On Thursday night the San Diego Padres moved into sole possession of first place in the National League West, something they hadn’t done since Opening Day of the 2011 season, This fact is likely equal parts exciting and depressing for Padres fans. That said, one thing has become clear over the first few weeks of the season: The promising Padres aren’t coming, they’re already here.
After a series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend, San Diego has a two-game lead in the NL West and owns the best record in the National League at 11-6. The Friars have used a combination of timely hitting, surprising power, stellar infield defense and incredible chemistry to open the season as one of baseball’s best teams. No one expected this franchise to rise quickly, but it appears that’s happened.
When experts discuss San Diego’s baseball franchise they often focus on how ridiculously promising the future is. They wax poetic about the Padres’ loaded farm system and take the long view as to what the next few seasons will hold. While all of that is probably true, prognosticators have overlooked the team’s current roster in doing so. This is a good team now.
The Padres already boast a ton of talent. The squad is led by Manny Machado, who, by all accounts, has been phenomenal in the clubhouse and happens to be one of the top five players in baseball. But this hasn’t just been “The Manny Show,” he’s fit in with other pieces as well.
Eric Hosmer looks far more comfortable at the plate this season than he did in 2018 after signing a huge contract. The results haven’t been there yet, but it’s only a matter of time, as he’s putting in fantastic at-bats every night.
Fernando Tatis Jr., the youngest regular in Major League Baseball, has been a revelation on defense and offense. He already has five home runs and enters Friday with an OPS of 1.076. Oh, and he’s been doing stuff like this regularly:
Wil Myers enters Monday hitting .298 with a .947 OPS. Despite a few hiccups in the outfield, Myers has been fantastic so far.
Hunter Renfroe, overlooked by many this offseason due to the expected emergence of Franmil Reyes, has an OPS of 1.083. Reyes has struggled early but appears to be coming around if this home run was any indication:
Former top prospect Manuel Margot has looked vastly improved so far this season. Margot is hitting .333 with a 1.055 OPS.
What has struck many as shocking has been the performance of the Padres starting pitchers. Somehow this young, unproven rotation has managed to keep it together.
Unheralded lefty Nick Margevicius has a 1.69 ERA, a 0.63 WHIP and 12 strikeouts against just one walk in 16 innings over three starts. Rookie phenom Chris Paddack has a 1.29 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP in three starts. Meanwhile, Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi have had great outings with some hiccups mixed in.
The rotation will be the key to the season for San Diego. The team may need to add a key starter or two at some point, but overall it’s obvious why general manager A.J. Preller doesn’t want to do long-term deals with pitchers.
The Padres are absolutely loaded with top pitching prospects. Lefty MacKenzie Gore and righty Luis Patino are both currently toying with hitters in High-A ball. The team’s 2018 first-round pick Ryan Weathers is dominating Low-A ball as well. On top of that, guys like Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill are all among the team’s top 12 prospects.
San Diego can either supplant a current piece of its rotation with some of those guys or could use that organizational depth to land major league talent.
The success of the team’s rotation and bullpen will determine how far the Padres go this season.
Can the Padres keep this winning tear up all season? Who knows? But this team is built to last years into the future. And while many expected the next few years to bring a steady rise to the top, there’s little reason to think this squad will just disappear this season.