Padres: Ring-chasing season has arrived in San Diego

We’re just two days from Opening Day. The Padres kick off the regular season on Thursday afternoon against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park, where a limited number of fans will get to watch the Friars in action.

For the Padres, it’s World Series-or-bust in 2021. But first, they’ll have to end the Dodgers’ stranglehold on the National League West – something that hasn’t been done since back in 2012. Los Angeles went out and made noise themselves this winter, signing right-hander and NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer – giving them a rotation that’s the envy of many in the game.

San Diego did some work themselves, trading for Blake Snell, a former Cy Young winner, Yu Darvish, the man who finished runner-up to Bauer in last year’s NL Cy Young voting, and Joe Musgrove, who has the potential to be a quiet difference-maker in the middle of this rotation.

Add in the likes of Chris Paddack, who believes he’s got his fastball back on track after going through some rough patches last year, a Dinelson Lamet who’s continuing to ramp up in the wake of an arm injury and a group of pitching prospects waiting in the wings and it’s easy to see why people are so high on the Padres.

Padres boast depth across the roster

That’s just the rotation, too. AJ Preller went out and added Mark Melancon and Keone Kela to the bullpen. This team realistically has something like a half-dozen arms capable of closing out games. Paired with this rotation, opportunities could be scarce for opposing offenses doing battle with San Diego this season.

“We’re certainly built to win a championship,” Eric Hosmer told MLB.com. “We have the pieces we need to win a championship. But there’s a lot of steps to accomplish before even thinking about that.”

Hosmer will look to put a fine-tuned swing to work this season, building upon a very solid 2020 season in which he hit .287/.333/.517, raising his OPS by over 100 points from 2019. Then you throw in an NL MVP finalist in Manny Machado, a recently-extended Fernando Tatis Jr. and Rookie of the Year runner-up Jake Cronenworth around him in the infield and, well, there aren’t many holes.

In the outfield, it’s Wil Myers, Trent Grisham and Tommy Pham. Now, this outfield could be really, really solid. It could also be an area Preller needs to address at the deadline if Grisham doesn’t stay healthy or if Pham’s vision issues hinder his abilities at the dish. 

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This is a team that’s incredibly deep, both positionally-speaking and on the mound. As the season gets underway, we’ll identify some areas where the club could make moves at the deadline, but, at least on paper, this Padres team is hands-down the most talented we’ve seen in years.