1. Michael King
The focus has been on the San Diego Padres rotation, and with good reason. When you lose over 90 starts from last year's team, that's inevitably where questions will arise. Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Blake Snell accounted for over 80 starts, and Nick Martinez picked up nine as well.
That is a lot of innings to replace. While the hope is that Joe Musgrove is fully healthy in 2024, the pitchers acquired in the Juan Soto trade will be called upon early and often next season. While Randy Vásquez, and maybe even Jhony Brito, could begin the season in the Padres starting rotation, Michael King is the player that every Friars fan will have their eye on heading into 2024.
You could argue that Drew Thorpe, the young pitching prospect who was also included in the deal for Soto, was the crown jewel of that deal, but King is the most established player who San Diego brought back in return for the All-Star outfielder.
King has 115 major league games under his belt, and began to come in to his own in 2023. Last season, the right-hander went 4-8 in 49 appearances for the New York Yankees. The 28-year-old made nine starts and struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings pitched. King also kept his walk rate below 8 percent.
King will get the opportunity to be part of the San Diego Padres Opening Day rotation, and could become one of the team's best starters. But going from a spot starter/ reliever with the Yankees to a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher for the Padres will be quite the adjustment. King won't be putting out fires in 2024; he'll be expected to keep them from starting altogether.
The Padres fanbase will have high expectations for Michael King. The right-handed hurler has the talent to meet those lofty goals, but only time will tell if King has what it takes to help anchor a rotation for an entire season.