This is our second installment of our 2021 preview. We started off with one of the better teams in the league and move to another as we take a look at the Padres. San Diego has one of the best young talents in the league in Fernando Tatis Jr. and look to be aggressive, capitalizing on their championship window.
Key Additions: Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove
Key Subtractions: Zach Davies, Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Cole Wilcox
The Padres have been very aggressive over the past year in trying to put the best product on the field. They found a star in Tatis and were able to pair him with Machado, but they weren’t willing to stop there. San Diego had one of the deeper farm systems in all of baseball and decided to cash in on those prospects by supplementing the Major League roster. The farm system is still pretty strong as they have four, maybe five, top-100 prospects, but it took a hit when they decided to push all their chips to the middle of the table.
Mike Clevinger was the first piece to join the Friars as Cleveland started to sell off some of the their talent. Sunshine, as he’s known, pitched pretty well for San Diego before suffering an injury that required Tommy John surgery. He’s lost for 2021, but should be back healthy the following season. The Padres got to work once the season came to an end as they added Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Victor Caratini to the mix right before the new year. Darvish is coming off a season in which he had an ERA+ of 221 and could’ve been the Cy Young. That kind of arm plus Snell makes this one of the better rotations in the baseball. Blake won the AL Cy Young award in 2018 for the Rays and then struggled in 2019. 2020 was a solid bounce back campaign for the 28 year old. Caratini was a bit of a throw in, but he shouldn’t be dismissed. Victor is a switch-hitting catcher who rates out to be an above average defender behind the plate. He’s not the best offensive threat, but he won’t kill you either. He helps, bringing depth behind the dish with recent pickup Austin Nola already there and Luis Campusano ready to come into his own.
Musgrove, the centerpiece of the Gerrit Cole deal, goes from one coast to the other as he was dealt to the Friars as well. Joe is set to become a free agent after the 2023 season and will act as a place holder more than anything. He isn’t a spectacular pitcher, but he gets the job done. The Padres should be very happy with what Musgrove offers up as the fourth or fifth starter. As I mentioned before, he’s going to be holding down Mike Clevinger’s spot till he comes back from Tommy John. It might not seem ideal to give away a hand full of players for league average pitching, but the Padres aren’t concerned with how much they’ve given up.
Speaking of what they’ve given up, let’s look at the pieces that have left San Diego’s system. Last year, they traded away top-100 prospect Taylor Trammell for Austin Nola. Trammell has struggled since making it to to Double-A but he has a very desirable skillset. He’s fast with developing power and walks a ton. He’s a solid hitter who may never hit for an incredibly high average; reminds me a lot of Dexter Fowler. After that, they gave up Cal Quantrill, Josh Naylor, Gabriel Arias, Joey Cantillo, and Owen Miller for Clevinger. Quantrill and Naylor are the two most established of the group. Naylor joins his brother Bo in Cleveland, which is fun. He’s a solid hitter who can play in the outfield or at first. Josh isn’t anything special, but he can’t be ignored when at the plate. Cal flew under the radar in the Friar’s system because his name isn’t MacKenzie Gore. He’s been solid and has a chance to get better now that he’s with Cleveland. Arias is the one prospect given up for Clevinger that I like. He’s a great athlete who will stick at shortstop long term. He’s got some pop, but he struggles to get to it at times due to his unrefined approach at the plate. A player I would compare him to is Orlando Arcia.
For the prospects that moved once the season was over, the quality was a little heftier. In the Snell deal, the Padres gave up one of the better pitching prospects, Luis Patino, along with Francisco Mejia, Blake Hunt, and Cole Wilcox. Wilcox was just drafted in 2020; getting drafted and then traded within a six month span doesn’t happen all that often. Cole offers up an exciting pitch mix as he shows a plus fastball and slider. Patino might be someone the Friars live to regret giving up. He’s small in stature, but he’s got big-time stuff on the mound. His fastball-slider combo to go along with his feel for the strike zone makes him a potential front line starter. In the Darvish deal, the only name worth mentioning is Zach Davies. Zach pitched for the Brewers from 2015-19 and had the best year of his career in San Diego last season. He’s been called a poor man’s version of Kyler Hendricks and he gets the chance to learn from him firsthand now. As far as the Musgrove deal is concerned, the Padres didn’t give up much there; maybe an everyday player or two.
The thing I will be watching closely this season is how some of the younger, less experienced players do for the Padres. Lamet had an incredible season last year, but it was a bit unprecedented. He has great stuff, but struggled to put it together before. Was last year an anomaly or is the norm for Dinelson from now on? Chris Paddack had the inverse of Lamet’s season as he struggled in 2020. He showed great stuff in his rookie year and I’m wondering if he can get back to that. Jake Cronenworth came out of nowhere and nearly won the Rookie of the Year. He’s 27 now and penciled in to be an everyday player somewhere on the field. Was last year a fluke or is he just a late bloomer? I’ll be interested to see how Trent Grisham does as well. With the team trading Trammell last year, it seems they’re all in on him in the outfield.
After that, I look to the prospects. Campusano made it to the majors last year and preformed well in limited action. With the addition of Caratini, though, he may not see much time in the majors. As for the pitching rotation, Adrian Morejon looks to get another crack at it after having a disappointing 2020 campaign. Mackenzie Gore could make his debut in 2021, which could be another major source of excitement for the team. Gore is the best pitching prospect in baseball and looks like he could be one of the better pitchers in the league in short order.
The here-and-now for the Friars is pretty promising with the future looking even better as their top prospects make their debuts over the next few seasons. While people drool over what 2025 may hold for San Diego, I am excited to see how far they can go in 2021. Something tells me it is pretty far.