Top Padres roster battle to watch in 2023 Spring Training
The San Diego Padres are in a position where they need to win convincingly in the next few seasons, as their bloated payroll has made championship contention an expectation. From Fernando Tatis Jr. down to the backup catcher, everyone needs to play a part in the success of this team.
With Tatis a few weeks away from joining the team due to his suspension, the expectation is that Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter will both be in the starting lineup until San Diego's mercurial star is ready to return. This leaves some vacancies on the bench that can be filled in the spring.
With Luis Campusano taking up the backup catcher spot behind Austin Nola following the non-retention of Jorge Alfaro and Adam Engel signing a big-league deal to serve as the defensive specialist outfielder, two spots appear to be locked down. There may be a five-man royal rumble for those last two spots, however.
The Padres need to find someone that can handle themselves with the stick while showing off enough defensive prowess to make up for two extreme defensive negatives in Carpenter and Cruz. Jose Azocar seems like the favorite at the moment, but he's not the only one with eyes on that prize.
Will Jose Azocar make the San Diego Padres?
Azocar hit .257 with 10 RBI and 5 steals in 98 games last season. While not mind-blowing production, he showed that he can be a respectable at-bat who can man multiple defensive positions. The loss of Jurickson Profar might make him even more valuable to this team.
Azocar will be challenged by names like Brandon Dixon, who is looking to get a second chance in San Diego after fizzling out in Detroit, and Matthew Batten, a 32nd-round pick who managed to fight and claw his way back into the major leagues against all odds.
Brett Sullivan hasn't made the major leagues yet and will be 29 soon, but the catcher-turned-utility man was tearing the cover off the ball at times for Triple-A El Paso. Eguy Rosario managed to sneak his way onto the big league roster, and there's a chance that he could end up on the Opening Day squad if everything goes well.
The Padres will need to nail their bench to start the season, as there is no telling how long Tatis is going to take before he gets back to his previous elite level.