Padres slugging non-roster invitee making case for midseason call-up

2024 San Diego Padres Spring Training
2024 San Diego Padres Spring Training / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres have an interesting projected roster that manager Mike Shildt will need to continue navigating before Opening Day.

Looking around the diamond, you see four former shortstops, with only one slotted to play the position, Ha Seong Kim. The others? Manny Machado (third base), Xander Bogaerts (second base) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (platinum glove winner in right field) are all technically playing out of position, but so far it's mostly worked out. As a result, the domino effect on the roster could make some exciting bench decisions.

With four everyday players in the lineup, Shildt should prioritize positional flexibility as he looks for any advantage. That's where the Padres' 12th-ranked prospect Graham Pauley enters the picture. The 23-year-old infielder handled second base and third base in his two minor league seasons, where most defensive metrics have him slightly below average. But Pauley isn't vying for a major league call-up by playing quality defense; his trajectory is all tied to the hit tool (50-grade).

The lefty-swinging Pauley has shown an elite eye at the plate with solid strike zone judgment. Across three levels of the Padres' system, the former Duke Blue Devil logged an 11.4 walk rate, pairing that with a stellar 16.8% strikeout rate. Those numbers should pique fans' interest because they mirror precisely what National League All-Star Jake Cronenworth used to provide before his two-season slump. Considering both players' age 23 seasons, the similarities are striking.















While Pauley provides markedly more power than Cronenworth, the ability to control the strike zone is the key driving factor. Having guys on the roster who can play multiple positions and be trusted not to let the late-game moments get too big is immensely valuable.

Despite a breakout spring thus far, there isn't a scenario where Pauley makes the Opening Day roster unless deep winter rumors of them looking to shop Cronenworth come to fruition.

But if Shildt's bench needs a midseason infusion of talent to keep pace with the juggernaut Dodgers and 2023 World Series runner-up Diamondbacks, Pauley should be the first guy called up to Petco Park.