Which Padre will benefit the most from WBC exodus?

Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For the next few weeks, a handful of Padres players will be away from the team as they have the honor of representing their countries in the World Baseball Classic. Which of the players that remain in camp will benefit the most?

For the time being, the Padres big league camp will be without:

Each player will be away until their team is eliminated from the World Baseball Classic. For some, like those part of Team USA or Dominican Republic, they may go the distance. Team DR is favored to win, even without Vlad Guerrero Jr., who withdrew from the tournament.

The Group Stage ends March 15, with the championship game being played on March 21.

That means there will likely be players missing from the Padres big league camp for upwards of two weeks. The Friars are set to play 12 Spring Training games between now and when the WBC finishes. Which players that remain in camp will benefit from a thinner roster? This might mean more playing time and more of an extended look than they would otherwise get. For others, it will just be a better chance to get stretched and ready for the season out in a less-crowded clubhouse.

David Dahl

Even without the exodus of WBC players, Dahl is making his presence felt and making a strong case to be on the Padres’ Opening Day roster. Through Monday’s action, he is batting .261 with three extra-base hits and a .783 OPS. With the likes of Soto and Cruz gone, he should get plenty of looks in the outfield as well as at DH. By the time they return, the Padres should have a good sample size on what they have from Dahl, a former All-Star. Could he be the missing link in the outfield between Opening Day and Tatis’ return?

Jay Groome

Potential starting pitchers should be foaming at the mouth right now in Peoria. Not only are Teheran, Darvish, Martinez, and Crismatt gone for the WBC, but Joe Musgrove is still out with his broken toe. There is no better time to shine if you are a hopeful starting pitcher in camp for the Padres. Groome has an excellent opportunity to earn either a sixth spot in the rotation or even a long relief or piggyback role on the big league roster.

Through three appearances so far this spring, Groome is yet to allow an earned run in 6 2/3 innings. Bob Melvin was very complimentary of his new young starter, “there is a lot to like. He’s on a mission to open some eyes here. The more you see him, the more you like him.”

Groome is 24 years old and is yet to make his MLB debut. He owned an impressive 3.16 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL with El Paso last season.

Jackson Merrill

The star prospect looks impressive so far this spring. At 19 years old, he shows he can hang with the big boys. He is batting .274 in 22 at-bats thus far. With Bogaerts, Machado, and Kim gone, Merrill should get a ton more reps before eventually being sent down to minor league camp. The No. 19 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is certainly not a finished product, but he has punched above his weight class so far in Peoria.

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Rougned Odor

For a guy who is just trying to make a ballclub, the more at-bats he can get, the better. Odor was signed to a minor league deal last week. He has big-league experience at second and third base. The infield will be thin until those guys return from the WBC. Odor should get plenty of looks. He hit 33 homers with a 107 OPS+ for the Texas Rangers in 2016. However, he has not posted an OPS+ north of 96 in six seasons since.

If he somehow makes the club out of camp, it will be as a potential power bat on the bench from the left side and some depth in the infield. Admittedly, he has a tall hill to climb for that to come to fruition. No time like the present for a showcase.

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Listing Tatis here seems silly. Of course, he is at no risk of losing a big-league roster spot or a starting job. As soon as he is eligible to return on April 20, he will be in the Padres lineup. However, with a lot of his compatriots gone, Tatis has a grand opportunity to shake off the rust. He last played a regular-season big-league game on October 3, 2021, over 500 days ago.

For the next few weeks, he will be the main attraction day in and day out at Padres Spring Training games. He will get plenty of reps to stay loose while he awaits his reinstatement. Thus far, it has been a slow burn, as he is yet to get his first hit in an official spring game. At this point, he is 0-for-10 with four strikeouts.

With less players in camp needing reps in the outfield or at DH, this is the perfect time for him to settle in, acclimate to the new rules, and get comfortable while he awaits the return of his fellow All-Stars.

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