A look at the possibilities for the 2020 San Diego Padres’ playoff roster.
For the first time in 14 years, the San Diego Padres have made the playoffs.
Twenty-eight-man rosters must be submitted to Major League Baseball offices by noon on Wednesday. The Padres are stacked with talent, and general manager A.J. Preller may find himself with some tough decisions on which players to keep and which to send to the alternate site.
The first round of the 2020 MLB playoffs is only a three-game series, reducing the number of healthy starting pitchers teams will need.
Of course, the Padres have two huge question marks regarding the health of Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, the top two pitchers on the staff. Both righties came out of their last starts early with potential injuries to their throwing arms. Clevinger received a cortisone injection to treat the back of his elbow, while the only treatment Lamet has received has been extra rest (that the Padres have publicly disclosed).
On Tuesday afternoon, Padres’ manager Jayce Tingler announced that Chris Paddack would start game one, but his plans for the staff beyond that remain unknown.
One of the Padres’ most consistent pitchers all season, Lamet posted a 2.07 ERA over 69 innings, recording 93 strikeouts. He made improvements by throwing his vicious slider at a higher rate than anyone in baseball. Gaining velocity on his fastball didn’t hurt either. If he’s healthy, Lamet would be locked into San Diego’s number one starter role in future postseason series.
His fastball may top out at 90 mph, but Davies can pitch with the best of them. A 2.73 ERA this season is the best of his career. Davies has increased the usage of his changeup significantly. His fastball movement and location, coupled with the great changeup, has kept hitters off-balance all season. If Clevinger is out, Davies is assured a start at some point in the Wild Card Series.
After an up and down season, Paddack will attempt to ease doubts about his effectiveness in the postseason. Despite struggling down the stretch, concerns about Paddack’s and Lamet’s health have suddenly thrust the 24-year-old right-hander into a start in Game 1 of the Wild Card series. He posted a 4-5 record with a 4.73 ERA this season, a slide from his 9-7, 3.33 mark of 2019. Paddack has struggled with giving up home runs in 2020, with the longball proving to be his downfall in several of his starts. He exhibited varying levels of success in his final two outings of the regular season, allowing just one hit and zero runs in six innings in an impressive effort against Seattle on September 18, but was touched up for five runs on eight hits the following week in San Francisco. Which Chris Paddack the Padres will get in Game 1 versus St. Louis remains to be seen.
The Padre offense outperformed expectations this season, largely thanks to its new coaching staff and manager Jayce Tingler. The team emphasized working counts, not chasing pitches outside the zone, getting on base, and being super aggressive on the base paths. All of these things combined for a style of offense Padre fans have not seen before. There are very few holes in the lineup, and it has been rather straightforward until Tingler goes to his bench late in games.
The recently acquired Austin Nola hit the ground running as a Padre, catching San Diego pitchers as if he’d been there all along while crushing baseballs at the plate. He did slump a bit to end the year, but Nola remains the Padres’ number-one catcher.
Also acquired at the deadline was Jason Castro. The veteran catcher’s best days may be behind him, but the experience he brings is immense. In 28 at-bats, he only managed five hits, but all five were doubles.
Sidelined for much of the season, Eric Hosmer is now healthy and will be expected to produce this offseason. One of a few Padres with deep postseason experience, Hosmer will be relied upon to deliver when needed. His improved launch angle has seen his power numbers increase over his first two years as a Padre.
A frontrunner for National League Rookie of the Year votes, Jake Cronenworth has been an incredible find for the Padres this season. Coming over with Tommy Pham from Tampa Bay in a trade last winter, Cronenworth has shown his power numbers in Triple-A Durham was no fluke. With Eric Hosmer on the IL earlier in the season, Cronenworth was given a shot at first base. He took the chance and turned it into even more playing time as the team’s everyday second baseman, impressing with his defensive prowess and production at the plate.
