Three questions for Padres heading into June

The Padres sit two games above .500 heading into the first full week of June. Where do things stand with the team?

Jun 1, 2024; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres sit two games above .500 heading into the first full week of June. Where do things stand with the team?

The San Diego Padres have had an uneven but mostly positive season to this point.

They now sit in a playoff spot and are above .500 despite some missed opportunities and other concerns.

Here are three questions to consider as the Padres head into the third full month of the season and approach the halfway point soon.

How Can They Weather the Sudden Storm of Injuries?

The first shoe to drop was Xander Bogaerts when he fractured his shoulder against the Atlanta Braves. He is likely out until “late summer.” Frankly, the Padres have barely missed a beat without the four-time All-Star. The biggest contributor in his place has been Donovan Solano.

Solano is batting .429 with a 1.091 OPS since Bogaerts went down. Arriving to the Padres on a minor league deal, Solano has shown excellent contact skills and has basically been a right-handed Luis Arraez in some respects.

Speaking of Arraez, he continues to rake. Entering Monday, his .340 batting average is the highest in the majors. He seeks his third batting title with a third different team in a third straight season, which is unheard of.

So far, so good for the Padres replacing Bogaerts’ bat in the middle of the infield.

The bigger concerns are the two starting pitchers. Neither Yu Darvish nor Joe Musgrove have been able to stay healthy for now over a full season, dating back to last year. Neither starter was able to reach 25 starts last season and it’s looking unlikely they will get there this time.

Musgrove appears to be set to miss significant time, perhaps into July.

Musgrove really has not looked right all season. His 5.66 ERA and 68 ERA+ would be the worst marks of his entire career. The Padres turned to Randy Vasquez to replace him in the rotation. In six starts so far this year, Vasquez owns a 5.74 ERA. He tossed five innings against the Royals on Sunday, allowing three runs. He likely will get an extended look as Musgrove rests and heals.

For Darvish, it’s a nagging groin injury. At times this season, Darvish looked flat-out dominant. In 56 innings this season, he owns a 3.20 ERA. The Padres are reportedly calling up their No.5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Adam Mazur, to make a start on Tuesday in Anaheim.

Unless another major move is made, it looks like the Padres might ride with the young, inexperienced arms of Vasquez and Mazur to replace Musgrove and Darvish. Jhony Brito could also make a spot start. Jackson Wolf is in Triple-A but has a 5.83 ERA in 11 starts for El Paso.

A lot now falls on Vasquez and Mazur’s shoulders to, at worst, eat some innings and not over-tax the bullpen.

All of a sudden, making a move for another starter to add to the rotation before the deadline this summer seems like a must for A.J. Preller.

How Will Mike Schildt Navigate An Uneven Bullpen?

The weekend in Kansas City certainly painted the perfect picture of the situation in the Padres bullpen. Robert Suarez is elite. He is very likely on his way to the All-Star Game next month, as he leads the National League with 24 games finished, along with 17 saves and a microscopic 0.69 ERA.

Jeremiah Estrada is fresh off of a run of 13 straight strikeouts and appears as the obvious eighth-inning man. Beyond those two, Schildt’s options are slim. Stephen Kolek was a disaster in Friday’s 11-8 win, requiring the Padres to turn to Suarez to get a save after he opened the ninth inning with a comfy 11-3 lead. His 6.66 ERA should scare Schildt away from looking to him for any situation of remotely high leverage.

Because San Diego used Suarez in that marathon on Friday and another time Saturday, he was unable to pitch in Sunday’s tight game. Estrada had thrown 32 pitches the day before and was also unavailable. This forced Schildt to turn to Yuki Matsui for a save situation, leading 3-1 in the ninth. He looked woefully unprepared. The Royals effortlessly tied the game and walked it off soon after, all on Mastui. That blew yet another chance for the Padres to notch their first sweep of the year.

The next most reliable reliever after Suarez and Estrada may be Wandy Peralta. He has not allowed an earned run since April 28 (12 games).

Enyel De Los Santos has allowed seven home runs in 22 innings. Brito has had a very uneven journey to a 3.86 ERA.

Adrian Morejon could be an answer. After a lot of stops and starts to his career, he appears to finally be finding his form. The 25-year-old owns a 1.93 ERA in 23 innings this season. He is emerging as another viable option for Schildt. He even may be called upon for some important long relief outings, given San Diego’s concerns in the rotation. Already three times this season, he has at least started a third inning of work in an outing.

Morejon and Peralta may be the best options for Schildt to bridge the gap between the starter and the Estrada-Suarez combo. Even then, that can’t happen every night. They may need to call upon an arm from El Paso to get outs in the bullpen, such as Alek Jacob or Nick Hernandez.

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Is Fernando Tatis Jr. Finally Back?

Tatis started out hot to open the season. Then, he seemed to hit a wall. For a large chunk of late April and May, Tatis looked like his 2023 form- still above average but nowhere near the MVP level we have seen from Tatis pre-2022.

Between April 24 and May 20, Tatis batted .226, with two homers and a .658 OPS in 24 games. Not to mention his lackluster 2023 season, with a .770 OPS in 141 games.

Since then (basically, since Bogaerts got hurt), he looks like his old self, with a .313 average, .845 OPS, and four extra-base hits in 12 games. In three games in Kansas City, he went 6-for-12 (.500) with a homer .

He’s still hitting the ball as hard as ever, with his average exit velocity in the 87th percentile and hard-hit rate in the 93rd percentile. Now the question becomes, can he sustain it? Can he finally perform like the player from 2020 and 2021 who had back-to-back top-four MVP finishes for the span of several weeks or longer?

He may not win another Platinum Glove out in right field this season, but the defense is still respectable. Plus, he has one of the best outfield arms in baseball.

If his defense remains solid, and his production at the plate models that of his last dozen games over the span of the next month, he’s an easy ticket for Arlington for the Midsummer Classic. More importantly, he remains the straw that stirs the Padres, and a hot June for him could mean a hot month for the team.

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