Padres: Three key questions facing San Diego this season

(Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images) /
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Fernando Tatis Jr. / Padres
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We’re almost there. Opening Day is less than a week away. The Padres will take the field in front of fans at Petco Park on Thursday afternoon with their eyes set on a second-straight postseason berth – and maybe more.

San Diego emerged as the clear-cut winners of the offseason, not only in the National League, but all of Major League Baseball after assembling a rotation headlined by Yu Darvish and Blake Snell and locking up the best young player in the game in Fernando Tatis Jr. via a 13-year contract extension.

Now comes the tough part.

AJ Preller made all the right moves on paper. Now, it’s on those guys to go out and handle their business. Coming off the shortened 60-game sprint last summer, there will be adjustments as players get used to the grind of a full 162 games. There will be injuries. There will be ups and downs. But there are three stories to keep an eye on that will be key indicators as to how the season is going for the Friars.

Padres: Will Fernando Tatis Jr. feel the pressure of his new mega-contract?

If his spring training performance (.379/.438/.724) is any indication, Fernando Tatis Jr. isn’t feeling much pressure to live up to the record-breaking 13-year, $340 million contract extension he signed last month.

After an injury scare this week, Tatis returned to the lineup and promptly cranked his third home run of the spring, immediately silencing anyone who had doubts about his health heading into the season. But his all-out style of play comes with its fair share of risks. Paired with the weight of the hopes of an entire fanbase, he’ll no doubt feel some pressure this year.

That’s a given. He will feel pressure. But it’ll come down to how he responds to it. And right now, there’s no reason to think he’ll falter. This kid has shown he’s ready for it all time and time again in his first two seasons in the league. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on – because without Tatis Jr. at his best, this Padres team loses some of its signature swagger and substance.