San Diego Padres Season Preview: The Wait 'Til Next Year Continues

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Editor's note: Welcome to SI's MLB preview. Click here to view every team's outlook in 2020, including predictions, projections and, yes, a preview of the 2030 preview. Click here to read the Padres fantasy preview.

While the Padres didn’t make a monster free-agent signing along the lines of first baseman Eric Hosmer (in 2018) or third baseman Manny Machado (’19), they still had a strong offseason. To boost the team’s .308 OBP, 13th in the NL, they traded for Rays outfielder Tommy Pham (.373 career) and Brewers outfielder Trent Grisham (.376 in five minor league seasons). They filled out the starting rotation with righthander Zach Davies and added lefty Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen.

These reinforcements probably won’t keep the Dodgers up at night. What will is the army of young prospects starting to march into San Diego. Last year shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. played at a superstar level, hitting .316 with 22 homers and 16 steals in just 84 games, while righty Chris Paddack struck out 26.9% of batters in 26 starts, with a 3.33 ERA.

More talent arrives in 2020. Lefthander MacKenzie Gore, 21, was the best pitcher in the minors last year, with a 1.69 ERA at two levels and 12.03 strikeouts per nine innings. Righthander Andrés Muñoz, 21, made a late-season appearance in San Diego’s bullpen and routinely throws 100 mph. Luis Patiño, 20, a three-pitch starter prospect, could arrive late in the year.

Rookie manager Jayce Tingler, 39, will have some difficult lineup decisions, siphoning at bats from veterans such as Hosmer and outfielder Wil Myers for lesser-known and far less expensive players (outfielders Pham, Grisham, Franchy Cordero and Josh Naylor) who are likely to provide more runs and play better defense.

The Padres are so loaded that their upside is 100 wins and a division title. Realistically, though, a winning season would be a good start for San Diego. — Joe Sheehan

Projected Record: 80-82, 3rd in NL West

The Padres have some of the most exciting young talent in baseball, with more on the way, but they can’t catch L.A. and Arizona. They’re most likely a year away.

Key Question: Will Padres Have First Winning Season Since 2010?

Because of the Dodgers, San Diego has no shot at winning the NL West. But the Padres could finish above .500, with a talented group of young players and a strong bullpen. Such a season would set them up well to make a playoff push in 2021. — Matt Martell

Player Spotlight

Moving Up: Francisco Mejía, C

A half-dozen Padres could go here, but let’s pick the 24-year-old switch-hitting catcher who batted .305 in the second half of last season.

Moving Down: Eric Hosmer, 1B

He was a below-average hitter at 29, with the highest strikeout rate of his career (24.4%). It’s hard to justify his $21 million salary in 2020.

Watchability Ranking: A Better Game Is on–Probably

Just take this highlight reel of Francisco Tatis, Jr, who’s so watchable on his own that he can make up for (some, but not all) growing pains of an ongoing rebuild. — Emma Baccellieri

Preview of the 2030 Preview

Fernando Tatis Jr., SS: A stupendous 2019 rookie season, cut short by a lower back injury, foreshadowed Tatis’s next decade, which mixed brilliance with misfortune. We haven’t seen this kind of star-crossed talent since perhaps Grady Sizemore, yet while Tatis has missed his fair share of time with injuries, “better Rafael Furcal” isn’t exactly the worst outcome. It’s easy to think what could have been, but with Tatis just 31 years old, he still has plenty of his career to salvage. — Craig Goldstein