense.
The only backup centerfield option on the roster right now is Brian O’Grady, who the Padres recently signed to a major league contract. With Wil Myers locking up right field, and Pham in left, Grisham is the man in center. The reigning Gold Glover should get the majority of starts, but it’s tough to determine if he’ll start all 162 games.
Hamilton holds the record for most stolen bases in a season with 155. In 2012, Hamilton is still a threat on the base paths and could be an option if there is a need for another outfielder.
There are a ton of amazing defensive plays made throughout Hamilton’s career.
2 years ago today, Billy Hamilton made this unreal catch 😱
📽️: @SportsCenter pic.twitter.com/qnZGyhAt39
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) July 13, 2020
Some other possible bench options currently on the 40-man roster are Victor Caratini, Jorge Mateo, Brian O’Grady, Luis Campusano, and Jorge Ońa. The Padres recently traded outfielder Greg Allen and waived infielder Greg Garcia.
Caratini came to the Padres in part of the Yu Darvish trade. He is familiar with being Darvish’s go-to catcher, and so Caratini will start some games to give Austin Nola a break.
Caratini is a switch hitter who hit for a .241 average in 2020 with 28 hits and 16 RBI. His switch-hitting capability will be crucial for the Padres as he is the only switch hitter currently on the roster.
Preller made it clear that including Caratini in the trade was a big factor.
AJ Preller was asked how important it was to get Victor Caratini in addition to Yu Darvish in the deal with the Cubs: pic.twitter.com/rB6FXhc3qO
— 97.3 The Fan (@973TheFanSD) December 30, 2020
The rookie debuted for the Padres this past season but was mainly used as a pinch-runner and late-game defensive replacement.
Mateo will look to play second base as well as outfield in 2021.
The one major aspect of Mateo’s game is his lightning speed.
Want to watch the Padres win via walk-off thanks to elite speed from Jorge Mateo?
Cool, me too.
30.8 ft/sec sprint speed scoring from 1st on Jurickson Profar’s single
That’s ELITE! (30 ft/sec elite; 27 ft/sec MLB avg) pic.twitter.com/JGPvDRvTVa
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 8, 2020
Twenty-eight plate appearances aren’t enough to evaluate a hitter, so it is too early to worry about his .154 batting average. Despite the lack of experience, Mateo proved to be one of the game’s top prospects before 2020.
In 2019, for the Oakland Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate, Mateo slashed .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI. The speedster also stole 24 bases, as well as 25 in 2018.
Speed on the bench is critical for late-game scenarios, and Mateo has already proved that his speed can score from first on a single. Mateo stole second in his only attempt last season. With more playing time and pinch-running experience, expect Mateo to steal almost every bag he attempts.
O’Grady signed a major league contract on December 8, 2020. He only has 53 career at-bats after short stints with the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays.
O’Grady can play left and center field as well as first base.
The lefty has two career home runs on eight total hits. If O’Grady makes the opening day roster, expect him to be a solid left-handed option off the bench. The Padres are currently short-handed on MLB ready outfielders.
Offseason issues seemed to be the biggest news for Campusano since the end of last season.
Despite that, he is still one of the Padres’ top prospects and proved it when he smashed a home run in his third career plate appearance against the A’s last season.
An elite feat.
First game, first hit, FIRST HOMER for Luis Campusano!#FriarFaithful pic.twitter.com/drsvIgzhiI
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) September 5, 2020
Campusano is slated to be the third-string catcher behind Nola and Caratini. He most likely will start the season in the minors, but if manager Jayce Tingler likes what he sees in spring training, don’t be surprised if he’s among the 26.
The call up of Jorge Ońa last season surprised many people. Injuries allowed Ona to earn at-bats, and he showed that he could hit at the major league level.
In 12 ABs, he knocked in three hits and one home run. His one homer was an absolute moonshot off pitcher Drew Smiley for his first career hit.
Ońa only has two career innings in the field, so he would primarily serve as a power-hitting pinch-hitter.
OMG THIS JORGE OÑA KID HITS NUKES 💣 pic.twitter.com/zRU2CHzkNS
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) September 11, 2020
If there is a DH, he could start a few games there as well as Campusano.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, and contributes regularly about the Padres.
Nice article. I like our younger guys and hope they get that chance. I hope Campusano starts in the minors and get a lot of at bats before we bring him up. Ona seems like a luxury but might be very serviceable if they do use the DH in 2021.
Profar was fun to watch at times last year but I would not be bringing him back. Let him start elsewhere. I think he’s going to give someone a .240 year without much power. I’d rather see that elsewhere. I do like Billy Hamilton. I’d like to see him here as our 4th or 5th outfielder.