The San Diego Padres aren’t planning on picking an Opening Day starter until late this month. But that decision should be a no-brainer. Yu Darvish needs to get the ball to open the 2021 season.
Darvish came over from the Cubs this winter, along with his personal catcher, Victor Caratini. Now, regardless of the Austin Nola injury, it’s safe to say you shouldn’t expect the Padres to break up this tandem given their success last year in Chicago.
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In his Cy Young runner-up campaign, the big right-hander dazzled, displaying an overwhelming 11-pitch arsenal he can deploy with intense precision. He finished the year with a 6.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio, an MLB-best 2.23 FIP and a career-best 0.961 WHIP across 76 innings of work.
Since making his Padres’ Cactus League debut a few weeks back, Darvish has demonstrated repeatedly that he is picking up right where he left off. This spring, the four-time All-Star has made a pair of starts, striking out seven and not allowing a single run in five innings.
Now, I know there are those of you who want to see Blake Snell get the nod on Opening Day. I’m sorry, but Snell doesn’t have the same seasoned pedigree Darvish brings with him.
Padres: Yu Darvish is ready for the big stage in San Diego
In his mid-30s, Darvish has done it all and is coming off a year-and-a-half stretch in which he was absolutely lights-out atop the Cubs’ rotation. Even when he’s not at his best, his arsenal is dependent enough that he can usually gut his way through a start, relying on his well above-average spin rates to keep hitters off-balance.
Snell, meanwhile, faces some legitimate questions coming into his first season with the Padres. He anchored the Rays’ staff in recent years, but never quite lived up to the hype that surrounded him coming off his 2018 AL Cy Young campaign. The southpaw hasn’t proven to be an innings-eater, either – and that’s probably the biggest challenge he’ll look to overcome this year.
While the two will form one of the most imposing one-two punches in all of baseball this season, for me at least, hands-down, you’ve got to give Opening Day to Darvish. He’s been there, done that and seems like the perfect guy to get the Friars off on the right foot come April 1.