Well, it is certainly an exciting time to be a Padres fan, that’s for sure.
Over the past few weeks, our Padres have been in the national headlines multiple times. First, they made a splash and signed Eric Hosmer to an eight-year deal. On Friday, MLB Pipeline ranked San Diego as having the top farm system in the big leagues, with their plethora of young talent all throughout the system (six prospects in the Top 50, the only club to do so).
However, what’s arguably been the most impressive over the past week with this organization has been (gasp!) the play on the field?!
That’s right, since a slow 0-3 start, the Padres have been on fire lately, winning four of their last five games (they tied the other) all while averaging an astounding 10.6 runs per game during the stretch. As a lifelong Padres fan, this offensive outburst has truly been a breath of fresh air, and while I know it’s only spring training (the second week of spring training, to be precise), it’s still encouraging.
As well as the usual veterans, the slew of Padres youngsters have been making positive impacts all throughout the diamond. Fernando Tatis Jr., in his first big league camp at the age of 19, has been holding his own at the dish and playing solid defense both at shortstop and third base.
His future double play partner, Luis Urias (also in his first big league camp at 20), is hitting .500 over 12 at-bats, including four doubles.
Austin Hedges, who many had assumed to simply be a defensive catcher and nothing more, is hitting .625 and is tied for the Cactus League lead with four home runs. Hedges has also shown a more patient eye, drawing multiple walks in his first few games, and has seemingly simplified his swing as a whole.
Maybe most impressive though, is Christian Villanueva, a 26-year-old Padres farmhand who saw a little bit of big league time in 2017. Villanueva has been absolutely mashing at the plate throughout the spring thus far, leading the Cactus League in RBI, OPS, and is tied for 4th in both average and home runs.
While this is all fine and good, the question remains: Is this for real?
We’ve seen this a lot in the past–not just in baseball–where a seemingly bad team will catch fire in the preseason, only to disappoint their fans once the regular season starts. Even though the Padres aren’t projected to make the playoffs or pose a threat in October, it’s interesting to note that they have finished above .500 in spring training the last four times they have had a winning record (2010, 2007, 2006, 2005).
Conversely, they’ve finished dead last in the Cactus League the past two years, and have finished below .500 in four of the last five. Though this offensive onslaught will regress in the coming days and weeks, this is perhaps the most exciting Padres’ team to take the field, arguably in the last decade (or two).
What’s maybe most exciting is the fact that the “future pieces” that have been talked about for the past couple years are finally starting to make their way towards “The Show”. Heck, at one point in a game, the Padres had 19-year-old Hudson Potts at first base, 20-year-old Luis Urias at second base, 17-year-old Justin Lopez at shortstop, and 1- year-old Gabriel Arias at third base. We can talk about the youth pitching movement as well, but that’s a story for another day.
So, Padres fans, don’t look too far into the results that we’ve seen so far in the spring. The games don’t count, and opposing lineups aren’t at full strength. But get excited about how well these young guys have been doing. It’s promising. The Padres are close to being a regular contender. All these men need to do is continue to develop at their rates of growth, and we’ll soon be talking about October baseball in America’s Finest City once again.