These recent Padres are dominating to start 2024 to fans' surprise and frustration

San Diego fans are not going to like to hear how some of these former Padres are doing with their new teams.
San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals
San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

There was always going to be pain for the San Diego Padres and their fans when it came to checking in on members of the 2023 roster and their performances elsewhere.

Juan Soto is among the best hitters in baseball, Josh Hader is among the best closers, and Blake Snell is among the best starters. Those guys' absences were always going to be felt and it was inevitable that they would do enough to elicit envy from Padres fans.

That, in itself, is bad enough. To see the biggest names the Padres lost this offseason go wild is a rough feeling. However, there's been an added layer of pain to start the season as some former Padres players that weren't nearly as likely to show out in 2024 have been doing just that.

Look, hindsight is always going to be 20/20 and no team can keep everyone. However, what is particularly infuriating about how these guys are doing is how easy it would have been to keep them around. Even worse, how it looked like the Padres had made the right call to move on from them ... only for them to look like they are about to break out.

Former '23 Padres players surprising everyone with strong starts to 2024 season

Michael Wacha

Nearly everything was pointing to the fact that the Padres had found lightning in a bottle last year when they signed Michael Wacha to a one-year deal. He had a lengthy stretch with the Cardinals, Mets, and Rays where it looks like was about to wash out of the league due to durability concerns and diminished stuff from 2016-2021. Wacha pitched very well last year for San Diego, but there were plenty of reasons to think that the good times weren't going to last, most notably his injuries.

So Wacha later inked a deal with the Royals this offseason, and Kansas City has turned into the surprise team of the season thus far with Wacha playing a big role in that. In his two starts this year, he has averaged six innings per start, given up just three earned runs, and has struck out 13 batters versus just two walks in 12 innings. He probably won't stay that good the rest of the way, but he definitely looks like he could be a bargain at the $16 million he's going to make this year.

Seth Lugo

Joining Wacha in Kansas City for the 2024 season is fellow former Padre Seth Lugo, although it is worth mentioning Lugo's deal is for three years (including a player option) compared to Wacha's one year deal plus a player option. Lugo's case is even more interesting because the Padres were the ones that successfully converted him back to a starter -- and a good one at that (3.57 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.6 K/9 in 2023). Yet they were unwilling or unable to come up with the money to keep him around despite a clear need in the rotation.

Perhaps the Padres were unwilling to bet on Lugo for more than a year (or maybe two) and that third was the hang up. However, this is another deal looking really good for the Royals right now as Lugo has made three starts this year and has posted a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings of work. One thing to keep an eye on with Lugo, though, is that his strikeout rate is WAY down early in 2024 (4.3 K/9 is a big "yikes") and his numbers aren't going to stay this good unless he starts missing more bats.

CJ Abrams

Finally, we come to a former Padres prospect that is bringing some regret the Padres' way. Abrams was an extremely highly-touted prospect from the day the Padres drafted him sixth overall in 2019. After blasting his way through the minor leagues with an .896 OPS, Abrams got the call to the big leagues where he posted a fairly pedestrian .232/.285/.320 line in the 46 games he played in San Diego before he was included in the trade that brought Juan Soto to the Padres.

Given the amount of middle infield talent the Padres had (and continue to have), losing Abrams after his lackluster big league debut felt like a savvy move to make especially given the fact San Diego would end up with Soto at the end of the day. Unfortunately, Soto is now with the Yankees after the Padres' offseason teardown while Abrams is posting a .970 OPS with the Nationals this season while showcasing the power/speed combination that made him such an attractive prospect in the first place.

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