Second Baseman- Jurickson Profar
Jurickson Profar was a bit of a surprise addition to the team, coming from Oakland in December to battle for the second base spot with Greg Garcia. Profar, a free agent in 2021, has mostly underwhelmed since being called up as a top prospect. His ability to get hits has been the most significant issue, bringing a .234 batting average to San Diego.
Batting average aside, Profar brings a lot of qualities that seem to be on par with San Diego’s 2020 preferred style. Typically reliable with his glove, the soon to be 27-year-old can play multiple infield positions, though it seems he will fill in at second. Offensively, he has a reputation for being a pest at the plate, putting up quality at-bats and working counts. Additionally, his power numbers have trended upward in the past two seasons, finishing with 20 home runs in 2018 and 2019.
Given his recent struggles and his overall disappointing reputation as a former top prospect, Profar wasn’t traded to this team with outlandish expectations. His contract motivation, the likelihood for playing time, and untapped potential give the young infielder from Curacao a perfect chance to make himself an X-factor for a team like the Padres.
RHP – Dinelson Lamet
Dinelson Lamet has shown glimpses of being a top-level starting pitcher for the Padres since being called up in 2017. That season as a rookie, Lamet made 21 starts with mixed results, striking out 10.9/9 IP and walking 4.3/9 IP in his first season for the Friars.
Buzz was growing, and excitement was building for Lamet heading into the 2018 Spring, only to sustain an injury that forced the young righty into Tommy John surgery. Gone was his 2018 season that had so much potential, as well as most of 2019’s season. There wasn’t much talk of Lamet in 2019 while he was working his way back, leading to a comeback in July with only unknowns defining his recovery.
Lamet went on to continue his production as soon as he returned, putting up some jaw-dropping performances to close out 2019. In 14 starts, Lamet had noticeable zip to his pitches and struck out an otherworldly 12.9/9 IP. Lamet had four games with double-digit strikeouts, including a start in September in which he had 14 Ks in just six innings of work.
Tommy John surgery is a pitcher’s worst nightmare, no matter how young the patient or advanced the technology. Lamet came back from his setback, ready to prove something special in 2019. His ability to put the injury concerns behind him and continue his exciting pitching will be one of the most prominent storylines going forward.
Catcher – Francisco Mejia
Still just 24 years old, Francisco Mejia has barely finished his cup of tea in the big leagues going into 2020. Sent to the Padres in 2018 from Cleveland, Mejia has obvious skills that shine bright when he puts it all together.
Consistency has been the difficult part for Mejia, finishing his first full season as a platoon partner with Austin Hedges behind the plate for San Diego. Mejia is still learning the caveats of the catching position, leading some to believe he might not project long term at catcher. His bat, which has always been his strength, started to show signs of consistent production against MLB pitchers as 2019 continued, finishing with .265 BA and eight home runs in 226 at-bats.
Hedges, one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, used that strength to keep himself in the rotation with Mejia in 2019, while his offense ranked among the league’s worst. Given those extremes on either side, something seems to have to give with the two catchers – a defensive step forward for Mejia, or a bit more offensive signs of life from Hedges.
With the chances of Hedges improving at the plate unlikely, look for Mejia – the much more balanced player – to build his game and earn more playing time.
RHP – Andres Munoz
The San Diego Padres have had some really good relief pitching over the years that have left their mark on the team. In some cases, the bullpens have been home to baseball’s best closer at that time. In the most unforgettable case, a certain number 51 anchored San Diego’s bullpen as (biased take) the best relief pitcher the sport has ever seen.
It’s Andres Munoz – the 21-year-old flame thrower from Mexico – that is giving Padres fans something this team has never seen. Munoz’s fastball consistently sits at 100 MPH or more, which can be unfair when the slider is working along with the gas. This mix can be as deadly as any in baseball when appropriately controlled. Munoz displayed this control right out of the gate, posting a 1.69 ERA through his first 21 appearances. His ERA to end the season ballooned to 3.91 because of a few outings that might have been fatigue-related.
Regardless of 2019 numbers, it’s the upside. It is almost unheard of, especially in San Diego. This kid could play an integral role in the success of 2020, not only with his play but in a potential trade during the season to add a piece or two. Munoz likely wouldn’t be shopped, but securing a spot in a crowded and talented bullpen creates an abundance of riches that gives San Diego options.
RHP – Garrett Richards
Signing in the offseason before 2019, Richards was meant to take on a mentor role to the young Padres’ staff for his first of two seasons until he was ready to return from Tommy John surgery. Richards ended up beating expectations and returned to the mound in late September for three starts as a tune-up for the offseason and beyond. Though not awful by any means, Richards’ three starts were short-lived and provided no signs of what to expect.
Fast forward to Spring and Richards is as healthy as can be expected and is expected to be in the rotation come March. Richards has not pitched consistently or overly-productively in years, so it’s hard to carve out any vision into 2020 for the right-hander. He is, however, a veteran with plenty of experience that has as good a chance as anybody to have a productive season.
With a set of expectations where Richards is going into the season, the chances of making an unexpected and welcomed impact while continuing his leadership role leave a lot of potential for a bounce-back season.