The Padres and their fans endured a long period of suffering, but the club finally returned to relevance in 2020. With 37 wins in 60 games, the Padres posted the sport’s third-best record, broke a 13-year playoff drought and advanced to the NLDS, where they lost to the division-rival Dodgers. While the Dodgers, who went on to win the World Series, are the favorites to reign over the NL again in 2021, the Padres look as if they’ll put up an even bigger fight this year.
Not content to continue playing second fiddle to Los Angeles, San Diego and general manager A.J. Preller have been extremely aggressive in trying to improve their roster since the Dodgers crushed their championship hopes last fall. Dating back to then, the Padres have used trades and free agency to add a slew of notable names – Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Ha-Seong Kim, Mark Melancon, Victor Caratini and Keone Kela lead the way.
Darvish and Dinelson Lamet give the Padres two starters who were in NL Cy Young contention last season; meanwhile Snell’s a former AL Cy Young winner, Musgrove has shown that he’s a legitimate mid-rotation type and Chris Paddack, although he struggled last year, looked like a high-end starter just two years ago. If anything goes haywire with that group, the Padres could get help from prospects such as MacKenzie Gore (MLB.com’s sixth-ranked farmhand) and Adrian Morejon.
Offensively, Kim and Caratini should help a unit that finished third in the majors in runs last year, when the all-world left side of the infield of third baseman Manny Machado and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. led the charge. They’re still around, as are infielder Jake Cronenworth, first baseman Eric Hosmer, outfielders Trent Grisham and Wil Myers – who all enjoyed terrific years.
As is the case with their starting staff and offense, the Padres’ bullpen looks as if it has the potential to be a formidable group in 2021. However, they’ll need more from holdovers such as Emilio Pagan, Craig Stammen and Tim Hill. And the Padres may miss Trevor Rosenthal, a late-season acquisition who left for the Athletics in free agency, but the Melancon and Kela additions ought to help. They’ll join holdovers Drew Pomeranz and Pierce Johnson among the club’s preferred late-game choices.
All said, there isn’t much (anything?) to dislike about the Padres’ roster. The biggest roadblock may be that they’re still stuck in a division with the Dodgers, but PECOTA nonetheless projects a 95-win season for the Padres in 2021. How do you think they’ll fare?
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