For three-quarters of the season, Fernando Tatis Jr. was by far the favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award, but a late-season slump may have cost him that accolade. However, Tatis is locked into the shortstop position and being a top of the order run producer, proving to be an invaluable part of San Diego’s success so far this season.
Also worthy of an MVP vote is Manny Machado. The third baseman has always dazzled with the glove but led the team in most major offensive categories as well this season. The way he played this season is what Padre fans expected to receive when the 300-million-dollar man was signed last season. Machado looks to put a below-average postseason with the Dodgers in 2018 behind him.
Finally, being given consistent play at one position seems to have been part of the equation to unlocking the vast potential of Wil Myers. On offense, Myers turned in one of his best statistical seasons and played very well in right field. Myers has been consistent the entire season, something he hasn’t been in the past as a Padre.
Another Preller find is Trent Grisham. The outfielder was shipped out of Milwaukee after a bad error cost his former team the playoffs, landing in San Diego via trade last November. A new beginning saw Grisham play phenomenal in center field. He also raked at the plate, ending the season with an OPS of .808 and ten home runs. The left-hander will likely lead off against right-handed pitchers but is a mainstay in the outfield.
The super-utility player Jurickson Profar found himself playing all over the diamond in his first season as a Padre. Profar showed his plate discipline early, consistently reaching base while not making much contact. After losing his everyday second base job to Cronenworth, Profar was granted an opportunity to take over for the injured Tommy Pham in left field. His ability to play multiple positions surely saved him from being relegated to the bench and has proved to be an asset for San Diego. Profar took his opportunity and ran with it, finding his offensive stride and ending the season with a .348 On Base Percentage while playing and producing consistently for the team in September.
When healthy, Tommy Pham would be expected to lock down left field and be a middle of the order run producer. However, early-season struggles combined with a broken hamate bone have brought that into question. Due to Profar hitting well and Mitch Moreland struggling, Pham may be the DH against left-handers with Profar playing left field at times in the postseason. If Pham doesn’t hit well, he could find himself on the bench for right-handed pitchers instead of Profar. Both Profar and Pham will not only make the roster, but both will get a chance to prove themselves.
Brought over from the Red Sox at the deadline to solidify the DH role, Mitch Moreland has struggled as a Padre so far. The left-hander can play first base if needed, but his role will mostly come against right-handed pitching. He needs to hit better than Jurickson Profar to keep a significant role in the offense, but he will be given the first opportunity to lock down the DH role.
When Jorge Mateo was acquired from the Oakland Athletics, AJ Preller saw one particular trait he possessed: speed. Mateo is one of the fastest players in the Majors. His role will likely come as a pinch-runner, to possibly steal a base, and score what could be a very significant run in a substantial game—just another weapon in the Padre arsenal.
Over the last two seasons, the player with the highest batting average in pinch-hitting situations is our very own Greg Garcia. He battles and runs up pitch counts, and is just a very gritty player. He can play all the infield positions and likely get an opportunity to pinch-hit for right-handed batters at some point in the postseason.
The Padre bullpen came into the year expected to be the best phase of the team. However, injuries and early struggles saw the team lean on its starters and offensive firepower for most early-season victories. AJ Preller added several arms at the deadline to ensure that it would not continue. The final spots for the bullpen are the most challenging decisions the team will make this season. With three starters and thirteen fielders, we are left with twelve spots for bullpen arms.
Mike Clevinger :
Even with an injury, Mike Clevinger will need to be on the roster or on the ten-day IL. At this point, he is still day-to-day, so he’s a lock for the roster.
Full of San Diego’s best Mexican food, the Padres new hard-throwing closer, Trevor Rosenthal, will look to lock down the ninth inning this postseason.
This offseason, A.J. Preller, made it a point to build the bullpen. He gave a large contract to Drew Pomeranz, and he rewarded AJ by not giving up a single run until his very last outing. The left-hander can pitch whenever to whomever but will be utilized in high-leverage situations.
