San Diego Padres welcome an ordinary Spring Training
Spring training has been disrupted two of the last three years for the San Diego Padres.
In 2020, the pandemic took its toll. Last year, Major League Baseball locked out players for 99 days which shortened spring training. Fortunately, regular season games began as scheduled after MLB and the Player’s Association finally came to an agreement.
Still, last year’s lockout had a significantly negative effect on San Diego Padres. Because of the lack of communication, the front office didn’t find out about Fernando Tatis Jr.’s motorcycle accident (or accidents) and his injured wrist until the lockdown ended. Not long after that, the Padres learned that he had been suspended for PED use.
Tatis Jr. will be allowed to participate in spring training despite his suspension. However, he won’t be eligible to play in regular season games until April 20. During his absence, he’s had surgeries on both his wrist and shoulder, much to the relief of the front office. Earlie,r he had refused to follow the advice of surgeons despite being shut down with shoulder issues three times in 2021 and playing in only 130 games.
“It feels really good. Everything that we have been doing feels back to normal. It feels (as) close to 100 percent as the last two years with my shoulder problems. I’m really glad that we decided to get it out of the way.”
Coming off of the second most successful season in the San Diego Padre’s history, this year’s pre-season games will be crucial to the team. The addition of Xander Bogaerts at shortstop will affect both Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth.Kim will likely move to second base and Cronenworth to first, and this will give both of them the opportunity to adjust.
Tatis Jr. will likely land in the outfield. Currently, the Padres have five outfielders on the roster: Trent Grisham, Juan Soto, Adam Engel, Matt Carpenter, and Jose Azocar. Although Tatis Jr. has some experience in center, Grisham is a far better defender. In four years in the major leagues, Grisham has proven his defensive aptitude with 24 DRS, UZR/150 3.,8, according to FanGraphs.
In 56 games in center, Tatis Jr.’s 0 DRS of and -18.3 UZR/150 does not inspire confidence. However, in 151.1 innings in right field, he’s been adequate (0 DRS, 1.8 UZR/150. With his athleticism and speed, he can cover a lot of ground.
Of course, moving Tatis Jr. to right field would displace Juan Soto, who was acquired at the trade deadline last year at a steep price. However, with his previous club, the Washington Nationals, Soto played a total of 2567.1 innings in right and 2603.2 innings in left. Obviously, left field won’t be a foreign position for him. According to FanGraphs, he’s no Hank Aaron or Roberto Clemente (-10 DRS, -3.8 UZR/150 ), but he should be adequate.
Although not ideal defensively, the addition of Soto and the return of Tatis Jr. should upgrade the Padres’ offense considerably. Last year, the Padres were middling at best at the plat,e with the exception of Manny Machado. In batting average, San Diego ranked 16th .241; slugging 22nd .382; OPS 15th .700; RBI 12th 682; home runs 22nd 153.
Soto and Tatis Jr. have the offensive ability to hit and hit for power. When the Nationals won the World Series in 2019, Soto batted .333/.438/.741/1.178. His offense suffered after he arrived in San Diego, and he produced the lowest batting average .236, OBP .388, and slugging .390 in his five-year career. Spring training will give him a chance to settle in and get more comfortable with his teammates.
Now that he’s recovered from his multiple surgeries, Tatis Jr. has been working on his hitting and defense . He has said he’s eager to meet with manager Bob Melvin, work out in the outfield as well as the infield, and reunite with his teammates.
Tatis Jr. will need to go out of his way to win back the trust of Padre fans, executives, and–most important– his fellow players. Last year Joe Musgrove spoke for many teammates when he reacted to the news of Tatis Jr.’s suspension: “A little bummed, a little pissed. You can say he’s a young kid, and he’s going to learn his lessons or whatnot. But ultimately, I think you’ve got to start showing a little bit of that remorse and showing us that you’re committed to it and that you want to be here.”
It appears that Tatis Jr. has learned from his multiple mistakes and grown up a bit. He’s obviously anxious to get back on the big league field and excited about the team’s promise.
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“I feel this is a great team we have. This is a great roster that the front office has put together. It feels like everybody is on the same page and that the page is winning, so whatever it takes.”
This year, Friday, February 24, marks the beginning of the Cactus League. The Padres will face the Seattle Mariners in their first spring training game. The regular season begins on March 30 at home against the Colorado Rockies at 1:10 PM.
A normal spring training gives Fernando Tatis Jr. a chance to win the trust of his teammates. He and his teammates Kim, Cronenworth, and Soto can also prepare themselves for changes in positioning.
Baseball has been a part of Diane’s life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.