Baseball is back! We think. So, once again, Each day, SportsIntel’s Matt DeSaro will take a look at one of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball as we countdown to the MLB Opening Day in late July and today we begin in the National League West with the San Diego Padres.

The owners and players agreed in late June to stage a 60-game season, beginning July 24. There are still many hurdles to overcome in this COVID-19 landscape, but for now, the teams are gathering for “Summer Camp,” a Spring Training reboot crammed into three weeks.

MLB Opening Day – San Diego Padres

O/U 31 Wins | +5000 to win World Series

To put it politely, as we countdown to the MLB opening day, the San Diego Padres are a work in progress. In reality, they might be one team that is doing its rebuild right.  They have one of the best supporting casts of young talent in the Majors and it’s just a matter of time until these guys develop enough to make an impact. These guys might be the future of this team sooner than later in fact.

See, the funny thing is that the Padres were actually let down by their veteran talent last year while the prospects shined.  Manny Machado did not adjust quickly to his new home and was very un-Machado like for most of the season.  Eric Hosmer was another skill position player to struggle at the plate and his contract now looks worse by the day.  Wil Myers had his worst season in 6 years.  The list goes on and on.

Hell, Ian Kinsler had such a fail season that he up and retired!

The Padres problem for this year is they need too many things to go right, and all at the same time.  Thing is, that has been the case for a number of seasons now, including 2019, and the players just haven’t done their part. It’s tough to think that this team not made the playoffs in 14 years and has failed to even record a winning season since 2012.  They have become one of those teams that seems to always be rebuilding are desperate for things to turn around in 2020.

So, will the veterans be able to step up and play up to par?  Can the young bucks again see growth and contribute strong numbers?  Will rookie skipper Jayce Tingler be able to lead the into the playoffs in 2020?

Hard questions to answer.  This team is rather enigmatic at times.  On paper, they have the talent to be very good, but on the stat sheet, things don’t look so bright.

Offseason Acquisitions: 2B Jurickson Profar, Breyvic Valera, 2B, SS Jake Cronenworth, OF Tommy Pham, OF Nick Martini, OF Trent Grisham, RHP Emilio Pagan, RHP Craig Stammen, RHP Pierce Johnson, RHP Zach Davies, RHP Eric Yardley.

Offseason Losses: C Austin Allen, INF Ian Kinsler, OF Manuel Margot, OF Hunter Renfroe, LHP Eric Lauer, RHP Robbie Erlin, RHP Craig Stammen, RHP Aaron Loup.

What Do The Padres Do Well?

While most teams tend to focus on their starting rotation, the Padres seem to have invested a bit more in their bullpen.  That could pay dividends and this could really be an elite core of relief pitchers.

Kirby Yates was one of the best closers in the league last year and the Padres have done well to build around him this offseason.

The addition of Drew Pomeranz could be especially helpful.  Despite an up and down season, Pomeranz proved to many that he, in fact, belongs in the bullpen and not in the rotation.  His splits are very telling.  In 18 starts last year, opponents hit for a .291 average, leaving Pomeranz with a 5.97 ERA in 75.1 innings.  Out of the bullpen, however, he kept hitters to a .165 BA and had an absurd 47.2% strikeout percentage.

Emilio Pagan is another strong addition to this core of relievers.  He spun a 2.31 era with a 36% strikeout rate and a 4.9% walk rate in 66 appearances for the Rays out of the pen.

Yates is the start of this crew after a breakout 2018 season and maintaining his dominance last year.  In 60 appearances he notched a 1.19 ERA and punched out 101 batters while walking just 13.

With guys like Craig Stammen, Matt Strahm and Andres Munoz also able to toss quality innings, this could be the best bullpen in the National League.

Where Can They Improve?

It’s a bit strange but the Padres need to improve the play of their top tier talent as we countdown to MLB opening day.  The majority of which vastly underperformed last year.

The name atop this list has to be third-baseman Manny Machado.  Machado’s .254 batting average and .793 OPS were each 28 points below his career average.  His cumulative WAR of 32.2 ranked him seventh in the league from 2013-19 and was a big reason the Padres spent big on him last season.  Sadly, Machado finished 2019 with a WAR of just 3.1, not even half of his average WAR of 6.4 in his last six seasons.

This is a big problem heading into 2020 as no team wants their star player struggling.  It affects not just him but the rest of the team he should be leading.  If the Padres want to boost morale after last year’s shortcomings, Machado needs to be the first brick in that wall.

I have a hard time being optimistic about his ability to bounce back as quickly as many would think.  The big reason for this is the fact that Machado did not step up and make adjustments as the year progressed. In fact, it was quite the opposite.  In August and September of 2019, Machado had a slash line of just .209/.305/.348 in his last 213 trips to the plate.  It’s a miracle in that Machado managed to finish the year with a .254 batting average.  He did hit 32 long balls but the Padres need a whole lot more out of him if they have a shot at competing this year.

I will be watching this team closely, as I do expect them to make some significant strides towards relevance this year.  They could honestly make a playoff push in 2021 if they can unload the Wil Myers’ bloated contract and bring in some quality role players.

Projected Starters:

C – Francisco Mejia/Austin Hedges

1B – Eric Hosmer

2B – Jurickson Profar

3B – Manny Machado

SS – Fernando Tatis Jr.

LF – Tommy Pham

CF – Trent Grisham

RF – Wil Myers

Projected Rotation:

Chris Paddock

Dinelson Lament

Joey Lucchesi

Garrett Richards

Zach Davies

Closer:

Kirby Yates