After early-season struggles and ten days on the IL, Emilio Pagan ended the season strong. His mid-90’s fastball and the cutter will be called upon in the seventh and eighth innings.
After coming back from Tommy John surgery, Garrett Richards pitched well to start the season, but a couple of poor outings and a couple of quick hooks led the Padres to send him to the bullpen. Richards is going to search for a starter’s position in the offseason, but for now, he will come out of the bullpen. He or Adrian Morejon would come in if Paddack has a short outing.
Being one of the few San Diego relievers that has multiple years experience as a Padre, Matt Strahm is one of the lefty specialists on the staff. Usually, one of the first out of the bullpen, Strahm, will be used a lot this postseason.
After a season overseas, Pierce Johnson was able to receive a contract from the Padres. He’s pitched well enough to secure a spot in the bullpen.
The lefty specialist Tim Hill was brought in this season after Jose Castillo went down with an injury. The submarine-style pitcher throws from an awkward angle that keeps hitters off-balance. He’s had inconsistent success but should be on the roster. Poor appearances would send him down sooner than later in a short postseason.
Brought over with Austin Nola, Dan Altavilla has taken advantage of a new beginning in San Diego. The right-hander has always had a great slider, a true swing and miss pitch. After struggling to a 7.71 ERA with Seattle, Altavilla only gave up three runs as a Padre over nine outings.
A true weapon out of the bullpen, Adrian Morejon, has improved by leaps and bounds in 2020. The young Cuban throws 98 from the left side and has a devastating 84 MPH changeup and a knuckle-curve that has propelled him to 25 strikeouts over 19.1 innings. Next season he should be vying for the fifth spot in the Padres’ starting rotation.
The final two spots on the roster are anybody’s guess. Several pitchers could fill in. Many arms are ready and are deserving of a role. A deep bullpen is exactly what the Padres need for a deep playoff run. Players can be brought up from the USD alternate site, but once they are sent down again, they cannot be brought back.
POTENTIAL OPTIONS FOR THE FINAL TWO SPOTS:
Having only pitched in three games in 2020, it’s difficult to say if Austin Adams has done enough to garner a spot. Of the remaining pitchers, Adams does have the highest ceiling. Armed with two sliders, one more horizontal in movement and the other more vertical, Adams has the stuff to be a dominant reliever. Will that be in the 2020 postseason or in the future?
Having pitched well in his limited appearances, Michel Baez may be considered for the last roster spot. His ERA at 7.71 doesn’t reflect that, but it may have been inflated by a ball that bounced off Trent Grisham’s glove and cost him two runs. It really depends on how Baez has been pitching at USD during his time there. The former top prospect would likely love to prove his worth in the postseason.
The longest-tenured Padre in the bullpen is Craig Stammen. His experience and leadership are unquestioned, but his performance on the mound has been another story. Stammen struggled to a 5.63 ERA over 24 appearances. The Padres may opt for another arm that has been more consistent in 2020.
After being sent to the Padres’ alternate training site at USD, Joey Lucchesi only made one appearance out of the bullpen, and only three total appearances. He’s an option, but there may be better ones for San Diego.
Even though he hasn’t thrown a single regular-season pitch for the Padres, Mackenzie Gore could theoretically make his MLB debut in the playoffs. The young phenom has been a top prospect for years, and the Padres could show a masterstroke by keeping him “hidden” until the playoffs. If either Lamet or Clevinger miss a start, there’s an outside possibility Gore gets tapped for the start.
The 2020 San Diego Padres are a team stacked with talent. The difficulty of setting up the roster has shown just how good of a job each member of the team has done. General Manager AJ Preller and his scouts have found the talent, Jayce Tingler and his coaches have gotten the most out of the players, and the players themselves have put in the time and effort to become a winner. The postseason rosters are submitted Wednesday at noon, two hours before game time. It’ll be interesting to see who makes those final few roster spots.